Tory MP Stewart appointed defence committee chair

CONSERVATIVE MP Rory Stewart has promised to look at bringing back an inquiry on independence to the defence select committee after MPs elected him as its new chairman.

Conservative MP Rory Stewart. Picture: Neil Hanna
Conservative MP Rory Stewart. Picture: Neil Hanna

Mr Stewart, a former officer in the Black Watch, who represents the Penrith and Border seat in Northumberland, said that he would include the inquiry on Scottish independence on his discussions with the committee on their programme ahead.

The former diplomat beat seven other Tory MPs in the race to become chairman of one of the Commons’ most influential committees, narrowly beating off competition from Dr Julian Lewis with 226 votes to Mr Lewis’s 212.

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Mr Stewart will start his new role heading up the cross-party committee of MPs scrutinising defence policy immediately.

Speaking to The Scotsman immediately after his election, Mr Stewart said that scrutinising the government’s next strategic defence and security review in 2015 was his top priority.

However, the foreign affairs expert said that issues such as the Ukraine crisis and the continuing instability in the Middle East would also appear before his committee.

He said: “The Ukraine has been a wake up call for everyone.”

He said: “Thing are changing rapidly and there are many issues of uncertainty which we have to consider of which the independence question in Scotland is one.”

The committee under former chairman James Arbuthnot held an inquiry in independence, taking evidence from Scottish Government veterans minister Keith Brown and wrote a report with a long list of questions it wanted answered by the Scottish Government in the referendum.

However, despite not answering many of the questions on issues such as strategy, training, equipment, funding and personnel the committee decided not to recall Mr Brown or any other SNP minister.

Mr Stewart also told The Scotsman: “I am very interested in cyber security and we need to look into this more.”

But he added: “I need to sit down with the committee to discuss the committee’s agenda.”