Sunak handing migrants a ‘Tory amnesty’ says Starmer as MP defects to Labour

The Government is handing migrants a “Tory amnesty” Sir Keir Starmer said as a Conservative MP defected to Labour while criticising Rishi Sunak’s attempts to tackle small boats crossings.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke crossed the floor to the Labour Party benches just ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions.

She hit out at the Government’s record on tackling small boats crossings in a statement, saying: “From small boats to biosecurity, Rishi Sunak’s Government is failing to keep our borders safe and secure.

“Lives are being lost in the English Channel while small boat arrivals are once again at record levels.

UK Parliament portraits
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, has crossed the house to join Labour (David Woolfall/UK Parliament)

For Sir Keir, the high profile defection was ammunition as he urged Mr Sunak to call a general election, following Conservative party losses at the local elections over the weekend.

The Labour leader said: “The whole country knows that removing less than 1% of asylum seekers isn’t stopping the boats. It is granting an amnesty, a Tory amnesty.

“But if he thinks the voters are wrong, if he thinks his own MPs joining the Labour party are wrong, if he thinks anyone believes any of the nonsense that he spouts, why doesn’t he put it to the test and call a general election?”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

“But it is yet another week where we hear nothing about his plan to do anything on the issues that matter to the country.”

He added: “He snipes from the side-lines, the Conservatives are building a brighter future.”

Sir Keir had earlier welcomed Ms Elphicke to the Labour benches, telling the Commons: “If one week a Tory MP who is also a doctor says the Prime Minister can’t be trusted with the NHS and joins Labour, and the next week the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of the small boats crisis says the Prime Minister cannot be trusted with our borders, and joins Labour. What is the point of this failed Government staggering on?”

Referencing Dr Dan Poulter’s defection to Labour a week earlier, the Prime Minister replied: “Can I join him in welcoming his newest MP for Blackpool (Chris Webb), and I say he looks a lot happier than the Member sitting there last week.”

Mr Sunak also paid tribute to Tory politicians who lost their seats in the local polls, telling the Commons: “Great leaders like Andy Street who leave behind a strong legacy of more homes, more jobs, and more investment, in sharp contrast to the legacy left by the last Labour government, which was a letter joking that there was no money left.”

Sir Keir then pressed the Prime Minister on migration, claiming Mr Sunak was a “dodgy salesman” while pointing to the Rwanda policy.

The Labour leader said: “He has finally found something in common with the British public – no matter where he calls home all his neighbours are backing this changed Labour Party and they keep rejecting him because they have sussed him out.

“They know there’s nothing behind the boasts, the gimmicks, the smug smile. He’s a dodgy salesman, desperate to sell them a dud. Sixteen days ago, when he held a press conference claiming victory on Rwanda, he said the next few weeks will be about action.

“People want deeds, not words. So, let’s test that. How many small boat crossings have there been since he said that 16 days ago?”

Mr Sunak sought to deflect by pointing to comments from Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and said: “Just before we go into that, he talked about a changed Labour Party, he talks about it a lot, and he also talked about his new mayor in London.

“So, just this morning, we’ve learned that the Labour mayor in London believes – and I quote – that there is an equivalence between the brutal terrorist attack of Hamas and Israel defending itself.

“And, let me be crystal clear, there is absolutely no equivalence between a terrorist group and a democratic state.

“So can I ask (Sir Keir) now, will he take this opportunity to demonstrate that the Labour Party has changed, and will he condemn those comments from the Labour mayor?”

Sir Keir responded with a joke, telling MPs: “I know that was a last runout before the general election but he is getting ahead of himself in asking me questions.”

He continued to describe the Rwanda plan as a “gimmick not a deterrent”, claiming Rwanda could only take a few hundred migrants a year.

“At that rate the Prime Minister’s grand plan would take over 300 years to remove them all,” Sir Keir said.

Mr Sunak replied: “He had the opportunity to condemn the comments of his mayor, a mayor who said there is an equivalence between Hamas and Israel.

“He did not do that and everyone will see what that is, that is the changed Labour party right there.”

He continued to defend his immigration policies, telling the Commons: “We want secure borders, he is happy with open borders.”

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