Select committee chairs face election

By Ian Dunt and Alex Stevenson

MPs will vote for the chairmen of the various Commons select committees today.

The ballot will be counted under the alternative vote system – the same as that to be offered to the British public in a referendum by the coalition government.

MPs will have between 10:00 and 17:00 BST to vote. Nominations closed yesterday afternoon.

The final list of candidates confirmed Andrew Tyrie, the Spectator’s backbencher of the year, would challenge Michael Fallon for the chairmanship of the hugely influential Treasury committee.

Labour’s Austin Mitchell succeeded in getting the required 15 nominations for the public accounts committee spending watchdog.

He is one of six MPs running for the role. Margaret Moran, who is thought to be the frontrunner, was reported today as offering a Labour spending inquiry. The other candidates are Hugh Bayley, Brian Donohoe, Michael Meacher and Iain Wright.

A new select committee, the political and constitutional reform committee, is being contested by three Labour MPs.

Among the big Conservative races, prominent blogger Nadine Dorries is running against Stephen Dorrell, Peter Bone and Sir Paul Beresford for the health committee chair.

The environmental, food and rural affairs committee and defence committee both have four Tory candidates.

Commons select committees act as scrutiny panels for government policy, assessing political issues and government performance across a host of policy areas.

Unlike in the United States, witnesses before committees do not give evidence under oath, and there are no requirements on the government to accept their conclusions.

But the committees nevertheless remain influential and important actors in the British political process and their findings can have a heavy influence on the formulation of policy.

This is the first occasion on which committee chairs have been elected. Seven of the 24 committees have seen one candidate elected unopposed.