Rishi Sunak does not deny considering axing Rwanda scheme during 2022 leadership bid

Monday 8 January 2024

Rishi Sunak has not denied that he discussed scrapping the Rwanda scheme during his Tory leadership campaign in the summer of 2022.

The Prime Minister on Monday stressed the importance of the Rwanda migrants deportation policy, following reports he had doubts about it as chancellor and during the party leadership race.

Mr Sunak has made the scheme central to his premiership since entering Downing Street.

But reports suggested he considered campaigning on a promise to ditch the scheme during his unsuccessful bid for the premiership against Liz Truss, but was warned off the idea on the grounds it would upset Conservative MPs.

In a carefully-worded answer to a question about the report at a PM Connect event in north-west England, Mr Sunak insisted he never said he was going to axe the Rwanda policy, but did not deny considering it.

Reports suggested Mr Sunak considered campaigning on a promise to ditch the Rwanda scheme.

Mr Sunak insisted he never said he was going to axe the Rwanda policy, but did not deny considering it.

He told the audience in Accrington: “I didn’t say I was going to scrap it. I mean that’s completely false. Of course I didn’t.”

Mr Sunak said it was his job as chancellor “to ask some probing questions” and scrutinise money spent on taxpayers’ behalf.

But ultimately he backed the policy “because I believe in this scheme”, the Tory leader said, stressing the need for a “deterrent” for illegal immigration.

It came after Mr Sunak on Sunday admitted questioning the “value for money” of the policy while he was chancellor, but insisted it was “wrong” to infer that he did not back sending asylum seekers to the east African country.

According to No 10 papers seen by the BBC, Mr Sunak was described as believing the “deterrent won’t work”.

The Rwanda policy is seen as key to Mr Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” ahead of the next election, which the Prime Minister has signalled is likely to be held in the second half of 2024.

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