Hilary Benn and Kate Hoey vie for chairmanship of Brexit Select Committee

Hilary Benn and Kate Hoey vie for chairmanship of Brexit Select Committee

In Parliament, nominations have closed for the chairmanships of five select committees, including those scrutinising the work of the two new government departments which have been created as a result of the Brexit vote.

MPs of all parties are able to participate in voting for all posts, although which parties get which chairmanships is cooked up between the various parties’ whips offices to ensure that roles are shared appropriately between the parties based on numerical strength.

The International Trade committee will be chaired by a Scottish Nationalist, since an SNP MP chaired the now defunct Energy and Climate Change Committee. Indeed, the very MP who chaired the DECC committee, Angus MacNeil, has been nominated unopposed to chair the International Trade Committee, such is SNP internal discipline that no-one challenged him for the role.

There is, however, a contested election to chair the Exiting the European Union committee, which has been designated for a Labour nominee (a decision which disappointed various Remain-supporting Tories who coveted the role, including former ministers Nick Herbert, Anna Soubry and Alistair Burt).

The front-runner and first to have declared his interest in the Brexit Committee role is Remain-supporting Hilary Benn, the former Cabinet minister who was sacked as shadow foreign secretary by Jeremy Corbyn back in June.

In his supporting statement, he declares:

“I campaigned for Remain, but I believe we must respect the British people’s decision, implement it and get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom… Our aim should be to minimise the risks and uncertainty for business, protect the things that the British people value and make the most of the opportunities.”

He adds:

“There has been a lot of division in the wake of the referendum – in the country and in Parliament – and this Committee will have an important role to play in showing that we can work together as Members and move the country forwards… There are a large number of substantive issues that the Committee and the House will need to deal with as part of this process now that the Government has indicated when it will trigger Article 50. These will include the Government’s negotiating plan, ensuring continued access to European markets for all our industries and services, future arrangements for immigration control from the EU and maintaining cooperation with our European neighbours in areas like foreign policy, defence and security that are particularly important to us.”

His Labour nominators are: Ed Miliband, Paul Blomfield, Emma Reynolds, Angela Eagle, Dan Jarvis, Thangham Debbonaire, Kevan Jones, Seema Malhotra, Pat McFadden, Liz Kendall, Helen Hayes, Andy Burnham, Gareth Thomas, Pat Glass and Jack Dromey.

His non-Labour nominators are: Anna Soubry (Con), Mark Durkan (SDLP), Andrew Mitchell (Con), Sarah Wollaston (Con) and John Nicolson (SNP).

The other challenger for the post is Kate Hoey, the veteran Eurosceptic and former minister who backed Leave at the referendum.

In her supporting statement, she says:

“The wishes of the British public must be implemented, but this will have wide-ranging policy implications across many of our institutions. Parliament must be able to scrutinise the Government’s plans to give reassurance to the public and the wider world, both those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to stay. What should unite us all now is that we want to get the best deal possible for those we represent and for our country as a whole.”

She also makes a point of reaching out to Remain-supporting Welsh and Scottish MPs:

“Because a part of our task must be to address national disunity following the referendum, I would consider it important to have a Vice-Chair from one of the other nations of the UK, so that the concerns and voices of the wider public can be assured of their involvement. This is a time of great opportunity, and we should not risk unnecessary factional dispute as we seek to bring the country together. I have always approached matters with an independent mind set, beholden to nobody and avoiding partisan positions. I campaigned passionately for a Leave vote, and agree that those of us who did so have a particular responsibility to make a success of it.”

Her Labour nominators are: Roger Godsiff, John Mann, Dennis Skinner, Graham Stringer, Clive Lewis, Frank Field, Kelvin Hopkins, Gisela Stuart, Paul Flynn, Jim Cunningham, Stephen Hepburn, David Anderson, Geoffrey Robinson, Ian Lavery and Ronnie Campbell

Her non-Labour nominators are: Theresa Villiers (Con), Nigel Dodds (DUP), Laurence Robertson (Con), Alex Salmond (SNP) and Charlie Elphicke (Con)

The likelihood is that the voting will to a large part reflect the Leave/Remain split in the House of Commons: Hoey will sweep up support from Leave-supporting MPs – most of whom are Conservatives, but also the Labour Leavers and the DUP – as well as some, especially on the Tory benches, who backed Remain but who are now keen to make a success of Brexit and hold independent-minded Hoey in some esteem. Benn, however, can be expected to hoover up the votes of most Labour Remainers and SNP MPs (although NB Alex Salmond as one of Kate Hoey’s nominators) and the Lib Dems, as well as a good clutch of Tories among whom he too is held in some respect.

The parliamentary arithmetic would suggest that Hoey will struggle to win the day, although I imagine she will find favour among most BrexitCentral readers.

The elections will be held on Wednesday 19th October between 10am and 1.30pm, with the result expected to be announced by the Speaker later in the afternoon.