PUBLISHED: 10:58 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 09 April 2020
A row has erupted between Yvette Cooper and Priti Patel after the home secretary ignored requests to be quizzed by MPs over her department’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
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Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper called for the home secretary Priti Patel to appear before the select committee on March 6 to take questions on how the Home Office was handling the coronavirus crisis.
She followed up her letter on March 20 pointing out 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 thegovernment has stated: this is the biggest crisis the country has faced in our lifetimes,” she explained.
“In the face of such serious circumstances, we need to hear from and put questions to Home Office ministers and senior civil servants about the impact of the pandemic on policing, community cohesion, immigration and security operations. I am sure you will agree that transparency and accountability are crucial in a crisis like this, and the issue is too serious for us to delay.”
A third letter was sent on April 3, demanding that the committee was able to interview Patel using an online tool on April 15.
Cooper said: “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.”
But the home secretary hit back at Cooper for her string of letters, claiming she was “disappointed” the committee chair had not taken up an offer of “regular briefings” instead.
“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.
“I feel my proposal strikes an important balance between ensuring the department receives that vital scrutiny, while ensuring the committee can receive operationally sensitive, and sometimes classified, updates at this time of national emergency.
“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.”
She added that she hopes to be able to take questions “towards the end of the month”.
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