MPs set to chose next Chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee

This lunchtime, members of Parliament will vote to elect a new Chair of House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The vote comes after Tom Tugendhat (previous Chairman) was appointed as Minister of Security to government last month.

Today’s vote is being seen as an indicator of MPs current attitudes to China.  The Foreign Affairs Commons Select Committee had reportedly been planning a visit to Taiwan later this year – a move likely to anger the Chinese authorities.

With tensions rising between China and Taiwan, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, warned at a press conference in August that there would be ‘severe consequences’ should British MPs decide to visit Taiwan.


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At the beginning of each parliament, the Commons Speaker allocates the Chair of a selected committee to a specific political party.   The Conservatives have the Foreign Affairs Committee, so all four candidates are Conservative MPs.

These include Iain Duncan Smith (ex-Conservative leader); Liam Fox (ex-Defense Secretary); and Richard Graham and Alicia Kearns (MPs).

Mr Duncan Smith, who is on a Chinese sanction list, is seen to be the candidate with the most aggressive approach towards China.

Richard Graham, the current Chairperson of the All Party Parliamentary Group on China is a former diplomat who worked as a Beijing diplomat. He is considered the candidate with a more accommodative stance on China relations.

Alicia Kearns, the only candidate currently on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, is the only one.

Fellow MPs will rank each candidate in order of preference. The Alternative Vote System will ensure that the candidate with the lowest number vote total will be eliminated.  The second and possibly third counts are then conducted. The second preferences of those who backed an eliminated candidate’s nominee are then redistributed among those remaining in the contest.

There is no obvious favourite to win today’s vote.

Despite the fact that there has been a lot of quiet campaigning in the current contest, the outcome of this vote will likely hinge on whether there’s a particular candidate around whom Labour MPs can come together.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee is separate from the newly appointed Chair. It currently includes 11 MPs, 5 Conservatives and 3 Labour MPs, 1 SNP MPP, and 1 independent MP.