Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under fire from one of his own backbenchers over whether he will deliver on a proposal to use a military base in his constituency to house migrants.
Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh has strongly opposed Government plans to use RAF Scampton in his own constituency of Gainsborough to house migrants, and has voiced his discontent over what he has suggested is a failure by the Government to advance proposals to use Catterick Garrison in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said earlier this year that the Prime Minister is “showing leadership” on the issue of housing migrants by “bringing forward proposals to provide accommodation at barracks in Catterick Garrison in his constituency”.
Sir Edward voiced his frustration over the situation in the Commons, suggesting the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has opposed the plan to use Catterick Garrison.
Defence minister James Cartlidge said the backbencher’s characterisation of the situation was “not correct”.
Sir Edward told the Commons: “The Prime Minister said he was going to lead by example and when it came to the military base at Catterick, he was going to ensure that illegal migrants were housed there.
“We now understand that the generals have said that they don’t want a bunch of Afghans and Iraqis next to their squaddies, so nothing is happening with regard to illegal migrants being put there.
“Although the MoD is so determined that their soldiers should not be placed near migrants that they are moving them out of RAC Scampton.
“So when are illegal migrants going to be placed in Catterick as promised by the Prime Minister? I want a date and I want it now.”
Mr Cartlidge said: “I visited Catterick on Friday. I discussed precisely this matter with senior members of the Armed forces based at Catterick.
“The characterisation he uses is, I have to tell him, not correct.
“These matters are being considered objectively, and carefully, but that work is ongoing.”
Sir Edward could be heard shouting “ahh, ongoing, yes, ongoing”, as the minister brought his remarks to a close.
The Tory backbencher also raised the issue in the Commons last week, claiming Home Office officials had said the plan to use Catterick to house migrants is “not happening”, adding “where is the leadership in that?”
A Home Office spokesperson said in response: “Work is ongoing to bring forward accommodation at Catterick Garrison as part of our wider efforts to relieve pressure on the asylum system.”