LONDON (Reuters) - Mel Stride, a former junior finance minister who lost his job in government when Boris Johnson became prime minister, has won an election to chair the British parliament committee which supervises the Bank of England and finance ministry.
Stride was responsible for tax policy as financial secretary to the Treasury from June 2017 until May this year, before serving for two months as leader of the House of Commons, in charge of the Conservative government’s business in parliament.
Speaking in parliament after his election by fellow politicians, Stride promised to chair parliament’s Treasury Committee “with the utmost fairness”.
The cross-party committee regularly questions Bank of England officials, the finance minister and tax officials in charge of Brexit preparations, and has also led inquiries into malpractice in Britain’s financial sector.
However, his appointment was greeted with disappointment by campaigners hoping to secure softer treatment for thousands of contractors who avoided income tax for more than a decade through loan schemes which tax authorities have objected to.
“We will have to take appropriate steps to ensure that there is no conflict of interest when he comes to scrutinizing decisions he was party to at HM Treasury, particularly the Loan Charge,” Wes Streeting, a Treasury Committee member from the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter.
After his election, Stride said the committee’s priority should be scrutinizing new finance minister Sajid Javid’s first budget, due on Nov. 6, the government’s Brexit policy and the appointment of a successor to BoE Governor Mark Carney.
Javid has already refused a request from the committee to provide updated economic analysis on the cost of Brexit, saying that a deal Johnson had reached with Brussels last week was “self-evidently” in Britain’s interest.
Stride opposed Brexit before June 2016’s referendum and described himself as “realistic about the challenging consequences of a no deal” in a column for the PoliticsHome website earlier on Wednesday.
He also said he wanted the committee to look more at whether online businesses were taxed enough, the generosity of tax relief designed to promote business investment, and high marginal effective tax rates faced by poor families on benefits.
Stride will serve until the end of the current parliament - which could be soon, if Johnson can persuade the opposition to support an early election which he has said he wants to break the Brexit impasse.
The previous permanent chair of the Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan, stepped down when Johnson appointed her as his culture minister in July.
Stride received 263 votes in the final stage of voting for the chair, while there were 175 votes for his nearest rival, the Conservative lawmaker Kevin Hollinrake.
Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Andy Bruce and Giles Elgood