Chancellor hits out over spending claims

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gordon Brown yesterday angrily denied allegations by the Conservatives that he had coerced the Government's statisticians to "cook the books" on the public finances.

Gordon Brown yesterday angrily denied allegations by the Conservatives that he had coerced the Government's statisticians to "cook the books" on the public finances.

The Chancellor accused Tory MPs of "impugning the integrity" of the Office for National Statistics, adding that not all its decisions had been in the Treasury's interests.

Mr Brown was repeatedly asked whether the Treasury had interfered in the ONS's decision to change the way it accounts for £6.5bn of road and rail spending to make it easier for him to meet his "golden rule" on the public finances.

Last month the ONS said that £3.4bn of road maintenance spending should be seen as capital investment rather than current spending, which counts against the golden rule that he must balance the budget over the economic cycle.

Michael Fallon, a Tory member of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, said combined with a similar £3.1bn change to Network Rail's figures, the total impact was greater than the £6bn margin Mr Brown gave for meeting the golden rule.

Mr Fallon quoted from a report by David Rhind, the chairman of the independent Statistics Commission, showing that the ONS held a series of meetings with Treasury officials in the run-up to the decision on road spending. Mr Brown told him: "I disagree with the presumption of your question. What you are doing is to impugn the integrity of the ONS and that's unfortunate for this committee.

"The ONS reclassifies downwards and upwards and it is wrong to say that all reclassifications have been upwards."

The Chancellor disclosed new figures on business profits, which he said, supported the Treasury's optimistic forecasts for corporate tax revenues.

Comments