Peter Hoskin

Osborne to strengthen Parliament’s role in OBR appointments?

Osborne to strengthen Parliament's role in OBR appointments?
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It may not be the sexiest story in today's newspapers, but the ongoing Office for Budget Responsibility row is certainly among the most important.  After all, a great deal rests on how it is resolved.  Not only could we end up without a body capable of restoring trust in fiscal forecasts, but the government's promising transparency agenda could be sunk before it has even had chance to sail.  Much will depend on how far George Osborne goes to reinvigorate the OBR's independent credentials.

In which case, it's worth highlighting the Sunday Telegraph's summary of Sir Alan Budd's proposals to do just that.  The departing OBR chief is expected to outline a trio of measures to strengthen the body's independence before the Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday, but by far the most most intriguing is "a strengthened role for Parliament on the appointment of the members of the Budgetary Responsibility Committee," including a suggestion that "the Treasury Select Committee holds 'confirmation hearings' on OBR appointments made by the government."  In other words: involve Parliament more.

Osborne seemed to be resisting this kind of thinking towards the end of last week, but now the paper reports that it is "likely" he will accept Budd's recommendations.  Of course, we'll have to wait for details before making a judgment.  But this could be a step forward for the government, both in terms of defusing the story and ensuring the OBR's continued existence.