Tobias Ellwood has quit as Defence Committee chairman ahead of an expected vote of no confidence, citing remarks about Afghanistan that were “understandably criticised”.
The Conservative former defence minister had faced a backlash over the summer from members of the group after claiming that security in the country had “vastly improved” and “corruption is down” after the Taliban’s return.
He has called for Britain to reopen its embassy in Kabul, following on from the European Union re-establishing a physical presence in the territory last year.
A subsequent apology had not prevented members of the cross-party committee seeking to remove him from the high-profile role, with a no confidence motion submitted on July 19.
My resignation statement as Chair of the Defence Committee.
It’s been a true honour to serve. pic.twitter.com/hkKniZ912I
— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) September 13, 2023
In a resignation statement, Mr Ellwood said he believed he retained the support of the majority of the committee but that a lack of unanimous backing would prove distracting from its work.
Fellow Tory MPs Mark Francois and Richard Drax had joined Labour’s Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg in submitting the motion.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr Ellwood said: “It is with deep regret that I have tendered my resignation as chair of the Defence Committee. I believe I have a strong voice when it comes to defence and security. I stand up, speak my mind, try to see the bigger picture and offer solutions, especially on the international stage, as our world turns a dangerous corner.”
He added: “I don’t always get it right – so it’s right I put my hand up when I don’t. Poor communications, during the summer, in calling for greater international engagement in Afghanistan was understandably criticised at the time and reflected poorly on the committee.
“Whilst I do believe I retain the support of the majority of the committee, its dynamic and effectiveness would simply not be the same, and prove a distraction, if all in the room were not supportive of the chair.”
A notice period of 10 sitting days for confidence motions had been due to expire on Thursday and Mr Ellwood had expected to come under pressure to retain his chairmanship.
He said he was “proud of the hard-hitting inquiries” the committee had produced and described leading its scrutiny as a “huge privilege”.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper refused to comment on whether he supported the resignation but said Mr Ellwood’s remarks had not “reflected what I know about Afghanistan and the way women are treated in that country”.
“He has clearly concluded that what he said and the video was unwise,” the minister told Sky’s Politics Hub.