The Home Secretary has faced calls for resignation following comments she made about Napier Barracks, the military site used to house asylum seekers who crossed the Channel.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry suggested that what Priti Patel said about the former army barracks in February was “just not factually correct.”
She asked: “So why doesn’t the Home Secretary resign when Amber Rudd had the grace and decency to do so?”
Nearly 200 people at Folkestone Barracks in Kent contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.
Last week, two senior health officials said it was still “difficult to consider” the site being considered safe for Covid.
The discussion in parliament comes after six asylum seekers formerly housed at Napier Barracks recently won a court challenge against the government after a High Court judge ruled their accommodation was inadequate.
The barracks issue was raised in an urgent matter on Thursday, with Minister Chris Philp responding to questions from MPs.
Ms Cherry said: “Other MPs have asked the minister whether the current Home Secretary misled the committee during oral testimony on February 24 of this year.
“In response to these questions, the Minister continues to refer to a letter from Public Health England from June of this year, which speaks of the full cooperation of the Home Office since the spring of this year.
“Of course, when the Home Secretary testified on February 24, she was talking about what had happened before, not what had happened this spring, and the evidence presented to the High Court suggests that this that she said – that the department had previously followed public health advice regarding Napier Barracks in all respects – was simply not factually correct and the High Court said that the fact that public health evidence had been ignored meant that the Covid epidemic was inevitable. ”
Several MPs have raised the case of Amber Rudd who resigned as Home Secretary in 2018 for “inadvertently misleading” the Home Affairs Committee on the objectives of expelling illegal immigrants.
Tory MP Damian Collins, whose constituency of Folkestone and Hythe includes Napier Barracks, asked Mr Philp if the Home Office intended to continue using the site beyond September and was told that “no decision had been taken”.
In response to recent speculation about the ongoing Covid security of the Napier barracks, the Home Office said “significant improvements have been made.”
Their spokesperson said: “At the height of an unprecedented health pandemic, to ensure that asylum seekers are not left destitute, additional housing was needed at extremely short notice. We make no apologies for providing people with a safe place to stay.
“The court explicitly found that the conditions of the barracks and the treatment of the residents of Napier did not violate human rights.
“At all times during the pandemic, we have taken reasonable steps to give effect to the advice of health authorities.
“Significant improvements have been made to the site, including improved housing and more outdoor and recreational activities. “
Also on Thursday, the Home Office announced measures to encourage more local authorities across the UK to take in migrant children who arrive unaccompanied.
This follows a threat of legal action by Kent County Council, which said it was under extreme pressure on its services for unaccompanied migrant children.
The authority said it may no longer be able to accept new unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs) within days – a situation that arose in August 2020.