Minister claims UK not ‘sub-contracting’ responsibilities after Archbishop of Canterbury slams Rwanda asylum plan

A minister has rejected claims from Justin Welby that Britain is “sub-contracting” its responsibilities, hailing the widely condemned deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “bold” and “innovative”.

The energy minister, Greg Hands, also echoed comments from Priti Patel, that critics of the plan, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, needed to “show what their solution would be” to Channel crossings.

The remarks come as some Conservative MPs criticized the head of the Church of England for “sharpening political divisions” while cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed he had misunderstood the policy.

In a scathing intervention during his Easter Sunday sermon, Mr Welby suggested the plan — signed by the home secretary with the Rwandan government last week — would not stand the “judgment of God”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury accused the government of “sub-contracting” its responsibilities, and claimed there were “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.

“The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot,” he added.

Pressed on whether it was wrong for Mr Welby to describe the asylum plan as “ungodly”, Mr Hands told Sky News: “I think what others, the critics of this plan, need to do is show what their solution would be.”

He added: “We have a position now where last year 28,500 people crossed the Channel illegally into this country — this is a growing problem. We’ve taken a bold and innovative measure with Rwanda to take action here.”

Despite a poll last week showing more people were opposed to the proposals than supported — 42 per cent versus 34 per cent — the minister said: “I think the British people are in support of that”.

Quizzed on the Archbishop’s claim that the UK is outsourcing its responsibilities by sending migrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, over 4,000 miles away, Mr Hands replied: “No, we’re not.

“This is an agreement between two sovereign countries: the UK and Rwanda, where Rwanda with its very good track record on taking refugees, asylum seekers, it’s an innovative solution.

“It’s not entirely without precedent, other countries have done similar things in the past, and it’s the government taking action here.”

Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, the home secretary also described government plans as “bold and innovative”, adding: “It’s surprising that those institutions that criticize the plans fail to offer their own solutions”.

But shadow Labor minister Sarah Jones suggested it would be “madness” to expect migrants to stay in Rwanda after attempting to reach the UK, adding: “We are just moving the people smuggling problem, we are not fixing it, which is what the government claims to try and do.”

Speaking to Times Radio, she added: “The government hasn’t even said how much this is going to cost – the £120 million is just an upfront payment to the Rwandan government.

“The current admin of the scheme, they don’t even know how much that’s going to cost.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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