Rishi Sunak blew £50 taxpayer cash on custom ‘stopped’ stamp for gimmicky pre-election video

Exclusive: The prime minister sent a Downing Street staffer on the hunt in London for an ink-stamp in the shape of the word ‘stopped’ before slapping it on examples of visa applicants he was barring from Britain

Archie Mitchell
Friday 14 June 2024 13:53 BST
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PMQs: Rishi Sunak says he is 'clamping down on legal migration'

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Rishi Sunak blew £50 of taxpayers’ cash on a custom stamp to film a gimmicky pre-election video boasting about his crackdown on student visas, The Independent can reveal.

The prime minister sent a Downing Street staffer on the hunt in London for an ink-stamp in the shape of the word “stopped”, before slapping it on examples of visa applicants he was barring from Britain.

Rishi Sunak said he wants to bring net migration to ‘sustainable levels’ (Justin Tallis/PA)
Rishi Sunak said he wants to bring net migration to ‘sustainable levels’ (Justin Tallis/PA) (PA Wire)

Just seven days before he called the general election in a rainy announcement in front of Downing Street, Mr Sunak posted the X video claiming to have “taken action to reduce migration”.

Alongside the video, he said: “Student dependant applications are now down by 80 per cent.”

The PM’s video saw him being handed papers labelled “foreign masters students bringing family members”, “overseas care workers bringing family dependants” and “immigration undercutting British workers”.

He firmly stamped “stopped” on each of them using the custom stamp, which may never be used again.

A freedom of information request by The Independent revealed that the cost of the stamp, which officials stressed was “purchased locally” to Downing Street, was £47.50.

The Liberal Democrats accused the prime minister of “wasting £50 of taxpayer money on a stamp to boast about stopping students coming to Britain”.

James Cleverly promised the student visa crackdown would cut net migration by ‘tens of thousands’
James Cleverly promised the student visa crackdown would cut net migration by ‘tens of thousands’ (PA)

Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said: “A custom ‘stopped’ stamp using public funds is just the latest in a long list of gimmicks from this Prime Minister.”

And a senior Labour source said: “It is hysterical for Sunak to lecture about the economy while using taxpayers’ cash to fund his latest gimmick.

“He’s the one that said the public are better at spending money than the government is. I guess in this one case he was absolutely right.”

The prime minister told voters on Tuesday that “you will always be better at spending your own money than the government is”.

The video at the heart of the controversy was to boast about Mr Sunak’s ban on overseas students bringing family members to the UK.

With net migration into Britain at record levels, and the government under pressure from right-wing Tories to drastically reduce numbers, home secretary James Cleverly said international students starting courses in Britain will no longer be allowed to obtain visas for their spouses and relatives unless they are on a postgraduate research programme or a government-sponsored course.

The government claimed the ban – which affects all overseas students except those on postgraduate courses and certain scholarships – will slash migration by tens of thousands.

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