Burnley and Padiham’s Member of Parliament has quizzed the top Home Office official on reports of civil servants briefing against the Government’s latest plans to process asylum claims in Rwanda.
Speaking in a Public Accounts Committee where evidence was being taken from the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary, Antony Higginbotham MP asked whether there was “a culture in the Home Office of officials briefing against the Home Secretary and working against government policy?”
It comes after reports have emerged of anonymous briefings to the press by the civil service expressing displeasure at the new proposals.
Under new plans to tackle illegal migration, migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys, such as by small boat or hidden in lorries, will have their asylum claim processed in Rwanda.
Those whose claims are accepted will then be supported to build a new and prosperous life in one of the fastest-growing economies, recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants.
Speaking in the Committee Antony said:
Debate and challenge is right and appropriate but some of the comments, certainly ones that were reported in the press indicated a desire on the part of some officials to work against the policy, or refuse to work on it.
The Home Office Permanent Secretary responded by saying that he had made clear to officials that the elected Government had made a policy decision and it was now time to move to “maximum support” to deliver that policy.
Speaking after the Committee Antony said:
This is not about saying that those within the civil service cannot hold their own opinion. But the job of the civil service is to put into practice Government policy.
I promised to residents across Burnley and Padiham that I would work to tackle the illegal boat crossing we have been seeing in the English Channel and this policy has my full support.
Last year we took back control of legal immigration into the UK, introducing a clear points-based system. This year I’m committed to seeing us take back control of illegal immigration. And my comments in the Public Accounts Committee were about ensuring that’s exactly what happens.
The Permanent Secretary has said officials will now offer ‘maximum support’ so let’s see if they do.