Battle for EFRA role as Creagh returns as EAC Chair

Mary Creagh has been reappointed as Chair of Parliament’s green watchdog – the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) – after receiving the only nomination for the position following the formation of the new government.

MPs worried about environment's position in Brexit negotiations
Creagh has been reelected unopposed
Labour MP and former Shadow Environment Secretary Creagh, who was this year voted to pole position in Resource’s Hot 100 vote for her strong advocacy and leadership over several waste and resources issues to government, was first elected as Chair in February 2016 and has since led inquiries into the effects of microbeads on marine environments (leading to the government promising to consult on a ban), the Treasury’s effect on sustainability, the state of environmental protections post-Brexit and the future of the Green Investment Bank.          

The committee was dissolved along with Parliament prior to the snap general election in June, but following a period of nomination for the chair during Theresa May’s new government that ran from 4 to 7 July, Creagh’s was the only name put forward, receiving unanimous support from the cross-party committee’s members.

Several inquiries were ongoing when the committee was closed, including one into the issues posed by and solutions for disposable packaging like coffee cups and plastic bottles. It has yet to be confirmed whether these investigations will be renewed.

Creagh will be declared to be elected unopposed when Speaker John Bercow announced the results of the Chair elections on Wednesday (12 July).

Three-horse race for EFRA Chair

Less straightforward is the election for the Chair of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, for which three committee members are in the running.

The EFRA Committee, which specifically examines the administration and policy of Defra, has been chaired by Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish since June 2015.

Battle for EFRA role as Creagh returns as EAC Chair
There's a battle for the Chair of the EFRA Committee
Parish is one of the three nominees for the role of Chair, but has opposition from the recently re-elected Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, and Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, also both Conservatives. The three received 20 nominations each.

Parish pointed in a statement to his ‘strong record of holding the government to account’, adding: ‘No single department is affected by Brexit more than Defra. As a former MEP, I know how Brussels works and how negotiations are conducted at a European level… I am keen to use this experience to scrutinise the government’s stance on agriculture, tariffs, fisheries and EU labour throughout Brexit negotiations.’

Putting forward his case, Goldsmith, who was nominated by, amongst others, Labour MPs David Lammy, Barry Gardiner and Kerry McCarthy, stated: ‘My passion for environmental issues goes back to well before I first became an MP, and I have consistently championed green policies in Parliament and in my constituency.’

Goldsmith highlighted growing air pollution, the illegal wildlife and ivory trade and the future of agricultural and fisheries policies as the key issues the committee will have to face in the near future.

Wiggin also highlighted agriculture as a key aspect of Defra’s actions needing oversight, stating: ‘I am standing for the Chairmanship of the Defra Committee because I want to see far more attention and affection for this department as well as holding the government to account.’

An election between the three nominees will be held on Wednesday, with the Speaker announcing the result ‘as soon as possible after the ballots close’ at 4pm.

The most recent report to be published by the EFRA Committee stressed the need for retailers to be more transparent about food waste figures and suggested that the government’s voluntary approach to food waste action was ‘inadequate’.  

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