Top MPs for tech revealed

Binita Mehta from Brands2Life’s Public Affairs team explores the significance for tech firms of the goings on in Westminster, as London Tech Week events took place across the capital.

Sought-after select committee chair positions were elected yesterday, with roles split between political parties, based on the general election results. Numbers are yet to be confirmed, but there will be a Government (Conservative) majority on each committee, including Scottish Affairs. Once these new chairs have been nominated and approved by the Commons, committee business will re-commence, though not much action is expected before summer recess on 21 July.

Elections for 26 select committees took place this week, with 11 committees’ chairs appointed unopposed. This includes Conservatives Maria Miller for Women and Equalities and Andrew Tyrie for the Treasury select committee. This is a sign that they are leaders in their area, with Miller, former Culture Secretary and Women and Equalities Minister, having supported the new establishment of the committee she now chairs.

Meg Hillier, former Labour Home Office minister and local MP for many tech firms in Shoreditch, closely defeated rivals for chairmanship of the influential Public Accounts select committee, parliament’s public spending watchdog, of which she used to be a member. This is seen as the premier select committee for an opposition MP. As a former journalist, she affirmed her focus on clarity and transparency being key to the role and said that, under her leadership, the Public Accounts committee needs to “think like a user of the service, but act like a taxpayer”. Indeed earlier this year, she hosted techUK’s Public Services Board Parliamentary Dinner, linking her colleagues with senior tech public sector leaders.

Frank Field is to chair the Work and Pensions select committee. A Labour MP since 1979, Field is a vocal critic of DWP’s flagship Universal Credit scheme and will lead as ministers face scrutiny over welfare cuts, pension reform and the way the benefit sanctions regime operates. Field previously served as chairman of the Social Security select committee from 1990-7 and Minister for Welfare Reform from 1997-8, demonstrating a long record of championing radical change to the system.

Jesse Norman was elected chair of the Culture, Media and Sport committee. A rebellious Conservative member, Norman was sacked from the No 10 policy board after abstaining from a vote on Syria. He has said the committee should look at mobile services, having opened backbench debates in the last parliament on rural broadband and poor mobile phone coverage.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP, overwhelmingly retained chairmanship of the Health select committee with 532 votes, showing broad cross-party support. Dr Wollaston, Conservative, led the committee from last year, after her predecessor stood down. This shows potential for vocal backbench MPs, having called for a ‘grand coalition’ prior to the general election.

Nicola Blackwood, Conservative, is now chair of the Science and Technology select committee. Blackwood has been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Matthew Hancock MP, whilst he was Minister for Energy and Enterprise, as well as a senior member of the influential Home Affairs select committee.

Labour MP Iain Wright has been elected to chair Business, Innovation and Skills and Keith Vaz stays on at the Home Affairs Committee, despite a challenge from

Fiona Mactaggart.

The next step will be the election of the other members of each select committee, also by secret ballot. Again, parties have an allocated number of seats on each committee proportional to their representation in the House of Commons. The last Parliament was the first which saw select committee Chairs elected by a secret ballot of all Members of the House of Commons, following the recommendations of the select committee on Reform of the House of Commons set up in 2009.

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