Several Conservative ministers who served in Theresa May’s government have been elected to chair House of Commons select committees after Boris Johnson, prime minister, dispensed with their services last year.
Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, is the most prominent ex-cabinet minister to take up a chairmanship along with former business secretary Greg Clark and defence minister Tobias Ellwood.
Every Whitehall department has a select committee to shadow its work with at least 11 MPs as members. As well as producing policy reports, committees frequently call witnesses for public hearings. Leadership of the committees is allocated to different political parties based on their parliamentary strength.
Mr Hunt, who was also the UK’s longest-serving health secretary, was elected chair of the health and social care committee on Wednesday evening by 433 MPs. He unsuccessfully challenged Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership last summer and later rejected his offer to serve as defence secretary.
Mr Hunt said he was “honoured” to have been elected chair of the committee and pledged to focus his efforts on finding a solution to the UK’s social care crisis as well as improving patient safety and mental health treatment.
“For my last six months as health secretary, social care was formally added to my responsibilities but it was not long enough to bring forward reforms or — more crucially — a funding settlement for social care,” he tweeted.
“That is what I will be pressing for, because the NHS will continue to fall over every winter until we fix social care, risking both patient safety and staff morale.”
Mr Clark, who led the business department from 2016 to 2019, was elected head of the science and technology select committee, while Mr Ellwood has taken over the defence committee. Karen Bradley, the ex-Northern Ireland secretary, is leading the procedure select committee.
Several prominent select committee chairs from the last parliament were also re-elected by MPs, including Conservative Tom Tugendhat on foreign affairs and Mel Stride on Treasury, plus Labour’s Yvette Cooper on home affairs and Rachel Reeves on business, energy and industrial strategy.
With a working parliamentary majority of 80, the Johnson government is unlikely to endure much opposition to its legislative programme in the Commons. Select committee are instead likely to be the main forum for political debate and drama in this parliament.
Select committee chairs, who receive an additional £15,928 on top of their annual MPs’ salary, were historically picked by political parties but have been elected by MPs since 2010.