Chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee would be the culmination of my Parliamentary career
I’d base my recommendations for the Foreign Affairs Committee on the evidence, without half an eye on my political future, writes Crispin Blunt MP
Having chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee 2015-17, in a happier parliament than the last, I have decided to stand again to chair it in this Parliament.
Under my previous chairmanship, the committee’s profile was significantly raised by making constructive, timely and authoritative contributions on the key issues of the day, reinforcing the committee’s – and therefore Parliament’s – voice on foreign affairs.
That committee shaped the debate on airstrikes against Isil in Syria, receiving the first prime ministerial response to a select committee inquiry ever; it successfully recommended that the Treasury protect the Foreign Office’s budget; and it pressed the FCO to restore the prominence of human rights in British diplomacy after it claimed this “was not one of the top priorities”.
As chair I sought to build committee consensus and, despite the committee being as profoundly divided on Brexit as every other properly representative institution, we successfully delivered three unanimous reports on the issue.
We also reported unanimously on contentious issues such as our intervention in Libya, political Islam, and our relationships with Russia and Turkey.
I also sought to grow the capacity of the committee and its members by involving members’ Parliamentary staff in the normal private business of the committee; I would like to reinstate this.
Chairing the committee would be the culmination of my Parliamentary career and would be supported by four decades of military, departmental, ministerial, Parliamentary and committee experience.
As I have a record of a proper independence of mind, my positions would carry the greater confidence of being arrived at on the evidence, without half an eye on my political future.
The immediate agenda of the Foreign Affairs Committee should be dominated by the Government’s review of foreign, defence and security policy, as well as consideration of the future security and foreign policy relationship with the EU.
My last public contribution as Foreign Affairs Committee chair in 2017 was on this very subject and, over two years later, remains current. This set out a model for an enhanced framework participation agreement between the UK and the EU on foreign affairs, and former foreign secretary Lord Hague described it as the best proposal he had seen, in evidence to the House of Lords.
The various crises in the Middle East will no doubt continue to loom large in the committee’s work and my long-standing interest and experience in this region is relevant.
However, over the course of this Parliament the UK will need to establish its new role in the world post-Brexit. Respect for the international rule of law, human rights and justice have formed a strong part of my background. It is against these values that I hope the committee, under my chairmanship, will test the development of Britain’s new place in the world.
It would be a profound honour for me to lead this committee into this exciting and creative period for British foreign policy. I hope my Parliamentary colleagues will agree that my four decades of public service are an appropriate preparation to discharge this responsibility properly for Parliament.
Crispin Blunt is Conservative MP for Reigate