Blog: UK Government are trying to avoid Select Committee scrutiny

A Treasury Select Committee.
Back in 2001 we established the principle that the Government Ministers did not nominate individuals as Select Committee Chairs - now they are trying to overturn that principle by inventing a new post with no proper election. Until now the Liaison Committee made up of all elected Select Committee Chairs have chosen a Chair themselves not had it chosen by Ministers - which raises some questions about the Government's sudden urge to pick the Chair itself.

Who decided it would be a good idea suddenly for the Government to pick its own Chief Scrutineer?

Imagine the fuss if they tried to pick the Head of the Press gallery (and pay them) - this is the person who would lead and direct questioning of the Prime Minister.

How many people were asked to apply for this new position?

How was it decided that the House of Commons should not be allowed to elect this position through the normal procedure of an election of candidates nominated by colleagues in a secret ballot?

The Government originally tried to sneak this proposal through on a motion outside normal standing orders but it was spotted and objected to - why is it still being pursued when Liaison Committee could have been set up as normal had it been dropped?

This is what happened in 2001 when the then Labour Government had to abandon picking Select Committee Chairs like this because the House would no longer tolerate the Executive acting in this way despite the Government having a huge majority.

At this time of crisis holding Govt to account is more important than ever - it is not the time for Government cronyism and patronage to determine who is Parliament's Scrutineer in Chief. Chairs of Select committees and independent government backbenchers should make it clear that they won't tolerate this power grab by Number 10.

Neither should Scottish MPs including the SNP allow the Government to hold the setting up of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee to ransom until it gets its way which has been their tactic so far.

Sensible Ministers who are on the payroll - and therefore afraid to vote against what should be an unwhipped House matter - should tell Jacob Rees-Mogg and number 10 to drop the whole grubby scheme.

The Speaker should ensure that this can't be sneaked through under the cover of novel digital procedures in a virtual House of Commons.