Labour MPs are set to back former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan for chair of the influential Treasury select committee, hoping to stop prominent Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg in his bid for the post.
The committee’s former chair, Andrew Tyrie, who decided not to enter the contest, was known for his interrogation skills, especially his no-prisoners approach to bankers and senior politicians such as George Osborne.
Morgan, the former education secretary who campaigned for remain in the referendum and who has since advocated a soft Brexit, is understood to be the MP most likely to be backed by Labour MPs.
Former Cabinet Office minister John Penrose, former transport minister Stephen Hammond and MP Richard Bacon are also thought to be contenders for the post scrutinising the Treasury and the government’s economic policy.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would work to achieve consensus on the committee if selected. Photograph: Finbarr Webster/Rex Shutterstock
Rees-Mogg has been a particular critic of the Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, with reports he was seeking the governor’s job himself. The MP, who was the co-founder of Somerset Capital Management, accused the governor of “peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories” about the economy during the EU referendum.
Labour MPs who expressed doubt about Rees-Mogg stressed it was not a personal attack, saying there was a lot of goodwill across the House for the affable MP. However, MPs said privately they had serious concerns about a prominent and outspoken Brexiter chairing the committee during the EU negotiations, when the economy was one of the most crucial issues.
Rees-Mogg told the Financial Times he would work to achieve consensus on the committee if selected. “The chairman of a select committee should balance his views against the views of the rest of the committee,” he told the paper. “Committees only work if members of it want to achieve a consensus report.”
Morgan wrote to MPs on Friday to ask for their support for the role, which will be decided by secret ballot in the coming weeks. “Clearly the major issue in the parliament will be the government’s Brexit negotiations,” she wrote.
“It will be the role of all backbench MPs to hold ministers to account on behalf of our constituents … I believe I have shown over the past few months that I am a strong advocate for parliament being heavily involved in providing the necessary scrutiny and challenge to those important decisions.”
Wes Streeting, one of the Labour MPs who sat on the Treasury select committee during the last parliament, said he would be backing Morgan.
“She has experience as a treasury minister and cabinet minister and I trust her to hold the government to account in an independent-minded way, following in the footsteps of Andrew Tyrie,” he said. “She is a waste sat on the backbenches if her talents won’t be put to use in government.”