Grant Shapps has been forced to insist the Bibby Stockholm “quasi-prison” that will house asylum seekers is not a “deathtrap” following fire risk warnings.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) said it would write to the energy secretary about concerns with overcrowding and access to fire exits in the barge.
It comes as the timetable for migrants to move onto the Bibby Stockholm was pushed back once again due to ongoing checks by the Health and Safety Executive at Portland Port.
But Mr Shapps refuted the warning from the FBU as he insisted “there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be absolutely safe”.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said: “It certainly won’t be a deathtrap.
“This actual ship was previously used by Germany to house migrants, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be absolutely safe. Ships are used to transport people all the time and there’s no inherent reason why that (not being safe) would be the case.
“That’s actually why these final safety checks are being carried out.”
A Home Office source denied the delays were related to fire risks and said they were partly due to local authorities’ preferences on the timing of new services.
When asked if asylum seekers will be housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge next week, Rishi Sunak told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: “The Bibby Stockholm will be in operation as soon as it’s passed all the checks and regulations – as soon as possible – that’s the key thing.”
The prime minister highlighted the Illegal Migration Act before adding: “We’re making a difference, I’m going to keep going on this … I’m going to throw everything at it.”
Mr Sunak said there is “an array of people that want me to fail”, which he said includes Labour, criminal gangs and “dodgy lawyers”, who he said are a “subset, a minority, of lawyers”.
He went on: “There are lots of people who are lined up to try and stop me, but I’m going to keep going until we stop the boats.”
More to follow…