Treasury criticised by MPs over call to change Office for Budget Responsibility’s independent forecasts

Treasury committee says 2014 intervention by then-chief secretary Danny Alexander “gives the appearance of a minister trying to lean on the OBR”

By Josh May

22 Feb 2016

MPs have voiced concerns that the Treasury could be seen to have “leaned on” the Office for Budget Responsibility, after officials asked for changes to the independent forecast.

The OBR produces documents at the time of the Budget and Autumn Statement featuring projections for the UK’s economy.

The government is allowed to request factual changes, but the Treasury Committee — chaired by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie (pictured)— concluded that in 2014 then chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander went beyond that.

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“It is clear that the chief secretary made requests for non-factual changes to be made to the Economic and Fiscal Outlook,” the MPs said.

“This looks like a misjudgement. It gives the appearance of a minister trying to lean on the OBR. The OBR’s independence is hard-earned and easily squandered.

“Little or no damage appears to have been done in this case, but this shouldn’t be repeated.”

The committee called for a revised memorandum of understanding laying out the terms of engagement between the Treasury and OBR to make the relationship “crystal clear”.

The MPs also rebuked the OBR for having “initially resisted” their attempts to obtain information about the exchanges.

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