Politics latest news: Housing migrants at ex-military bases will not end use of hotels 'overnight'

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, is pictured in Downing Street on March 28 - Amer Ghazzal /Shutterstock
Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, is pictured in Downing Street on March 28 - Amer Ghazzal /Shutterstock
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The immigration minister has admitted the use of hotels to house migrants will not end "overnight" under the Government’s plans to utilise former military bases to provide alternative accommodation.

Robert Jenrick announced this afternoon that a number of ex-bases across the country will be used to house "several thousand" asylum seekers as part of efforts to reduce the "eye-watering" £2.3 billion annual bill on hotel rooms.

The Government will also "explore the possibility" of using old ferries and barges to provide accommodation as it continues to tackle the migrant Channel crossings crisis.

But Mr Jenrick told MPs in the House of Commons: "I want to be clear. These sites on their own will not end the use of hotels overnight."

He said using the former military bases will "relieve pressure on our communities and they will manage asylum seekers in a more appropriate and cost effective way".

Mr Jenrick said accommodation for migrants should meet their "essential living needs and nothing more" because the UK "cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects".

You can follow the latest updates below. 

04:00 PM

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I will be back early tomorrow morning.

03:16 PM

Greg Hands hits back at Sir Ed Davey following Lib Dem local election campaign launch

Greg Hands has hit back at Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey after he launched his party's local elections campaign with an attack on the Tories (see the post below at 11.47).

Mr Hands, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said: "The Liberal Democrats are charging more for council tax, band for band, than the Conservatives while delivering worse local services.

"The Liberal Democrats should focus on local people’s priorities instead of waging war on motorists, cutting weekly bin services, and wasting taxpayers’ money on vanity projects.

"Only the Conservatives can be trusted to deliver for your local area. Filling potholes. Cutting crime. Collecting your bins on time. All while keeping your council tax low."

02:52 PM

Humza Yousaf announces Cabinet appointments

Scotland’s new First Minister Humza Yousaf has announced his Cabinet appointments, with Shona Robison taking on the Finance brief as well as being confirmed as Deputy First Minister.

Michael Matheson becomes Health Secretary, Jenny Gilruth takes Education and Angela Constance is appointed Justice and Home Affairs Secretary.

Mairi McAllan becomes the second youngest member to be appointed to a Scottish Cabinet as Net Zero and Just Transition Secretary.

Neil Gray is appointed Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy. Mairi Gougeon and Angus Robertson both remain in post as Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, respectively.

Shirley-Anne Somerville becomes Secretary for Social Justice.

02:50 PM

Labour poll lead over Tories at 16 points

Labour extended its lead over the Tories slightly in the wake of Boris Johnson's appearance in front of the Privileges Committee's partygate probe, a new poll has suggested.

Mr Johnson gave evidence to the committee on March 22 and a Savanta survey conducted between March 24-26 put Labour on 45 per cent and the Tories on 29 per cent, giving Sir Keir Starmer's party a 16 point lead.

The Conservative Party was down two points on a poll conducted between March 17-19. Labour was unchanged.

02:44 PM

'Most egregious' migrant hotels will be closed first

The "most egregious" use of hotels for migrant housing will be prioritised for return to public use first, the immigration minister suggested.

Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Jack Brereton said the city had "contributed significantly to accommodating both asylum seekers and refugees", adding: "My constituents in Stoke-on-Trent want to know will the minister be prioritising emptying those hotels in Stoke-on-Trent?"

Robert Jenrick acknowledged Stoke had "stepped up and has provided a significant amount of accommodation".

He added: "We want to ensure that hotels that are the most egregious cases are closed first, and I think in particular of the North Staffs Hotel in the centre of Stoke, that is exactly the sort of important business asset that I would like to see closed swiftly."

02:06 PM

Lib Dems mock ministers of migrant ferries plans

The Liberal Democrats mocked the Government over its plans to use old ferries and barges to house migrants.

Alistair Carmichael, the party's home affairs spokesman, told the House of Commons: "I think the House should be more generous to the minister. We should acknowledge the true genius of this announcement.

"Only this Home Office team could think that the answer to the problem of growing numbers of people in small boats was to take them all together and put them into one big boat."

01:45 PM

Labour claims Government is 'desperate to distract' over migrant accommodation plans

Plans to use barges to house asylum seekers shows the Government is "desperate to distract" from what its policies will do to the former home of the Dambusters, Labour has said.

A former RAF base in Lincolnshire which was home to the famous squadron has been earmarked by the Government as a site for migrant accommodation (see the post below at 12.56).

Speaking in the Commons, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "The Prime Minister has just said the Home Secretary was wrong, the Rwanda flights won’t start this summer.

"They’ve nowhere to send people too, and instead of speeding up asylum decisions they are just going to cancel them, so that means more people in asylum accommodation and hotels and more flimflam headlines that just don’t stack up.

"Today it was barges, and it turns out there aren’t any. Desperate to distract everyone from the damage they might want to do to the Dambusters heritage, instead they start talking about ferries and barges.

"Three years ago they said the same thing. Last summer the Prime Minister said it would be cruise liners. The Home Office civil servants said ferries would end up costing more than the hotels they are already spending so much money on.

"So instead the immigration minister has been sent around the country with a copy Waterways Weekly trying to find barges instead, and he still hasn’t found any."

01:04 PM

Immigration minister: 'Inaction is not an option'

Concluding his statement in the House of Commons, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said: "Inaction is not an option. The British people rightly want us to tackle iullegal migration. As I have set out today, we are doing exactly that."

01:02 PM

Robert Jenrick: New migrant accommodation sites 'undoubtedly in the national interest'

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said new migrant accommodation sites announced by the Government will "relieve pressure on our communities".

He told the House of Commons: "I want to be clear. These sites on their own will not end the use of hotels overnight. But alongside local dispersal and other forms of accommodation which we will bring forward in due course, they will relieve pressure on our communities and they will manage asylum seekers in a more appropriate and cost effective way.

"Of course we recognise the concerns of local residents and we are acutely aware of the need to minimise the impact of these sites on communities.

"Basic healthcare will be available, around the clock security will be provided on site and our providers will work closely with local police and other partners."

Mr Jenrick said the new sites are "undoubtedly in the national interest".

12:56 PM

Immigration minister announces series of sites for new migrant accommodation

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has announced four new locations where asylum seekers will be housed, including one in Rishi Sunak's constituency.

He said: "The Government will use military sites being disposed of in Essex and Lincolnshire and a separate site in East Sussex.

"These will be scaled up over the coming months and will collectively provide accommodation to several thousand asylum seekers through repurposed barrack blocks and portakabins.

"In addition the Prime Minister is showing leadership on this issue by bringing forward proposals to provide accommodation at Catterick Garrison barracks in his constituency. And we are continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands."

12:52 PM

UK must take action to avoid becoming a 'magnet' for 'millions' of displaced people, says immigration minister

Robert Jenrick said that the Government's Illegal Migration Bill will tackle the migrant Channel crossings crisis but in the meantime action must be taken to stop hotels being used for housing migrants.

The immigration minister said there is a need to "fundamentally alter our posture toward those who seek to enter our country illegally".

Accommodation for migrants should meet people's "essential living needs and nothing more", he said.

"We cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects," he told the House of Commons.

12:48 PM

Robert Jenrick sets out plan to tackle 'eye-watering' migrant hotels bill

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, is now on his feet in the House of Commons as he sets out the Government's plans to reduce spending on migrant hotels.

Mr Jenrick said the "sheer number of small boats have overwhelmed our asylum system and forced the Government to place asylum seekers in hotels".

Mr Jenrick said that using the hotels to house migrants "takes valuable assets from communities" and costs the taxpayer an "eye-watering £2.3billion a year bill".

"We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people," he said.

12:35 PM

Liz Truss hits back at Jeremy Hunt over mini-Budget criticism

Liz Truss has hit back at Jeremy Hunt after the Chancellor criticised her over her mini-Budget "mistakes" (see the post below at 10.06 for Mr Hunt's full comments).

A spokesman for Ms Truss said: "Liz was always clear that you can’t deliver economic growth and thus reduce borrowing by hiking taxes.

"Raising corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent looks like a pretty bad mistake right now when you consider how a firm like Astra Zeneca is locating its new plant in Ireland where corporation tax is half the rate now being levied by the British Government. The Treasury looks like it will lose revenue as a result of that decision."

12:26 PM

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson seeks assurance on policing resources after Northern Ireland terror threat level increased

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, raised the decision to increase the terror threat level in Northern Ireland and sought an assurance from Dominic Raab that the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be provided with "the resources they need to counter this serious terrorist threat".

The Deputy Prime Minister said that "of course the threat level is kept under constant review" and "of course we will make sure all the resources are available to the PSNI".

12:21 PM

Dominic Raab accuses Angela Rayner of 'usual bluster and political opportunism'

Angela Rayner asked Dominic Raab if he will "walk before he is pushed".

She told the House of Commons: "The reality is while people in Britain feel more and more unsafe he seems to spend all of his time trying to save his own job and none of his time on his actual job.

"And it is not just me that thinks so. The Prime Minister clearly doesn't trust him to deal with anti-social behaviour because he has given that job to the Levelling Up Secretary."

She added: "Can he say today, will he walk before he is pushed?"

Mr Raab said: "One thing never changes, she always comes with her usual bluster and political opportunism."

12:16 PM

Angela Rayner demands apology from Dominic Raab over court waits

Angela Rayner told Dominic Raab that rape survivors are having to wait an average of three years for their case to come to court.

She said: "Those three years... is it any wonder that from April to September last year 175 trials for rape and other serious sexual offences have had to be dropped because the victim could no longer cope with the delay?

"So let me ask him, when will he apologise to all those women denied justice because of his failure to sort the courts backlog?"

Mr Raab, the Justice Secretary, said: "She ignores the impact on the court backlog of the pandemic or indeed the CBA strike. But let me tell her what we are doing. We have quadrupled funding for victims since 2010, quadrupled the funding provided by the last Labour government, we launched a 24/7 support line so that when those victims of that appalling crime come forward they get the support they need."

12:10 PM

Angela Rayner claims Tories are 'missing in action in the fight against crime'

Angela Rayner said that criminals are "plaguing our towns and leaving people feeling unsafe" as she claimed the Tories are "missing in action in the fight against crime".

The Labour deputy leader asked Dominic Raab "why after 13 years of his party in government there are now 6,000 fewer neighbourhood police officers on Britain's streets".

Mr Raab claimed Ms Rayner "really does have a brass neck because they voted against our funding of police recruitment and the 20,000 extra police officers".

12:06 PM

Dominic Raab and Angela Rayner clash over anti-social behaviour crackdown

Prime Minister's Questions is now underway in the House of Commons as Dominic Raab faces Angela Rayner.

Ms Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, started by asking the Deputy Prime Minister about the Government's latest crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

She asked whether the crackdown will mean "more bullies will be brought to justice" in an attempted jab at Mr Raab over the ongoing probe into his behaviour - he has denied all allegations of bullying.

Mr Raab hit back by referencing comments made by Ms Rayner in the past as he said: "I can reassure the House I have never called anyone scum."

12:01 PM

Pictured: Rishi Sunak arrives at funeral of Betty Boothroyd

Rishi Sunak arrives to attend the funeral of former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, at St George's Church in Thriplow near Cambridge - Daniel Leal/AFP
Rishi Sunak arrives to attend the funeral of former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, at St George's Church in Thriplow near Cambridge - Daniel Leal/AFP

11:47 AM

Sir Ed Davey: Local elections 'chance to send a message that enough is enough'

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the local elections are an opportunity for voters to "send a message" to the Conservative Party that "enough is enough".

Speaking after launching the party's local election campaign (see the post below at 11.16), Sir Ed said: "People are having to wait hours for an ambulance, weeks for a GP appointment or months for urgent cancer treatment as the NHS crisis spirals out of control. But the Conservatives have failed to deliver the new hospitals they promised and are breaking their pledge to recruit more GPs. It shows this Conservative government is out of touch, out of ideas and out of excuses.

"The local elections in May are a chance to send a message that enough is enough: the British people are fed up with being taken for granted by the Conservative Party and want them out of government. From Stockport to Surrey, from Eastbourne to Esher, lifelong Conservative voters are saying ‘never again’ and backing Liberal Democrat candidates instead.

"People are turning to the Liberal Democrats because they know we work hard for our communities, we hear your concerns, and we never take you for granted. It’s why we gained more seats than any other party at last year’s local elections – and why I know we’ll have more to celebrate across the country in May."

11:16 AM

Sir Ed Davey launches Lib Dem local election campaign with hay bale tractor stunt

The Liberal Democrats launched their local election campaign this morning with a very literal representation of the party's stated aim of smashing the "blue wall".

Sir Ed Davey arrived at the event in a bright yellow tractor which proceeded to drive through a spray-painted blue wall of hay bales.

Here is the video, posted on Twitter by LBC's Henry Riley:

11:08 AM

Dominic Raab to face Angela Rayner at PMQs

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will both be attending the funeral of Betty Boothroyd, the first woman Commons speaker, today.

That means Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, will represent the Government at PMQs, with Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, filling in for Sir Keir.

Mr Sunak said that Parliament "stands taller" because of Lady Boothroyd's service.

10:58 AM

Jeremy Hunt defends Government's continued backing for HS2

Jeremy Hunt said the Government remains committed to the HS2 high speed rail project despite delays and moves to save money.

The Chancellor was told that HS2 had been beset by "vast cost overruns" and that the roll out of the new line is happening at a "snail's pace".

Asked if the Government should look at funding other projects instead, Mr Hunt told the Treasury Select Committee: "I don't believe so... if you look at the reason why countries like France or Japan or Germany have been able to spread their growth much more evenly than we have in the UK it's because they have better connectivity."

Mr Hunt said that was the reason why he had been "very careful to protect the funding for HS2".

10:35 AM

Humza Yousaf sworn in as First Minister of Scotland

Humza Yousaf has been sworn in as Scotland’s First Minister. He has just taken the oaths of office at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Flanked by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC and watched by his family, Mr Yousaf pledged allegiance to the King, as well as to serve him in the office of First Minister and as the Keeper of the Scottish Seal.

The oath was administered by Lord Carloway, the Lord President, who heads up the judiciary in Scotland.

10:32 AM

Jeremy Hunt: 'I accept the tax burden has gone up for the moment'

Jeremy Hunt accepted that the tax burden is now at a 70-year high.

He told the Treasury Select Committee that he wants "to bring it down".

"As a proportion of GDP I accept that following a once in a century global pandemic and a once in a generation energy crisis... yes, I accept the tax burden has gone up for the moment," he said.

"But I want to bring it down and that is why the focus in the Budget was unlocking our long term economic growth rate through addressing labour supply and business investment."

10:25 AM

Chancellor promises no 'degradation of frontline services' over public sector pay deals

Turning to public sector pay deals, Labour's Dame Angela Eagle asked Jeremy Hunt how the Government will fund the extra pay rises which are being offered to public sector workers.

Asked if the money will have to come from existing Whitehall budgets, the Chancellor said: "My message is that we will fund these pay rises in the way that we always fund pay rises which is a discussion with departments but we make a commitment that there will not be a degradation of frontline services for the public."

10:17 AM

Government 'will return' to question of how to boost business investment

Turning to the corporation tax rise and investment incentives, Jeremy Hunt was told that there is a "real risk of the UK being squeezed" by the more generous investment incentives being offered by other countries like the US.

Told that there were "clear indications" of companies snubbing the UK in favour of other destinations, Mr Hunt said he wanted to ensure that the country "remains competitive".

He said more work will be done to encourage more business investment and "we will return to this" issue.

10:06 AM

Jeremy Hunt takes swipe at Liz Truss over mini-Budget 'mistakes'

Jeremy Hunt has taken a swipe at Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng as he said the mini-Budget had shown "you can't fund tax cuts through increased borrowing".

The Chancellor told the Treasury Select Committee: "Yes, there were some mistakes in the mini-Budget which we had to reverse and in particular I think it is clear you can't fund tax cuts through increased borrowing.

"That is a clear thing that we changed course on."

09:57 AM

Chancellor does not rule out massive fuel duty hike next year

Jeremy Hunt has not ruled out a big hike to fuel duty next year.

The Chancellor is giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee and he was asked about his decision to freeze fuel duty at the Budget this year and to keep in place a 5p cut to the duty for another 12 months.

He was told that the fiscal forecast currently assumes that fuel duty will increase by double digits next year. Harriett Baldwin, the chair of the committee, said she was "very sceptical" such a move would be made in an election year.

Asked if he would hike fuel duty next year, Mr Hunt said: "We don't know is the answer to that. We haven't made any decisions."

Asked again if there could be a double digit increase to fuel duty next year, the Chancellor said: "That is a decision that we will keep under review and we will make a decision at the next Budget and it will be decided on the basis of the room we have in our fiscal forecast."

09:27 AM

Jeremy Corbyn has ‘no one but himself to blame’ after being blocked as Labour candidate

Jeremy Corbyn has got no one to blame but himself after he was blocked from standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election, Wes Streeting said.

The shadow health secretary said he agreed with Sir Keir Starmer’s move to block Mr Corbyn which was backed by the party’s National Executive Committee yesterday.

Asked if he agreed with Sir Keir, Mr Streeting told Sky News: "I do. I think Keir Starmer when he said he was serious about learning the lessons from defeat of the last election, when he said he was serious about ripping anti-Semitisim out by its roots in the party, when he said he was going to make the Labour Party a credible alternative government, not just a protest party, he meant it.

"I am afraid Jeremy Corbyn has got no one to blame for this outcome but himself."

09:16 AM

Wes Streeting: Migrant ferries plan will not work

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said the Government’s proposals to swap migrant hotels for old ferries, barges and army barracks will not work and will not solve the underlying problems associated with the Channel crossings crisis.

Asked if the use of barges was a good idea, the Labour frontbencher told Sky News: "I don’t think it is going to solve the problem. I don’t think it is going to see people on barges instead of hotels. I don’t think it is going to bring the hotel bills down. It is going to add to the cost of a broken immigration system."

Told that moving people from hotels to ferries would surely bring costs down, Mr Streeting said: "I’ll believe it when I see it. I will tell you what is going to happen. We have got hotels that are overflowing with people, there will be barges overflowing with people.

"And unless and until you speed up the processing and deal with claims that are successful and unsuccessful in the right way and deal with the problem at source which is criminal gangs exploiting people we are going to be back here again and again and again."

09:04 AM

Raab believes 'heart and soul' bullying allegations are false

Dominic Raab said he believes "heart and soul" that bullying allegations made against him are false as Westminster continues to wait for the investigation into the claims to conclude and for the report to be published.

Eight formal complaints have been made against Mr Raab. The Deputy Prime Minister has always denied bullying. The investigation is being conducted by Adam Tolley KC.

Mr Raab was asked this morning what impact the investigation has had on him. He told Sky News: "I’m a professional, I called for the investigation so there’s no point in  me complaining about it."

He added: "It will conclude when it concludes, that’s not within my control. Anyone accused of things that you feel very passionately and heart and soul are wrong you will feel aggrieved, but I’m a professional – I’m very focused on the job I do."

08:48 AM

John McDonnell: Decision to block Jeremy Corbyn as Labour candidate can be reversed

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor and a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said he believes a decision to block the former Labour leader from standing for the party at the next general election can be reversed.

A motion brought forward by Sir Keir Starmer to block Mr Corbyn was backed by Labour's National Executive Committee yesterday.

Mr Corbyn said in a statement that he would "not be intimidated into silence" by the decision and suggested he will stand as an independent candidate.

Asked if he would campaign for Mr Corbyn if he does stand as an independent, Mr McDonnell told TalkTV: "I am a great believer in the powers of conversion and I think we can reverse this decision, full stop. At this stage that is as far as anyone can go.

"In terms of what Jeremy's decisions are, again, I think like me he is hoping that common sense will prevail and he will be allowed to stand."

08:37 AM

Dominic Raab suggests pandemic to blame for low levels of satisfaction with NHS

Dominic Raab appeared to blame the pandemic for people being unhappy with the NHS after a survey found satisfaction with the health service has reached an all-time low.

The British Social Attitudes survey, which has tracked public opinion since 1983, found more than half of the public is unhappy with the NHS, with a doubling in dissatisfaction in just two years (you can read the story on the numbers here).

It was suggested to Mr Raab during an interview on BBC Breakfast that the numbers were a damning verdict on 13 years of Tory government.

He replied: "I think what it demonstrates if I may say is that we have been through this pandemic, it was difficult in its own right and then of course we have had backlogs and challenges coming out of the pandemic.

"I can tell you that the backlogs, waiting times, waiting lists, are down by around two thirds since the peak of the pandemic and obviously we have put record numbers of investment in and record numbers of nurses and doctors and we all need to work together to deliver the kind of service and get back to the kind of service that the public and patients rightly want."

08:26 AM

Dominic Raab insists James Cleverly supports plan to use old military bases to house migrants

Dominic Raab insisted James Cleverly supports the Government's plan to house asylum seekers in disused RAF bases despite the Foreign Secretary voicing opposition to one in his constituency being used.

The Deputy Prime Minister told Sky News: "I know he fully supports this policy."

You can read more details about Mr Cleverly's opposition to using the former RAF Wethersfield base in Essex in this story here.

08:20 AM

Deputy Prime Minister: 'Nothing's off the table' on finding alternatives to migrant hotels

Dominic Raab said that "nothing's off the table" when it comes to finding alternative options to hotels to house asylum seekers.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the current system of housing people in hotels acts as a "perverse incentive" to make the Channel crossing.

He told Sky News: "Nothing’s off the table. We must end this perverse incentive through the hotels and more generally with the hospitality that in a broader sense this country gives, encouraging the wrong people, which is the criminal gangs and illegal migrants, to make these very dangerous journeys. Barges would be one possible option."

08:16 AM

Dominic Raab: Migrant hotels 'increase pull factor' on small boat Channel crossings

Dominic Raab said the Government must stop using hotels to house migrants because not only is it extremely costly but it also "increases the pull factor" for people to make the perilous journey across the English Channel in a small boat.

The Deputy Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "First of all, in terms of the challenge, it cannot be right that people coming here, particularly when they are coming here illegally, are housed in hotels at a cost of £6m a day.

"Not only is that a huge cost to the taxpayer and deeply frustrating for many people that see that happening but also it increases the pull factor that encourages the criminal gangs to send people on these terribly perilous and dangerous missions."

08:12 AM

Migrant ferries will only be used where safe and responsible to do so, says Dominic Raab

Ministers will only use old ferries to house asylum seekers where it is safe and responsible to do so, Dominic Raab has said as the Government announces its plans to reduce spending on hotel accommodation for migrants.

The Deputy Prime Minister was asked during an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning how many ferries or barges could be bought by the Government for the purpose but he declined to be drawn.

He said: "We have got to deal with this. We will look at the whole range of options, low cost accommodation, ex-army barracks and where it is appropriate, as has been used elsewhere in Europe and I think in Scotland as well, vessels if they can safely and responsibly be used.

"And I can tell you that the immigration minister will set out these proposals in detail in the House of Commons later today."

The Telegraph's home affairs editor Charles Hymas broke the news last Friday that old ferries were being lined up by ministers to help replace migrant hotels. You can read the original story here.