Written evidence submitted by Rt Hon George
Osborne MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer
I am grateful for your letter of 1 December,
which I received here in the Treasury on 7 December, regarding
the Committee's inquiry into the constitutional and practical
issues relating to government formation and transition following
this year's General Election.
I have sought to answer the questions you raise
below, though you will of course appreciate that, by longstanding
convention, I have not had nor sort access to official papers
relating to previous administrations. I have therefore not seen
any official records of the specific events you refer to.
With regard to your questions:
1. What process of consultation took place
between the political parties on this matter?
The then Chancellorthe Rt Hon Alistair
Darling MPcalled me on Sunday 9 May ahead of the meeting
of European Finance Ministers. The purpose of the call was to
brief me on latest market developments and the proposals the UK
expected to be brought forward at the Finance Ministers' meeting.
Mr Darling had also sanctioned the Permanent Secretary to the
Treasury to brief me directly earlier that morning. This duly
2. Precisely what objection did you raise?
While I made clear my appreciation that Mr Darling
remained the Chancellor and was therefore privy to the details
and specifics of what were ongoing and fast-moving negotiations,
I noted that we were, at that point, in a period of election purdah.
In light of that, I cautioned against committing the UK to proposals
that have a lasting effect on the UK's public finances.
3. Did you come to any agreement with your
predecessor as to the strategy to be employed for the meeting
of European Finance Ministers on 9 May?
The purpose of the phone call was not to reach
agreement, but for Mr Darling to consult me on the course of action
he proposed. Given he was still Chancellor of the Exchequer at
that point, representing the UK in a dynamic negotiating environment,
it was for him to reach decisions. He did this, aware of my views.
16 December 2010