JAMES Cleverly, the new Home Secretary who has said he is “absolutely determined” to get deportation flights to Rwanda in the air, has denied calling the plan “batsh**” in private.

It comes after a debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday saw Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, accuse Cleverly of having no faith in the plan which he is now in charge of delivering for the UK Government.

Cooper said: “Why will the Home Secretary not put that money into a proper plan to tackle the boats?

“I do not believe that he ever believed in the Rwanda plan. He distanced himself from it and his predecessor’s language on it. He may even, on occasion, have privately called it batsh**.”

Appearing on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Cleverly was asked if he had made the comment.

“That was a claim made of me, not something that I said,” the Home Secretary began. “But the point is, the point is, it’s good for parliamentary theatre, the point that I said is, and I repeat it, the Rwanda scheme is already having a deterrent effect.

“When we operationalise it, when we get those flights taking off, it will have an even greater deterrent effect.”

Also asked the same question on Sky News, he said: “I don’t recognise that phrase, and the point that I’ve made, and the point I made at the despatch box, is that the Rwanda scheme is an important part – but only a part – of the range of responses we have to illegal migration.

“And that range of responses is working. The numbers are down compared with the rest of Europe where the numbers are up.”

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Both Cleverly and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have pledged to get the Rwanda scheme up and running as soon as possible, despite the Supreme Court ruling that it is unlawful. They plan to use emergency legislation and a treaty with Rwanda to circumvent the judges’ unanimous decision.

But Cleverly distanced the UK Government from Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson’s suggestion that they should simply “ignore the laws”.

Cleverly told Times Radio: “I’ve listened to what he said. I disagree with the point he’s made. This is how politics works. I don’t always agree with all my friends and colleagues.

“But the simple point is the Prime Minister, I, the Government are clear and unambiguous. We play by the rules.”

He said Anderson was “expressing the frustration that a lot of people feel” but “we are a law-abiding country, a law-abiding government”.

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Cleverly further said the Government was “absolutely determined” to get a flight to Rwanda in the air before the General Election expected next year.

However, he said the UK Government would not look to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), calling the argument a distraction.

“Our preferred option is to remain in the ECHR,” he told Times Radio, after the Supreme Court made the point “there are a number of international treaties which are relevant” in the Rwanda case.

“This is a distracting conversation,” Cleverly said. “I get it is of interest, legitimate interest, but the point I have made is I, the Prime Minister, the Government, will not be distracted from focusing on what we have been told by the Supreme Court judges needs to be fixed in order to get this out of the way.”

The Home Secretary also refused to apologise for the amount of money spent on the Rwanda scheme.

Asked how much more would be spent, beyond the £140 million already committed, he told LBC: “I’m going to be really clear on this. I make no apology at all for spending money protecting this nation. It is the primary function of government.

“We know that even before the first flight has taken off the Rwanda policy is having a deterrent effect.

“We interview people that have attempted to come here through illegal migration and we know that people have been dissuaded from coming to the UK because of the fear of Rwanda scheme.”