Diana Johnson – 2022 Statement on the Conduct of Priti Patel

The statement made by Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2022.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Home Secretary was due to meet the Home Affairs Committee this morning—we arranged this in April—for an evidence session on, among other things, the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, problems at the Passport Office, small boat crossings in the channel and the Government’s Rwanda policy, and the lack of progress in prosecuting and convicting those who commit rape and other sexual violence against women and girls. Shortly before 5 pm yesterday, the Home Secretary wrote to me to say that she was withdrawing from the evidence session. That is tantamount to providing no notice at all, and it deprives the Committee of the chance to scrutinise the conduct of her Department before the summer recess. We have requested her presence next Wednesday, but as yet have received no response.

The Home Secretary told us that she could not come because of changes in her ministerial team and other “wider unprecedented changes” that had occurred since she had agreed to give evidence. I think that that is a very weak excuse to avoid scrutiny of the Home Office at this time. It was only ever the Home Secretary and the permanent secretary who were to appear before the Committee. In fact, the Home Secretary issued a statement last week in which she said that she had not resigned because the role of Home Secretary demanded that the holder of the office should be

“focused on the business of government and our national security.”

What steps can a Committee of this House take, Madam Deputy Speaker, when a Minister refuses to be scrutinised, and demonstrates such discourtesy to this House?

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)

Further to that excellent point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will, I am sure, agree that Select Committees play a crucial role in this place in holding the Government to account, and our ability to do so depends on those Committees. We are seeing chaos in the Passport Office, a broken asylum system and an unworkable Rwanda plan. Crime is up, prosecutions are down, and confidence in the police at a record low. Can you please advise us, Madam Deputy Speaker, on what can be done to ensure that the Home Secretary does indeed attend the Select Committee next Wednesday?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, for giving notice of her point of order. I am also grateful to the shadow Home Office Minister.

Mr Speaker has said repeatedly that Select Committee work is important, and that Ministers should do their best to facilitate it through timely appearances at evidence sessions. I share—as, I am sure, does Mr Speaker—the right hon. Lady’s frustration that her Committee’s evidence session has been cancelled at such short notice. I do not know the reasons that the Home Secretary has provided for the cancellation, so I will refrain from saying more now, other than that I hope, and I am sure Mr Speaker would hope, that the Home Secretary will very quickly provide an alternative date that is acceptable to the Committee, and that, again, I hope that those on the Treasury Bench will feed these points back through the relevant channels.