The Foreign Office will be put through its paces by a team of tough-minded backbench members of parliament recently appointed to the new Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
The committee, whose role it is to scrutinise the policies and management of the FCO, has been pared down to 11 MPs from 14 for the previous parliament, but it is not short of experience.
The new select committee chair, the experienced Tory backbencher Richard Ottaway, will be supported by three foreign affairs committee heavyweights who have been appointed for another parliamentary term.
They are the former chair Mike Gapes MP (Labour), veteran MP the Rt Hon Sir John Stanley (Conservative), who has served on the foreign affairs select committee since 1992, and former Lib Dem leader and foreign policy sage the Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell.
Newcomers to the FAC include first-time elected Tory MP Rory Stewart, a former diplomat who is no stranger to conflict zones, having served as a deputy governor of the Maysan province in occupied Iraq in 2003-04. He made a name for himself when he undertook an epic solo 6000-mile walk across Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in 2000-2002, which he chronicled in his bestselling book, The Places in Between. He’s also a Harvard professor, a one-time tutor to Princes William and Harry and has presented a BBC television series on Lawrence of Arabia.
Former soldier and merchant banker John Baron MP joins the committee as a defence expert who resigned from Iain Duncan Smith’s frontbench over the war in Iraq. His views will be balanced by feisty veteran MP Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair’s special envoy to Iraq in the run-up to the war, and a passionate campaigner for human rights in the country. She supported the decision to invade Iraq and continues to campaign for women’s rights. In opposition in the 1990s, she served as Labour’s international development spokesperson and its foreign affairs spokesperson.
Newcomer Emma Reynolds MP – who was a special adviser to Geoff Hoon in Downing Street and worked in Brussels for Robin Cook in his capacity as President of the Party of European Socialists – is a Europhile who will be a counterweight to the right-wing Conservative Party Chairman, Eurosceptic Andrew Rosindell MP.
Labour’s David Watts and Frank Roy are both former Government whips. The former worked on the finance select committee and has knowledge of international financial arrangements, while the latter lists his special interests as the EU and the US.