Graduates dominate select few

July 18, 1997

Huw Richards assesses the members of the new education and science parliamentary committees

Labour's vast 1997 parliamentary intake, with more than 200 new members among the 418 elected on May 1, dictates and dominates the composition of the new select committees.

The choices made by the selection committee last week were confirmed by the House on Monday. Most committees will meet before the end of the present session to elect a chair and discuss their early business.

The size of the education and employment committee, which has 17 members in place of the 13 in the pre-election House, reflects both the size of its remit - covering what was until recently two departments - and the Government's need to find meaningful work for hordes of backbenches.

Of the 11 Labour members on the committee, seven are from the new intake. The group also breaks the traditional teachers' monopoly of the Labour side, with only Gerry Steinberg and Valerie Davey being ex-teachers, although Derek Foster - the former Chief Whip who resigned from a ministerial post in the Cabinet Office only a few days after the Government was formed - is a former deputy chief education officer. The two former academics on the committee are the minority party representatives, Liberal education spokesman Don Foster and Plaid Cymru's Cynog Dafis.

Sixteen of the 17 are graduates. The exception is Labour's Joe Benton, who went to Bootle Technical College and represents the district. Five of the committee, three Labour and two Conservative, are Oxford graduates while three, all Labour, attended the LSE. One of the LSE trio, Margaret Hodge, former leader of Islington Council and a prominent Blairite, is tipped to chair the committee.

MPS ON THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

David Atkinson, 57, Con Bourne-mouth East since 1977, studied at Chelsea College of Automobile and Aeronautical Engineering, print and PR; Nigel Beard, 60, elected Lab Bexley and Crayford 1997, studied UCL, research and development manager; Michael Clark, 61, Con Rayleigh since 1983 , studied at King's, London, Minnesota, Cambridge (PhD), industrial chemist and consultant; Claire Curtis-Thomas, 39, elected Lab Crosby 1997, studied at Cardiff, Aston (MBA), dean of business, University College of Wales, Newport; Ian Gibson, 58, elected Lab Norwich North 1997, studied at Edinburgh (Ph.D), dean of science, UEA; Lynne Jones, 46, Lab Birmingham Selly Oak since 1992, studied Birmingham (PhD), research officer, housing association manager; Nigel Jones, 49, Lib Cheltenham since 1992, project manager, ICL computers; Ashok Kumar, 41, elected Lab Middlesbrough S and Cleveland E 1997 (and 1991-92), studied at Aston (PhD), research scientist; Caroline Spelman, 39, elected Con Meriden 1997, studied at Queen Mary, London, food and biotechnology consultant; Desmond Turner, 57, elected Lab Brighton Kemptown 1997, studied at Brighton Poly, Imperial and UCL (PhD), scientist; Alan W. Williams, 51, Lab Carmarthen E and Dinefwr since 1987, studied at Oxford (DPhil), lecturer in science, Trinity College, Carmarthen.

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