Ms Patel replied: “When we look at the numbers, it’s clear there’s more work that’s taking place in terms of police recording hate crime.”
And she added: “That’s a good thing and that’s why the numbers are high.”
The home secretary said there “should be no place in our society for hate crime”, but did not acknowledge the fears that it is genuinely going up.
The comments came after the Home Office announced a 10 per cent increase in hate crime in just one year across England and Wales.
Of almost 103,400 offences recorded in 2018-19, three-quarters were racially motivated. The largest increase, with a 37 per cent surge to 2,333 incidents, was seen in transgender hate crimes.
The second-biggest rise was for crimes motivated by sexual orientation, up a quarter to 14,500, followed by disability, up 14 per cent to 8,256.
Racial attacks rose by 11 per cent to 79,000 offences and religious hate crimes increased by 3 per cent to 8,566 incidents.
Almost half of religious attacks targeted Muslims, while 18 per cent targeted Jewish people.
The Home Office said “genuine increases cannot be ruled out”, while also acknowledging the increase could be driven by better recording and the increased confidence of victims to come forward.
There was another sharp increase in March, when a white supremacist massacred Muslims in the Christchurch terrorist attack.
Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Ms Patel also got into a muddle over whether Border Force officers would check exit declarations for goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, under the Brexit deal.
It “depends on various circumstances”, she said, adding: “I’m not going to speak about hypothetical situations right now” – even though it is part of the agreement MPs have been asked to approve.
Earlier, the prime minister was accused of misleading parliament, after claiming there would be “no checks” at all across the Irish Sea – directly contradicting Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary.
Yvette Cooper, the committee chairwoman, criticised Ms Patel’s failure to explain how security cooperation with the EU would be maintained after the end of the post-Brexit transition period in December 2020.
She said the home secretary did not seem to have a “practical” plan, warning it would take 18 months to get a security treaty ratified.
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