An SNP MP has asked Priti Patel why she has not quit as home secretary following the revelation she failed to close the UK’s borders back in March.
The confrontation occurred during a statement from the home secretary in the Commons.
Defending the government’s border strategy, Patel told MPs: “From January 2020 the government has had a comprehensive strategy for public health measures at the border.”
Questioning Patel, SNP home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said: “It is really quite extraordinary that a home secretary so obsessed with people from entering the country and deporting those already here should have taken so long to properly address Covid protections at the UK border.
“Now last week, (Patel) admitted that we, quote, ‘should have closed our borders earlier’. So why did she fail to take precautions which she knew were needed?
“What stopped her, was it her cabinet colleagues and if so, why didn’t she resign and speak out given the risk of increased transmission from people entering the country?”
Patel responded: “I’ve already outlined and I don’t mean to run through the range of measures that have been undertaken.
“She will be very well aware that cooperation has taken place from the outset through the introduction of travel corridors and also the work that Border Force do across the UK.”
The exchange comes after Patel told a group of Tory supporters the UK should have closed its borders back in March.
Speaking to the Conservative Friends of India group, she said: “On ‘should we have closed our borders earlier’, the answer is yes. I was an advocate of closing them last March.”
In mid-March, the UK abandoned asking people to quarantine for two weeks after arriving from areas with high infection rates, such as Hubei province in China and Italy.
The decision was in contrast to many other countries, such as New Zealand, which has been widely praised for getting the pandemic under control, partly through strict quarantine measures for arrivals.
The UK government introduced blanket quarantine restrictions in June for all international travellers, except those coming from Ireland, while “travel corridors” with countries deemed to have safe levels of infection were established a month later.