Rishi Sunak has been criticised for a “depraved” bet with broadcaster Piers Morgan over whether flights will take off to Rwanda.
The TalkTV presenter offered the Prime Minister a £1,000 bet that ministers would not be able to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – Mr Sunak shook hands with Mr Morgan and appeared to accept the wager.
“I’ll bet you £1,000 to a refugee charity you don’t get anybody on those planes before the election,” Mr Morgan told the prime minister.
Mr Sunak has made the Rwanda plan central to his promise to “stop the boats” and curb migrant crossings in the Channel.
But time is running out for Mr Sunak to get flights in the air, with the House of Lords able to significantly stall his Rwanda legislation and jeopardise an ambition to have removal flights leaving by the spring.
The Prime Minister was immediately criticised by opposition parties, with the SNP reporting Mr Sunak to his own independent adviser on ministers’ interests and the Cabinet Secretary over what the party said was a potential breach of the ministerial code.
In a letter to Sir Laurie Magnus and Simon Case, SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman said the bet “falls below the high standards people should expect of those in public life” and may breach ministerial code rules on avoiding conflicts with private interests as well as the Nolan Principles of Public Life.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, in a post on X, formerly Twitter, said: “The lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet reduced to a crude bet. It’s just a game to these people. Depraved.”
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “Not a lot of people facing rising mortgages, bills and food prices are casually dropping £1,000 bets.
“It just shows that Rishi Sunak is totally out of touch with working people.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think what the Prime Minister’s saying, and obviously what is clear coming through from that interview, is the Prime Minister’s absolute confidence that we’ll get flights off the ground.”
The official pointed to the timetable previously set out by Mr Sunak, which is “by the spring”.
The spokesman batted off questions on whether Mr Sunak is setting a good example when the Government is taking a hard line on gambling.
“I think he’s focused on doing what is needed to deliver on the priorities for the British people,” he said.
Government minister Steve Baker defended Mr Sunak, telling ITV’s Peston: “I don’t think the Prime Minister’s into making bets on matters like this.
“And Piers sort of led him into it. It’s unfortunate.”