UK Politics

Commons defence committee chairman quits to prevent 'conflict of interest'

James Arbuthnot
Image caption James Arbuthnot has been a Conservative MP since 1987

The chairman of the Commons defence committee is to resign from the role in May to prevent any perceived "conflict of interest" if he applies for a job in the arms trade after the next election.

Conservative MP James Arbuthnot has already announced he is leaving Parliament rather than seek re-election when the UK goes to the polls in 2015.

But he told Total Politics magazine it would "feel wrong" to continue in the committee chairmanship until then.

Mr Arbuthnot has been an MP since 1987.

Also a former defence minister and Conservative chief whip, he said: "I don't know [where I'll work after the next election], and furthermore I can't know while I'm chairing the Defence Select Committee.

"It would be the wrong thing for me to do, I think, in a responsible, scrutiny position to be searching around for employment after 2015.

"But I will need some time to do that and so I'll be standing down from the defence committee in May next year to give myself a year in which to both wind down a bit in terms of the work I do in Parliament... but also try to prepare for life after Parliament."

Mr Arbuthnot, MP for North East Hampshire, said: "I obviously couldn't now take a job that related to defence because there would be conflict of interest; I would be compromised on what I did on the committee.

"There's no rule that says I need a gap between being chairman of the defence select committee and doing a defence job, but I do think it would feel wrong. That wouldn't feel right to me or probably to any employer either."

Mr Arbuthnot, whose father was also a Conservative MP, said it was "just stupidity" that led to his own political career.

He added: "I do now quite genuinely believe that you have to be very peculiar now to want to go into politics. Who would want to take this on?"

The 61-year-old, who announced in 2011 his intention to stand down as an MP, also said: "The constant assumption that everybody in politics is in it for their own good, or is a crook, gets very debilitating after a bit.

"But I must say I've had some really fantastic times as a Member of Parliament and I still do, and I'm doing that now on the committee. But there's an awful lot of stuff you have to wade through to get at those good times."

Mr Arbuthnot was MP for Wanstead and Woodford from 1987 until moving to North East Hampshire in 1997 and has chaired the defence committee since 2005.