The civil servant in charge of the Home Office has said he does not have evidence to show the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will act as a deterrent.
In a letter released at the weekend, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary at the department, said that because the evidence was not available to justify the plan, he could not be sure it would provide value for money to the taxpayer.
The release of the letter coincided with Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, using his Easter sermon to say the principle behind the plan “cannot stand the judgment of God”.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, justified the Rwanda proposal on the grounds that the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats hoping to claim asylum in the UK has been rising sharply and that the prospect of being sent to Rwanda would act as a deterrent, disrupting the people-smuggling trade.
She also claimed the costs of the scheme would be a “drop in the ocean” compared with the long-term costs of allowing small-boat Channel crossings to continue to increase.
But in his letter Rycroft said he could not be sure this argument was correct.
He told Patel: “Value for money of the policy is dependent on it being effective as a deterrent. Evidence of a deterrent effect is highly uncertain and cannot be quantified with sufficient certainty to provide me with the necessary level of assurance over value for money.”
Rycroft wrote to tell Patel that she would need to issue a ministerial direction for the policy to go ahead. This is a rare procedure used when civil servants cannot justify a policy on sound public spending grounds and decide to flag up their concerns so that ministers have to take a formal, political decision to override them.
In his letter Rycroft stressed that he was not saying the policy would not work as a deterrent – just that it was impossible to know either way.
“I do not believe sufficient evidence can be obtained to demonstrate that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money,” he said. “This does not mean that [the policy] cannot have the appropriate deterrent effect; just that there is not sufficient evidence for me to conclude that it will.”
At the weekend the Home Office also released the text of Patel’s reply to Rycroft, in which she confirmed that she was issuing a …….