Labour’s Huw Irranca-Davies leaves Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee after just seven months at the helm
A fresh election for a new Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chair will take place in the coming weeks after Huw Irranca-Davies said he would be standing down from the Parliamentary committee after just seven months in the role.
It follows the announcement this week (January 20) of the Labour MP’s intention to vacate his seat in the House of Commons in order to run in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections, for which he was chosen as a candidate last month.
This will prompt a by-election – likely to take place in May – in his South Wales constituency of Ogmore, which he has represented since 2002.
Details of the timetable for the election process to replace him as EAC chair, meanwhile, will be announced by the House of Common’s Speaker in due course.
Only Labour MPs can currently stand for the position, as this party was allocated the chair position aftere the 2015 General Election. Candidates require 15 signatures from their own party to be nominated, but is not yet known which Labour MPs will be seeking nomination.
Mr Irranca-Davies said he was “sadâ€? to be leaving the role which had been an “honourâ€? to be elected to back in June 2015, when he beat off competition from Labour MP Alan Whitehead and shadow environment minister Barry Gardiner (see Air QualityNews.com story).
Under his chairmanship, the EAC last year held inquiries on diesel emissions and air quality, EU/UK environmental policy and the Airports Commission’s decision to recommend Heathrow expansion, as well as calling on the government to introduce diesel car scrappage policies (see Air QualityNews.com story).
It also grilled Defra’s air quality minister Rory Stewart and the Volkswagen UK chief following the carmaker’s admission that it had ‘cheated’ diesel emissions tests (see Air QualityNews.com story).
Mr Irranca-Davies claimed the Committee had made a “major impactâ€? during his brief time as Chair by “raising important questions about diesel emissions, the privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, and the environmental impact of Heathrow expansionâ€?.
However, he added that the UK still “faces some pressing challenges on harmful pollutants, climate change and the protection of the natural world. Air quality is unacceptably poor in many of our cities.â€?
During the last parliament the EAC, under former chair Joan Walley, also recommended a host of measures – including a diesel scrappage scheme – to tackle UK air pollution in what was the latest of three reports it has produced on UK air quality in the last five years (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Mr Irranca-Davies was also congratulated for his work in the role by air quality campaigners Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth and Clean Air in London’s Simon Birkett this week, with the latter yesterday (January 21) praising the Labour MP’s “outstanding chairmanshipâ€? of the EAC.
On stepping down, the Labour MP commented: “The government’s recent policy reversals on energy and climate change need careful scrutiny. And we are still not doing enough to protect our precious biodiversity.
“The next chair of the EAC will be elected by the whole House in the coming weeks. Whoever wins that election will join a terrific team of talented MPs from all sides of the House. I wish them the very best in the vital work of holding the Government and its public bodies to account on their environmental track record.â€?