Labour has accused Priti Patel of “not even bothering” to appear for an urgent Commons question on the prevalence of racism on social media after abuse was directed at three black England footballers.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, also reiterated his call for both Boris Johnson and Ms Patel to apologise for failing to speak out against those who booed the national team as they took the knee in protest at racism.
It comes after Ms Patel, who condemned the abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the Euros final, was accused of having “stoke[d] the fire” of racism earlier in the tournament by England star Tyrone Mings.
“The home secretary hasn’t even bothered to turn up to this answer this question today,” Mr Thomas-Symonds told MPs on Wednesday.
However, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, who stepped in for the cabinet minister, said Ms Patel was hosting a “long-standing meeting with charities who are on the frontline of tackling violence against women and girls and survivors of these crimes”.
Ms Atkins added that Ms Patel would also “reject of the allegations” made by Mr Thomas-Symonds about her conduct, adding: “She has been relentless in pursuing social media companies to ensure they take tougher stances”.
On Twitter, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner also questioned why the home secretary had not made an appearance, saying: “Why haven’t you turned up to Parliament to take questions from MPs on the racism targeted at England players?
“Why are you too scared to take responsibility for your actions & apologise for stoking up the racism they’ve faced in recent days?”
During the debate, Mr Thomas-Symonds also accused the government of “lacking urgency” and failing to understand the “scale of revulsion that exists as a result of the events of recent days”.
In a warning to social media companies, Ms Atkins said: “This House and the public are watching the behaviours of online companies very carefully.
“Any company would be very wise to set out what it plans to do in relation to meeting the expectations of this place and the public when it comes to conducting their systems in a way that is clear and prevents the sort of abuse we have seen this weekend.”
On football banning orders, announced by the prime minister earlier on Wednesday, Ms Atkins said it is a “complex” issue as “some of the trolls that have targeted some members of the team at the weekend are overseas”.
She went on: “We want to very much work with football clubs and others to ensure that these orders have the powers that we all want them to have.”
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