Priti Patel to be quizzed by MPs over Home Office coronavirus response

29 April 2020, 06:51

The Home Secretary will appear virtually before the committee
The Home Secretary will appear virtually before the committee. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Priti Patel will be grilled by MPs later over the Home Office's response to the Covid-19 outbreak as she faces the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

The Home Secretary will be appearing at a virtual hearing of the powerful Parliamentary body, joined by permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft and second permanent secretary Shona Dunn to be questioned about crime, policing and immigration.

Some of the questions expected to be asked will be around NHS visa extensions, difficulties with the EU Settlement Scheme, the measures taken to help victims of domestic and child abuse as well as migrants and asylum seekers during the coronavirus pandemic and the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for police.

This will be Ms Patel's second appearance before the committee since Boris Johnson appointed her Home Secretary in July.

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Earlier this month, Ms Patel was accused of avoiding scrutiny during a time of national emergency.

Committee chairman Yvette Cooper wrote six letters to the Home Secretary over the last three months in an effort to set a date for her to give evidence as other ministers have done.

After not replying to several of the letters and declining invitations to attend on earlier dates, Ms Patel responded by saying she was "disappointed at the increasingly adversarial tone of our exchanges".

She added she was "very sorry" the committee declined her offer of private briefings at the Home Office, but she would make herself available towards the end of the month.

Ms Cooper said: "This is a time of national emergency where public information, reassurance, leadership, transparency and scrutiny are in the national interest.

"At a time like this, we therefore expect to see the Home Secretary and senior officials demonstrate public leadership and transparency and to be ready to answer public questions without delay."

Last week former Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam formally launched legal action against Ms Patel, claiming "constructive dismissal".

He quit his post in February amid allegations of bullying behaviour by the Home Secretary.

A Cabinet Office inquiry launched after claims that the minister clashed with senior officials and belittled colleagues is ongoing.