MPs have concerns about former PM David Cameron being picked to serve in the Government as foreign secretary, Biddulph MP Karen Bradley has told prime minister Rishi Sunak.
Sitting at a House of Commons Liaison Committee meeting on Tuesday, 19th December, Mrs Bradley told Mr Sunak that while it was “absolutely constitutionally appropriate” for him to appoint whomever he wished to the Cabinet, be that members of the House of Commons or members of the House of Lords, there was also concern about how elected MPs could scrutinise a departmental secretary of state based in the House of Lords.
She told the PM: “We are talking about global issues here, and we are referring in particular to the foreign secretary. How do you think it might be most appropriate for members of the House of Commons to scrutinise the work of the foreign, commonwealth and development office and the secretary of state?
“There is real concern that one of the great offices of state, which is occupied now by a member of the House of Lords, will not have the normal scrutiny that we would expect in the House of Commons.”
She cited the example of the very early days of the pandemic, the-then foreign secretary came to the House of Commons, made a statement and took hundreds of interventions from MPs who had concerns about their constituents around the world and how they might get them home.
“It is only really the secretary of state who can take that level of questioning and provide the level of responses required,” she said.
Mr Sunak told her it was common practice for all parties to appoint a secretary of state from the House of Lords, and that was the situation in 2008 and 2009 with Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis serving as senior Cabinet ministers from the Lords.
“There is an established process for scrutiny, which has been in operation for a long time” he said.
“The foreign secretary was due to appear before a House of Commons Select Committee yesterday, which was rescheduled as a result of his attendance at a funeral abroad. But he is keen to do that, as well as increasing the amount of time he spends in the House of Lords answering questions.”
The foreign office also has another Cabinet-level minister, who is in the Commons and who can make statements and take questions.
Mr Sunak said that in a survey that the Procedure Committee – chaired by Mrs Bradley – carried out, MPs expressed an interest in the Select Committees being the “appropriate forum” for detailed scrutiny.