Clause 5

Part of Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:30 pm ar 1 Mawrth 2011.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Treasury) 5:30, 1 Mawrth 2011

Amendment 14 is consequential upon amendment 15, so we do not need to discuss it in any detail. The amendments reiterate some of the points that my colleagues and I made earlier and that we will address in substantially more detail when we consider how the office will be set up under schedule 1 and how it will be run on a day-to-day basis. This is about whether the relationship between the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Treasury and Government will be truly independent and about how we can ensure the greatest possible transparency in the office’s activities and accountability for what it does and how it goes about doing it. In other words, we are considering how the office can fulfil the requirement under subsection 2 that it must perform its duty under clause 4 “objectively, transparently and impartially”. I have already flagged up my concern about the relationship between the Treasury and the OBR in comments on earlier amendments that were rejected by the Minister.

The Minister has, as we would expect, said that there is nothing to worry about, that the Treasury has no problem with the OBR doing the job that it has been set up to do and that if the OBR criticises or challenges the Government, or even makes them look incompetent and foolish—perish the thought—the Minister, her boss the Chancellor and everyone in the Government from the Prime Minister down would be perfectly happy with the state of affairs and happy for the OBR to challenge, criticise and embarrass the Government in that way and would never reach a stage where they think that a spanner needs to be thrown into the OBR’s works. I am sure that the Minister will forgive those of us in the Opposition who are perhaps a little more, not cynical, but sceptical about how the Government’s undoubtedly good and honourable intentions will end up working in the cold world of realpolitik. We therefore seek to put some additional checks and balances into the Bill, and amendment 15 is one of them.

We think that it would be proper and appropriate for the office to publish details of any contact that it has with Treasury Ministers and officials. In the wider political context, there has been a lot of debate about whether Members of Parliament should publish details of all their meetings with lobby and campaign groups.