EDEN Conservative MP Rory Stewart has become the new chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

A vote involving 479 MPs saw Mr Stewart receive 226 votes and his rival, Julian Lewis, 212. There was one spoilt ballot paper.

Mr Stewart replaces Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, who announced in January that he would resign in May.

He moves from a place on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to the prestigious new role on the cross-party committee which scrutinises National Defence.

It is made up of 12 Members of Parliament and is appointed by the House of Commons.

“This is an enormous honour,” said Mr Stewart. “It was a decision of all parties across the House and I hope to continue to take an independent approach, representing the views across Parliament. “My experience from the Balkans to Iraq and Afghanistan has convinced me that Britain and its allies need to take a realistic approach to policy.

“We must learn the lessons of over-involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, without lurching to the opposite extreme of total isolation.There are great challenges ahead - not simply in Ukraine and the Middle East - but with drones, cyber warfare, and technology in general. Scrutiny, analysis and careful strategy will be ever more important, and I feel that the committee has a vital role to play in the national debate. "