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Fact Check-British minister Priti Patel did not spend 77,000 pounds of taxpayer money on her eyebrows; the expenses breakdown has been taken out of context

Allegations on social media that British Home Secretary Priti Patel spent 77,000 pounds ($107,000) of taxpayer money on her eyebrows, among other things, are not true, the Home Office has told Reuters.

The allegations stem from a Twitter thread from a human rights campaigner (here) and an article in the Byline Times (here) which had looked into Home Office expense reports in 2020 and had noticed a few “head-scratching” listings.

According to the article, these reports included 5,400 pounds spent in budget clothes chain Primark, 900 pounds at a pub in Oxford and 77,000 pounds at a company called SP Beautiful Brows, run by Global Beauty Products, among others.

Screenshots of the list soon spread across social media, with numerous users making assumptions about the cost purposes, claiming they were made personally by the home secretary herself (here , here , here) and (here).

“Priti Patel used your hard earned taxes to spend £5,415.90 in Primark & £77,269.40 on eyebrows,” one post reads. “If this isn’t enough to convince you that the system is rigged for the 1% then you are truly lost. PS: These are the same MP’s [sic] who tell you ending poverty is too expensive.”

Another adds: “Priti Patel spent £77,000 of our money on.... wait for it....HER EYEBROWS and the rest.”

In a statement to the Byline Times, the Home Office said the spending was “conducted in accordance with agreed policies, justified, and properly scrutinised,” but did not elaborate. A second statement, included as an update to the article, said some of the expenses were for personal protection equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

“It is completely wrong to claim these are the Home Secretary’s expenses”, a Home Office spokesperson told Reuters via email.  “They are Home Office wide expenses.” 

The Home Office has provided a breakdown of the list, including the following items.

EYEBROWS AND HAIR SALON  

The social media posts note that £864 was spent on a hair salon called “Hair There and Everywhere”, while £77,269.40 was sent to “SP Beautiful Brows”.  

But the money was not spent on hair and eyebrow treatments, the Home Office told Reuters.  

Instead, it was used to buy hand sanitizer and PPE “at the height of the pandemic” when it was not possible to buy it elsewhere.

PPE products can be seen on the websites for both companies (here , here).

PRIMARK AND SPORTS DIRECT  

Both the £5,415.90 that was spent at Primark, and the £849.50 at Sports Direct, was used to buy basic clothing for asylum seekers “who would not have had appropriate clothing” when arriving in the UK, the government added.

DIETICIAN  

The article notes that £2,000 was sent to Claudia Lamb Independent, which it links to a diet consultant (twitter.com/cwpclaudialamb).

But the Home Office said: “This is not a dietician, but a company that was used to organize international travel.” 

CUPCAKES 

According to the Home Office, the £669 that went to a company called Rachel’s Kitchen Limited, which the article says owns the Rachel’s Cupcakes brand, was used for catering a staff event.

RESTAURANT, PUB AND GARDEN CENTRE   

The posts note that £900 was spent at a pub in Oxford called The Magdalen Arms, and another £3,952.76 was spent at Pollyanna Restaurant. A further £1,040.69 was sent to Folkestone Garden Centre.

“The “Pollyanna restaurant” is a venue overseas, used for the delivery of training to international delegates”, the Home Office told Reuters. It did not elaborate on the location.

Likewise, the spokesperson said, the pub in Oxford was used as a training venue for staff, while the Folkestone Garden Centre was hired for a mental health and wellbeing training day, to enable one-to-one conversations with mental health and peer support teams.

ELECTRONICS  

The posts claim that £2,022.64 was spent at Neptun Qtu Tirane, an electronics store in Albania, and that £919.81 was sent to “Entertainment EB”.

These payments, the Home Office said, was used to “purchase necessary technology” to conduct operational activities. Again, the department did not elaborate on what this involved.

VERDICT  

Missing context. There is no evidence to suggest the expense reports were personally for Patel. In fact, the Home Office says the spending was across the department, and provided a break down to show, for instance, that large sums were spent at beauty companies for PPE at the height of the pandemic.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work   here.  

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