Tory minister criticised for not appearing before Holyrood committee for two years

The social security committee in the Scottish Parliament has said the lack of attendance is “extremely disappointing”.

Bob Doris MSP has criticised Therese Coffey MP for not accepting invites to appear at committee meetings.
Bob Doris MSP has criticised Therese Coffey MP for not accepting invites to appear at committee meetings.

The UK Government have been blasted by a Scottish Parliament committee convener for not sending a minister to give evidence for more than two years.

Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, has not appeared before the social security committee since her appointment in September 2019 despite being invited three times this year.

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Committee convener Bob Doris MSP added, in a letter inviting the Tory minister to attend the committee, that a UK minister has not given evidence at the committee for more than two years, with the last attendance in April 2018.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey

The decision not to appear has been labelled “extremely disappointing” and “entirely unacceptable”, and called on Ms Coffey to make herself available.

In a letter sent to the minister, Mr Doris writes: “In extending this invitation, I note the last time a UK Minister appeared before the Social Security Committee was over two years ago in April 2018. This year alone, I have invited you to attend the Committee in person or virtually on three separate occasions, yet I have received no form of acknowledgement.

“I find this extremely disappointing, especially as the Committee has offered to accommodate a date that suits you.

“Our Committee members wishes to be clear that we find it entirely unacceptable that it has been over two years since a UK minister has been in attendance. This has also included the failure of UK Government minsters to give evidence to various Committee inquiries.

“As we know, social security is an area of split-competency, with several interdependencies and shared interests. The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised this, demonstrating that both the Scottish and UK Governments are required to deliver their respective elements of social security to provide support to Scottish claimants.

“The Committee is keen to discuss with you in person some of these interdependencies and shared interests as Scotland moves to a new normal. I hope you can finally accept this invitation and that your office and mine can swiftly agree a suitable date.”

The committee convener added that it “pleas” from the committee have “too often gone ignored” and urged Ms Coffey to attend the committee “as soon as possible”.

He said: “We are keen to build a constructive relationship with the Secretary of State. However, it is completely unacceptable that the last time a UK Minister appeared before our Committee was April 2018 and our pleas for someone to attend our Committee have too often gone ignored.

“The impact of this pandemic upon social security cannot be overstated with unprecedented numbers of people seeking help. This makes it more important than ever that UK ministers make themselves available to our Committee.

“The Committee’s frustration is clear and I urge Thérèse Coffey to makes herself available as soon as possible.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has been contacted for comment.

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