The London Evening Standard has apologised for a “very serious mistake” after details of the Budget were leaked on the Internet 20 minutes before the Chancellor of the Exchequer had started his speech in Parliament.
The paper’s editor Sarah Sands said: “An investigation is immediately underway into how this front page was made public and the individual who tweeted the page has been suspended while this takes place. We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies.”
An image of the newspaper’s front page, including clearly visible details of the Chancellor’s plans for borrowing, tax cuts and growth forecast, was posted on Twitter by a member of the newspaper’s staff shortly after midday.
By the time George Osborne came forward to make his speech, jeering Labour members were waving photo-copies of the newspaper front page at him. The leak will have given the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband valuable early notice of what Mr Osborne was planning to announce.
The error was seized on by political correspondents including the BBC’s Nick Robinson, who used Twitter to comment “Standby for row about Budget leak.”
In an attempt to defuse the issue, the Standard’s political editor Joe Murphy, whose byline appeared on the front page piece, took to Twitter to say sorry. “I wish to apologise for a very serious mistake by the @EveningStandard earlier which resulted in our front page being tweeted...,” he said. “We are so sorry to the House of Commons, to the Speaker and to the Chancellor for what happened. We shall be apologising to them.”
The breach is likely to have repercussions at Westminster. The paper’s headline “Things Can Only Get Bitter” was a reference to Mr Osborne’s decision to take 1p off the price of a pint of beer.
It is understood the front page was tweeted by an inexperienced member of the paper’s staff.