Treasury Select Committee: Candidates' elevator pitches
The race to succeed Andrew Tyrie as chair of the Treasury Select Committee is hotly contested. Below the candidates make their case for taking on one of the most powerful roles in Parliament.
“We need to build a fair economy – where we won’t tolerate the least well off and the most vulnerable being preyed upon”
Our economy is not working properly. Too many big multinationals and super-rich individuals dodge paying their fair share of tax. Too many people find it hard to get by. Too many towns and villages in the regions lose out and suffer from deprivation and a lack of investment. And too many of our young people are priced out of a housing market that works for buy-to-letters but not first-time buyers.
This is why our economy needs to be restructured. We need an economy that works for our country and its people – not big business and establishment institutions. We need an economy that is both fair and resilient. Theresa May pledged to create a country and an economy that works for everyone. That is undeniably a meritorious aim. And I am standing for the chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee to ensure we deliver.
A decade on from the credit crunch, our young people have too much debt and struggle to get on the housing ladder. The wealthy are encouraged to invest in buy-to-let rather than in job creating business and infrastructure. Inflation and the cost of living are an increasing concern for many. We must look urgently at how we can help our young people access finance to get on the housing ladder. How we can move investment from property to enterprise 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.
We need to build a fair economy – where we won’t tolerate the least well off and the most vulnerable being preyed upon by excessive banking charges or being shoved to the back of the lending queue. It makes people rightly angry when large businesses pay less in tax than the person cleaning their offices. We need to 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. We need to improve access to finance, including through credit unions and making sure bank branches remain accessible. We must protect the least well off from unscrupulous lending practices. And we must take more of the lowest paid out of tax while minimising tax cliff-edges.
We must build a more resilient economy. There needs to be more diversity than depending on big cities and financial services for growth. We need a renaissance of the regions, stronger infrastructure and greater business investment to drive the economy forward, boost productivity and increase resilience. Too often young people feel forced to move to places like London to find well-paid work. We need to provide skilled jobs for young people in the towns and regions they grew up in. It’s vital to plan ahead for Brexit too. Customs and the tax system need to be Ready on Day One and our economy needs to be prepared for the transition too. We must investigate how we deliver a renaissance of the regions, how well the Treasury and HMRC are preparing for Brexit and how more investment in business and infrastructure can be brought about.
The Treasury Select Committee’s enquiries should be at the heart of what we must do make our economy work for everyone. Of how we build a fair and resilient economy. Of how we move forward and build the kind of Britain we need.
Charlie Elphicke is Conservative MP for Dover
“My ministerial roles have given me an insight into how the Treasury functions from the inside and outside”
I am standing to succeed the indefatigable Andrew Tyrie as chair of the Treasury Select Committee. If elected I would be the first female chair of the committee, which would be a great honour. It is always good for the House of Commons to break new ground, even if it does take until 2017 to do it!
As the UK establishes its new position outside the EU, it will be more important than ever to forge a wide consensus on Brexit and for parliament to question ministers on their decisions. The Treasury committee has an important role in this process. Since June 2016 I believe I have shown I am a strong advocate for parliament being heavily involved in scrutinising the decisions being made about the terms of Brexit and would continue to champion this approach.
I also have the relevant and necessary experience to chair this committee. Before becoming an MP, I worked as a solicitor in the City of London for 16 years specialising in mergers and acquisitions and advising on the implementation of financial services and company legislation.
My ministerial roles have given me an insight into how the Treasury functions from the inside and outside. I have been a Treasury minister, having served as both economic secretary and financial secretary in 2013 and 2014. This gave me experience of working on an Autumn Statement and a Budget as well as being EU budget minister and attending meetings of EU finance ministers.
As secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities, I worked with the Treasury on the 2015 spending review. Finally, I have experience serving on a select committee as I served briefly on the BIS committee in 2010, before being appointed a PPS and then a whip.
I know, from my time working in the Treasury, that its remit and that of the other relevant bodies such as the Bank of England, Financial Conduct Authority and HMRC is broad. Therefore, 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.
I would also like to re-open some of the inquiries which closed because of the election, including on housing policy and access to basic retail financial services. There will always be a wide variety of views amongst committee members and it is important the chair listens to those views. Agreeing on inquiries should be a collaborative process and I would expect the committee to have a deputy chair from the opposition and to consider the appointment of sub-committees when this would support the work of the committee.
Nicky Morgan is Conservative MP for Loughborough
“We need to find new answers. The Treasury Select Committee should be at the heart of finding them”
Like it or not, this Parliament will create a new, post-Brexit Britain. It’s an unparalleled, once-in-several-generations opportunity to recast the kind of society and economy we want our country to have, and to match the achievements of the post-war generation who created the welfare state and the NHS.
Those huge changes were built on a cross-party ‘post-war consensus’, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived the repeated changes of government since then. We now need to forge a new, ‘post-Brexit consensus’ if we’re going to do the same.
In a hung Parliament, the Treasury Select Committee shouldn’t only be an effective and fearless inquisitor of power – although that’s a core part of its role – but it should become a safe cross-party space where the economic foundations of the new consensus can be laid and where answers can be found to fundamental questions that we haven’t debated for decades.
Questions like how we fix regional imbalances between London and the south-east and the rest of the country, so you have a decent chance of living a successful, fulfilling life whether you’re born in Wigan, Weston-super-Mare or Westminster.
How we dissolve the growing divide between asset-owning older people and the insecure, struggling generation behind them. At the moment too many people under 35 feel the system is stacked against them.
How we bring about social justice between white and blue collar workers and how much debt it is fair to pass on to younger generations to pay for our consumption of high-quality public services today.
How we improve our productivity. Getting even slightly more efficient, so our economy does more with less, would be worth billions. Prices would be lower, so hard-pressed families could afford a better standard of living, and our exports would be more competitive.
The traditional remedy of letting economic growth take care of the problem, by making bills more affordable as the country gets richer, won’t work. Most of those IOUs are embedded in our pay-as-you-go state pension and benefits scheme. They dwarf the government bonds that make up the rest of the debt, and they won’t get more affordable as our economy grows. They’re structural, so they just grow with us.
So we need to look elsewhere, to find new answers. A UK sovereign wealth fund is a good option, where those whopping IOUs in the state pension and benefits systems are funded by a big pool of investments like a company pension scheme. I’ve published ideas for a UK Sovereign Wealth Fund to begin addressing these issues of generational fairness, and found surprising cross-party agreement for many parts of it.
It wouldn’t only be generationally fair, but socially just too. We’d create an asset-owning society, where high and low earners alike have equal stakes and rights in the investment fund which underpins their pensions and benefits. And we’d have a cushion against the next big economic shock.
The Treasury Select Committee should be at the heart of finding these answers, pushing ministers and businesses and holding them to account. It’s a once-in-several-generations opportunity, and we should grab it with both hands.
John Penrose is Conservative MP for Weston-Super-Mare
“The committee has a tradition of fearless independence which must be maintained”
The Treasury Select Committee has been, and must remain, Parliament’s and the people’s spotlight on the UK economy and economic issues.
Not only has the committee regularly scrutinised the policy of the Bank of England and the government, but in the last Parliament produced the recognised independent report on Brexit, as well as influential reports on access to personal banking and UK regulation.
I believe the new Committee must continue these traditions of fearless scrutiny, and the chairman must lead this process. I believe I am the right person to do this, building on my record as a member of the committee in the last Parliament, praised by City A.M for not being “afraid to question the claims on both sides of the debate”.
For twenty years prior to being elected in 2005 my career was in financial services and I qualified both as an economist and an analyst. This insight will allow me to dissect evidence presented and question ministers and others effectively. These skills will be paramount on the new committee which will not just undertake its usual role scrutinising economic policy, but must also examine the economic aspects of Brexit.
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. 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.
Besides being chairman of the APGPG for Wholesale Financial Markets, I also chaired the APPG for Infrastructure in the last Parliament. One major inquiry for the committee in this Parliament I would like to see is on the government’s infrastructure policy; how it helps UK business, how it builds the skills of the nation and how the state of our infrastructure affects economic growth. I believe having also been a transport minister gives me a unique insight.
So as the candidate with practical industry experience, with a record as a committee member and effective scrutineer, with the ability to chair proceedings and to modernise the committee while protecting what it does best, with a deep passion and interest in economic matters, I put myself forward to be the next chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.
Stephen Hammond is Conservative MP for Wimbledon. He was a member of the Treasury Select Committee from 2015-2017
“I have participated in producing over 800 reports covering all areas of government income and expenditure”
After 16 years serving on the Public Accounts Committee, the last seven years as deputy chairman, I believe I have the right skills and experience to lead a good cross-party Treasury Select Committee.
As a member of the PAC since 2001, I have participated in producing over 800 reports covering all areas of government income and expenditure, with an award-winning track record of working as a committee member under Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments while not being afraid to ask difficult questions. My academic background at the London School of Economics and my previous professional experience in investment banking, journalism and consultancy would also help.
I would adopt a broad interpretation of the committee’s remit; in the last Session of Parliament nine out of the 13 Treasury Committee reports were on appointments to the Bank of England and other regulators. While such work is important, it should not distort the committee’s activity. I would re-establish the its sub-committee, under the chairmanship of a committee member from the Official Opposition; this arrangement previously worked very well, only ceasing recently.
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. I would expect that all members from all political parties would exercise influence in shaping the work programme of the committee, particularly where members had areas of special interest. As an experienced committee hand, not a former government minister, I am well-placed to achieve this.
Apart from examining HM Treasury, HMRC, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, my own ideas for possible inquiries would include:
Reviewing a broad range of tax policy including: the impact of infrastructure investment on economic growth and tax receipts; tax simplification; tax modernisation; fairness in the tax system; taxation of e-commerce; the relationship between taxation of capital gains and levels of business investment; the relationship between taxation of savings and long-term retirement planning; taxation of long-term unoccupied residential property; development of the UK balance sheet; recognition of off-balance sheet liabilities and assets; PFI review; the management of the balance sheet; the measurement of GDP; should we measure happiness?; how do we measure the contribution of carers?
Enabling strong, sustainable and balanced growth
Economic and financial consequences of Brexit; the outlook for interest rates; reviewing the collection, accuracy and use of data – and the benefits and risks of commercialisation of data; use of data in economic forecasting and in investment; Big Data; machine learning; artificial intelligence; e-currencies: should we have an e-sterling? Infrastructure investment: Should we have a UK sovereign wealth fund?; availability of consumer credit; regulation, helping people who get into too much debt; loan sharks.
Increasing employment and productivity across all regions of the UK
Devolution of more tax authority; women and minorities in finance, and in HM Treasury; HM Treasury’s approach to planning and its influence on facilitating infrastructure spending.
Richard Bacon is Conservative MP for South Norfolk
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset, is also standing to be chair of the Treasury Select Committee but was unable to contribute on this occasion.