Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan has backed a government plans to ban migrants from re-entering the UK if they cross the Channel in small boats.

Under new plans, Channel migrants would be removed from the UK, banned from future re-entry and barred from applying for British citizenship.

But Ms Donelan failed to answer the question of how exactly asylum seekers can come to the UK legally on BBC Breakfast this Monday morning.

Sally Nugent asked the technology, science and innovation secretary live on air.

She said: “If you are, for example, Iranian, fearing persecution, what is the legal route to come to this country?”

Donelan responded: “Look, as I’ve said, we will be opening up more safe routes.”

“Where are they?” Nugent replied.

The minister said: “We’ve taken 480,000 people since 2018. We have a record on this in protecting people in cases of need.

“We can’t take everybody, that is a basic principle here.”

Nugent pressed: “Forgive me but I’m struggling to hear the answer to this question: what is the legal route, if you are Iranian, fearing persecution, and want to come to this country?”

The minister: “I’m not going to get into the specifics of country X to country here, what I’ve said is there are safe routes available.”

“If you can’t answer it, how does someone who desperately needs help answer it?” Nugent added.

“Well, look, look, I think that is grossly unfair,” the secretary of state answered.

“As you know, I’m not the immigration minister, I’m the science and technology innovation secretary of state, and that isn’t the point here, we are tackling illegal immigration.

“We are going to open up other safe routes, as I’ve said various times on this show today. But we do need to tackle illegal immigration, those boats are not filled with people who desperately need help.

Nugent interrupted: “So, you don’t know.”

Ms Donelan replied: “I didn’t say I don’t know, I said there are a variety of different routes. I’m not here as an immigration lawyer to go through case by case processes that an individual can follow.”

In a statement she added: “Between 2015 and September 2022, we have offered a place to almost 450,000 people via safe and legal entry routes.

“But legal and illegal immigration should not be confused. This government is determined to close down the illegal routes and the criminal gangs that exploit people to use them.”