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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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All The New Commons Select Committee Chairs

Veteran MP Harriet Harman is the new chair of the Standards Committee (Alamy)

4 min read

Labour MPs Liam Byrne, Harriet Harman, and Cat Smith have all secured roles as Commons select committee chairs after all three previous holders were promoted to Labour's shadow ministerial team.

MPs from all parties have voted for who will become the new committee chairs of three backbench committees: the Business and Trade Committee, the Standards Committee, and the Petitions Committee.

All three were only eligible for Labour candidates under parliamentary rules. 

Here are all the new committee chairs:

Business and Trade Committee: Liam Byrne MP

Liam Byrne
Liam Byrne will oversee the work of the Business and Trade Committee (Alamy)

The Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill won the position with 216 votes from MPs. 

He is already well known in the party, having held various roles in Gordon Brown’s Labour government between 2008 and 2010, including Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was also a Home Office minister when Tony Blair was prime minister.

Byrne will now oversee the Business Committee’s work to scrutinise the policy, spending and administration of the Department for Business and Trade, which often involves calling on business leaders to provide evidence. 

Following his election, Byrne said he was “incredibly grateful" for "such a friendly and good-natured election which has really helped to crystallise a shared agenda for action". He said he wanted to sustain the committee's work on "holding ministers to account, exposing corporate bad behaviour and advancing the fight against economic crime".

“Equally, there is a wide consensus that we need to provide serious long-term thinking on how the UK competes with Bidenomics, Brussels and Beijing, de-risks critical supply chains, backs our entrepreneurs and boosts exports, with a special focus on harnessing the net zero transition to re-industrialise Britain," he continued.

“Finally, we must develop the big thinking needed on how to best reconnect economic growth and social justice, to ensure the wealth we create is wealth that’s fairly shared.”

A note written by Byrne to his successor as Chief Secretary after the 2010 election has since been repeatedly used by Conservative campaigns as a way to highlight New Labour’s economic and financial issues. The note read: “I'm afraid there is no money.” 

Byrne won the committee chair contest against former minister Angela Eagle and former shadow cabinet minister Andy McDonald. He is replacing Darren Jones, who was promoted to Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. 

Standards Committee: Harriet Harman MP

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman is 'Mother of the House' and will now start a new role as committee chair before standing down as an MP at the next election (Alamy)

Harriet Harman has been the MP for Camberwell and Peckham, formerly Peckham, since 1982. 341 MPs have voted for her to be the next committee chair.

She holds the record as the longest-ever continuously serving female MP in the House of Commons, making her the 'Mother of the House'. In 2021, she announced she will be standing down at the next general election, which is expected to take place before the end of 2024.

Harman served as acting Labour leader in 2015 and deputy leader from 2007 to 2015. She also held a number of other cabinet and shadow cabinet positions. 

The senior MP has been a vocal feminist throughout her time in parliament, and oversees the committee's scrutiny of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at a time when six MPs have resigned due to allegations of sexual misconduct since the last general election in 2019, as well as multiple other instances of lobby scandals.

In her email to constituents when she announced she would resign as an MP, she said there “remains much more to be done till women genuinely share political power with men on equal terms and until women in this country are equal”.

Stella Creasy was also a contender for the role of chair of the Standards Committee. The former chair Chris Bryant was promoted to Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital.

Petitions Committee: Cat Smith MP

Cat Smith
Cat Smith will be chair of the committee that looks at public petitions to Parliament (Alamy)

Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, has won 227 votes from MPs to become the new chair of the Petitions Committee. 

Smith held roles in the shadow cabinet under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Petitions Committee considers e-petitions submitted by the public, which can lead to debates in Parliament on popular issues. 

She won more votes than contenders former Shadow Equalities Minister Marsha de Cordova and former whip Liz Twist. Outgoing Chair Catherine McKinnell was promoted to Shadow Schools Minister.

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