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Should Tom Watson (and Michael Fallon) be allowed to stay on a Select Committee?

By Matthew Barrett
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Watson UFO - CopyThe question of select committee impartiality is raised today by Tom Watson's appointment to the Shadow Cabinet. Although he doesn't have a specific department to shadow, he is the "Labour Party Deputy Chair and Campaign Coordinator", and is listed as an ordinary Shadow Cabinet member - in between the Shadow Secretary for the Cabinet Office, and the Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland - if Labour's website listing is supposed to designate importance. 

Tom Watson's media profile has been considerably raised this year by his participation in the uncovering of the News International phone-hacking scandal. His ability to uncover that news story derives from his membership of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. 

Traditionally, Ministers and Shadow Ministers have not been able to attend Select Committees. Readers of Chris Mullin's diaries will recall his dilemma at choosing a Ministerial position over being Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee (and often regretting his decision). 

There will be a great deal of discussion about whether Mr Watson is correct to continue being a member of the select committee. John Whittingdale, the chairman of the committee, has flagged up the conflict of interest. The Times' Sam Coates tweets:

"John Whittingdale thinks that Tom Watson must leave the CMS committee. "Unquestionably" he can't remain. "I'll be sad to lose him" ... He said if the Labour party try and keep him on the committee "there will be a big row." It's not unprecedented, but heavily discouraged"

Tom Watson responded:

"Tory Deputy Chair Michael Fallon is still on the Treasury Committee. No doubt the Tories will comment on his role."

This is a fair point, but not an accurate comparison. Michael Fallon holds a purely Party position and does not attend Cabinet. Tom Watson will attend shadow cabinet. However, one can also question whether Fallon should be a member of a select committee, especially given the fact he is on the Treasury Select Committee, and much of his work in the media concerns attacking Labour's economic record. 

What do readers think?


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