Former defence and health Minister Philip Dunne elected as EAC chair

Philip Dunne MP has become the new chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), after previous chair Mary Creagh lost her seat as MP for Wakefield in December's general election.

Dunne has served as MP for almost 15 years, dedicating much of his time to policy around farming, health, defence and finance 

Dunne has served as MP for almost 15 years, dedicating much of his time to policy around farming, health, defence and finance 

Dunne was elected late on Wednesday (29 January) following a secret ballot of MPs, with votes counted under the Alternative Votes system.

Dunne has served as Conservative MP for Ludlow since 2005. In 2012, he secured his first Ministerial role as Minister of State for Defence Procurement – a post he held for four years.

In 2016, he was appointed Minister of State for Health. He held the post for two years, before losing it during Theresa May’s 2018 cabinet reshuffle.

Over the course of his political career, Dunne has held positions on the Public Accounts Committee and the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

In a Tweet posted shortly after the vote, Dunne wrote that previous EAC chair Mary Creagh will be a “tough act to follow”. Creagh chaired the Committee for three years, leading research into topics such as disposable packaging in the coffee sector and the environmental impact of the UK’s fashion sector.

“Following on from the high-profile work of the previous Committee, I look forward to building on our successes and continuing to have far-reaching impact in our future work programme once the Committee is established,” Dunne said in a statement.

“With the spotlight on our environmental footprint, there is no better time to be considering how government and organisations can work effectively to protect our precious natural environment.” 

Mixed record

Dunne has been involved in farming since the 1980s and continues to assist on his family farm in addition to his political roles. He has repeatedly campaigned for measures to help farmers support biodiversity and is species champion for charity Butterfly Conservation.

But his broader voting record on environmental measures is mixed. In 2016, Dunne voted against new emissions regulations for new homes – a sub-sector the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has repeatedly warned is jeopardising decarbonisation of the UK’s built environment. He has also voted against the creation of annual carbon budgets and the implementation of a CCS strategy for the energy sector; and in favour of taxes on renewable energy.

Dunne was, however, a vocal backer of the 2008 Climate Change Act and has continually thrown his weight behind higher taxes on aviation, which is one of the world’s fastest-expanding sources of emissions.

Dunne’s voting has been consistently in line with the choices of Conservative Party MPs overall. With the UK’s net-zero target now enshrined in law, there are hopes that the voting patterns of the Conservative Party will change in the coming months and years in regards to environmental issues.

BEIS and EV announcements

In related news, Rachel Reeves MP has this week been re-elected as chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) Committee.

The Labour MP for Leeds West became chair of the Committee in 2017. She has continually campaigned for green standards to be bettered after Brexit and for the creation of a net-zero law. Last year, it was Reeves who introduced the Bill committing the UK to legislate for net-zero by 2050 to Parliament. Since the target was enshrined in law, the BEIS Committee has been critiquing the Government’s plans for delivery and urging the creation of shorter-term and sector-specific targets.

Elsewhere, Labour MP Matt Western has been re-elected as Chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Electric Vehicles (EVs). Western was first appointed as Chair for the APPG last summer.

Western outlined the APPG’s priorities for 2020 after his re-election. The Group will scrutinise the proposals put forward by the Department for Transport (DfT) and EV Energy Task Force while also prioritising work to highlight the importance of the UK’s battery sector and to support existing carmakers through the electric transition. The latter of these priorities comes after a tough year for the UK’s EV sector, with many big names reducing domestic production or offshoring entirely, and Dyson scrapping its EV project.

Prior to becoming an MP in 2017, Weston worked at Peugeot for 24 years. In his role as MP, he has campaigned for better working conditions for bus drivers and improvements to bus and cycling infrastructure. He has received much criticism in the tabloid press for expensing his journeys by bike. 

“Having worked in the automotive industry for over 25 years and seeing first-hand the benefits Britain’s iconic manufacturers have brought to my constituency, ensuring the UK retains its reputation as a leading manufacturer is a top priority of mine,” Western said in a statement.

“The electrification of vehicles is a global trend and it is imperative that we are in a position of leadership from the outset. It is on us as parliamentarians to work together across party lines and facilitate the collaboration needed to ensure this transition is a success.”

Sarah George



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