Priti Patel will reportedly take on the additional responsibilities of the vacant security minister post on a permanent footing following the resignation of James Brokenshire from the role last month.
The absence of a security minister was highlighted by Labour earlier this week, as a man working at the British embassy in Berlin was arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia and allegedly passing on documents he received at work.
The party criticised Boris Johnson for failing to fill the role for five weeks, but the Home Office stressed Ms Patel, as home secretary, had overall responsibility for all areas of the department’s business, including security.
According to The Times, the prime minister is not expected to appoint a replacement for Mr Brokenshire, who said in January he was taking a leave of absence from ministerial duties for surgery on a tumour.
Last month the former minister, who also held the security role between 2010 and 2014 under David Cameron’s administration, announced he was standing down from the government as his recovery from cancer treatment and return to full duties was “taking longer than anticipated”.
The Times added that Ms Patel had been covering the portfolio since January on a temporary basis, but will now do so on a permanent footing, rather than No 10 appointing another Conservative MP or peer to cover the ministerial post.
Under the brief, the government’s own website lists 17 responsibilities, including extradition, online harms, royal and VIP protection, economic crime, counterterrorism, and oversight of fraud during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Conor McGinn, the shadow minister for security, said the move was a “clear sign that the Conservatives don’t take the safety of our citizens seriously enough”.
“Rather than No 10 and the home secretary briefing against each other, Britain’s security should be the government’s number one concern,” said Mr McGinn.
He added: “Getting rid of a specific, day-to-day, senior government minister responsible for security and counterterrorism when Britain’s national security is under threat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is an abdication of responsibility.
“From the chaos in the Channel to the Police Federation declaring no confidence in her, the home secretary is clearly struggling to deliver on her current responsibilities. It is unwise she takes on this additional role.”
Asked about the reports, a Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: “The home secretary is responsible for all areas of Home Office business, including those related to national security.”
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