As Justice Select Committee Chair, I will hold Ministers to account without fear or favour
Writing about his bid to be Justice Select Committee chair, Steve Brine MP says it time for an "energetic gear change" on Committee corridor.
Following the House agreeing the determination of chairs, I have decided to put my name forward to lead the Justice Select Committee.
I served on the JSC for my first term in this House (2010-2015) so am clear what role the Committee plays and the important job of scrutiny it performs.
However, following last month’s General Election and a rejuvenated House of Commons, I believe it is time for an energetic gear change on the Committee corridor.
The new Government has some very important manifesto commitments to keep our streets safe, turn people away from crime and end the cycle of reoffending. It has promised to create a prisoner education service and introduce tougher sentencing for the worst offenders as well as end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes.
And we have the commitment to add 10,000 more prison places, conduct a root-and-branch review of the parole system and, perhaps most significant of all, to establish a ‘Royal Commission on the criminal justice process.’
It is in the interests of all our constituents that these promises become reality and the JSC under my chairmanship will hold Ministers to them. But more than that, it will call on the best expertise across the House to ensure this is done based on evidence and what works.
The JSC has an important role in examining the day to day work of the Lord Chancellor (and the Solicitor General), the Ministry of Justice, DPP and the Law Commission as it reviews current - and proposed - statute.
It also plays an important role in pre (and post) legislative scrutiny and needs to be strongly led to ensure good law gets made and remains effective.
This committee must remain credible and relevant; critical of Government when necessary, supportive and enabling where possible. Under my chairmanship the JSC will hold Ministers to account without fear or favour to serve good and effective Government.
Select Committees cannot be dry think-tanks, serving the interests of their chairman or members, they are integral to the work of a healthy Parliament and should have a grown-up professional relationship with the Executive.
I have been a Minister (in the high-profile position of Public Health Minister from 2017-2019) and faced many Select Committee grilling’s during that time. I hope I also showed an ability to work across the House as someone who is fair and (when necessary) robustly independent minded.
I have worked extensively – on this Committee – and I was, before entering the House, a successful journalist where putting the questions and getting to the truth was the day-job.
The JSC may not have traditionally been a high-profile Select Committee, garnering national media coverage, but I predict that will change in this Parliament; especially as the Government’s Constitution, Democracy & Rights Commission takes shape. Under my chairmanship the JSC will have a confident and robust media performer to give wider voice to its work and scrutiny.
Steve Brine is Conservative MP for Winchester.
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