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EXCL Boris Johnson accused of 'running from scrutiny' as he misses fresh committee grilling deadline

3 min read

Boris Johnson has been accused of "running from scrutiny" after he missed another deadline to appear before a powerful cross-party group of MPs.

Sarah Wollaston, who heads up the Commons Liaison Committee - hit out at the Prime Minister as she revealed that no new date has yet been fixed for a grilling by the group despite Mr Johnson initially pledging to appear while running for the Conservative leadership over the summer.

Prime Ministers are usually questioned by the outfit, which brings together the chairs of all other Commons committees, up to three times a year.

But Ms Wollaston - a Liberal Democrat MP who quit the Conservatives earlier this year - told PoliticsHome that she had yet to receive a plan for an appearance after writing to Number 10 last week with fresh demands for Mr Johnson to come before the committee by 2 October.

The Liaison Committee chair said Mr Johnson's attendance was vital because there was a "huge amount to hold the Prime Minister to account for" - as she accused Number 10 of overseeing "a litany of delay".

"There is a very long list of stuff that we've been getting a lot of flannel on, but not a lot of detail," she said.

"And that's the point about select committee hearings: it's not an opportunity for the Prime Minister to just bat off a detailed question with an insult, be that a one-word 'humbug' or whatever.

"It's the opportunity for follow-up questions, that's what distinguishes it from normal questions in the Commons. He can't grandstand in the same way. He does have to sit round a small table with a laser-like focus on him, answering questions from people who are specialists in that area. 

"He needs to come and he needs to stop running from scrutiny."

Mr Johnson had initially been due to appear before the committee on 11 September, but that plan was shelved after the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament - a move last week ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

When Parliament returned following the Supreme Court ruling, Ms Wollaston wrote to Number 10 asking the PM to "attend the committee within a week, before Wednesday 2nd Oct".

PoliticsHome understands that Ms Wollaston will attempt to raise the issue with a point of order in the House of Commons later on Thursday, with the Committee pressing for the Prime Minister to appear before a crunch EU council summit on 17 October.

The senior MP insisted her Committee had tried "to be as flexible as we can be" in finding a date for Mr Johnson to face a grilling.

"We recognise that he has a busy diary," she said. 

"But you know, he is making time for lots of meetings with a lot of people. 

"Just not with the people who are there to hold him to account and to whom he has specifically agreed to be held to account. That's the point: this is an obligation that he has, that he has accepted, but he simply just won't actually do it."

And the committee chair added: "He assured us that he would be in front of the committee at the earliest opportunity when we came back - but he's somehow not finding that time.

"I think people will draw their own conclusions about the Prime Minister's attitude to actual, detailed Parliamentary scrutiny."

Downing Street has been approached for comment.

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