This morning's Times (£) reported that David Cameron, John Bercow and Andrew Lansley have "paved the way for new rules governing the heads of
select committees" in the wake of the Yeo controversy. The paper also claimed that Select Committee chairmen themselves want changes, naming Keith Vaz, the Labour Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and David Davies, the Conservative Chairman of the Welsh Affairs committee. It also quoted Richard Ottoway, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, as saying that an outright ban on outside interests “would diminish debate” and
John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, as saying that MPs having outside interests “strengthens Parliament”.
Cameron and Bercow and Lansley and Vaz and Davies and Ottoway and Whittingdale are all right. MPs should be citizen legislators, who almost by definition have outside interests, rather than professional politicians, who (almost by definition) don't, and this applies to Select Committee Chairmen no less than other MPs. But since those Chairmen now take a special salary, like members of the Executive, it follows that they should be treated like them – in broad terms, anyway, especially since most Select Committee Chairman have acquired a new legitimacy by being elected. There should be a bar on conflicting interests, not an outright ban – as Isabel Hardman and I have both argued.