Select Committee Chairs must be independent

The Chairs of the Commons' Select Committees will be elected rather than chose by Chairs. Left Foot Forward & Conservative Home jointly endorse four independent candidates.

This post is jointly written by Tim Montgomerie, Editor of Conservative Home, and Will Straw, Editor of Left Foot Forward.

Who will Chair the House of Commons Select Committees that hold ministers and their departments to account? For the first time ever the Whips won’t decide. Those wanting to chair the 23 committees are having to stand for election. They will only win those elections if they win support from MPs in all parties. This democratic mandate will give the Select Committees new authority and independence from the party hierarchies. It is a very welcome and overdue development that strengthens the power of the House of Commons relative to the executive.

In one small way of communicating the importance of these elections we have come together as editors of ConservativeHome and LeftFootForward to endorse four candidates – two Conservative MPs and two Labour MPs. We believe these candidates represent the spirit of this constitutional innovation. Candidates of independent mind. Candidates who enjoy cross-party support. And candidates who have command of their briefs.

On the Tory side we endorse Michael Fallon as candidate for the Treasury Select Committee. As Deputy of the TSC for the last eight years he has developed a reputation for tough, insightful questioning. The four members of the committee who are still in Parliament but not standing themselves are backing Fallon because they know that with previous Chair – Labour’s John McFall – Fallon established the high reputation of this most important of all the Select Committees. Those members are Andy Love and John Mann from Labour; John Thurso from the Liberal Democrats and Conservative MP, Graham Brady. With an inexperienced team inside HM Treasury, Fallon’s constancy of service and familiarity with the issues will provide some important balance.

Our second Conservative endorsement is more controversial. We endorse Douglas Carswell for the very simple reason that he will challenge the defence procurement industry. Over a number of years, defence contracts have been running massively over budget and over time. At a time when spending cuts are going to be necessary it is vital that procurement is reformed so that taxpayers get better value for money and our armed forces get better equipment. Carswell has a solid record of challenging his own party leadership and the Commons authorities. His independence of mind would make him a very bold choice.

On the Labour side we endorse Keith Vaz to maintain his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee. His continuity of service in one of the most difficult areas of government will be useful to policy scrutiny in the Parliament ahead whilst his strong network within the BAME community and experience in foreign affairs gives him valuable insight into the most challenging of policy issues from immigration to counter-terrorism.

For the Public Accounts Committee we endorse Labour’s Margaret Hodge. With experience in four government departments and 20 years of local government service before that she is well placed to hold ministers and officials to account. As the government faces difficult choices on public spending her strong record of cross-party co-operation will be invaluable in examining government spending decisions with the taxpayers interests in mind, rather then the perspective of mere party political advantage.

Regrettably Margaret Hodge is one of only five women (out of 44 applicants) standing to be a select committee chair. While she stands on her own merits, this is another reason for our endorsing her.”

A full list of the 44 candidates for Select Committee Chair is available here.

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21 Responses to “Select Committee Chairs must be independent”

  1. Ali Unwin

    Select Committee Chairs must be independent – Joint statement by @timmontgomerie & @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/9FQEV6 /via @leftfootfwd

  2. Direct Democracy

    RT @leftfootfwd: Select Committee Chairs must be independent – Joint statement by @timmontgomerie & @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  3. Edward Mann

    RT @DouglasCarswell: Commons Defence committee chairman – endorsed by Labour's Will Straw and @leftfootfwd: http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  4. chloe stables

    RT @leftfootfwd: Select Committee Chairs must be independent – Joint statement by @timmontgomerie & @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  5. B Latif

    RT @gabyhinsliff: intersting choices: @timmontgomerie & @wjdstraw join forces to endorse select committee chairs (vi… http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  6. Anthony Zach

    I think Carswell’s a great choice on defence. I disagree with almost every word he says on Europe, but he has a real tenacity and independence of mind that’s essential for challenging the military and MoD establishment.

  7. Philip Cane

    RT @DouglasCarswell: Commons Defence committee chairman – endorsed by Labour's Will Straw and @leftfootfwd: http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  8. Douglas Carswell

    Commons Defence committee chairman – endorsed by Labour's Will Straw and @leftfootfwd: http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  9. Democratic Society

    Noted: Select Committee Chairs must be independent http://bit.ly/aezmaO

  10. Sharon Carr-Brown

    RT @leftfootfwd Select Committee Chairs must be independent – Joint statement by @timmontgomerie & @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  11. Distinctly unimpressed

    You lost me at “Keith Vaz”. His only continuity of service is to himself, and it horrifies me that the Labour party allow him to get away with it, time and time again. It really does make a mockery of the whole party.

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Will and Tim – Good article…

  13. Tim Montgomerie 

    RT @leftfootfwd Select Committee Chairs must be independent – Joint statement by @timmontgomerie & @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/9FQEV6

  14. Tories and the NHS: end of the phoney war? | Left Foot Forward

    […] our article earlier on the need for independent chairs of the select committees, Trevor Cheeseman takes a […]

  15. Don Quixote

    As someone who lives (thankfully) just outside of Keith Vaz’s constituency, I must wholeheartedly agree with “Distinctly Unimpressed”. The only reason Vaz managed to get re-elected is because Leicester East is a Labour Stronghold, he is certainly not a popular man among his constituents. Aside from being mired in more scandals and sleaze than I care to mention*, he has a reputation for only caring about constituency issues when the press coverage is high enough…

    *wikipedia lists no less than eight, and I can personally tell you the have been other less high-profile but no less dubious acts

  16. NormalBloke

    Is that Keith Vaz who has just been accused of dodging dealing with a local solicitor – blimey.
    Remind me but weren’t committees fully loaded under labour

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