Select committee chairs elected for the first time

Margaret Hodge scrapes in as chair of public accounts committee, beating her nearest rival by six vo

The ex-minister Margaret Hodge is among those who have won a coveted spot as chair of a parliamentary select committee, following yesterday's secret ballot for the influential posts. She beat Hugh Bayley, her nearest rival for the high-profile role as chair of the public accounts committee, by six votes in the fifth round of voting.

She replaces the Conservative Edward Leigh, who had held the chair since 2001. The public accounts committee, once termed "the queen of the select committees" by Peter Hennessy, is charged with overseeing government spending to ensure accountability and transparancy in the public finances.

Chairing these committees has long been seen as a way for backbenchers to hold the government to account and get their voice heard, but there is also a substantial salary boost, with the chairs receiving an extra £14,582 on top of their MP's salary in 2010-2011.

It is the first time that the posts have been filled by a ballot of MPs rather than appointment by the party whips. The measure was brought in following the expenses scandal in an effort to reduce the potential for patronage in parliament.

Other key appointments include Keith Vaz, who retains the chair of the home affairs committee, which he has held since 2003, and James Arbuthnot, who also retains his position as chair of the defence committee, a position he has held since 2005.

Stephen Dorrell, health minister in the Major government, was elected chair of the health committee, and Andrew Tyrie takes control of the Treasury committee, which can be expected to play a vocal part in the forthcoming discussion about the role and taxation of the banks.

Twelve committees have a Conservative MP as chairman, while Labour MPs will chair ten and Lib Dem MPs two.

Here's the full list of appointments:

Business, Innovation and Skills - Adrian Bailey (L)

Children, Schools and Families - Graham Stuart (C)

Communities and Local Government - Clive Betts (L)

Culture, Media and Sport - John Whittingdale* (C)

Defence - James Arbuthnot** (C)

Energy and Climate Change - Tim Yeo (C)

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Anne McIntosh (C)

Environmental Audit - Joan Walley (L)

Foreign Affairs - Richard Ottaway (L)

Health - Stephen Dorrell (C)

Home Affairs - Keith Vaz** (L)

Justice - Sir Alan Beith* (LD)

International Development - Malcolm Bruce* (LD)

Nothern Ireland - Laurence Robertson* (C)

Political and Constitutional Reform - Graham Allen (L)

Procedure - Greg Knight* (C)

Public Accounts - Margaret Hodge (L)

Public Administration - Bernard Jenkin (C)

Science and Technology - Andrew Miller (L)

Scottish Affairs - Ian Davidson* (L)

Treasury Committee - Andrew Tyrie (C)

Transport - Louise Ellman*** (L)

Welsh Affairs - David Davies* (C)

Work and Pensions Committee - Anne Begg (L)

*indicates chair was elected unopposed

**indicates previous holder of the position elected

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.