HOME Secretary Priti Patel has prompted an angry response from a senior MP after she failed to give a firm answer as to when she would appear before a senior committee to be quizzed about her department’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, has written to Patel several times asking her to appear before MPs via video link, yet Patel has so far refused to say when she will do so.

The Labour MP first wrote to Patel on March 6 calling on her to appear before the committee, which has already taken evidence from police chiefs and immigration staff about the way the Home Office is handling the crisis.

In a follow-up letter on March 20, Cooper said she had “received no response” from Patel, and said it was “urgent and essential that we hear from you and the permanent secretary on the departmental response to and preparations for coronavirus”.

“As the Government has stated: this is the biggest crisis the country has faced in our lifetimes,” she wrote.

“In the face of such serious circumstances, we need to hear from and put questions to Home Office Ministers.”

A further letter on April 3 made clear no response from Patel had “yet been forthcoming”, and the committee chair demanded the committee be allowed to grill Patel via videolink next week, on April 15.

Cooper added: “If an alternative time that week is more convenient, we will be as accommodating as possible. However, there is no reason for further delay, and we look forward to seeing you then.”

The Home Secretary finally replied this week, giving no precise date for when she would appear, but saying she would do so by the end of the month. She accused Cooper of an adversarial approach.

“I am disappointed at the increasingly adversarial tone of our exchanges and I am very sorry that you have declined my offer of regular briefings with officials and ministers at the Home Office,” said Patel.

“As I have said to you before, I am absolutely committed to ensuring the Home Office is better open to scrutiny and transparency, but I am conscious of the need to give Home Office members of staff the time and space they need to carry out their essential duty of keeping the British public safe during this national crisis.”

Other Cabinet ministers, including the Justice Secretary, Work and Pensions Secretary, Transport Secretary and Health Secretary, have either given evidence to their select committees or have agreed an early date to do so.

Patel has faced scrutiny over her own conduct following the resignation of her most senior official Sir Philip Rutnam. The former permanent secretary said he would be pursuing a constructive dismissal case against the Government. The Cabinet Office has since launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Sir Philip’s dramatic exit.

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