Boris Johnson accused of ‘refusing to be held to account’ after pulling out of select committee appearance for third time

Labour Party chair brands prime minister a ‘coward’ while Lib Dem MP condemns ‘unacceptable’ refusal

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 23 October 2019 21:25
Boris Johnson to pause Brexit Bill until extension decision is reached

Boris Johnson has prompted accusations that he is “refusing to be held to account” after again pulling out of an appearance before senior MPs.

The prime minister had been due to appear in front of the Commons Liaison Committee, which is made up of the chairs of the other select committees, on Thursday but sent a scrawled note at the last minute asking to delay for “five or six months” so that he could “focus on Brexit“.

It is the third time that the prime minister has failed to attend a scheduled appearing in front of the committee.

Sarah Wollaston, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the liaison committee, told the prime minister the delay was “unacceptable” and accused him of “refusing to be held to account”.

In a scrawled note sent to Ms Wollaston, the prime minister wrote: “Dear Sarah, I promised that I will come to the liaison committee and I will keep that promise but I am afraid I must now focus on delivering Brexit in the difficult circumstances in which we now find ourselves, and I believe I would be of greater value if I could postpone to a fixed date nearer 5 or 6 months after I became PM, so that my appearance took place after roughly the same period in office as Gordon Brown, David Cameron & Theresa May.”

“I do hope you will understand.”

But Ms Wollaston, a former Tory who joined the Liberal Democrats earlier this year, replied: “Frankly, I am astonished that, at such short notice, you are refusing to face detailed scrutiny from select committee chairs tomorrow morning. This is the third time that you have postponed or cancelled.

“I have already conveyed the committee’s deep disappointment that you did not appear on Wednesday 11th September, despite your suggestion of that date and your later reassurance that you would keep that commitment.

She added: “Our role as select committee chairs is to ask you detailed questions on behalf of the public and we planned to do so on Brexit, climate change, health and social care. It is unacceptable that you are refusing to be held to account.

Ian Lavery MP, chair of the Labour Party, said: “Boris Johnson is a coward.

“He’s running scared because he doesn’t want his failure to deliver and his false promises on Brexit, the climate crisis and our public services, exposed.

“When will the prime minister accept that it’s not one rule for him and one for everyone else?”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments