'I don't know': Dominic Raab fails five times to say how many barges available to house migrants

29 March 2023, 10:56 | Updated: 29 March 2023, 11:31

Dominic Raab doesn't know how many barges are available

By Alice Bourne

Dominic Raab revealed to Nick Ferrari that he does not know how many barges are available to house migrants and could not answer the question as to whether any barges were actually available at all when asked five times.

The conversation comes after government plans to house migrants on giant barges and former RAF bases in a bid to slash £5.6m a day hotel costs.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, has told Nick Ferrari at breakfast that he does “not know the contractual position” of barges ready to house migrants and could not say whether any barges are actually available.

This comes as the government is set to unveil plans today to move away from using hotels to house migrants and instead place them on ferries, barges, and ex-military bases.

Nick quizzed Raab on the new government policy where “illegal migrants will be placed on prison ships or RAF bases” asking: “How many boats or barges do we have available.”

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Raab then completely avoided the question: “Well the first point is we’ve got to crush the criminal gangs preying on human misery and lining their pockets on illegal immigration and the small boats trade in particular. We’ve got to end the perception and the reality of people thinking that at the end of that journey, they can be housed in hotels at the cost of the taxpayer and your listeners at 6 million pounds a day.”

He further digressed from Nick’s question saying: “There are cheaper lower cost but humane forms of accommodation; you’ve mentioned barges you’ve mentioned former military barracks nothing is off the table and the immigration minister will set out the detail in the House of Commons in the proper way today.”

“But how many boats are available?” Nick pressed.

Raab responded flatly: “I don’t have that figure.”

Nick then pushed further: “But there are some aren’t there, there are some standing by?”

Raab again avoided this question: “Look those details will be set out by the immigration minister. Of course using vessels to do it is not uncommon in other parts of Europe so in the last analysis nothing is off the table but what is definitely off the table is the idea that you can come here illegally and be housed in a hotel.”

“But this I understand was discussed at cabinet yesterday,” Nick said, “presumably you were there, did someone not say ‘well how many boats have we got waiting Robert.’” referring to the immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

Read More: Migrants 'to be moved to giant barge and former RAF bases' in bid to slash £5.6m a day hotel costs

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Raab then put responsibility for answering the question of whether any boats were available on the immigration minister Robert Jenrick: “Nick you know I never comment on the private discussions of cabinet. The government is full square behind this because we know how many people are suffering as a result and how many gangsters are profiting.”

Nick then approached the topic from a different angle: “Do you know how many people are currently waiting to have their claims processed as asylum seekers.”

“I don’t”, said the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice.

Nick however did know the answer to this: “Its 51,000.”

Commenting on this Raab said: “It's too high”

Retiring to his question Nick said: “Well how many barges have we got… We have got some vessels secured? Some contracts have been signed?”

“I don’t know about the detail and contractual position,” said Raab, “what I can say is we are ending the practice of housing people in hotels.” Adding “You won’t have to wait too much longer Nick the immigration minister will set this out in the House of Commons.”

Robert Jenrick is set to make the announcement later today billed as a "move to rudimentary accommodation".

The UK currently spends £6.2m a day on hotels for migrants.

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