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Priti Patel asked by SNP's Joanna Cherry to resign over comments about Napier Barracks in Folkestone

The Home Secretary has faced a call to resign over comments she has made about Napier Barracks.

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry, Speaking in the House of Commons today, suggested what Priti Patel said about the former army barracks in February was “simply not factually correct.”

The Napier Barracks site. Photo: Google Street View
The Napier Barracks site. Photo: Google Street View

She asked: “So why isn’t the Home Secretary tendering her resignation as Amber Rudd had the grace and decency to do?”

The Folkestone site is being used to house asylum seekers who have crossed the English Channel.

Ms Patel had told the Home Affairs Committee on February 24 that decisions about Napier Barracks were all based on Public Health England advice, using social distancing measures.

Nearly 200 people at the site contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.

Last week two senior health officials said it was still “difficult to envisage” the site being considered Covid-safe.

The discussion in the House of Commons comes after six asylum seekers formerly housed at Napier Barracks recently won a legal challenge against the Government as a High Court judge ruled their accommodation was inadequate.

Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office
Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office

The issue of the former army barracks was raised in an urgent question in Parliament, with minister Chris Philp answering questions from MPs.

Ms Cherry said: “Other MPs have asked the minister whether the current Home Secretary misled the committee in oral evidence in February.

“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.

“Of course when the Home Secretary gave evidence on February 24, she was talking about what had happened before then, not what happened this spring.

"And 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.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry, Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

"The High Court has said the fact that the public health evidence was ignored meant the Covid outbreak was inevitable.

Several MPs had raised the case of Amber Rudd resigning as Home Secretary in 2018 for “inadvertently misleading” the Home Affairs Committee over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, whose Folkestone and Hythe constituency includes Napier Barracks, asked Mr Philp if the Home Office intends to keep using the site beyond September and was told “no decision has been made.”

In response to recent speculation about the ongoing Covid safety of Napier Barracks, the Home Office said “significant improvements have been made”.

A spokesman 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.”

The Home Office has also announced measures to encourage more local authorities around the UK to take in child migrants who arrive unaccompanied.

It follows a threat of legal action by Kent County Council which said it faces extreme pressure on its services for unaccompanied child migrants.

Read more: all the latest news from Folkestone

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