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Conservative MP Robert Courts Elected As Chair Of Defence Committee


2 min read

Conservative MP Robert Courts has been elected as Chair of the Defence Select Committee after Tobias Ellwood resigned over praising the Taliban.

MPs from all parties voted for the new Chair of the committee, but only Conservative MPs were eligible for the position. Contenders included Courts, as well as Conservative MPs Sarah Atherton and Mark Francois.

After 433 votes were cast, Courts was elected on the first round of voting with 249 votes, more than 50 per cent of the ballots cast.

Courts told PoliticsHome it was an "honour" to be elected as Chair of the Defence Committee and will “serve the people who do absolutely everything for our country”.

“They never query it, they never say, no, they never quibble, they just get on and they deliver time after time after time in the most difficult circumstances,” he said.

“I want to be collegiate. I want to bring everybody in, I want to be a stable chair that brings defence to the forefront of the national conversation so that people start realising that no matter what party you support, defence is something that really matters and has a real role." 

Courts said he wants the committee to continue to produce “hard-hitting” reports which he believes it has done in the past.

The new Chair said he wants to explain and emphasise how the world has become more dangerous in recent years.

“The big thing to to change in policy terms, is this understanding that we are in a far more contested, far more dangerous period; that the skies are darkening,” he said.

“We're going to have to spend more [on defence]. And we're going to have to change our mentality from one of comfortable peacetime to cold challenge,” he said.

Courts, MP for Witney, was elected in a by-election in 2016 after former prime minister David Cameron stepped down as an MP.

He served as Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport between September 2020 until September 2022. After that he served on the Defence Committee and Defence sub-committee from October 2022.

Prior to his new role he was the chair of the defence sub-committee, and managed to pressure the Government allowing armed service men and women to contribute to an inquiry into poor accommodation standards. 

The former chair Ellwood left his role after being criticised for travelling to Afghanistan and praising the Taliban.

Ellwood was facing backlash from members of the committee, and was close to facing a no confidence motion in him, according to Politico.

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