Simon Hoare, Conservative Party MP for North Dorset has been elected as the new Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee.
A secret ballot was held in Westminster to elect to the position on 12 June following the departure of former Chair Andrew Murrison MP to take up the role as a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. Murrison had served as chair of the committee since September 2017.
The 13 member Westminster committee, which examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the Northern Ireland Office, selects its own subjects of inquiry and has powers to call for evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals with relevant interests and experience.
The committee regularly produces reports on the topics under its investigation, including recommendations to government, which is required to respond within two months.
Under Murrison’s tenure, the committee has launched and conducted a number of inquiries including on topics around Brexit’s impact on Northern Ireland, tourism, education funding and funding priorities in the health budget.
Hoare was one of three Conservative MP’s nominated by members of the House of Commons. He was elected Chair with 239 votes, above Maria Caulfield MP (146) and Mark Pritchard MP (59).
As chairs of committees are allocated depending on party size at the beginning of a Parliament, the incoming chair was required to be a Conservative, however, all parties were free to vote in the election.
Initially, it appeared that Caulfield, a member of the ERG, was to run for the position unopposed before the nominations for Hoare and Pritchard were submitted. Caulfield, a Chair of the Conservative Ireland Association and Vice-Chair of the Irish in Britain APP, who claims family connections to the Republic of Ireland and to be a regular visitor to the island, supported leaving the European Union.
Brexit stance may have been the decisive factor in attaining votes across the House for Hoare, who campaigned to remain and voted with Theresa May’s direction on Brexit three times.
However, Hoare has described himself as a democrat and recently stated that had colleagues followed him through the lobby, the UK would have already withdrawn from the EU. He is backing Sajid Javid in the Conservative leadership race.
Hoare was elected through the Alternative Vote system, meaning that members voted candidates on order of preference and the candidate with the majority of first-preference votes was deemed elected.
He will take up his post immediately. Following the announcement of his election, he says: “I am thrilled to have been elected as Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. The Committee has an important job to do at this crucial time for devolution in Northern Ireland, and I intend to ensure that the Committee continues to provide the essential scrutiny Northern Ireland’s people need.”
Hoare recently stood down as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid having taken up the position in September 2018 and he is a member of the Regulatory Reform Committee. In the past he has been a member of the Welsh Affairs Committee.
Born in Cardiff, he read Modern History at Oxford University and served as a local councillor for 11 years. He was re-elected as an MP for North Dorset in June 2017.