Home Secretary, Priti Patel, met with business and faith leaders in Bradford on Saturday 9 April.
The visit was to launch the Business and Enterprise Roundtable organised by the Yorkshire Conservative Women’s Organisation, CWO Enterprise and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association (YABA).
Accompanying the Home Secretary was the Minister of State for Housing, Stuart Andrew MP.
On arrival at the Great Victoria Hotel, the Home Secretary addressed the packed room of businesspeople from various faiths and sectors. She said: “It’s very humbling to be here amongst all of you today. Hearing your contributions to Yorkshire, to Bradford and to the communities you represent, but actually the way you touch people’s lives locally – you should take great pride in that.
“Your roots to Yorkshire and your very humbleness in the way in which you framed your introductions for me today very much speak about your passion to your community and obviously this great county of Yorkshire.”
Guests were given an opportunity to ask questions, which varied from domestic abuse, to rail links to Brexit.
Award winning businessman, CEO of Regal Foods, Younis Chaudhry grilled the Home Secretary on his disappointment with how Brexit was handled by the government. He questioned the Home Secretary on the lack of an equal playing field for importing and exporting. He said:“As a business I am down by probably £1 million on export because we were not able to ship anything into Europe. It was poorly handled by the government. It should have been an equal length period from both sides – import and export, but it wasn’t because our ports weren’t ready. We should have handled it better and been consulted.”
Patel agreed with Mr Chaudhry saying: “It is not perfect – it takes time and in my view, it shouldn’t have taken this long – considering we poured a lot of money into being Brexit ready. I don’t disagree with you at all, we should have been ready, but this also tells you about the government systems. For example, the situation right now with Ukraine, we are using old computer systems. We don’t get a magic money tree – or here’s all the resources you need. On Brexit that has been phased and it’s taken time because under no circumstances were we going to risk a lot of business disruption, which is why we phased it”
The Home Secretary also answered a question about trust and confidence in policing, among women, LGBTQ and diverse communities.
She shared that the government were committed to increasing recruitment of police officers and committed in ‘training them to high standards’. She said: “I as Home Secretary have funded policing at record levels. That’s the right thing to do. But let’s be clear about this – public confidence in policing is not where it should be and it’s appalling. I don’t need to go over the record of the last 12 months. Culture and conduct in policing has been shocking.”
She added: “However, each and everyday we have thousands of officers (and believe me I have met them) who take drugs off of our streets, protecting domestic violence, you name it – they are doing incredible work, but it’s a minority who aren’t and we are going to deal with that minority in a very firm way.”
One of the hosts Tracy Stones, Co Deputy Chair CWO Yorkshire was delighted with the roundtable event and hopes the Home Secretary will return to the region again soon.
Ms Stones said: “I hope that our Secretary of State will return soon to Bradford and to Leeds having received an enthusiastic, hospitable welcome, to help play an instrumental, key role in the continuing, reinvigoration of our much-loved cities. “
Amarjit Singh, Chairman of YABA said: “It was humbling that the Home Secretary took time out of her busy schedule to meet with members of the Asian Business community, she paid tribute to the community and the valuable contribution made and she also acknowledged those of us observing the holy month of Ramadan and left by wishing us Happy Vaisakhi and Happy Easter”
Adding to that Director of YABA and CWO Enterprise Chair Sharon Jandu said: “It was evident that Priti Patel is supporting more representation in politics, she was very complimentary of the work by CWO Enterprise”