Margaret Hodge stands aside as head of spending watchdog

Margaret Hodge has said she will not put herself forward for the post of chair of the public accounts committee in this parliament, prompting a scramble for the role among fellow Labour MPs.

The MP for Barking has spent five years as head of the committee, which scrutinises government spending. Her time in charge will be remembered for forcing the issues of corporate tax avoidance and the failings of HM Revenue and Customs to the top of the political agenda.

The position traditionally goes to a longstanding MP in the main opposition party. Names in circulation include Meg Hillier, who was a member of the committee under Hodge; John Healey, the popular former housing minister; Helen Goodman, the shadow minister for welfare reform under Ed Miliband; and Gisela Stuart, a party moderniser who called for a grand coalition with the Tories in the event of a hung parliament.

Hodge said: “I’ve done the job for five years and it has been really hard work but fantastically rewarding. I’ve really loved it. However, I have given it a lot of thought and I decided before the general election that I want to try some new challenges.

“I am hugely proud of the work we did as a committee, and a new chair will bring a fresh approach that I’m sure will see it continue to go from strength to strength.”

The election of select committee chairs will take place in June. Until 2010, chairs were appointed by the party whips, but the candidates must now canvass support among MPs across the parties to win a chairmanship.

Some within Whitehall and Westminster will breathe a sigh of relief that Hodge will no longer be able to interrogate them. Senior civil servants were angered after she asked an HMRC lawyer, Anthony Inglese, to swear an oath before giving evidence to the committee – the first time this had happened for more than a decade.

She was accused of grandstanding in her criticisms of corporate executives summoned before the committee. She told Google executives last year: “You do evil,” and she savaged BBC executives.

Whistleblowing organisations have praised Hodge for encouraging insiders to come forward to the committee with evidence of wrongdoing within government. She has included evidence from insiders in inquiries into the NHS, welfare-to-work fraud and “sweetheart” deals by tax officials.

Over several years, she has shrugged off accusations of hypocrisy after it was claimed she was handed more than £1.5m in shares from a trust established in a tax haven.

Hodge, 70, has previously said she would write a book about her time as chair. It is understood she is also considering taking up other offers following her work on tax.

Powered by article was written by Rajeev Syal, for on Wednesday 20th May 2015 09.44 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010