Staggering cost of migrant barges finally unveiled

Braverman says Labour has ‘no plan’ on small boats

The total cost of procuring floating barges to house illegal migrants has finally been revealed, after weeks of calls for the Government to come clean on how much it is spending on its latest attempt to deal with numbers crossing the Channel.

A staggering £1.6billion contract has been handed to a controversial Australian travel firm to establish the ships, it has been reported.

Corporate Management Travel received the lucrative payment, said to cover a two-year agreement with the Government, according to The Independent.

According to the website, the contract was awarded without competition, with a lawyer in the know saying the Government pushed a wider deal originally drawn up for official travel “beyond what it was intended to be used for”.

Despite the eye-watering cost, according to recent crossings figures, all three procured barges have notionally been filled up despite not a single one being moored yet.

The Bibby Stockholm, set to be moored in Dorset can accommodate 500 migrants, and the additional two announced last week will likely take on the same number.

Between the 10 and 15 June, 1,669 migrants crossed the channel, meaning all three would be at full capacity if they were in service.

Asked whether the Government plans on procuring more barges to cope with numbers, beyond the additional two announced by Rishi Sunak last week, the PM’s spokesperson told journalists yesterday he denied the characterisation that all three have already been filled up.

Richard Drax, the Tory MP representing South Dorset where the Bibby Stockholm will be moored, suggested the cost could be even higher than £1.6billion.

He said: “The point is this is taxpayers’ money, this contract might actually be separate from what the ports are being paid.

“Then on top of that the police want money, the health authority wants money, of course the council wants money, and yet the government continues to insist that this is cheaper than hotels. The overall figure will be alarmingly high.”

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The Government currently spends £5.6million a day on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers, excluding the figure spent on housing Afghan refugees.

Yvette Cooper responded to the £1.6billion revelation by saying the Home Office has “serious questions to answer”.

She said: “The Tories are spending more and more of taxpayers’ money on their total failure to fix the asylum backlog they have created.

“This is an incredibly expensive contract with no clarity on whether proper procedures have been followed, and the barges come on top of costly hotels, not instead of them, because of the Government’s failure to take asylum decisions or get any grip.”

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The contract between the Government and CTM says the two year period could be extended beyond 2025.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, reacted: “This murky contract leaves taxpayers in the dark. The migrant crisis may require an urgent response, but bungled procurement has cost a fortune in recent years.

“Ministers must ensure transparency and value for money when tendering services.”

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