Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has suggested Priti Patel may have broken the ministerial code by advocating border closures against government policy.
In comments first reported by political website Guido Fawkes, Patel is said to have told the Conservative Friends of India group: “On ‘should we have closed our borders earlier’, the answer is yes. I was an advocate of closing them last March.”
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.
The remarks contradict claims from Patel that ministers had followed scientific advice over border controls.
As a Secretary of State, Patel must abide by the principle that ministers maintain a united front on positions after they have been agreed.
Asked about her comments on strengthening the border, Sir Keir told reporters: “That does call into question the ministerial code but it also calls into question the prime minister’s judgment.
“She may have broken the ministerial code but that is secondary. The issue that matters here is has the prime minister, has the cabinet, taken the measures necessary to secure our borders.
“People are much more interested in that question than whether somebody has broken the ministerial code.”