Bercow takes on Treasury over Evening Standard leak

By
Bercow: Writing to the chancellor over Standard leak
Bercow: Writing to the chancellor over Standard leak

John Bercow said he would write to George Osborne to demand answers about how details of yesterday's Budget were published on Twitter by the Evening Standard before it had been delivered to parliament.

The newspaper's front page was mistakenly tweeted before Osborne got to his feet yesterday, leading shadow chancellor Ed Balls to wave a photocopy of the front page at the chancellor until he was ordered to desist by deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle.

"This pre-briefing of Budget proposals is a matter of concern to me and, I judge, to the House as well," Bercow told the Commons today.

"I am therefore writing to the chancellor of the exchequer to ask him to set out what happened on this occasion and whether this is a practice of the Treasury. I will revert to the House as necessary."

The Speaker mentioned he had received a formal apology from the newspaper.

"I have received formal apologies from the editor and from the political editor of the Evening Standard," he said.

"They have also apologised separately to the chairman of ways and means. I shall place those communications in the library.

"Their error was extremely regrettable but I am minded not to take that matter further. However, the error would not have occurred had the newspaper not been in possession of prior detailed information about the Budget."

The newspaper's staff issued categorical apologies after the tweet, which could not come at a worse time given the focus on the press lobby in the wake of the royal charter on press regulation and Labour MP Jim Sheridan labelling parliamentary correspondents "parasites".

Joe Murphy, the paper's political editor, tweeted: "We are so sorry to the House of Commons, to the Speaker and to the chancellor for what happened."

Editor Sarah Sands said: "An investigation is immediately under way into how this front page was made public, and the individual who tweeted the page has been suspended while this takes place.

"We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies."

In reality, the Evening Standard is always given a detailed pre-briefing of the Budget because they go to the printers in time for publication in the afternoon.

That is unlikely to change under any British government, but Labour's Angela Eagle still criticised the briefing and in particular the inclusion of market sensitive information.

Comments

Load in comments