Labour’s former Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh has been elected as the new chair of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, the Speaker of the House of Commons announced today (February 10).
The MP for Wakefield held several senior shadow cabinet positions under former Labour leaders Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman, including serving as Shadow Defra minister between 2010 and 2013. She then spent a year as Shadow Transport Secretary until November 2014.
She takes over as EAC chair from MP for Ogmore Huw Irranca-Davies, who recently announced he was stepping down both from the role and as an MP, prompting fresh elections.
Mr Irranca-Davies had chaired the EAC through several inquiries since being elected to the role after last year’s General Election, but now intends to run for the Ogmore seat in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections.
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).
Ms Creagh’s last senior role was Shadow International Development Secretary, but she stepped down from the opposition front bench in September 2015 to make way for Diane Abbot, who was appointed by current party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Before being elected as MP for Wakefield in 2005, Ms Creagh served as a local Labour councillor in Islington, becoming Party group leader from 2000-2004.
She has also previously worked for the European Parliament in Brussels, and later chaired the Labour Movement for Europe from 2007 to 2009.
All Members of Parliament were able to vote in the EAC chair election, which saw Ms Creagh elected by a significant margin through the Alternative Vote system after three rounds and 460 votes cast. She beat off competition from other Labour MPs Barry Gardiner, Geraint Davies and Chris Evans.
Only Labour MPs could stand for the position, with the Party allocated the chair role for the EAC after the 2015 General Election.
In December 2015, Ms Creagh questioned environment secretary Liz Truss about air quality issues. Ms Creagh said: “One reason why emissions are so high in this country is the systematic fitting of defeat devices—the cheating software—by Volkswagen. Enforcement action is under way in the United States. Can the Secretary of State update the House on what action the British Government—either her Department, the Environment Agency or the Department for Transport—are taking in this area?â€?
The secretary of state replied: “The hon. Lady is right to say that the American authorities are taking action. My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary is looking carefully at this, as well as ensuring that vehicles are appropriately tested. We have reached agreement at European level to ensure that what is being emitted from cars are the real emissions. That will help us to deal with our air quality issues.â€?