A THIRD Cabinet minister in Boris Johnson's government has pulled out of an appearance before a House of Commons committee at short notice.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had been due to answer questions on Wednesday afternoon from the Environmental Audit Committee on accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies.

But Kwarteng wrote to the committee’s chairman, Philip Dunne, on Wednesday morning to say he could no longer attend.

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The minister gave no reason for pulling out, but offered to rearrange for a date in September, after MPs return from their summer recess.

We told yesterday how transparency data from Kwarteng's department, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that the cabinet secretary was flown around Saudi Arabia by majority state-owned oil firm Aramco, one of the world's biggest fossil fuel producers. 

A new prime minister is due to be announced on September 5, the first day that the Commons returns, meaning a new business secretary could be in place before the meeting can be rearranged.

In his letter, Kwarteng said: “It is with regret that I am writing to inform you that I am no longer able to attend the committee session scheduled for this afternoon.

The National: Priti Patel pulled out of an appearance at the Home Affairs Committee in JulyPriti Patel pulled out of an appearance at the Home Affairs Committee in July

“Parliamentary scrutiny of Government is a key principle of our political system, and one I personally hold as critically important to the effective and transparent functioning of our democracy.

“It is for this reason that I have appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee twice since joining Beis (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), alongside 16 appearances in total at committees in the same period.”

Announcing Kwarteng’s decision, the Environmental Audit Committee tweeted: “He gives no explanation nor apology. This is not the way for senior Ministers to treat scrutiny.”

The Government has already been accused of attempting to avoid scrutiny since Boris Johnson resigned as Conservative leader after two other Cabinet ministers pulled out of select committee appearances.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel pulled out of an appearance before the Home Affairs Committee on July 13, claiming “recent changes in Government” meant she could no longer attend.

The next day, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab cancelled his session with the Joint Committee on Human Rights which was scheduled to question him on plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.

Kwarteng’s decision also comes a day after former cabinet minister Michael Gove said some parts of the Government are “simply at the moment not functioning”.

The National: Dominic Raab cancelled a meeting with the Joint Committee on Human RightsDominic Raab cancelled a meeting with the Joint Committee on Human Rights

The former communities secretary told an event hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank: “I believe that there are certain essential functions that the state needs to do better, and which we fail to deliver at the moment.”

The decision by ministers to cancel select committee hearings has led to accusations that the administration has become a “zombie government” waiting for a new leader to be announced.

But Downing Street has rejected these claims, saying previously that “the Prime Minister remains PM and the work of Government will continue until a new leader is in place”.