Has Laws landed Osborne in it

David Laws was careful with his words on Newsnight about the decisions of previous governments. His claims appear to undermine his boss' less guarded turns of phrase.

On Newsnight yesterday, new Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws was careful with his words about the decisions of previous governments. His claims appear to undermine his boss’ less guarded description yesterday that, “frankly what previous Chancellors have done is move [the fiscal and growth forecasts] around a bit to try and fit their Budget measures” or just two days before the general election that, “The [Budget] Red Book is largely a work of fiction.”

Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about the decisions of the previous government and whether there was evidence that Ministers over-ruled civil servants, David Laws was careful with his words:

“LAWS: What we don’t know yet and we probably never will unless the information is published in 30 years time is whether the Chancellor of the Excheuqer or even the Prime Minister, perhaps, over-ruled officials in the Deparment. And I’m not making that claim because I haven’t got evidence for it.”

Watch it:

As Chris Giles pointed out yesterday on the FT’s Money Supply blog:

“The ability of a chancellor to massage the figures is limited. To hear George Osborne, it sounds as if Labour chancellors had complete freedom to give absurd economic forecasts. There must have been completely useless opposition politicians, media and independent experts unable to hold these rogues in check. As Mr Osborne knows, he and the rest of us were significant constraints on Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. When their forecasts appeared to be a work of fiction, everyone said so and their reputation was damaged. This reputational constraint is stronger now with the OBR, but it is simply false to suggest it did not exist in the past.”

Paul Waugh gathered more details yesterday on the precise process. But as a veteran of numerous Budgets tells me:

“you get the best advice you can but in the end someone has to decide and the buck stops with the elected person since the implications of the decisions are very important. But the decisions are very constrained indeed and I never saw anyone going far away from the advice offered. When [New head of the OBR, Sir Alan] Budd comes out with his growth year forecasts for growth why on earth do we think they will be better than any one else’s guess?”

What other information has led Chancellor Osborne to conclude that the previous Government was effectively fiddling the figures? And why has he not shared this with Chief Secretary Laws?

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18 Responses to “Has Laws landed Osborne in it”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  2. Roland M-Horne

    Laws and Osbourne not singing from the same hymn sheet! http://bit.ly/dpTwQE #ConDem

  3. Stop the Right

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  4. Claire Spencer

    I'm sure we'll see plenty more of this… RT @leftfootfwd: Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  5. beltain

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  6. James Evershed

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  7. Paul Burgin

    RT @HouseofTwits RT @leftfootfwd Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  8. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  9. Chris Paul

    RT @Paul_Burgin: RT @HouseofTwits RT @leftfootfwd Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  10. ciphergoth

    Osbourne alleges Labour were fiddling the figures – but on what evidence? Laws says he has none. @leftfootfwd http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  11. Alison Charlton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has Laws landed Osborne in it? http://bit.ly/dpTwQE

  12. Stephen

    Treasury forecasts of growth up till the last few years have often been better than market forecasts. Then they greatly overestimated tax income for a few years and then swung the other way last year by overestimating the deficit by 16B or so.
    Given the uncertainty its difficult to say that the Treasury have been any worse than other forecasters.

  13. blogs of the world

    David Laws was careful with his words on Newsnight about the decisions of previous governm… http://reduce.li/sf26uy #laws

  14. [email protected]

    Why is this false idea not being challenged in the mianstream left wing media Guardian, Independent et al. The idea that governments can conceal or conjure up figures etc to suit their agenda is grossly misleading. I am always amazed at how the so-called left wing press are always following media headlines rather than making them. There is just not enough thinking outside the box journalism. An example of this is the forecasts produced by the IFS aka Robert Choats, where the interpratation of economic data is accepted as fact. It is equally possible to find alternative economic data which contradicts much of the economic thinking which uderpins much of IFS’s research and yet we do not see much of a critique in the left leaning journalism.

  15. Will Straw

    Thanks for the comments.

    SadButMadLad – just to be clear there’s a difference between the “pet projects” story in these links and the front page of the Guardian (covered in today’s Politics Summary) and Osborne’s claims that the projections in the Budget were a “work of fiction”.

    All the best,

    Will

  16. Tyler

    Except that everyone knew, and has known for years that the budget was essentially a work of fiction…every year from 2001 spending would come out higher than expected and tax revenues lower, causing the budget deficit to be higher than expected.

    Then, when everything started going wrong, the government simply stopped doing spending reviews, so no-one really knows what, where and how much is being spent.

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