Tory MP Andrew Tyrie condemns Budget leaks

 

The Government has been rebuked by the chairman of the influential Commons Treasury Select Committee over the leaking of information ahead of the Budget.

The Treasury insisted none of its ministers or officials were responsible for the publication of policy details ahead of George Osborne's speech in March, which included the controversial decision to cut the top rate of income tax to 45p.

The nature of coalition government and the involvement of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) meant more people knew the details of the Budget in advance, the Treasury said.

But Andrew Tyrie, Tory chair of the cross-party committee, said the coalition was "no excuse" for selective leaking of policies.

In its report on the Budget, published in April, the committee recommended that the Government should review its practices for "preserving Budget confidentiality".

The Government's response to the report, released today, said: "No Treasury officials, Treasury Ministers or Treasury special advisers briefed the media before Budget day about any of the most important policy announcements: which in this case means policy information regarding tax rates or tax allowances.

"The considerable media speculation in the week before the Budget can be explained by two factors. First, the need to agree major Budget measures over a week in advance in order to allow the OBR to certify policy costings. Second, the fact that the Budget policy package needs to be agreed by ministers from both political parties forming the coalition.

"These factors mean that, compared to previous governments, there are many more people who know the content of the Budget some time in advance.

"Additionally, the publication of the coalition's Programme for Government also means that priorities are spelt out more clearly and therefore media speculation can always be better informed.

"It is difficult to change Budget confidentiality practices without altering these two fundamental features of the coalition Government's policy framework."

But the response added that the Treasury "will keep all procedures under review in order to minimise the risk of leaks".

Mr Tyrie said: "Budget measures should not be leaked or pre-briefed to the media. Whilst appropriate pre-Budget consultation is to be welcomed, information about such measures should be publicly released and, when appropriate, accompanied by a written or oral parliamentary statement.

"Coalition government is no excuse for selective leaking."

PA

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