13 July 2022

Home Secretary cancels appearance in front of MPs over ‘changes in Government’

13 July 2022

Home Secretary Priti Patel has pulled out of being questioned by MPs over the plan to send migrants to Rwanda, public confidence in policing and other Home Office policies.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee was due to question Ms Patel on Wednesday morning but she cancelled her attendance late on Tuesday afternoon.

She wrote to inform the committee of the decision shortly after ruling herself out of the race to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader, having spent days mulling over whether to stand.

Ms Patel cited “recent changes in Government” and to her ministerial team as well as “wider unprecedented changes” as the reasons why she was no longer able to attend the session, and asked for it to be postponed until September.

She was due to attend alongside her permanent and second permanent secretaries, Matthew Rycroft and Tricia Hayes.

The committee said in a tweet: “This morning at 10.00am we were due to be questioning the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. She has declined to attend our session.”

In a letter to the committee, Ms Patel said scrutiny from its members is “always a priority for the department and me”, adding: “The committee will be aware of the recent changes in Government, and in particular to the ministerial team in my department. Regrettably, as a result of this and the wider unprecedented changes since I agreed to give evidence, I will no longer be able to meet with the committee tomorrow.

“I apologise for the inconvenience caused to committee members and recognise the work your staff will have undertaken, but I would like to reassure you that I have asked my officials to establish a new date as soon after summer recess as is practical.”

It is essential that our committee is able to scrutinise the policy and actions of this Government

Chairman Dame Diana Johnson said the news was “extremely disappointing” when she wrote to respond on Wednesday, adding that the committee expects Ms Patel to appear to give evidence next week as “the last available opportunity before the summer recess”.

She said: “We have been given to understand that, despite the Prime Minister’s resignation last week, we still have a functioning Government in place, as signalled by the appointment of a number of ministers over the last few days, including in your own department. As such, it is essential that our committee is able to scrutinise the policy and actions of this Government, and, in these uncertain times, even more so.

“You are still the Home Secretary and, in a statement you released last week, you implied that you did not resign from Government because you felt ‘the position of Home Secretary demands the holder of office to be entirely focused on the business of government and our national security’.

“We agree that the work of the Home Office and the role of the Home Secretary are indeed vitally important. We would therefore ask why, a week on, you now feel it is acceptable to avoid a key element of the role – facing up to much-needed scrutiny of that essential work. The ‘business of government’ absolutely requires scrutiny by Parliament.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of being in “total chaos”, while Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “If Priti Patel is so afraid to answer for her disastrous policies, maybe it’s time she dropped them.

“Conservative ministers are clearly far too engrossed in political infighting to do their jobs. The British people deserve better.”

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