Priti Patel has been criticised for refusing to deny that that Home Office made plans to install a wave machine in the English Channel to deter migrants.
The home secretary said in an interview with The Sunday Times that it would be “remiss of us not to look at all the options” in reference to reports the government was planning to build new detention centres to house migrants.
When asked about reports earlier this week that she had asked Home Office officials to look into the possibility of a wave machine Patel told the newspaper: “That’s operational tactics and, quite frankly, I’m not going to start discussing operational tactics.”
Several figures criticised the home secretary over the interview on Sunday morning, with former transport secretary Andrew Adonis questioning the legality of the alleged plans.
“Priti Patel says in an interview today that wave machines to force refugee boats into French waters are just ‘operational tactics’,” he tweeted.
“And if ships sink and people die, are they just ‘operational deaths’?”
And author Natalie Rowe said: “When I heard that #PritiPatel &Co were toying with the idea of A WAVE MACHINE and some type of mechanical barrier in the Sea which boarders France & England to deter immigrants, I realised you are one desperate Slave to your Tory Masters, what next, a Trump WALL?”
Read more: Priti Patel told she ‘doesn’t understand her own laws’ after saying bumping into friends in a park is illegal
It comes as Patel is set to promise changes to the asylum system in a speech at the Conservative Party conference on Sunday.
In a speech the home secretary will commit to delivering “the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades”.
Patel will say that under Tory leadership, the UK “has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties”.
She will tell those tuning into the online conference: “A fair asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.
“But ours doesn’t. Because our asylum system is fundamentally broken. And we have a responsibility to act.”
Ms Patel will say: “From the expulsion of Ugandan Asians from a repressive regime, to proudly resettling more Syrian refugees than any other EU country, to supporting campaigners fleeing political persecution in Hong Kong.
“Under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties.
“So, I will introduce a new system that is firm and fair.
“Fair and compassionate towards those who need our help. Fair by welcoming people through safe and legal routes.
“But firm because we will stop the abuse of the broken system.”