Minister says Rwanda flights will start ‘within weeks’ despite no airline named

A Cabinet minister was unable to say whether the Government has found an airline to send asylum seekers to Rwanda despite suggesting that flights would take off “within weeks”.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins insisted the Home Office is “ready to go” in implementing the scheme as a Bill aimed at saving the stalled deportation policy makes its way through Parliament.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly said flights to Kigali will take off by spring, but refused to name a specific date.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, Ms Atkins said: “We want them to take off as quickly as possible … We very much plan to have it within weeks”.

Asked whether the Government had an air carrier ready yet, Ms Atkins said: “The Home Office is working on this, and so believe you me, the Home Office is ready to go.”

“They haven’t got one, have they?” Sir Trevor asked her.

Health secretary Victoria Atkins
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the Rwanda scheme was ‘one part’ of the Government’s overall plan to cut illegal migration (Jeff Moore/PA)

Elsewhere on Sunday’s morning broadcast round, deputy Tory Party chairwoman Rachel Maclean appeared to suggest a carrier had still not been confirmed.

“I’m sure that we will have a carrier in place,” she told Times Radio. “And this is all part of operationalising the plan. We need this plan because we need to have the deterrent effect.”

Mr Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda Bill, which aims to protect the Government’s troubled deportation scheme from further legal setbacks after the UK Supreme Court ruled against it, will return to the Commons next week.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, the legislation would also give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the Lords has insisted on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

Government sources have insisted to the PA news agency that securing planes to carry asylum seekers would not be a problem when the time came to put the scheme into action.

Mr Sunak has pinned the success of the scheme on the Bill passing Parliament, telling reporters last Wednesday: “First of all, we need to get it through Parliament where the Labour Party has been blocking it for a long time.

“Once it’s up and running, I’m confident we’ll be able to operationalise the scheme, get people on flights … I’m confident that once the Bill is passed, we will be able to get the scheme up and running.”

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