Austin Mitchell wants watchdog post

Austin Mitchell wants PAC chair job
Austin Mitchell wants PAC chair job

By Alex Stevenson

Austin Mitchell is to stand for the critical post of chair of the Commons' influential public accounts committee, he has told

The Great Grimsby MP, whose antics on Channel 4's Tower Block of Commons programme entertained the nation before the general election, said he thought the public spending watchdog could be a "bit sharper" in its work.

But he blamed the difficulties on civil servants rather than ministers, saying "difficult" officials who had made mistakes were often challenging to confront.

"It's too easy to escape from censure by saying 'we should do better, we'll promise a better future'," he told

"I think that means fairer backing from government and I'm sure this government will be anxious to avoid overspends and follies, now they're keen to abolish them. The climate is right for a big effort."

Mr Mitchell must win the backing of at least 15 MPs from his own party if he is to run in the committee election, which takes place next Wednesday.

He said his "interrogatory approach" had served him well on the committee and argued he was "independent-minded" to resist the temptation to defend the Labour government's record.

"I don't regard it as a job in which you've got to defend the record of a Labour government," he said.

"We're looking at the issue of overspending and mistakes made. Whoever makes them the blame's got to be attached to them. We've got to learn from experience."

The PAC chair must be filled from the Labour party's backbenchers. Margaret Hodge is the clear frontrunner, being the only candidate who has so far secured the required number of nominations.


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