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LONDON -Members of parliament will vote to elect new chairs for the various committees that sit in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The committees, which cover everything from transport to human rights, are tasked with scrutinising both the government and senior figures from the industries the committees focus on. They play an important role win UK politics.
A large number of committees have already seen their chairpersons returned unopposed, including the crucial Brexit Committee, which is headed by former Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Hillary Benn.
However, numerous committees are looking for a new chairperson. Perhaps the most important appointment happening is at the Treasury Select Committee. The TSC, as it is known, scrutinises Chancellor Philip Hammond, the Bank of England, and the wider financial services sector in the UK.
The TSC needs a new chair after its long-time leader, Tory backbencher Andrew Tyrie, stood down at the 2017 general election. Tyrie was head of the committee for seven years, during which time he gained a reputation for his ferocious questioning of financial bigwigs.
During one notable hearing in September 2016, Tyrie accused Carney of holding a “gun to the head” of Chancellor Philip Hammond. Tyrie was referring to Carney asking the chancellor to grant the Bank of England an indemnity approving of the term funding scheme introduced by the bank soon after the Brexit referendum. He argued that Hammond had virtually no choice but to grant the indemnity.
Tyrie was also a major player in the sudden resignation of BoE deputy governor Charlotte Hogg in March. She resigned shortly after Tyrie grilled her about a failure to disclose the fact that her brother held a job with Barclays, a possible conflict of interest.
However, now that Tyrie is no longer an MP, six Conservative MPs are vying to take the helm. Each are trying to convince fellow MPs to vote for them. Here are the runners and riders:
Results are expected late on Wednesday afternoon.
Nicky Morgan — The establishment candidate
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Probably the most recognisable candidate for the general public, Morgan was previously Education Secretary but lost her post after Theresa May became Prime Minister.
She has not sat on the committee before but Morgan has experience of the City, having been a corporate lawyer specialising in M&A during the 1990s. She has also served as both economic and financial secretary to the Treasury during 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Morgan wrote in her statement to MPs:
“As well as inquiries into Brexit, I would be keen to hold inquiries into issues that are of most relevance to our constituents such as: tax policy, public spending decisions, household debt, skills funding, the National Infrastructure Plan, childcare funding and income inequality as well as quizzing Ministers on economic policy and critical issues such as productivity. I am also keen to pursue topics such as the lack of gender diversity in financial services.”
Labour’s Wes Streeting, a TSC member, and Lib Dem Jo Swinson are among the non-Tory MPs to back Morgan, while several prominent Tories, including Anna Soubry, Nick Boles, Ken Clarke and Michael Gove have thrown their weight behind her.
Jacob Rees-Mogg — A strong contender and TSC veteran who’s tough on the Bank of England
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Famous for his old-fashioned style, clipped accent, and eccentric behaviour, Rees-Mogg is one of two candidates for the chair who already serves on the Treasury Select Committee.
During the last session of parliament, Rees-Mogg frequently clashed with Mark Carney over what Rees-Mogg saw as Carney’s deliberate talking down of Brexit. He said just before the referendum that the Bank of England had “fundamentally undermined” its independence by warning that leaving Europe could cause economic upheaval.
In his statement to members, Rees-Mogg points to his experience in financial services – he set up Somerset Capital Management in 2007 – and argues that, if elected, he will impartiality look at issues surrounding Brexit, despite his strongly eurosceptic stance.
“Inevitably, there will be elements of Brexit that will need investigation, economic questions as well as regulatory ones. In this area, although I have strong views a Chairman has a duty to put those aside and achieve consensus and balance,” he writes.
Rees-Mogg also outlines areas he would like to scrutinise more, saying:
“One example of an area that requires further work is the relationship between banks and consumers. This remains unbalanced and issues of fairness around overdraft fees have still not been settled. Behaviour during the financial crisis also opens up areas of inquiry especially after the HBOS fraud and the charges against Barclays. This leads on to the role of regulators and their focus, are they putting consumers and competition as a high enough priority? We need to do so much more to get the right answers for those we represent.”
Rees-Mogg is one of the favourites for the job. He has been endorsed by MPs including former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, ex-Minister of State for Education Esther McVey, and the SNP’s Mhairi Black.
Stephen Hammond — A TSC veteran who wants the committee to be ‘open to new ideas’
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Like Rees-Mogg, Hammond served on the TSC during the last parliament, although unlike Rees-Mogg he did not have any prominent disputes with Carney.
Hammond – who is no relation to Chancellor Philip Hammond – has vast experience in financial services, noting in his statement that he is “qualified both as an economist and an analyst.”
“The Committee has a tradition of fearless independence which must be maintained. However, I believe the Committee must be open to new ideas to ensure its continuing relevance to Members, the public and to the economic debate,” he says in his statement.
“I am keen to ensure the Committee considers undertaking inquiries of interest submitted by any Member of the House, and I have already received suggestions for work on the barriers to competition in personal banking and the economic geography of infrastructure.”
One issue facing the Wimbledon MP is that he does not have the backing of any non-Tory MPs, unlike all the other candidates, which could make getting elected difficult. He does, however, have the backing of some prominent Conservatives, including Theresa Villers, the ex-Northern Ireland secretary, and former party Chairman Grant Shapps.
Charlie Elphicke — A former tax lawyer who’s hot on reform
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An outside contender, Elphicke was a tax lawyer before becoming an MP, and is passionate about reforming the UK’s tax system. He says in his statement to MPs:
“We need a fair economy. It makes people rightly angry when large businesses pay less in tax than the person cleaning their offices. Inquiries would include how we can make tax laws fairer and stronger to put a stop to avoidance by big corporations and throw the book at people who game the system.”
Elphicke also wants to help younger people onto the housing ladder, as well as improving productivity.
“Key inquiries would include how we can help our young people access finance to get on the housing ladder,” he says.
“How we can move investment from property to enterprise and infrastructure to drive productivity and enable the nation to enjoy a pay rise. And how we can keep inflation in check and the cost of living down.”
Prominent Tories backing Elphicke include Nadine Dorries, while Corbyn-backing Labour MP Chris Williamson has also given his support.
John Penrose — The finance veteran who wants a UK sovereign wealth fund
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Penrose is another outside candidate but has a wide array of financial services experience, something he notes in his statement.
“I worked as a risk manager for JPMorgan, before an MBA at Columbia University in New York, followed by spells at McKinsey and Pearson (as MD of Longman’s school books publishing division), a management buy-out in educational software (particularly for special needs pupils) and a startup in financial data,” he writes.
Areas of interest for Penrose include addressing changing inequality dynamics.
“The old questions of how taxes and economic policies should deliver social justice are changing; the new divide isn’t between white or blue collar workers, but between asset-owning older people and the insecure, struggling generation behind them instead,” he writes.
One of his ideas for combatting this, creating a UK sovereign wealth fund, was included in the Tory election manifesto.
Penrose’s backers include ex-Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin and failed London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith
Richard Bacon — An economist who promises ‘a collegiate approach’
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Bacon is a trained economist and has other experience including “investment banking, journalism and consultancy,” which he believes would help him be an effective TSC chair.
Bacon says he would focus on three topics: public finances; enabling strong, sustainable and balanced growth; and increasing employment and productivity across all regions of the UK.
Bacon has been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for numerous years, something he also believes he will help him if elected as TSC chair.
“I would adopt a collegiate approach, taking account of the interests of all committee members, a way of working which I have helped to develop and implement – and have seen work well – on the Public Accounts Committee.”