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Jess Phillips asks why Tories willing to spend 169k per Rwanda deportee but just £42 per child rape victim

Labour MP gives impassioned speech in House of Commons amid heated debate of Rwanda Bill.

Labour MP Jess Phillips has hit out at the government over plans to spend £169,000 per migrant deported to Rwanda while earmarking just £42 per child rape victim.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, amid debate over the Rwanda Bill, Phillips gave an impassioned speech questioning where the government would find extra judges to support its flagship immigration policy while rape victims in her constituency faced a seven-year wait to have their cases heard.

“I was in for the committee stage of the debate earlier, and the chair of the home affairs select committee said that there was a view that each person that was sent to Rwanda would cost $169,000, and it piqued my anger so greatly because I had just come from an event with the Home Secretary around it being a year on from the independent child sexual abuse inquiry” she said.

"I looked at how much money the home office was allocating for their sexual abuse against children fund in 2022, and it was 4.5 million pounds, which I worked out was £42 pounds for every child who had been raped in that year.

Jess Phillips addressing the House of Commons about the Rwanda bill
Jess Phillips addressing the House of Commons about the Rwanda bill

She continued: "And 150 judges can be found yesterday under the sofa by the PM when cases in my constituency of rape victims waiting seven years to get in front of a judge.

"Frankly, Mr Speaker, people who think that the amount of time sent on wasting taxpayers money on something that hasn't worked the last two times we tried it and will not work this time, frankly Mr Speaker should be ashamed of themselves for voting for something when they don't have any idea how much it is going to cost the people in their constituencies."

Phillips's comments came into the middle of a two-day, heated debate in the Commons amid the issue and a threat from Tory rebels who indicated they were unhappy with the Rwanda Bill, it passed comfortably with just 11 Conservative MPs voting against it.

The bill is now with the House of Lords, which could reject or amend it. The prime minister told the House of Lords to “get on board and do the right thing” in supporting his Rwanda Bill.

The government has so far spent £290 million on the scheme, despite not sending any individuals to Rwanda.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference in Downing Street in London, Thursday Jan. 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference in Downing Street in London, Thursday Jan. 18, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

What is next for Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan?

The Bill is expected to face its biggest test in the upper chamber, where the Government does not have an overall majority and cannot control the timetable for debate.

It is not expected to appear before the Lords for the next few weeks.

Several prominent peers have already expressed concerns about the scope of the legislation, which seeks to enable Parliament to deem Rwanda a safe country and gives ministers the power to disregard some human rights law.

Lord Carlile of Berriew has warned the Government is moving towards “totalitarianism” in its handling of the asylum policy and suggested the upper chamber would seek to undo its “meddling” in the independent courts.

Many peers fear that the integrity of the British legal system is “under attack” from Tory infighting, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and the Lords can amend the Bill in a bid to address such concerns.

This sets the stage for a bout of parliamentary ping pong, the process by which legislation is sent back and forth between the two Houses as they respond to one another’s proposals.