MPs today deliver a stinging rebuke to the Treasury over its habit of leaking eye-catching parts of the Budget in advance, calling for an end to the "corrosive" practice.
The Treasury select committee makes clear, however, that its irritation is not just targeted at George Osborne, the current Chancellor. His predecessor-but-one, Gordon Brown, was notorious for authorising aides to pre-brief juicy titbits ahead of Budget Day.
The committee said: “It has been noticeable over many years under successive Governments that measures appear to have been trailed, sometimes accurately, sometimes in a way designed to place them in the most favourable light.
“Whether particular press reports are leaks or briefings or merely press speculation, we have no view, but we deprecate both leaks and any advance briefing. Such activities are corrosive of good government.”
Times have changed dramatically since 1947, when Hugh Dalton, on his way to deliver the Budget, made some passing remarks about tax changes to a waiting journalist.
Details appeared in an evening newspaper minutes before the Chancellor announced the alternations to the Commons. Such was the furore that he was forced to resign.
In today’s world of political advisers and the demands of 24-hour news, it has become commonplace for “sources close to the Chancellor” to attempt to win favourable headlines by trailing forthcoming measures.
The committee put the Treasury on notice that it would not let the issue drop. It added: “We will return to this issue at future autumn statements and budgets.”Reuse content