The Contenders for Select Committee Chairs, 2017 edition

Following the early General Election, all House of Commons select committees have had to be reconstituted. Marc Geddes, Co-Convenor of the PSA Parliaments Group, looks ahead to this week’s elections for Committee Chairs. 

The process

Nominations opened on Wednesday, 05 July and closed at 3pm on Friday, 07 July. In order to stand:

  • MPs must have the support of 15 MPs from their own party or 10% of all the party’s MPs (whichever is fewer).
  • Up to five MPs elected to the House as members of another party may also sign the statement.

The elections will take place on Wednesday, 12 July. All MPs can vote in the elections, which is held by secret ballot. This means that there will be some room for jostling and canvassing.

Which committees are being contested?

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Held by Labour since 2010. The previous chair is Iain Wright, who stood down at the 2017 general election. So we have an open field, consisting of the following candidates:

  • Liam Byrne
  • Ian C. Lucas
  • Albert Owen
  • Rachel Reeves

Note that that there are two candidates here from the former Labour frontbench team – Corbyn’s leadership of the party continues to move former aspiring ministers to committee positions. All have select committee experience, but only Albert Owen has sat on this committee before.

Communities and Local Government (CLG)

Held by Labour since at least 2005. The previous chair, Clive Betts, is re-standing, having been its chair since 2010. However, he is being challenged by David Lammy, who has been vocal over the Grenfell atrocity and arguably more high-profile than the incumbent. The coming months will be very important for the committee, so this is definitely an election to watch.

Defence

Held by the Conservatives since at least 2005. Dr Julian Lewis is re-standing as chair, a position he has held since 2015. He is being challenged by Johnny Mercer.

Education

Held by the Conservatives since 2010. Between 2015 and 2017, the chair was Neil Carmichael who lost his seat in the most recent general election. So, a committee with a new chair and the field is wide open:

  • Rehman Chishti
  • Robert Halfon
  • Tim Loughton
  • Stephen Metcalfe
  • Dr Dan Poulter
  • Nick Boles

Stephen Metcalfe previously served as chair of the Science and Technology Committee (it is now a Liberal Democrat-led committee); Tim Loughton stood for the position in 2015; and Dan Poulter tried to become chair of the STC in 2015. No candidates have served on the Education Committee previously, but two have ministerial experience in the Department of Education (Halfon was a minister and Loughton was a PUSS).

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA)

This has been a long-standing Conservative-led committee. Neil Parish was its chair between 2015 and 2017, and he is re-standing. However, he faces competition from:

  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Bill Wiggin

Foreign Affairs Committee

A Conservative-led committee, the chair was Crispin Blunt since 2015. He is re-standing, but faces two challengers:

  • John Baron
  • Tom Tugendhat

Baron stood in 2010, and lost out against Blunt; Tugendhat, meanwhile, has only been in Parliament for two years.

Northern Ireland Affairs

This has been a committee held by the Conservatives since at least 2005. The previous chair was Laurence Robertson, who held the post between 2010 and 2017. He is not re-standing, so there are two new possibilities for chair:

  • Nigel Mills
  • Dr Andrew Murrison

Given the Conservative-DUP deal and the general concern over the power sharing agreement in Northern Ireland, this will be an important committee to watch. If Mills wins, let’s hope he doesn’t spend his time playing Candy Crush.

Science and Technology Committee (STC)

The STC was Labour in 2010-15, Conservative for 2015-17, and now turned to the Liberal Democrats. The incumbent therefore couldn’t re-stand (Stephen Metcalfe). There are two candidates:

  • Norman Lamb
  • Jo Swinson

Lamb was a contender for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats in 2015; Jo Swinson was considered the best hope for the party in 2017 but ruled herself out. We should welcome that the Liberal Democrats have chosen to make this a competitive process; the SNP have chosen to only nominate one candidate for each of their committees, which defeats the object of electing chairs.

Transport

This has been held by Labour since well before 2005, and led for a long time by Louise Ellman (between 2008 and 2017). She was not eligible to stand this time around, so the field has become wide open:

  • Geraint Davies
  • Clive Efford
  • Lilian Greenwood
  • Bridget Phillipson
  • Mr Gavin Shuker

Lilian Greenwood was Shadow Secretary of State for Transport under Corbyn for nine months. Clive Efford has been a long-standing member of the committee (serving 2001-09 and 2016-17), while Philipson and Shuker served on the shadow frontbench under Ed Miliband.

Treasury Committee

This has been a Conservative-led committee since 2010 (usually the governing party holds the chairship of this committee). The previous chair, Andrew Tyrie, has stepped down as MP, so the field has become open with five candidates standing:

  • Mr Richard Bacon
  • Charlie Elphicke
  • Stephen Hammond
  • Nicky Morgan
  • Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • John Penrose

Morgan and Rees-Mogg, both prominent backbenchers (with Morgan former frontbencher in the previous government), are seen to be the frontrunners. But also worth noting that Bacon has been a long-standing member of the Public Accounts Committee. This one should be closely watched: it is arguably the most high profile and important select committees.

Backbench Business Committee

Held by Labour since its inception in 2010, the committee was led by Ian Mearns since 2015. He is seeking re-election, but challenged by Angela Smith, who served as shadow deputy leader of the House.

Candidates Unchallenged

Committees where incumbents are running unchallenged (and will therefore be declared elected on 12 July):

  • Culture, Media and Sport Committee (Damian Collins)
  • Exiting the European Union (Hilary Benn)
  • Health (Sarah Wollaston)
  • Home Affairs (Yvette Cooper)
  • International Development (Stephen Twigg)
  • International Trade (Angus MacNeil)
  • Justice (Robert Neill)
  • Scottish Affairs (Pete Wishart)
  • Welsh Affairs (David TC Davies)
  • Women and Equalities (Maria Miller)
  • Work and Pensions (Frank Field)
  • Environmental Audit (Mary Creagh)
  • Petitions (Helen Jones)
  • Procedure (Charles Walker)
  • Public Accounts (Meg Hillier)
  • Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (Bernard Jenkin)
  • Standards Committee (Kevin Barron)

Committees with an incumbent re-running for their position was generally not opposed, but this might be changing very slowly:

  • In 2010, two incumbents faced challengers (Keith Vaz for Home Affairs and James Arbuthnot for Defence)
  • In 2015, three incumbents faced challengers (Adrian Bailey for Business, Innovation and Skills; Keith Vaz for Home Affairs; and Sarah Wollaston for Health)
  • In 2017, five incumbents face challengers: CLG (Clive Betts), Defence (Dr Julian Lewis), EFRA (Neil Parish), Backbench Business (Ian Mearns), and Foreign Affairs (Crispin Blunt)

But, that said, there is also a decrease in the number of candidates that have put themselves forward overall with only 11 committees being contested:

  • In 2010, 57 candidates put themselves forward for 24 chairships (49 MPs for 16 contested posts).
  • In 2015, 64 candidates put themselves forward for 27 chairships (52 MPs for 15 contested posts)
  • In 2017, 53 candidates put themselves forward for 28 chairship (37 MPs for 11 contested posts)

Incumbent chairs that have been in place since 2010: Clive Betts, Bernard Jenkin and David TC Davies. Due to term limits imposed on chairs, if re-elected, these three would have to give up their chairships next year.

Gender breakdown of the contenders

In total, 12 women are standing for committee positions while 41 men are standing. There is only one committee where more than one woman is standing (Transport). More generally:

  • Contested committees where no women are running: 6
  • Contested committees where no men are running: 0

In other words, in over half of all contested committee elections, only men are running.

So far, we know that 17 committees will be led by men and 6 by women (because these are uncontested or have only men running in them). The best case scenario for increasing gender equality would be if women won in all contested elections. This would mean five additional women chairs, which would ultimately mean that 11 committees would be led by women and 17 by men (the worst case scenario: 6 committees led by women and 22 by men).

And a couple of final stats…

  • The youngest candidate is Bridget Phillipson (at age 34); the oldest is Frank Field (at age 75). The average age is 52.
  • The median election year from which MPs are running is 2005 (the average year of election is 2004). However, the candidates with least parliamentary service entered Parliament in 2015 (Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer); the one with most in 1979 (Frank Field).

Notes

Dr Marc Geddes is the Co-Convenor of the PSA Parliaments Specialist Group and Lecturer in British Politics at the University of Edinburgh. You can follow him on Twitter @marcgeddes 

The PSA Parliaments blog welcomes new contributions. Please contact Communications Officer Alexandra Meakin on psa.parliaments@gmail.com for information on how to submit a post for the blog.

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