Cancellation from Foreign Secretary earns ticking off from committee chair

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Jonathan Brady/PA) Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Jonathan Brady/PA)

MPs have expressed disappointment after the Foreign Secretary pulled out at the last minute from an appearance before a Commons committee to discuss post-Brexit issues.

James Cleverly had been due to attend the European Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday afternoon, but pulled out in advance of the session.

In a letter to committee chair Sir William Cash, Mr Cleverly apologised but said that he was “no longer able to attend the arranged session due to urgent matters in relation to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East”.

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has dominated both global and domestic affairs in recent weeks, with the Foreign Secretary among those leading the Government’s response to the crisis.

Sir William told the senior Cabinet minister it was “disappointing” that MPs were not notified sooner.

In a letter to Mr Cleverly, he said: “Cancelling an appearance on the day is disruptive for Members and staff, and for those who have made preparations to attend or follow a session live from home.

“I know that the situation in Israel and Gaza is urgent and taking up a considerable amount of your time. During times of crisis, parliamentary scrutiny remains of the utmost importance.

“Regional security and UK/EU/Nato/UN defence cooperation was one of the vitally important issues we planned to discuss with you.”

Mr Cleverly was also expected to be grilled on post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland, as well as on the UK’s association to the Horizon science programme.

Sir William said that the discussions on the Windsor Framework were the “most pressing”.

He asked the Foreign Secretary to appear before the committee as soon as possible after the King’s Speech in November, while also asking Mr Cleverly to respond to a set of questions attached to the letter.