Home Office staff ‘mingled and drank prosecco’ during lockdown

A dozen staff had gathered to celebrate Priti Patel’s announcement of an overhaul of rules for asylum seekers at the helm of BBC News at Six.

The ‘New Plan for Immigration’ reforms included a measure to make asylum seekers who arrive through ‘illegal’ routes liable to deportation even if they are granted asylum, and were criticized by Labor as being defined by “a lack of compassion and a lack of competence”.

At the time, ministry rules stipulated that staff should work four desks apart. The rally took place a few floors below the office of the Secretary of the Interior.

Contacted by The Big Issue, the Home Office did not deny these details. A spokesperson said staff came to kick off the policy, “as directed”, and drank while looking at the cover before “returning to work or going home”.

In September 2020, Patel told Sky News she would call the police if she saw her neighbors breaching coronavirus restrictions.

“I’m rarely home, but if I saw anything that I thought was inappropriate then, quite frankly, I would call the police,” she said.

“It’s not about dobbing the neighbors, it’s about empowering us personally.”

In January last year, the Home Office shared a video of a driver being fined by police, with the slogan: You can’t relax.

In the video, a man says to an officer, “I just got off work sir, I just chilled out.” The officer responds, “Yeah, you can’t relax.”

The officer then adds: “You can leave your home to go to work, you finish the job, you go straight home. OK, you can’t hang out with your friends… we’re in lockdown.

The restrictions at the time were the same as when drinking at work took place inside the Home Office.

The drinks were described to The Big Issue as a “minor” gathering not on the scale of other Downing Street parties reported in recent weeks. The revelations come after Tory MPs called on Labor leader Keir Starmer to apologize over footage of him drinking a beer in an office on April 30, 2021 – then the second stage of the easing of the lockdown was in place, with pub gardens and gymnasiums open.

Tory MP Michael Fabricator said: ‘If the Prime Minister can apologize for a secure event in the Downing Street garden where no one could have attended from the outside, it is a bit gracious of Keir Starmer not to apologize profusely for an event in an office that was unguarded and could have been a real spreader of Covid.

A Home Office spokesman told The Big Issue: ‘As per guidelines at the time, some staff came into the office to launch a major immigration policy.

“A small number had a drink while watching the broadcast of their work on the 6 p.m. newscasts before returning to work or heading home.”

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