The new home secretary, Priti Patel, holds a £1,000-an hour contract with a global communications firm that supplies products and services to the UK government, the Guardian can reveal.
Patel, who was appointed on Wednesday by the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, as a part of a wholesale gutting of the cabinet, has been working for Viasat for the past three months as a strategic adviser on a salary of £5,000 a month for five hours’ work a month.
She recorded the role on the MPs’ register of interests, and the contract is due to expire on 31 July.
Viasat, a Californian company with a UK base in Farnborough, supplies services and products to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD works in collaboration with the Home Office on numerous projects, including the Innovation and Research Insights (IRIS) Unit, which sets up technology-based contracts for both departments.
Patel, whose Gujarati Indian parents migrated to the UK in the 1960s, was formerly David Cameron’s champion for the Indian diaspora community in the UK and is a supporter of India’s populist prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, said: “Priti Patel has already been forced out of the cabinet once for dodgy meetings. You’d think she’d be more careful with her second chance.
“It is unacceptable for any cabinet minister to be a paid advisor for a company with government contracts. The only interests a home secretary is working for should be the country’s. Patel must give up her role with Visasat immediately or leave the cabinet again.”
She also holds a role as director of Accloud, an accounting software firm, which targets firms in India. She receives a salary of £45,000 a year for 20 hours work a month in the role, which she also declared on the MPs’ register of interests.
The Essex MP, whose appointment as home secretary was met with “extreme concern” from human rights groups and immigration campaigners, will sit in cabinet alongside the new defence secretary, Ben Wallace, a former Home Office minister.
Each minister is responsible, on appointment, for disclosing their relevant interests to the permanent secretary of their department, a role held at the Home Office by Sir Philip Rutnam.
The current process is that all ministerial interests will be scrutinised by the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests.
A government spokesperson said: “The process for ensuring that no conflict arises between a minister’s public duties and their private interests is set out in the Ministerial Code.”
The Guardian has contacted Patel for comment.