Feature: Crib sheet to Britain’s new select committees

Your quick crib sheet to the Common’s newly-elected select committee chairs.

By Alex Stevenson

MPs have chosen the chairs of their select committees for the first time. The historic move saw a number of contested elections which, supporters say, improves the independence of these key figures. But who are the men and women tasked with chairing the committees which will scrutinise the government over the next five years? Here’s a quick overview of their background and how they won their positions of influence.

Elected following opposed vote

Business, innovation and skills committee – Adrian Bailey (Lab)

The West Bromwich West MP beat a strong challenge from former children, schools and families committee chairman Barry Sheerman to take this important committee. He told politics.co.uk before the election he had enjoyed a “reassuringly friendly and supportive response from other parties”. The race was surprisingly good-natured: Bailey added “it has been a friendlier experience than I thought it might be”.

Children, schools and families – Graham Stuart (Con)

This old-school Conservative stalwart is a well-respected MP who had to beat three other contenders for the committee chair. He has served as the Beverley and Holderness MP since 2005 and had served on the CSF committee during the last parliament. He was elected to the Conservative party board in 2006.

Communities and local government committee – Clive Betts (Lab)

Clive Betts has established a strong independent reputation since first being elected to Sheffield Attercliffe in 1992. He had been on three select committees before moving to the CLG brief and beat Nick Raynsford to the job this time around. The result is something of an upset – Raynsford had been expected to take the role.

Defence committee – James Arbuthnot (Con)

Arbuthnot is one of two select committee chairs from the last parliament who have successfully defended their position through an election. He beat Douglas Carswell, Julian Lewis and Patrick Mercer to maintain his position. The Hampshire North East MP told politics.co.uk before the vote he would “provide a degree of continuity in the new government”.

Energy and climate change committee – Tim Yeo (Con)

Yeo has easily made the transition from the environmental audit committee, which he chaired in the last parliament, after that committee’s chair passed to Labour hands. He beat Philip Hollobone despite declaring an impressive range of interests, including a non-executive directorship of Groupe Eurotunnel, a non-executive chairmanship of AFC Energy and a consultant role for Regenesis.

Environment, food and rural affairs committee – Anne McIntosh (Con)

It’s only been two weeks since McIntosh was elected as the MP for Thirsk and Malton, after her seat’s general election polling day was delayed by three weeks because of the death of a candidate. She beat James Gray, Stewart Jackson and Neil Parish to the rural affairs committee post.

Environmental audit committee – Joan Walley (Lab)

Walley has long been earmarked as a strong green advocate, winning the 2004 Epolitix environment champion award. She was the senior Labour member of the committee in the last parliament and saw off a challenge from Barry Gardiner to secure the committee’s chair in the current parliament.

Foreign affairs committee – Richard Ottaway (Con)

Ottaway has long had an interest in international affairs, having served as an officer in the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve. He served on the intelligence and security committee in the last parliament and overcame challenges from John Baron and Sir John Stanley to take this important role.

Health committee – Stephen Dorrell (Con)

The Charnwood MP beat Peter Bone and Sir Paul Beresford to win the health committee chair. “At the heart of the debate about the future of public services is the familiar, but increasingly challenging, requirement to reconcile public aspirations with available resources,” he said after being elected. “There is no bigger issue facing our society.”

Home affairs committee – Keith Vaz (Lab)

The former Labour minister built up a strong reputation as chair of the home affairs committee during the last parliament and was the second of two incumbent chairs to hold their position in a contested election. His campaign against Alun Michael was boosted by media appearances following the shootings in Cumbria.
Political and constitutional reform committee – Graham Allen (Lab)

Graham Allen’s idiosyncratic campaigning on political reform issues gave him a strong reputation as a campaigner on the importance of independence for backbenchers. He is expected to be a strong advocate for change and will not hold back when it comes to pressuring Nick Clegg on slow progress.

Public accounts committee – Margaret Hodge (Lab)

The narrow margin of Hodge’s victory over Hugh Bayley, one of six candidates, did not nevertheless change the ultimate result for the frontrunner. Hodge’s victory over the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin in Barking and Dagenham gave her a huge profile nationally. Now she has won the responsibility of heading what is arguably the most important select committee – the Commons’ public spending watchdog.

Public administration select committee – Bernard Jenkin (Con)

Jenkin has big shoes to fill following the departure of Tony Wright, the man whose reforms to the way the Commons works are set to be implemented. His victory over Christopher Chope and Ian Liddell-Grainger comes despite being asked to make an enormous expenses repayment worth £63,250. He sat on the defence committee in the last parliament.

Science and technology committee – Andrew Miller (Lab)

Miller’s background as MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, a key industrial location in the north-west, gives him a strong grounding in the technological issues which will dominate his time in parliament for the next five years. He beat Graham Stringer to the role after having chaired the regulatory reform committee in the last parliament.

Treasury committee – Andrew Tyrie (Con)

The biggest upset of the select committee elections comes from the extremely influential Treasury committee, which will be tasked with spending the next five years scrutinising the way the coalition government goes about reducing the deficit. Had elections not taken place the senior Tory on the committee in the last parliament, Michael Fallon, would have been a shoe-in to the chair. But MPs backed Tyrie over Fallon by 352 votes to 219, handing last year’s Spectator backbencher of the year one of the biggest roles in British politics for the Commons’ backbenchers.

Work and pensions committee – Anne Begg (Lab)

Wheelchair-bound Begg has been the Labour MP for Aberdeen South since 1997. She was a senior member of the work and pensions committee in the last parliament but only just beat Karen Buck to the chair, attracting 278 votes to Buck’s 264.

Elected unopposed

Culture, media and sport committee: James Whittingdale (Con)

As the committee’s chair since 2005 the Maldon MP did not face a challenge this time round.

International development committee: Malcolm Bruce (LD)

Bruce is one of two Lib Dem MPs who chair select committees. Neither had to fight a campaign as they retained their roles.

Justice committee – Sir Alan Beith (LD)

Sir Alan unsuccessfully stood for the Speaker post last year but will continue in his previous job as justice committee chairman into the current parliament.

Northern Ireland committee – Laurence Robertson (Con)

The Tewkesbury MP was shadow Northern Ireland minister in the last parliament.

Procedure committee – Greg Knight (Con)

This committee deals with housekeeping issues for the Commons. He was a member of the modernisation committee from 2005 and took over the procedure committee’s chair role later that year.

Scottish affairs committee – Ian Davidson (Lab)

The Glasgow South West MP was a member of the Scottish affairs committee in the last parliament.

Transport committee – Louise Ellman (Lab)

The incumbent chair from the last parliament did not have to fight to defend her post this time around.

Welsh affairs – David T. C. Davies (Con)

Davies has benefited from the influx of Tory MPs into Wales in the 2010 election to establish his seniority, after being the only Tory in Wales in 2001.