Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today questioned ministers on the stay of the Border Force vessel HMC Valiant in the Northern Isles earlier this summer. The cutter was photographed in Stromness Harbour on 14 August. Mr Carmichael asked the immigration minister Robert Jenrick why the Valiant was in Orkney, given the government’s focus on small boat crossings in the English Channel.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“If the Government’s attention is so strongly focused on crossings in the channel, can the Minister explain to me why one of the four Border Force cutters spent so much time this summer tied up at a pier in Orkney?
“We have a history of people coming in small boats to Orkney, but the Vikings have been quiet for quite a while now. Is that not a curious use of that scarce resource?
Responding for the government, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick MP said:
“I am happy to look into that issue, and I am delighted to see the right hon. Gentleman’s Damascene conversion to stopping the boats. I can assure him that the UK has a very robust and efficient operation in the channel. We have been commended by international organisations—including when I spoke to the director general of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees—for the work that we do to save lives at sea in the channel. I commend the Border Force officers who are part of that.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“People in the isles have every right to question why the Border Force has been plying its trade around our waters. If there had been a spate of small boat crossings in the Pentland Firth this summer then you might think a few fishermen or ferry workers would have noticed. I will be looking for some clarity on this matter from the minister.
“Jenrick talks about an “efficient” operation in the Channel. It is hard to square that with the record backlog in asylum cases that he has presided over. This Conservative government has broken the asylum system with their gimmicks and game-playing – they cannot be trusted to fix it.”