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

(ITV News) — The Home Secretary will be grilled by MPs about how her department has responded to the coronavirus outbreak.

Members of the Commons Home Affairs Committee will question Priti Patel during a virtual hearing on Wednesday morning.

She will be joined by permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft and second permanent secretary Shona Dunn to be questioned about crime, policing and immigration.

In particular Ms Patel is expected to be asked about 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 outbreak and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for police.

It will be only the second time Ms Patel has appeared before the committee since she was appointed Home Secretary in July, and her first since the general election.

Her last appearance before the committee was on October 23.

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.