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Office for Budget Responsibility

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 10 December 2013

The Chancellor receives representations on a wide range of matters, including on the role of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

Labour has called for the OBR charter to be amended so that it can independently audit the manifestos of political parties in the run up to elections. Will the Minister now support that proposal?

We are cautious about that because, as a Labour spokesman in the House of Lords said in 2010:

“the OBR should not become embroiled in political controversy.”

I understand that the Labour party is seeking ways to improve its economic credibility. I suggest that a better, more obvious approach would be to change the shadow Chancellor.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while we are all indebted to the shadow Chancellor for this idea and so much more, the OBR is working well and should not become a political football or controversial?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The OBR is a very good change—one that I am pleased has finally won support across the House—and we do not want to jeopardise its credibility or reputation.

After those answers, we still do not know why the Chancellor is resisting our proposal to allow the OBR to audit all party spending and tax plans ahead of the general election. We know that in private the Chief Secretary agrees that it is a good idea, so what is the Chancellor so afraid of?

In 2010, the noble Lord Eatwell said that

“we on this side agree…to confine the activities of the OBR to consideration of the impact of government policies alone. I am sure it is right that the OBR should not become embroiled in political controversy.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 November 2010; Vol. 722, c. 16-17.]

I think he made a reasonable point.