BUSINESS Secretary Grant Shapps has said he was advised Britain was “in danger” of breaking the law over its processing of migrants when he briefly took the reins as home secretary from Suella Braverman.

Asked why he was keen to move migrants into hotels while he was in the role, he told Sky News: “Simply that we’ve got to be careful not to break the law ourselves by detaining people who are able to be outside of that – well, it’s not a detention centre, but a processing centre at Manston.

“So, really just a question of making sure that we were acting within the law. That’s something that the Home Secretary is continuing to do now.”

Pressed on whether that meant the Government was breaking the law previously, he said: “The advice I had was very clear – that we were in danger of doing that if we weren’t acting. I did act during six days in the job.”

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Shapps said he did not see the advice given to Braverman during her first tenure in the role.

He also said the Manston asylum processing site was “tipping into becoming an unofficial detention centre” when he briefly took over as home secretary.

He told BBC Breakfast: “During that ... six days what I saw was a situation whereby a centre that was set up to be a processing centre – now, this is at Manston airport in Kent – was tipping into becoming an unofficial detention centre.

“I was very keen to ensure that we ... maintained ourselves within the law, had some very clear advice on that and made a number of changes, both moving people out but also the running of the centre itself to ensure that it wasn’t a detention centre, so some changes to the operation of the centre. Those are decisions that I very quickly made.

“The Home Secretary subsequently has continued to make the same changes to make sure that those numbers are brought down.”

Shapps said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has “hit it off well” with French premier Emmanuel Macron (below) and thinks they can make progress on reducing the number of migrants crossing the Channel.

The National: French president Emmanuel Macron

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “I was just for one week home secretary and I saw the extent of the problems with people being illegally transported across the Channel in dangerous conditions.

“The more we can work with our partners in France to stop people from leaving those shores in the first place, the better.

“One of the figures that’s really stuck out to me while I was in the Home Office as home secretary was the French had already stopped 29,000 people leaving their shores this year. If we can improve that, if we can stop more people from leaving, working with the French, then clearly that will relieve the pressure on our shores in Kent and elsewhere.

“And so I think that’s what the Prime Minister’s looking for in his discussions with President Macron and I think the two of them have hit if off well and I hope to see more progress there.”

Asked why the Government did not make sure there was a returns agreement in the post-Brexit trade deal, he said: “One of the things that is the case is that people are not originating from France, they are travelling to France in the first place, and so it’s important we have arrangements in place with countries which go way beyond Europe, so we need to actually go back to the source countries in many cases.

“Obviously, this would be an issue that I would expect they will discuss.”

Sunak said Braverman is focused on reducing the number of migrants coming to the UK illegally.

He told broadcasters in EgyptSpeaking in Egypt where he is attending COP27, he said: “The Home Secretary is actually at the moment making sure that we reduce the numbers at Manston, and we’re making very good progress on that.

“But in the long term, to make sure that we don’t have a situation that we saw at Manston happening again, ... we need to reduce the number of people coming here illegally.

“That’s going to require the Home Secretary and others to work constructively with partners around Europe to stop people coming in the first place.

“And there’s a range of things we need to do to make that a reality. That’s what the Home Secretary is focused on and that’s what I’m focused on as well.”