Tobias Ellwood resigns as Commons defence committee chairman after Afghanistan row

Tobias Ellwood Credit: PA

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 outgoing chairman of the Defence Committee said he believed he retained the support of the “majority” of the group, but that without the backing of “all in the room” it would prove a distraction.

In a resignation statement, Mr Ellwood said “poor communications” about engagement with Afghanistan were “understandably criticised” and announced he would step down with “deep regret”.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, he 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.

“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 retained 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.”

The Conservative former defence minister had faced a backlash over the summer from fellow committee members after claiming that security in Afghanistan has “vastly improved” and “corruption is down” since the fundamentalists returned in 2021.

Labour MP Kevan Jones confirmed he is backing a no confidence motion in Tobias Ellwood. Credit: PA

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.

A notice period of 10 sitting days for such confidence motions had been due to expire on Thursday and Mr Ellwood had expected to come under pressure to retain his chairmanship.

Fellow Tory MPs Mark Francois and Richard Drax had joined Labour’s Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg in submitting the motion.

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