The Office for Budget Responsibility should be allowed to audit election manifestos of the main parties – my article on Politics Home

Over the last four years the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has become an established part of the framework of British economic policy with broad-based and cross-party support.

I believe now is the right time to enhance the role of the OBR to help restore trust in politics. So in an Opposition day debate in the House of Commons today I will argue that the OBR should be allowed to independently audit every spending and tax measure in the manifestos of the main political parties.

I want that tough, rigorous and independent scrutiny for Labour’s election manifesto and I believe the Tories and Lib Dems should be willing to subject their manifestos to such an audit too.

Because in tough times it’s even more important that the policies of all the parties are properly costed and funded. People rightly want to know that the sums add up.

But to give the OBR the legal power to do this before the next election we need cross-party support for my proposal.

The policy has already won the support of some Conservative and Lib Dem MPs. The Conservative Chair of the Treasury select committee Andrew Tyrie has been a long-standing advocate of this reform and says the idea could “enhance the quality of public debate on tax and spend”.

The Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said it is “well worth further consideration”. And the Chairman of the OBR himself Robert Chote believes “independent scrutiny of pre-election policy proposals could contribute to better policy making, to a more informed public debate”

Back in 2010 George Osborne suggested he was interested in the idea and said that it was “a legitimate matter for the House to debate and decide”. Sadly, now that the election is approaching, he seems to be resisting it.

Robert Chote has said cross-party agreement would be needed by the early summer to do this for next year’s manifestos. He has told me that an in principle agreement would be needed by this end of this month, so it could still happen if MPs do the right thing today.

George Osborne should change his mind, stop playing politics and stop blocking this important reform. If he fails to do so people will rightly ask – what is he so scared of?

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Posted June 25th, 2014 by Ed

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