Pass Rwanda bill to ensure £290m plan is not ‘waste of money’, Conservative rebels told

The recently appointed illegal migration minister has urged Conservative MPs to back the Rwanda bill in a crunch vote this evening, admitting that if it fails the scheme would be a “waste of money”

Michael Tomlinson, appointed as illegal migration minister last Thursday after Robert Jenrick’s old post was split in two, confirmed on Sky News this morning that the Rwanda scheme has cost £240 million so far — despite no asylum seekers yet being sent to the African nation.

This figure was initially revealed last week in a letter from the Home Office permanent secretary, Sir Matthew Rycroft, to relevant House of Commons select committee chairs.

‘The right investment’: New immigration minister defends £290m spend on Rwanda scheme

The government was said to have spent £100 million in the 2023-24 financial year, on top of the previously paid out £140 million figure.

Ministers are expecting additional costs of £50 million in the coming year, something Tomlinson confirmed this morning.

It comes after Sir Matthew, the most senior civil servant in the Home Office, appeared to confirm in a select committee hearing yesterday that the total spend on the Rwanda Plan will surpass the reported £290 million figure over the full five year plan. 

Sir Matthew also told MPs that the Rwandan government could walk away from the deal without accepting a single asylum seeker.

Rwanda plan cost will surpass £290 million over full five year deal, Home Office admits

Speaking this morning, new illegal migration minister Tomlinson told Sky News: “It is a lot of money, and actually, not acting is costing a lot of money as well.

“What have we got? We’ve got a treaty, we’ve got a bill, and we’ve got a system that we’re going to get up and running.”

He added: “If we do not act, if we do not make this system work, if we do not set it up, then I agree — it will have been a waste of money.”

He declared that the prime minister’s bill will “make the [Rwanda] scheme work”.

“When it is up and running, people will see that it does work, it is a deterrent, and it will stop people dying in the Channel.”

Tomlinson also suggested he is in “listening mode” over the legislation, telling Sky News he has intended to be “constructive” in his new post as he deals with Conservative rebels today.

He said: “My job this afternoon is in one way relatively simple. I am going to be standing up for the Government saying this is the toughest piece of legislation, I am going to be taking second reading, the principle of the Bill, through Parliament this afternoon.

“And I am very much in listening mode, as you might imagine, as a new minister in post.

“And actually most people who know me… if they know me for anything will know me for being hopefully respectful but certainly listening and constructive and that is the way I intend to engage and act as minister.”

Conservative grandees issue warning to Rwanda rebels: do not ‘wreck’ Sunak’s government is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.