MSPs on Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee are to hold informal talks with new UK Employment Minister, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, it was announced today.
Ms Patel’s predecessor in the last government, Esther McVey, and Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, have both repeatedly turned down requests to appear before the Committee. It is hoped that next Thursday’s (1 October) meeting, which will be held in private, will prepare the ground for a public evidence session at a later date.
Committee Convener, Hugh Henry MSP, said:
“I welcome Priti Patel’s agreement to meet with the Committee. We are examining the future delivery of social security, which in Scotland will be shared between the UK and Scottish Governments, so establishing a dialogue is crucial.
“The Committee has built up a volume of evidence documenting the effects of the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda. The Minister has indicated a preference for this meeting to be held in private. That is not ideal, however I hope that this will lead to a formal evidence session to allow us to ask the Minister - on the record - some of the many questions raised with us by witnesses.”
Ms Patel’s meeting with members of the Welfare Reform Committee will be held in private on 1 October.
Previous occasions on which UK Government ministers have met informally (in private) with the Committee: Lord Freud (Minister for Welfare Reform) in July and November 2012, and Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) in March 2013.
UK Government ministers have either declined or not responded to invitations to appear before the Welfare Reform Committee on 10 occasions.