At the start of any new Parliament, the first task of the Prime Minister is confirming who will form the new Government. The next task for Parliament is to choose who will hold them to account, through Select Committees. The Chairs are elected, by the whole House. Most Select Committees are chaired by either a Labour or Conservative MP, with the allocation between parties agreed by the Whips.
The Committee on which I sat in the last Parliament – the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) – was ably chaired by former Labour MP, Mary Creagh. But the new allocation means the Committee will now be chaired by a Conservative MP. So I have decided to throw my hat into the ring to become the next Chair of the EAC.
As regular readers will know well, I profoundly believe that we have an obligation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it. I joined the Committee as soon as I ceased to be a Minister two years ago.
The EAC shares with the Public Accounts Committee the remit to look across government, rather than shadowing an individual department. This allows the EAC to scrutinise all government departments, and public and private sector impact on our environment, as well as measures to mitigate climate change. I believe this could well be one of the defining policy areas of this Parliament, as we put in place the policies to enable the UK to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, and certainly by 2050.
In the past two years, I initiated the Committee’s enquiry into one of the largest - yet largely hidden – sectors where modern slavery is prevalent today in Britain, and have pushed for more transparency to encourage Green Finance and greening of UK export finance, in improving biodiversity, air, water and soil quality.
It is clear from maiden speeches of several new colleagues from across the House that many new MPs are committed environmentalists. They will help keep up the pressure on government to deliver policies for the UK to be a leader internationally in addressing climate change. Not least this November when we host the next UN Climate Change conference (COP26) in Glasgow.
So I hope to convince colleagues from all parties to support me in my attempt to become Chair of this important Select Committee. Chairs are elected by the whole House. Polling Day is next Wednesday 29th January. Wish me luck!