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Rishi Sunak says he will make Commons ‘sit and vote until it’s done’ on Rwanda – UK


Sunak: my patience has ‘run thin’ over Rwanda and on Monday parliament will ‘sit there and vote until it’s done’

Rishi Sunak has said his patience has “run thin” on his failure to get his Rwanda deportation plans through parliament, and has pledged that the Commons will “sit there and vote until it’s done” on Monday.

At a press conference in London, the prime minister was asked whether, now deportation flights taking off in spring appear to have been ruled out, could he guarantee there would be deportations of asylum seekers in the summer. Sunak said:

On Rwanda, the very simple thing here is that repeatedly, everyone has tried to block us from getting this bill through. And yet again, you saw it this week. You saw Labour peers blocking us again, and that’s enormously frustrating. Everyone’s patience on this has run thin, mine certainly has.

So our intention now is to get this done on Monday. No more prevarication, no more delay. We are going to get this done on Monday, and we will sit there and vote until it’s done.

I think everyone will be able to see that that there’s a clear choice. You’ve got a Conservative government that is doing absolutely everything it can to pass this bill so that after that, as soon as practically possible, we can get flights to leave to Rwanda, so that we can stop the boats. And you’ve got a Labour party that is doing actually everything it can to delay and frustrated us in that aim. I think the British people can see that very clearly.

But we’re not deterred. We’re going to do everything we can to stop the boats. We’re going to get this done on Monday. We don’t want any more prevarication or delay from the Labour party. We’re going get this bill passed, and then we will work to get flights off, so we can build that deterrent, because that is the only way to resolve this issue.

If you care about stopping the boats, you’ve got to have a deterrent. You’ve got to have somewhere that you can send people so that they know if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay. It’s as simple as that.

Incidentally there is some new Lord Ashcroft polling on the Conservative Home website today that suggests 42% of people oppose the Rwanda plan, with 38% approving of it.

Among people who voted Conservative in 2019, support for the Rwanda plan stands at two-thirds. Of those that opposed it, 38% said they opposed it because it sounds “expensive and impractical”, while 55% said they opposed it because “it sounds like a harsh way to treat people.”

Outside her Glasgow home, former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon briefly addressed the situation with her husband, Peter Murrell, who has been charged in connection with embezzlement after being arrested for a second time by police.

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Sturgeon told reporters outside her Glasgow home that it has been “incredibly difficult”.

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“I can’t say any more,” she said. She asked for peace for her neighbours before leaving by car.

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Keir Starmer has reacted to Rishi Sunak’s speech on welfare reform this morning, suggesting the prime minister should focus on his pledge to reduce NHS rather than producing a “reheated version” of something the government announced years ago.

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PA Media reports the Labour leader told broadcasters:

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Labour has for a long time been urging measures to be taken to deal with the problem of people getting back into work because it is inhibiting their ability to work, it is also restraining us in terms of what we can do with the economy.

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That is why we have had a laser focus on how we get waiting lists down, because the biggest problem here frankly is that the government has broken the NHS, and waiting lists are up at 7.6 million.

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That is where the focus needs to be. This announcement morning from the government is a reheated version of something they announced seven years ago. It is no good talking about the problem, what we need is action to make the issues actually be dealt with.

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Rishi Sunak has faced criticism from healthcare professionals and been accused by Labour of trying to score “cheap headlines” after the prime minister outlined a plan he said would end “sicknote culture” in the UK.

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Speaking in London, Sunak said “We don’t just need to change the sicknote, we need to change the sicknote culture so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t”. He outlines five reforms he said the COnservative government would undertake in the next parliament.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) described the prime minister as “pushing a hostile rhetoric”, with a spokesperson saying that “Fit notes are carefully considered before they are written, and a GP will sign their patient off work only if they are not well enough to undertake their duties.

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“With a waiting list of 7.5 million – not including for mental health problems – delays to diagnostics, and resulting pressures on GP practices, patients cannot get the treatment they need to be able to return to work.”

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Earlier, on BBC Breakfast, Work and Pensions secretary Mel Stride said that he thought GPs were signing people off work unnecessarily, telling viewers “We have 2.8 million people on long term sickness benefits. Part of the journey on to those benefits almost certainly involve visiting a GP and being signed off. We have 11 million fit notes that are signed off every year. And in the case of 94% of those fit notes that are signed off, a box is ticked that says that the person is not capable of any work whatsoever.”

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Labour’s shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook, noting that chanceller Jeremy Hunt had made similar proposals when health secretary, said “This is a policy paper that’s been dusted off from 2017 to get a cheap headline and it won’t tackle the fundamental causes of the problem.”

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Pennycook said “There has been a long term rise for many, many years under this government in people who are on long term sickness benefits, either because they can’t get the treatment they need through the NHS, which is on its knees after 14 years of Conservative government, or they are not getting the proper support to get back into work.”

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Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey described it as “a desperate speech from a prime minister mired in sleaze and scandal”.

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Disability equality charity Scope said Sunak’s proposals on changes to personal independence payment (Pips) felt like “a full-on assault on disabled people.”

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Sunak said that the current spending on long-term sickness and disability benefits was unsustainable at £69bn, and spending on Pip was forecast to rise by 50% in the next four years.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) has urged Rishi Sunak to avoid using a “hostile rhetoric on sicknote culture” after his welfare reform announcement.

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PA Media reports Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England, the BMA’s GP committee, said:

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Fit notes are carefully considered before they are written, and a GP will sign their patient off work only if they are not well enough to undertake their duties.

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We do recognise the health benefits of good work, and that most people do want to work, but when they are unwell, people need access to prompt care.

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With a waiting list of 7.5 million – not including for mental health problems – delays to diagnostics, and resulting pressures on GP practices, patients cannot get the treatment they need to be able to return to work.

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So rather than pushing a hostile rhetoric on ‘sicknote culture’, perhaps the prime minister should focus on removing what is stopping patients from receiving the physical and mental healthcare they need, which in turn prevents them from going back to work.”

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Earlier, on BBC Breakfast, Work and Pensions secretary Mel Stride appeared to say that he thought GPs were signing people off work unnecessarily. [See 9.15 BST]

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The prime minister was in London today announcing a raft of reforms that he said a Conservative government would bring in during the next parliament.

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Rishi Sunak has said his patience has “run thin” on his failure to get his Rwanda deportation plans through parliament, and has pledged that the Commons will “sit there and vote until it’s done” on Monday.

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At a press conference in London, the prime minister was asked whether, now deportation flights taking off in spring appear to have been ruled out, could he guarantee there would be deportations of asylum seekers in the summer. Sunak said:

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On Rwanda, the very simple thing here is that repeatedly, everyone has tried to block us from getting this bill through. And yet again, you saw it this week. You saw Labour peers blocking us again, and that’s enormously frustrating. Everyone’s patience on this has run thin, mine certainly has.

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So our intention now is to get this done on Monday. No more prevarication, no more delay. We are going to get this done on Monday, and we will sit there and vote until it’s done.

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I think everyone will be able to see that that there’s a clear choice. You’ve got a Conservative government that is doing absolutely everything it can to pass this bill so that after that, as soon as practically possible, we can get flights to leave to Rwanda, so that we can stop the boats. And you’ve got a Labour party that is doing actually everything it can to delay and frustrated us in that aim. I think the British people can see that very clearly.

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But we’re not deterred. We’re going to do everything we can to stop the boats. We’re going to get this done on Monday. We don’t want any more prevarication or delay from the Labour party. We’re going get this bill passed, and then we will work to get flights off, so we can build that deterrent, because that is the only way to resolve this issue.

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If you care about stopping the boats, you’ve got to have a deterrent. You’ve got to have somewhere that you can send people so that they know if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay. It’s as simple as that.

\n

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Incidentally there is some new Lord Ashcroft polling on the Conservative Home website today that suggests 42% of people oppose the Rwanda plan, with 38% approving of it.

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Among people who voted Conservative in 2019, support for the Rwanda plan stands at two-thirds. Of those that opposed it, 38% said they opposed it because it sounds “expensive and impractical”, while 55% said they opposed it because “it sounds like a harsh way to treat people.”

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Labour’s Matthew Pennycook has accused Rishi Sunak of going for a “cheap headline” with his comments on “sicknote culture”.

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He accused the Conservatives of failing to tackle the root cause of the growing number of people on long-term sickness benefits, which is that they cannot get treatment due to near record NHS waiting lists.

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The shadow housing minister said:

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There has been a long term rise for many, many years under this government in people who are on long term sickness benefits, either because they can’t get the treatment they need through the NHS, which is on its knees after 14 years of Conservative government, or they are not getting the proper support to get back into work

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Adding that it was “not helpful” to make sweeping generalisations that GPs were signing people off too easily, Pennycook said “We need to look at the root causes of the problem”.

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He said:

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This announcement screams to me a government that, after 14 years, are out of ideas and out of time. This proposal, as I understand it, is a consultation on tweaks to the fit note system. So that’s a proposal that was first mooted by the chancellor Jeremy Hunt back when he was health secretary in 2017.

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We’re still the only G7 country that hasn’t returned to economic activity rates pre-pandemic. This is costing the country. Something’s got to be done. I don’t think tinkering with a call for evidence on the fit note system is anywhere near the scale of the challenge.

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We’ve got to bring NHS waiting lists down. We got to do more on mental health support. We’ve also got to reform social security. We’ve got to make job centres work, provide people with real support, and make work pay. This is a long term problem that is entirely of the Tories making.

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