Of all the 23 select committees in Westminster, the Treasury one matters most; and not just for the FT. Its role is to hold to account Treasury ministers, banking chief executives and the governor of the Bank of England. That means it is essential that the body is chaired by a high-calibre individual.
Like many I had presumed until recently that Michael Fallon, who has served eight years as deputy chairman, would be the natural shoo-in to John McFall, the Scottish Labour MP who has just stepped down from his seat.
Fallon, who is a wry and fearless interrogator, has significant business experience and was also a schools minister before 1992. His former directorships include Quality Care Homes and Just Learning (a nursery business) – and he has just given up the role of non-exec at inter-dealing brokers Tullett Prebon to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
But with the process now opened up to a secret vote of MPs – rather than the old patronage system – Fallon is facing a challenge from within the committee.
The chairmanship will go to a Tory. Of the four on the committee, Sir Peter Viggers has just retired and Graham Brady has his hands full as the new chair of the Tory 1922 backbench committee.
The fourth MP, Andrew Tyrie, is the one to watch. The MP for Chichester has spent the last fortnight gathering the requisite 15 backers from his own party and 5 from others and is expected to go public later in the week. (Last Friday one of his allies told me he had already secured the names).
Tyrie, a former chief economist for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, has the qualifications to do the job. He worked in the Treasury as an adviser to two chancellors, Lawson and Major, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before going to join the EBRD. As an MP he has been a cerebral and independent figure, last year winning the Spectator’s “backbencher of the year” prize. This website has more on his experience, including time on the public accounts commission and the all-party group on parliamentary reform.
He has sat on the board of two public companies and is still director of property group Rugby Estates; I’m told he will resign if he wins the chairmanship.
The election is on the Wednesday of next week; may the best man win.
UPDATE: The race for the defence committee is also hotting up, as James Kirkup reports.