Rishi Sunak: PM says asylum seekers will return to Bibby Stockholm but didn't say when

  • PM Rishi Sunak spoke about Bibby Stockholm during a sit-down interview with ITV News West Country

Rishi Sunak has argued the Bibby Stockholm is still viable, despite refusing to clarify when people will live on it and how much it's costing.

The Prime Minister sat down with ITV News West Country on Thursday ahead of the Conservative Party Conference. 

The Bibby Stockholm barge, which was built to offer temporary accommodation to 500 asylum seekers, has been empty since 39 men were taken off in August due to traces of legionella bacteria being found onboard.

When asked how much it’s costing taxpayers, the PM was quick to point out the cost of asylum seekers living in hotels. 

Mr Sunak insists the barge is viable. Credit: PA

He said: "Take a step back: what is costing the taxpayers everyday is housing illegal migrants in hotels. It’s costing us £5 million to £6 million a day."

When it was pointed out that asylum seekers are still in those hotels because no one is currently on the barge, Mr Sunak said: "We’re making progress to find alternatives".

He said: "We’ve got to find alternatives of which the barge is one of the options, but more fundamentally we’ve got to stop people coming here in the first place because my view is that it’s this government and our country who decides who comes here, not criminal gangs."

When David asked again how much the Bibby Stockholm is costing as it sits empty, Mr Sunak said checks are being done to make sure it passes future inspections. 

Mr Sunak did insist the barge is viable though, but didn’t give a date for when people will be back on it. 

"Yes it is viable - it’s a better alternative than hotels. If we can find large sites like barges and others that we’ve found like disused military bases, that will ease pressure on local communities."

Moving on from the Bibby Stockholm, the PM was asked about the need for social housing in the west country, as 120,000 people are on the waiting list and that number is going up. 

Mr Sunak said: "Of course I want people to have a wonderful place to call home.

"We’ve invested record amounts in developing social housing but we also need to build homes for our young people.

"The other week, we tried to deal with a bit of defective EU law which is currently blocking 100,000 homes from being built."

Rishi Sunak was asked about the need for social housing in the west country. Credit: ITV News

However, the ITV News correspondent interviewing him said this doesn’t even cover all the people in the west country that need social housing.

He asked if the PM should perhaps have a target of how many houses should be built each year so people know what the aim is. 

To this, Mr Sunak said their Affordable Homes Programme is funding affordable housing and that the party is "delivery record amounts of it". Although, he did acknowledge that everyone wants it to be faster. 

Mr Sunak also confirmed he is committed to the full duelling for the A303, and making a dual carriageway by Stonehenge. 

He also said charting a new course for net zero will save rural families in the south west thousands of pounds. 

Mr Sunak finished by stressing the conservatives are "fighting [in the midterm by-elections] very hard".

This comes as Somerton and Frome was lost to the Lib Dems recently. 

"Best thing I can say to people is we’re focused on your priorities - halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists. Those are the country’s priorities, those are my priorities and we’re making progress."

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