COMMONS

Chair nominations for Foreign Affairs Committee

Nominations close for Chair elections.

Three nominations have been received for the position of Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Chair will be elected from the Conservative party.

A full list of candidates is published below with accompanying statements.

As set out by the Speaker, the election will be held in Committee Room 8 from 10am to 4pm on Wednesday 12 July. The results are expected to be announced by the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow, as soon as possible after the ballots close.

The candidates are:

Nominated by (own party)

Mr Richard Bacon, Mr Peter Bone, Andrew Bridgen, Sir William Cash, Rehman Chishti, Mr Christopher Chope, David T.C. Davies, Richard Drax, Mr Philip Hollobone, Sir Edward Leigh, Dr Julian Lewis, Jack Lopresti, Stephen Metcalfe, Mrs Sheryll Murray, Andrew Rosindell

Nominated by (other parties)

Mr Jim Cunningham, Mary Glindon, Jim Shannon

Statement

In standing for Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), I would support the Committee’s objective of independently scrutinising the FCO’s work. Having resigned as a Shadow Minister in 2003 to vote against the Iraq War; opposed the Helmand intervention; voted against intervention in Libya in 2011; and having helped lead opposition to our proposed Syrian intervention in 2013, I have been prepared to take an independent stance on foreign affairs.

Whilst always ensuring we give consideration to limited, well-defined and properly resourced interventions, such as Afghanistan in 2001 and to avoid another Srebrenica, our interventions in Iraq, Helmand, Libya and Syria have not only been misguided but also a distraction from the greater challenge of rising powers, including Russia and China, both rearming and becoming more assertive. As such, I have opposed cuts to the Regular Army, and campaigned for higher spending on our Armed Forces.  

If elected, I would ensure that the Committee works in an inclusive manner, to ensure all Members’ opinions are raised, regardless of party affiliation. Select Committees’ important constitutional role of holding the Government to account is enhanced by cross-party working and unanimous reports. Such an approach also best serves the interests of the House of Commons.  

During my 16 years in Parliament, I have taken a strong interest in foreign affairs. This stems in part from my international upbringing – which included spells in Singapore, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Iran – and also from my former career as a soldier which included tours in Berlin and with the United Nations in Cyprus.  Furthermore, in addition to my work on the FAC since 2010, I have consistently raised foreign policy issues in Parliament. 

My back bench debate in 2013 helped compel the Government to confirm it would require Parliament’s express consent before lethal support was provided to the Syrian rebels – for which, in part with other foreign affairs work, I was named the BBC’s ‘Parliamentarian of the Year’. I have also spoken at conferences on international affairs, founded and chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group for an EU Referendum, published written work, and contributed in the media. 

In recent years I have consistently raised the challenges caused by falling budgets at the FCO, which needs to be a better sighted and respected counterweight to No 10 – informed decisions usually make for better outcomes. I have very recently authored a report on this and other related issues, entitled ‘Hard Choices: Britain’s Foreign Policy for a Dangerous World’ - kindly published by the Politeia think tank.

Looking forward, whilst continuing to address the issues of the day, I would encourage the FAC to be proactive in its use of reports and evidence sessions to explore important themes which do not always feature in debate – the increasing importance of soft power and resource scarcity as a driver of foreign policy being two such examples. I would welcome other suggestions.  

Please feel free to raise any issues with me in person or by phoning me.

Relevant interests

None

Nominated by (own party)

Mr Kenneth Clarke, Nadhim Zahawi, Adam Holloway, Daniel Kawczynski, Sir Nicholas Soames, Mrs Maria Miller, Mr Andrew Mitchell, Dame Caroline Spelman, Sir Hugo Swire, Mr David Jones, Suella Fernandes, Ms Nusrat Ghani, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Bob Blackman, Johnny Mercer

Nominated by (other parties)

Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn, Mike Gapes, Stephen Gethins, Frank Field

Statement

My record

I seek your support to remain Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee following two years in post. I hope Colleagues will judge that I have the collegiality, independence, experience, and energy to continue to chair an effective Committee.

Since 2015 I have worked across party lines to raise the Committee’s profile and make a bigger impact on the foreign affairs issues of the day, with measurable successes across a range of issues.

Notably, the Committee’s November 2015 report on airstrikes against ISIL in Syria set the terms of the debate before the House authorised military action. For the first time in the history of Select Committees a Prime Minister responded directly to a Select Committee report.

We also unanimously tackled difficult subjects such as Brexit’s foreign policy implications, Britain’s relations with Russia and Turkey, and pressed the Government to restore the prominence of Human Rights in British diplomacy.

Future Work

It is imperative that the Committee hits the ground running, building on our work in the previous Parliament. I would hope that the new Committee will resume its inquiries on UK-China relations and the UK’s role in the Middle East Peace Process cut short by the dissolution.

I believe the Committee can make an important contribution to discussions around the design of the future UK-EU security relationship, which could find consensus across the House. I have opened this discussion with my own paper which Lord Hague described to the Lords EU External Affairs Subcommittee as the ‘best proposal’ he had seen for a future framework for cooperation. The Committee should also look at areas of foreign policy affected by Brexit, such as the adaptation of UK sanctions legislation.

There is a prospect of US/French action against Syrian targets if chemical weapons are used again. Johnny Mercer and I have published a paper with the European Council on Foreign Relations, taking the lessons from the previous Committee’s work on Syria to provide an appropriate framework for any parliamentary debate about a British role. I hope this might inform joint working with other Committees and be a model for the collective expertise of Select Committees informing Parliament and holding the executive to account.

I would expect the Committee will wish to examine how the Government manages UK-US relations at a time of policy uncertainty with the Trump administration. I would also propose to look at British soft power assets and to review policy towards Overseas Territories. The new Committee will need be responsive to fast-moving global developments such as the ongoing crisis in the Gulf and growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Personal Background

Army Officer, 1979-1990 (commanded armoured reconnaissance squadron)
Politics BA, University of Durham, 1981-84
MBA, Cranfield University, 1990-91
Special Adviser to Malcolm Rifkind as Defence and Foreign Secretary, 1993-97
MP for Reigate since 1997
Served on several select committees, including Liaison, National Security Strategy, and Defence 
Under-Secretary of State for Prisons & Probation (MoJ) 2010-12
Co-chair, Council for Arab-British Understanding, 2005-09
Chair, Conservative Middle East Council, 2003-08

Relevant interests

Overseas travel: Cadenabbia, Italy (March 2017), speaking at the annual German-British Parliamentary Dialogue, hosted by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung; Antalya, Turkey (March 2017), attendance at the annual British-Turkish leaders, hosted by British-Turkish Tatlidil; Manama, Bahrain (December 2016), attendance of IISS Manama Dialogue as a guest speaker, hosted by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain; Cairo (February) opening Ghazala Medical centre, Mr Nael El Farargy.

Nominated by (own party)

Nigel Huddleston, Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Kelly Tolhurst, Nick Herbert, Paul Masterton, Bill Grant, John Lamont, Mr Owen Paterson, Tracey Crouch, Michael Gove, James Cleverly, Richard Harrington, Sir Peter Bottomley, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, Mike Penning

Nominated by (other parties)

Meg Hillier, Angela Rayner, John Spellar, Keir Starmer, Dan Jarvis

Statement

Foreign policy has rarely been more important to our nation.  After the vote last year to leave the European Union we need to reaffirm alliances and renew the confidence of our friends.  This isn’t just a job for the government but for all of us in Parliament.  Together, we can show allies that we are dependable partners by the approach we take to foreign affairs.

That means taking a strategic approach.  We must be considered and deliberate as we work with friends to promote the values we share with so many, reinforcing our work in many groups, like the UN, to ensure our voice is heard.  And it means reforming the Committee on Arms Export Controls to ensure our actions match our words.

Diplomacy isn’t just about trade.  Our relationships are based on families, values, history and culture and run deep through our society.  We must ensure our policies reflect those and take advantage of our rich past to achieve the aims we need to promote our interests.

I came to politics because I questioned our foreign policy.  Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know the cost of failure and the importance of using diplomacy to stop unnecessary military action.  As I wrote in a paper with our Jo Cox before she was tragically murdered last year, we must have the option to intervene, but it should be a last resort.

Instead, we can achieve our aims by magnifying our voice through cooperation.  That means resourcing our foreign policy and writing a strategy to guide our envoys.  That means understanding.  More than ever we need to know the real interests our friends are trying to defend so that we can work with them to achieve our own.

That cooperation should continue at home.  By creating a deputy chair I would encourage all sides to play their essential role in shaping our future and determining the work of the committee.  I have worked with many from across this House and I’m grateful to have the support of many from the Committee in the last Parliament.  I’m particularly grateful to have the support of members from across the political spectrum including Angela Rayner, Keir Starmer, John Spellar, Yvette Cooper, Peter Dowd, and Dan Jarvis from Labour and Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Grieve, Robert Buckland, Owen Paterson, Tracey Crouch, and Richard Harrington on my own side.

Today, more than ever, we need to review our interests and focus our efforts to ensure our nation’s allies know where we stand – a firm friend and a trusted partner.  Parliament has a huge role to play in achieving this and I would welcome the opportunity to champion our views so that we write the strategy we need, together.

Relevant interests

None

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