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7 September 2016

Exclusive: Chuka Umunna to stand to replace Keith Vaz as home affairs select committee chair

The shadow business secretary is the first candidate to seek the post following the Labour MP's resignation. 

By George Eaton

Chuka Umunna will stand for election as home affairs select committee chair, I can reveal. Following Keith Vaz’s resignation yesterday, the former shadow business secretary and current committee member has received strong support from Labour colleagues as well as Tory MPs.

Vaz’s departure means there is currently no black or minority ethnic select commitee chair – a gap that Umunna would fill. As the MP for Streatham, where there is a large BME community, he believes that chairing commitee would dovetail with his constituency responsibilities. 

Conservative MP Tim Loughton yesterday became acting chair but a Labour MP will take the permanent position. Vaz resigned after the Sunday Mirror reported that recently paid for the services of two male escorts. He said: “It is in the best interest of the Home Affairs Select Committee that its important work can be conducted without any distractions whatsoever.

“I am genuinely sorry that recent events make it impossible for this to happen if I remain chair.”

Umunna said in response: “I am very sad to see Keith step down but believe he has made the right decision by Parliament and those we serve. It is incredibly important the Committee carries on the important work we are doing scrutinising government.” 

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The position of home affairs select commitee chair (elected by MPs) would give Umunna, who is still spoken of by Labour MPs as a potential future leader, a powerful position of influence. Possible rival candidates for the post include Yvette Cooper, the former shadow home secretary, and Fiona Mactaggart, a former Home Office minister who previously stood against Vaz. 

Umunna, who is chair of Vote Leave Watch, yesterday forced the immigration minister Robert Goodwill to concede that the government had no means of identifying EU nationals in the UK or the length of their stay. Asked by Umunna during a home affairs select committee hearing “Are you in a position to identify every EU citizen currently living and working in the United Kingdom and therefore to require their removal?” Goodwill replied: “No we are not in a position and I could not foresee a circumstance where we would want to be in that position. I can’t see a situation in which we would even think of that.”

The government has so far refused to guarantee that EU nationals who arrived in the UK before the referendum on 23 June will have the right to remain. Umunna replied to Goodwill: “If you can’t identify all the EU nationals in our country and be in a position to remove them, what on earth is the point carrying on with the pretence that somehow if you weren’t to guarantee them the right to stay, you could get rid of them.” Goodwill responded: “I can see the route you are trying to take me down but it is not a route I think we are ever going to be going down.”