Select Committee Members: a seat around the table

26 June 2015

Some of the most sought after parliamentary posts have been up for grabs this week, as MPs have begun to be appointed to fill the vacancies on the influential Commons Select Committees.

Unlike the Committee Chairs, who are elected by the whole House of Commons, the allocation of seats on Select Committees is agreed by the whips with members elected internally by their parties. In most cases, MPs from the governing party, the Conservatives, would be expected to make up the majority of members on each Select Committee with the second largest share of the seats given to Labour and then to the third party.

However, the SNP have been pressing for a reallocation of seats to Select Committees of interest to them. Last week, SNP MP and Scottish Affairs Committee Chair Pete Wishart told DeHavilland that the Conservatives had already offered the Nationalists two of their seats on his Committee.

An ideal fit?

As of Friday 26 June, the Conservatives had held elections for several Select Committees, including the influential Public Accounts and Treasury Committees. Whilst PAC veteran and Conservative MP Richard Bacon was one of those returned to the body, he is joined by 2015 intake MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who fulfils her ambition to bring her experience as a chartered accountant to the role. Meanwhile, Croydon South MP Chris Philp was appointed alongside more senior figures Steve Baker, Mark Garnier, Stephen Hammond and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

More of the 2015 Tory MPs won spaces on other Select Committees with Mid-Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston able to further his interests in the digital economy and tourism on Culture, Media and Sport, Andrea Jenkyns securing a spot on Health and Victoria Atkins joining Home Affairs.

There were some sharp contrasts in appointments, such as the all-female, mostly new set of candidates (Lucy Allan, Michelle Donelan, Suella Fernandes, Lucy Frazer) appointed to the Education Committee, contrasted against the all-male, mostly seasoned candidates nominated for Defence or Foreign Affairs.

Most interestingly, some Committees proved bigger draws than others with five elections unopposed. There were rumours that the Conservative members of the EFRA Committee were seeking to stand for Energy and Climate Change, chaired by SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil in this Parliament. However, a shortage of candidates has not blunted the experience of the new members with lawyer Victoria Prentis bringing her experience to Justice and technology journalist Matt Warman joining the Science and Technology Committee.

Members wanted

Further elections are expected next week for the rest of the Conservative positions and the Labour Party next week. We will also find out how successful the SNP have been in their negotiations for a greater presence on Committees of interest. Smaller parties, such the DUP or the Liberal Democrats, may be afforded one or two seats on some Select Committees, but this will need to be thrashed out with the three main parties. For the latter, this will be another reminder of their shrunken parliamentary presence.

Whilst many spaces are still to be filled, Westminster’s Select Committees are beginning to take shape. With a new Government and agenda for the next five years, their integral role in parliamentary oversight cannot begin soon enough.

You can view full details of the Select Committee elections as they are announced here.

Mike Indian, Political Consultant
Mike Indian
Political Consultant

Mike Indian is Political Consultant and a member of DeHavilland’s Content team, leading on infrastructure and Scottish affairs. He leads on DeHavilland's dynamic content, specifically videos and podcasts, and regularly appears in the media as a political commentator. A graduate of Lancaster University, he has worked as a freelance journalist.