Commons environmental committees take shape

Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish, has been nominated as the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee — the parliamentary committee charged with scrutinising the work of Defra.

The EAC, chaired by Joan Walley, taking evidence in June 2014 towards its latest air quality report

The EAC, chaired by Joan Walley, taking evidence in June 2014 towards its latest air quality report

Nominations for the position closed yesterday (June 10) and Mr Parish was the sole candidate put forward by fellow MPs. He will replace the outgoing chair Anne McIntosh, who stood down at the last election.

A Devon-based MP, Mr Parish served as a committee member during the last parliament, and describes himself as a ‘strong voice for British farming’. He has also served on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef & Lamb, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Eggs, Pig and Poultry as well as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dairy.

Commenting on his nomination, he said: “I am very pleased to have been nominated as chair of the EFRA committee. Over the past five years, I have enjoyed being a member of the Committee and look forward to helping make sure that issues concerning our countryside, environment, flooding and food security are properly dealt with. I also look forward very much to working with parliamentary colleagues across the parties to contribute to shaping policy in those areas.”

Environmental Audit Committee

Nominations have also been received for the vacant chair of the Environmental Audit Committee — with three candidates emerging. Labour MPs Barry Gardiner, Huw Irranca-Davies and Alan Whitehead have all been nominated by colleagues to replace former chair Joan Walley, who stood down as an MP before at the recent General Election.

The EAC has produced three separate reports and inquiries on air quality within the last five years, with the most recent emerging in December 2014 when it called for a host of measures from government to improve UK air quality, including a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme (see story).

Of the three candidates, Mr Gardiner will perhaps be the most familiar face regarding air quality, having been played a major role in promoting Labour’s policy for a national low emission zone framework at the recent election.

However, Mr Irranca-Davies, the MP for Ogmore, has previously served as Under-Secretary of State at Defra.

Writing in his statement for nomination to the post, Mr Gardiner wrote: “Whatever the environmental disaster, the role of the Environmental Audit Committee is NOT to shout at government when policies have gone spectacularly wrong.  It is to secure sound evidence from witnesses that can inform policy and help government to take the right decisions in the first place. Then hold them to account if they don’t.”

Dr Whitehead wrote: “The Environmental Audit select committee occupies an almost unique position in the select committee structure being Parliaments environmental ‘watchdog’ across all government departments, with an added brief to report on wider issues of environmental concern on all executive initiatives. The demise of the Sustainable Development Commission, which had many similarities in its brief to that of EAC, has made this cross-cutting environmental function all the more important.”

A ballot will be held among MPs on Wednesday (June 17) to decide who is given the post, with an announcement to be made the following day.


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