£900 at a pub in Oxford; £5,400 in Primark. Sam Bright questioned Priti Patel’s department about some peculiar purchases, but received an unconvincing answer

The Home Office has failed to explain a number of strange expenses filed by the department in 2020.

In mid-February this year, migrant rights campaigner Mary Atkinson posted a thread on Twitter, revealing some head-scratching entries into the Home Office expenses logs. “Basically I’m baffled,” Atkinson said, after posting the thread.

“I’m guessing someone (more than one person?) has been accidentally using their work credit card for personal spending – I think a question for the [Home Office] on whether they repaid the money would be reasonable,” added Gemma Abbott, legal director of the Good Law Project.

Byline Times has since reviewed the logs and found some of the claims similarly perplexing:


23 December: £669, Rachael’s Kitchen Limited
This is the firm that owns the Rachael’s Cupcakes brand

September: £5,415.90, Primark

15 June: £849.50, SportsDirect

2 April: £864, Hair There and Everywhere
This appears to be a hairdressing salon

6 April: £30,000, Global Beauty Products Limited
This firm runs the store ‘Beautiful Brows and Lashes’, but also appears to sell personal protective equipment (PPE)

6 March: £2,022.64, Neptun Qtu Tirane
This appears to be an electronics store in Albania

9 March: £1,040.69, Folkestone Garden Centre

12 March: £3,774.29, Pollyana Restaurant

13 March: £919.81, Entertainment EB

March: SP Beautiful Brows: £77,269.40
This company appears to be run by Global Beauty Products

26 February: £3,952.76, Pollyana Restaurant

27 February: £900, The Magdalen Arms
This appears to be a pub in Oxford

24 January: £2,000, Claudia Lamb Independent
It seems as though Claudia Lamb is a diet consultant

However, when Byline Times asked the Home Office to explain these expenses, and whether they had been submitted in accordance with the department’s policies, the response was unconvincing.

“Departmental spending must be conducted in accordance with agreed policies, justified, and properly scrutinised,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

This appears to suggest that, in the cases noted above, the department does not know whether the spending met its criteria. If it had been satisfied, it surely would have said so?

In total, these peculiar claims amount to £124,262 – not a trivial amount of taxpayer cash.

This outlay also chimes with the Government’s approach to spending during the Coronavirus pandemic as a whole, and the general lack of accountability for its financial decisions.

The UK’s budget for PPE and its ‘Test and Trace’ operation, for example, is a staggering £52 billion. And, while the Government has allocated £15 billion to spend on gloves, masks and sanitiser, the National Audit Office says that – if it had stockpiled adequately prior to the pandemic – the country would have only paid £2.5 billion. Rising demand in the initial months of the COVID-19 crisis, the watchdog said, rapidly increased the price of products.

However, there have been few repercussions for the Government, with no suggestion that nurses are having their wages limited precisely because ministers overspent during the pandemic. Whereas the Conservatives claimed that Labour ‘maxxed out the credit card’ after the 2008 global financial crash, little has been made, politically, of the Government’s haphazard, excessive spending during the pandemic.

While there is a very real difference between spending £15 billion on PPE and spending £900 at a posh pub in Oxford (that I’m sure was very nice), there does seem to be a general antipathy in Government towards journalists and activists who scrutinise its investments, and an air of impunity around the decisions that it takes.

UPDATE: At 7.12pm on 26 March 2021, the Home Office released a statement on Twitter which read: “It is wrong to claim the Home Office expenses that have been circulated today are the Home Secretary’s. They are department wide and for vital equipment like PPE. It is completely false to say the Home Office has spent money on beauty products, it was PPE. We make no apology for buying PPE to keep our staff safe during the pandemic. The spending in Primark was for asylum seekers who would have not had appropriate clothing when arriving in the UK. We are committed to delivering the best value for money for the British taxpayer, making sure every pound is spent in the most effective way.”


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story…

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Fact

EXCLUSIVE ‘A Sense That Rape is Decriminalised’: New Data Reveals Ongoing Crisis for Rape Victims

, 18 May 2022
A new investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team reveals that fewer men are being convicted for sexual offences – a crime that impacts on one in five women

EXCLUSIVE New Report Challenges Media Mockery of NHS Translation Services

, 17 May 2022
Public spending on translation and interpreter services was reviled by the anti-migrant media. But new figures show the real extent of spending and need, reports Sian Norris

British Company Accused of Links to Police Persecuting Uyghur Muslims

, 17 May 2022
A new report from the NGO Freedom from Torture found that London Policing College has multiple links to Chinese institutions connected to the torture and genocide of the Uyghurs

More from the Byline Family