A former Department for Education minister who was sacked by Theresa May has been elected as the next chair of the Commons Education Select Committee.
Robert Halfon, who was minister for apprenticeships and skills, succeeds Neil Carmichael, who lost his seat in the general election.
In his statement supporting his candidacy, Mr Halfon said his mission would be "to work to strengthen the ladder of opportunity and increase access to every rung, from bottom to top".
He said he hoped the committee would focus on six areas, which he listed as:
- Social justice – Highlighting and seeking the removal of barriers to equality of opportunity from schools, right through to apprenticeships, FE, universities and adult education; the wellbeing of students in areas such as mental health and bullying.
- Early years – Scrutinising the implementation of the 30-hour free childcare and the resources needed to support nursery schools.
- Schools – Examining the new schools funding formula and working for a fair allocation of available resources; improving standards, particularly in literacy and numeracy.
- Further education, apprenticeships and skills – Scrutinising the rollout of the government’s technical education reforms (T levels) and the apprenticeship levy; the development of UTCs, national colleges and institutes of technology; the need for an expansion of adult education and plugging the skills deficit, particularly in STEM subjects.
- Higher education – Reviewing student finance and the disparity between cost and employment.
- Careers – Strengthening our careers advice offering and ensuring adequate coverage of skills and vocational opportunities.
'No establishment man'
Despite having recent experience of being a minister, he said: “I am no establishment man. I will not be afraid to challenge ministers, leaders or the sector when needed.”
The Harlow MP is associated with the push to increase Conservative support among working-class voters. He has been a governor of primary and secondary schools, and said he has made more than 60 visits to his local FE college.
In the ballot of MPs, Mr Halfon received the highest number of votes in the first round, 136. He beat fellow former DfE ministers Tim Loughton and Nick Boles.
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan was elected as chair of the Treasury Select Committee.