PMQs live: Starmer clashes with Sunak over 'broken' asylum system: 'How can it be anyone's fault but theirs?'

Rishi Sunak faced off against Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons during his second PMQs as Prime Minister

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Sir Keir Starmer has clashed with Rishi Sunak over the asylum system after Home Secretary Suella Braverman described it as "broken".

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “His Home Secretary says the asylum system is broken. Who broke it?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded: “We can look at the record on migration policy.”

The remark was met with a wall of noise from the Labour benches before Mr Sunak continued: “What did we on this side of the House do?

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer

“We gave the British people a referendum on Brexit. We delivered Brexit. We ended the free movement of people.

"That’s our record on migration policy. It’s not something the honourable gentleman supported. He opposed it at every turn and it’s not what the British people want.”

Sir Keir added: “No-one wants open borders on this side of the House. They have lost control of borders on their side of the House.

“Four prime ministers in five years. It’s the same old, same old, he stands there and tries to pass the blame.

“If the asylum system is broken, and his lot have been in power for 12 years, how can it be anyone’s fault but theirs?”

Mr Sunak replied: “People rightly want to see us getting a grip on migration and our borders. Let’s look at the record … he voted against the Nationality and Borders Bill, he said he would scrap the Rwanda partnership, he opposed the ending of free movement of people.

“Border control is a serious, complex issue, but not only does the party opposite not have a plan, they have opposed every single measure we have taken to solve the problem, you can’t attack a plan if you don’t have a plan.”

The Prime Minister went on to say that he and the Home Secretary are “on the same page” when it comes to tackling migration.

Mr Sunak’s comments came after the Labour leader asked: “We voted against it (Rwanda deal) because we said it wouldn’t work and it hasn’t worked.

“He says he’s getting a grip, he’s got a plan. So, let’s have a look at that plan. The Rwanda deal was launched in April, it cost the taxpayer £140 million and rising, the number of people deported to Rwanda is zero. Since then, 30,000 people across the Channel in small boats. It’s not working.”

Mr Sunak replied: “We on this side of the House are clear that we want to defend our borders.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman

“When the shadow home secretary this weekend was asked she couldn’t answer a simple question if the party opposite was in favour of higher or lower migration.

“It’s that simple, the Home Secretary and I, when it comes to tackling migration, reducing migration, we are on the same page. That party’s policy is a blank page.”

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that “not enough” asylum claims have been processed.

Sir Keir asked: “Of all the people who arrived in small boats last year, how many asylum claims have been processed?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Not enough is the answer, very straightforwardly, not enough. That’s what we are going to fix. But the honourable gentleman raises this question, what do we do? We have increased the number of processing officials by 80 percent.

“We are putting an extra 500 more by next March. But if he really was serious about fixing this problem, then he would acknowledge that we do need to tackle the issue of people putting spurious, spurious claims, spurious repeated last-minute claims to frustrate the process. That’s how we’ll tackle the system.”

Sir Keir joked that the bookies believe there is a higher chance of Ms Braverman becoming the next Conservative Party leader than processing an asylum claim within 12 months.

The Labour leader told the Commons: “Four percent of people arriving in small boats last year had their asylum claim processed. According to the bookies, the Home Secretary has a better chance of becoming the next Tory leader of processing an asylum claim in a year.

“And he talks about numbers – they’re only taking half the number of asylum decisions that they used to. That’s why the system is broken.

“Four thousand people at the Manston air force base, massively overcrowded, all sorts of diseases breaking out. So did the Home Secretary receive legal advice that she should move people out? Yes or no?”

In the early stages of the Commons debate, Mr Sunak again jumped to the defence of home secretary Ms Braverman amid calls for her to be sacked.

Labour MP Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) said: “His Home Secretary has leaked information, is overseeing chaos in the Home Office and has broken the law.

“What will she actually have to do to get the sack?”

To which Mr Sunak replied: “The Home Secretary made an error of judgment but she recognised her mistake and took accountability for her actions.”

He said Ms Braverman has set out “transparently, in detail a full sequence of events”, adding: “She is now getting on with the job – cracking down on crime, defending our borders, something I know the party opposite has no interest in supporting.”