JAMES Cleverly says he hopes to close down the asylum centre in Wethersfield “as soon as practicable” as he works to tackle illegal migration in his new cabinet role.

The Braintree MP became Home Secretary in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest reshuffle.

Speaking exclusively to the Braintree and Witham Times, Mr Cleverly said it was “in at the deep end” so far during the first few days in his new role, but added it is a “privilege” to take on the job.

“It is an amazing job and is one of the most important in Government”, he said.

Gazette: NEW START: Home Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street for the first meeting of the new-look Cabinet following a reshuffle on MondayNEW START: Home Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street for the first meeting of the new-look Cabinet following a reshuffle on Monday (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

A major issue to tackle as both a local MP and Home Secretary is the asylum centre in Wethersfield, which is in his own Braintree constituency.

Mr Cleverly previously said the site “wasn’t appropriate for asylum accommodation”, highlighting the “remote nature of the site”, as well as the “limited transport infrastructure and narrow road network”.

The Essex MP told the Times he “is not going to change his mind” on what was said previously, but added he now hopes to “close down the asylum centre” as soon as he can in his new Home Office role.

He said: “I expressed my views, and I am not going to change my mind on what I said.

“But now it is up and running, I want two things.

“Firstly, I want to get us into a situation where we no longer need it.

“Let’s get to a situation where we don’t need Wethersfield, which is why I am so determined to drive down illegal migration - to stop the boats.

“I will continue to really push down the illegal migration so we can close down the asylum centre as soon as practicable.

Gazette: ASYLUM CENTRE: The former RAF base in WethersfieldASYLUM CENTRE: The former RAF base in Wethersfield (Image: PA)

“Second, whilst Wethersfield is up and running, make sure local people are not disadvantaged, that they still feel safe and happy in their communities, that the place is run well, secure, and again, that remains an important part of my job.

“Clearly there are certain rules regarding ethical conduct because Wethersfield is in my constituency, I have this dual role.

“I am still and will never stop being the local MP. I listen to people locally and make sure Government understands their concerns, and I can still do that and will continue to do that.

“But In terms of formal decision making, to make sure I don’t trigger any conflict of interest, any formal decision making will be made by a different minister of the Home Office, which is still Robert Jenrick.”

Mr Cleverly continued: “I know some may feel now I am Home Secretary I can wave a magic wand and make this go away but it isn’t as simple as that.

“I am determined my personal conduct on this will always be transparent and I am always honest with it all.”

Braintree Council has taken High Court legal action against the Home Office in a bid to stop the site being used as an asylum centre.