Foreign Affairs Committee

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 19th March 2019.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 4:26 pm, 19th March 2019

I am most grateful for that; it just goes to show that we can all be wrong at some point in the day.

This issue is far more important than whether we agree on domestic issues. I want to speak about how Select Committees operate and the sort of people who should be on them. When we look at why this motion has been brought forward, it is worth noting that, in terms of the mathematics of Parliament, we will still have the same number of Opposition MPs on the Select Committee compared with Government MPs.

In April 2013, the hon. Member for Dudley North and I went to Kiev, shortly after the purple revolution. We saw at first hand how people tore up the streets to use the stones as missiles. We actually saw a lynching in the square. Why did we go on that trip? We were trying to understand the threats people faced to their freedom, how they were trying to overthrow a repressive Government and how the country could move forward—let us be honest, all is not rosy in Ukraine to this day, even apart from the Russian aggression and intervention. However, we went there to understand those things. That shows why the hon. Member for Dudley North has given so much experience to the Foreign Affairs Committee: he has gone around the world with cross-party groups—I will come to the hon. Member for Ilford South in a moment, because I would not want to rule him out of this.

That trip was not a Foreign Affairs Committee trip; it was a Back-Bench trip put together to understand what was going on. It was done to understand what was going on because that is what parliamentarians should do in this country—in this free democracy we live in. We have to understand repression around the world and bring to bear the values we hold dear—freedom, the rule of law, democracy and the right to choose what we want to do—when we discuss various issues.

It sends an appalling message to our fellow countrymen that this motion is effectively about the hon. Member for Dudley North standing up to racism and to antisemitism and calling out an affront to democracy. It breaks my heart that in the 21st century we are discussing issues that should have been put to bed 70 or 80 years ago. I do not know what this country is coming to when politicians elected to this House are on the list of the biggest threats to Jews in the world. How did we get here?

Standing up for those principles and going around the world to witness events in other countries to bring that experience back to a wider audience should be appreciated and valued. We should not immediately get rid of somebody from an influential Select Committee just because they stood by their principles. The hon. Member for Dudley North brings his many years of experience, and his skill is based on his time in government —he is an experienced Member of this House.

I say again that the hon. Gentleman and I disagree on many issues. In fact, we have had our ding-dongs in this Chamber—we can see them in Hansard—especially back when I was newly elected and full of vim and energy and wanted to make my point. However, that is no reason to get rid of someone with such high-held principles, which this country exports around the world. Those of us who travel around the world encouraging democracy know that this country’s principles about freedom of democracy should be celebrated, and we should not kick people off Select Committees when they stand up for them.