Mark Francois attacks Ellwood in PMQs
MPs on the Commons Defence select Committee have invoked a never before used rule to try to oust their chairman Tobias Ellwood.
The unprecedented move has come following outrage over Ellwood’s trip to Afghanistan where he posted a video apparently supporting the brutal regime.
In the video, which was Tweeted approvingly by the Taliban, Ellwood claimed that Afghanistan was “a country transformed,” pointing to solar panels starting to appear “everywhere” whilst the country’s opium trade “all but disappeared.”
He went on: “This war-wary nation is for the moment accepting a more authoritarian leadership in exchange for stability.”
And he called on the West to “re-engage” diplomatically calling for the British embassy to be reopened in Kabul.
Last night Ellwood deleted the video and apologised in a bid t see off the attempt to remove him but it appeared to be too late for fellow MPs and furious military veterans.
READ MORE: Tory defence committee chief Tobias Ellwood slammed for Taliban comments
The motion of no confidence has been called using Standing order 122c, a rule introduced in 2010 when MPs were first allowed to elect the chairmen of committee.
Mr Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East and a former army officer, has the indignity of being the first chairman to face having the standing order used against them.
If a simple majority of 11 MPs on the committee vote against him then he will be forced to resign.
Four MPs from different parties have signed the motion but it is understood more are prepared to support it in private with only two more votes required to oust him.
The anger over Mr Ellwood’s comments have been led by fellow Tory MP Mark Francois, a former Armed Forces Minister.
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Mr Francois raised his concerns again in Prime Minister’s questions yesterday.
He said: “We lost 457 personnel in Afghanistan and several thousand who suffered life changing injuries.
“So I and some of my colleagues on the defence committee were absolutely stunned to see a video posted by our own chairman lauding the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan, not mentioning that they are still trying to identify and kill Afghan civilians who sided with NATO forces.
“Also not mentioning the fact they don’t like girls to go to school.”
He added: “Can I make plain this was not in our name and can I have the Prime Minister’s assurance that this silly and naive act was not in his name either?”
Mr Sunak said that the government would “continue to call out human rights abuses around the world” and promised to look into the specifics of the case.
It is understood that the rest of the committee met yesterday morning to discuss removing Ellwood.
He was offered the chance to resign but refused but was given one last chance to think about it overnight last night.
The motion of no confidence has cross party support including from Mr Francois and veteran Labour MP Kevan Jones.
The move comes at an uncertain time in defence with Ben Wallace shortly stepping down as Defence Secretary.
The committee has eight ongoing inquiries and has been very critical of the government’s handling of equipment purchases and development as well as plans to cut down the numbers of military personnel.
One of the inquiries is into the handling of Afghanistan and the shambolic withdrawal by NATO forces from the country.
If Ellwood is removed or decides to resign a Conservative MP will have to be voted on to replace him by the whole House.
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