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Dame Priti Patel takes aim at government’s ‘alarming and staggering lack of clarity’ over plans to house asylum seekers at Essex RAF base | Politics News

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel has accused her former department of being “evasive” and “secretive” over how long it plans to use a former RAF base to house asylum seekers.

In a letter to her successor Suella Braverman and the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, earlier on Monday, Dame Priti wrote that the “lack of clarity” over how long the government plans to house asylum seekers at the former base in Wethersfield, Essex, “has been alarming and staggering”.

The site near Dame Priti’s Witham constituency has been earmarked to house 1,700 asylum seekers by the autumn as part of plans to reduce spending on hotels, with the first residents having arrived in July.

RAF Wethersfield is one of a number of former military sites earmarked for housing asylum seekers, alongside the Bibby Stockholm barge which was evacuated on Friday after legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.

(Left-right) Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Carrie Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Wednesday October 6, 2021.
Dame Priti suggested Mr Sunak’s government was being ‘secretive about its intentions’

In the letter posted to X, formerly Twitter, the former home secretary said that when it was announced on 29 March that the site would be used for asylum seekers, the length of time it would be used was not stated.

She said reports the site would need to be used for five years to achieve value for money for the taxpayer was “concerning”, and said “no clarity has been provided” in subsequent discussions between Home Office officials and local partners.

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Sky News goes inside asylum camps

Citing three written parliamentary questions on the topic submitted back in June, she said the failure to provide direct answers “gives the impressions the Home Office is being evasive” and “suggests that the government is being secretive about its intentions”.

She added: “Clear answers now need to be provided by the Home Office and the government must be transparent rather than evasive. The lack of clarity has been alarming and staggering.”

Read more:
Asylum seeker removed from Bibby Stockholm

Sunak still has ‘confidence’ in home secretary
Asylum seekers ‘should be moved back on the barge’

A Home Office spokesman said: “Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites will provide cheaper and more orderly, suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats whilst helping to reduce the use of hotels.

“These accommodation sites will house asylum seekers in basic, safe and secure accommodation as they await a decision on their claim.

“In the case of Wethersfield, the Home Office has obtained planning permission to use the site for 12 months.

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“We understand the concerns of local communities and will work closely with councils and key partners to manage the impact of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place.”

The department said it intended to reply to Dame Priti’s letter to the home secretary “in due course”.

Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood has died at the age of 81 | Ents & Arts News

Legendary British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood has died at the age of 81.

She died today in Clapham, surrounded by her family, a statement said.

Dame Vivienne found fame in the 1970s when she brought punk fashions into the mainstream, running a boutique on London’s King’s Road alongside Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.

She went on to establish a global fashion brand which today has stores in the UK, France, Italy, America and Asia.

“Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better,” her fashion house tweeted.

Her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart.

“We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you darling.”

The Cheshire-born designer was also well known for campaigning on issues such as pollution and climate change, and supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

She once dressed up as Margaret Thatcher for a magazine cover, and drove a white tank near the home of former prime minister David Cameron to protest against fracking.

Dame Vivienne also showed her rebellious nature when receiving an OBE from the Queen in 1992.

She turned up without underwear – a fact she proved with a twirl of her skirt for photographers.

“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity’,” she said in her biography.

“Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”