Priti Patel is facing calls to resign over comments she made about Napier Barracks, the military site where asylum seekers who crossed the English Channel are housed.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, SNP’s Joanna Cherry said the home secretary’s February statements on the former army barracks were “simply not factually correct”.
She asked: “So why isn’t the Home Secretary tendering her resignation as Amber Rudd had the grace and decency to do?”
Nearly 200 people Folkestone site in Kent, contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.
And last week, senior health authorities said it was “difficult to envisage” the barracks being considered Covid-safe.
The Parliament debate comes after six asylum seekers formerly housed at Napier Barracks recently won a legal challenge against the government. The High Court judge ruled their accommodation was inadequate.
The Home Office has faced new calls to close the site following the decision, but insisted “significant improvements” have been made.
Cherry said: “Other MPs have asked the minister whether the current Home Secretary misled the committee in oral evidence on February 24 this year.
“In response to those questions the minister keeps referring to a Public Health England letter from June of this year, which talks about full co-operation from the Home Office since spring of this year.”
She added: “Of course when the Home Secretary gave evidence on 24 February, she was talking about what had happened before then, not what happened this spring.
“Evidence presented to the High Court suggests that what she said – that the department had previously followed public health guidance regarding Napier Barracks in every single way – was simply not factually correct.
“The High Court has said the fact that the public health evidence was ignored meant the Covid outbreak was inevitable.”
Former home secretary Amber Rudd resigned in 2018 for “inadvertently misleading” the Home Affairs Committee over targets for removing illegal immigrants.
Home Office response
In response to recent speculation about the ongoing Covid-safety of Napier Barracks, the Home Office said “significant improvements have been made”.
Their spokesperson said: “During the height of an unprecedented health pandemic, to ensure asylum seekers were not left destitute, additional accommodation was required at extremely short notice. We make no apology for providing people a secure place to stay.
“The court explicitly found that the conditions of the barracks, and the treatment of residents at Napier did not breach human rights.
“At all times during the pandemic we took reasonable steps to give effect to the advice from the health authorities.
“Significant improvements have been made to the site, including improved accommodation and more outdoor and recreational activities.”
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