Hilary Benn wins election to chair Brexit Select Committee

Hilary Benn wins election to chair Brexit Select Committee

As we anticipated, former Labour Cabinet Minister Hilary Benn has today been triumphant in the ballot of MPs to choose the person who will chair the Exiting the EU Select Committee. The Remain-supporting former shadow foreign secretary beat Kate Hoey, securing 330 votes to the Labour Leaver’s 209.

The role will put him at the helm of the committee scrutinising the work of the department headed David Davis, who was, I recall, on very friendly terms with Benn’s late father Tony, a fellow eurosceptic civil libertarian.

Now that a chair has been elected, further ballots will follow soon to elect the members of the committee. Unlike the chair, who was elected by the whole House, the committee members will be chosen by ballots of MPs from each party afforded representation on the committee. 21 places have been allocated as follows:

  • Conservatives – 10
  • Labour – 5
  • SNP – 2
  • Liberal Democrats – 1
  • Democratic Unionist Party – 1
  • SDLP – 1
  • Plaid Cymru – 1

There have been some murmurings that the committee is potentially too large to be effective and reach a consensus on issues – but that size was inevitable in order to justify allocating all those places to those various minor parties.

For reference, here is the full text of the statement Hilary Benn issued setting out his stall as he sough his fellow MPs’ support for his election to the role:

This new Committee will have a hugely important task in this Parliament. 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.

The Committee will need to scrutinise and offer advice to the Government as we go about the complex process of leaving the institutions of the European Union. 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.

First, as Chair of the Committee, I would want to work with all members to arrive at a strong and principled position. 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. This will include co-operating with the other Select Committees that will also be looking at the implications of Brexit.

Secondly, I would want to involve all members of the Committee by having a Vice-Chair and looking to delegate the lead on particular aspects of work to individual members so that we can foster an inclusive and constructive team.

Thirdly, in doing this I would be able to draw upon my experience as a Cabinet Minister in two departments, a member of the EU Council of Ministers and as a negotiator for the UK internationally.

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.