Priti Patel's cancellation of appearance at scrutiny session branded 'wholly unacceptable'

Priti Patel's decision to cancel a scheduled appearance where she was due to take questions about Home Office policy has been branded "wholly unacceptable".

Ms Patel had been due to appear this morning in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is chaired by Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson.

But the appearance was cancelled at the last minute, with Ms Patel citing recent "unprecedented changes" in her own ministerial team and Government more widely as the reason.

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Dame Diana said on Twitter: "Wholly unacceptable. This date was agreed months in advance and the reason given for why the Home Secretary cannot attend this morning- due to changes in the Home Office ministerial team - does not make sense as it was the Home Secretary giving evidence and not a junior minister."

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticised for cancelling the appearance.Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticised for cancelling the appearance.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticised for cancelling the appearance.

Topics that had been due to be covered included the Rwanda immigration plan, ongoing problems at the Passport Office and public confidence in policing.

The Home Affairs Select Committee has published an exchange of letters between Ms Patel and Dame Diana about the issue.

It reveals Ms Patel wrote to Dame Diana yesterday to say she would not be attending and requesting a new date in September is chosen.

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The Home Secretary said: "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 would however like to ensure that the session goes ahead at the next appropriate point and suggest that we postpone until a mutually-agreed date in September. I apologise for the inconvenience caused to committee members."

Dame Diana's response said it was "extremely disappointing" to be told at 4.40pm on the afternoon before she was due to give evidence that the Home Secretary would not be appearing.

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She told Ms Patel: "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 in the past few days, including in your own department.

"As such it is essential that our committee 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.

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"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."

Dame Diana said the session should be rearranged for next week before Parliament breaks up for its summer recess.

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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