MPs elect Hilary Benn to chair Brexit select committee

Prominent remain campaigner easily defeats Kate Hoey, as Yvette Cooper wins vote to head home affairs select committee

Hilary Benn has been elected chair of the new parliamentary committee that will scrutinise government policy on the UK’s exit from the EU.

Benn’s victory as chair of the exiting the European Union select committee came at the expense of the leave campaigner Kate Hoey, his only opponent.

Despite concerns over Hoey’s cross-party appeal, the MP for Leeds Central won comfortably by 330 votes to 209.

As MPs vied to become heads of four other select committees, the former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper won a close election against three Labour colleagues to become chair of the home affairs select committee.

Benn, who was sacked as shadow foreign secretary by Jeremy Corbyn in June, will head a committee of 21 members. Most committees have 11.

It will scrutinise the work of the Department for Exiting the European Union, headed by David Davis.

Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall, received support from surprising quarters, including from key Corbyn supporters and remainers Clive Lewis, Ian Lavery and Paul Flynn.

She was also backed by the Democratic Unionist party’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond and pro-Brexit former Tory cabinet minister Theresa Villiers.

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper beat three contenders to chair the home affairs committee. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Following his victory, Benn said leaving the EU would be “the most complex process since the end of the second world war”.

“It is not going to be sufficient for [ministers] to keep saying they are not giving a running commentary. There is no more important challenge facing the country and parliament than making the best of the decision that the British people have made,” he added.

The post of chair of the home affairs committee, seen as one of the highest- profile parliamentary positions for an opposition MP, was a close-fought contest between four significant Labour figures.

Cooper won after a third round of votes, beating former Europe minister Caroline Flint into second place, former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna into third, and former shadow minister Flynn into fourth.

The post became vacant after the resignation of Keith Vaz following a newspaper sting. The MP for Leicester East faced claims that he had overseen committee inquiries into prostitution and legal drugs while privately using sex workers and offering to pay for drugs.

A friend of Umunna claimed that Tories voted to keep him out of the job because he might use the position to launch a Labour leadership challenge.

“It was raised in conversations with Tories that Chuka was seen as too great a threat and the home affairs committee would give him too big a springboard,” the ally said. “Tories wanted to avoid that and organised against him.”

Cooper joins the committee as it is investigating the government’s independent inquiry into sexual abuse, female genital mutilation and the migration crisis.

Damian Collins, the Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, was elected as head of the culture, media and sport committee, which attracted headlines over its interrogation of Rupert Murdoch.

He will oversee inquiries into Fifa, blood doping in sport and the BBC charter review.

Meanwhile, Stephen Metcalfe, the Conservative MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, was elected chair of the science and technology committee, while the Scottish National party veteran Angus MacNeil was confirmed as the chair of the international trade committee.


Rajeev Syal and Jessica Elgot

The GuardianTramp

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