Charlie Stayt and Chris Heaton-Harris on BBC Breakfast
A BBC presenter was involved in an excruciating clash with a cabinet minister this morning over Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop the small boats carrying asylum seekers across the Channel.
Charlie Stayt mocked Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris’ claim that the government keeps its promises.
The toe-curling exchange came a day after immigration minister Robert Jenrick quit over a new bill designed to rescue the PM’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda.
He claimed it would not work because it does not allow the UK to ignore rulings under the European Convention on Human Rights.
It follows last month’s Supreme Court ruling that the Rwanda plan was illegal because the east African country is not safe.
On BBC Breakfast this morning, Heaton-Harris insisted the new bill will address the judges’ concerns.
He said: “We know that Rwanda is a safe country ... that it is a safe place for people to be returned to and it is a deterrent.”
But Stayt replied: “For the sake of facts, the Supreme Court said that Rwanda is not safe, that remains the case.”
The minister hit back: “Forgive me, we are tabling before parliament a whole host of evidence. At the time the Supreme Court ruling was looking at that evidence - which was many, many, many months ago - that was what it said. We have done things to address that and we believe that is completely legitimate.”
Turning to Sunak’s vow to stop the boats, Stayt said: “You mentioned a moment ago you’ll be a political party that keeps your promises. Remind me of what the prime minister’s pledge was on stopping the boats - what was the timeframe? Do you want to remind me of that?”
Heaton-Harris said: “Rishi when he came to power said he wanted to stop the boats and we’re going to do as much as we can.”
But Stayt then asked him: “No, I would like the timeline reminder if I may because you said you were going to stick to your promises. Do you want to tell me or shall I remind you?”
The clearly-annoyed minister replied: “No, you remind me.”
Told that it was by the end of this year, Heaton-Harris said: “And we’ve tried to do that and we’ve been frustrated by the Labour Party in parliament and judgments in the Supreme Court which we are now addressing.”
The presenter then told him: “We’re not talking about the Labour Party. You just told me you were going to stick to your promises, that is the kind of government you are.
“So the promise was by the end of this year, you will have stopped the boats. Is that what you’re still saying?”
The flustered minister said: “We are going to stop the boats, but we have had issues with the former bill’s passage through parliament, where Labour obstructed us on every opportunity and a court judgment which we believe we have now answered with this bill and this treaty with Rwanda.”
Chris Heaton-Harris: Rwanda is a safe country
Charlie Stayt: The Supreme Court said that Rwanda is not safe.. that remains the case
CHH: We've done things to address that
CS: So between now & then Rwanda has become safe
CHH: It's safe
CS: By making a law#BBCBreakfastpic.twitter.com/5rjxvwxF8e
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) December 7, 2023