Martin Bright

Why select committees matter

Why select committees matter
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I take my hat off to the Treasury select committee for the spectacle of the hearings on the banking crisis. This is more theatre than genuine scrutiny - but without real powers to subpoena witnesses and force the disclosure of evidence then this is about as good as it's likely to get.

In the absence of real judicial teeth, the committee has to rely on the tools of the jobbing journalist - leaks and whistleblowers. Step forward Paul Moore, the HBOS head of risk who was sacked by the bank's chief executive Sir James Crosby for warning of the dangers ahead.

This is gobsmacking. In a better world, Crosby would be arraigned and dragged before the committee to account for his actions. Instead, he has been helping Gordon Brown fix the regulation system. At least he's got first-hand experience of what went wrong, and can thereby come up with the perfect solution: "Well, Gordon, the first thing we have to do is root out people like me from the system, and start to listen to people like Paul Moore."

So thumbs up for select committees. And keep an eye out for the DCMS committee hearings into press standards, privacy and libel.