THE Home Office’s top civil servant has come under fire over “secrecy” around payments to Rwanda.

On Monday the department’s permanent secretary, Sir Matthew Rycroft, spoke at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where MPs heard Rwanda could walk away from its multimillion-pound deal with the UK and keep the money “without accepting a single asylum seeker”.

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The Home Office’s top civil servant was brought before the committee, which scrutinises public spending, to answer questions over the stalled plan to send migrants to the African country.

Rycroft told the committee there was a “break clause” included in the memorandum of understanding the UK and Rwanda signed in April last year, which allows either government to walk away from it with three months' notice.

He confirmed that if the UK instigates the break clause, Rwanda keeps the money already paid but added: “There is a presumption that the UK Government will want to continue with the partnership, bearing in mind its importance in the overall efforts to stop the boats.”

If Rwanda ends the agreement, Rycroft said the country’s government would have to repay the money “proportionately”.

The exchange prompted committee chairwomen Dame Meg Hillier to say: “So they could still have the money with having perhaps not had to receive a single asylum seeker.”

“It would depend on the circumstances,” Rycroft replied.

Rycroft was asked to explain why there was “secrecy” over the payments for the policy, which has so far been unsuccessful after the Supreme Court deemed it unlawful.

He previously failed to disclose the total amount of money the Government had already paid under the agreement so far, and how much more it had already committed to pay in the coming months, when questioned by PAC and the Commons Home Affairs Committee over the last few weeks.

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At the time he said ministers had made the decision to publish the information annually, “rather than giving a running commentary”.

Then, in a letter to the committees published late on Thursday, he said the UK had in fact handed over a further £100 million on top of the £140m already paid to Rwanda and ministers expected to pay another £50m next year.

During the committee on Monday, Rycroft said he knows how “the system works” and “I respect the system” as he came under fire from MPs for his conduct.

But he still refused to say how much more money the UK has already agreed to pay Rwanda under the initial five-year deal.

He confirmed annual payments will be made to Rwanda with additional “per person” costs, but he was “not at liberty to disclose” how much these would be for the fourth and fifth years of the agreement.

Rycroft also told the committee that the Government published what it had paid to Rwanda after discovering the figures had been disclosed to the International Monetary Fund and was mentioned in the footnotes to board papers, suggesting “someone in Rwanda” had “inadvertently” provided the information.

This comes as Rishi Sunak faces a potential rebellion from hard-right Tory MPs, who argue that the scheme does not go far enough.

Meanwhile, a group of moderate Tory MPs known as the One Nation group have said they will back the plan.

The group said it had recommended its members back the plan but warned that it would oppose any amendments that would risk the UK breaching international law and obligations.

The bill, known as the Safety of Rwanda Bill, faces its first vote in the Commons on Tuesday.