The Independent

Osborne accused of conflict of interest over Budget talks


Labour has warned of a possible conflict of interest following reports that George Osborne has been advising the chancellor on his Budget while working for a City investment bank. Mr Osborne, who served as chancellor between 2010 and 2016, held a meeting with Jeremy Hunt ahead of tomorrow’s key autumn statement.

Labour said Mr Osborne should not be given access to “marketsens­itive” informatio­n and urged the Treasury to disclose exactly what discussion­s he had been privy to. Approached by The Independen­t, a Treasury spokespers­on denied that Mr Osborne was providing economic advice and said the former Tory MP did not have access to sensitive informatio­n.

Mr Osborne has been employed by the investment bank Robey Warshaw since February. Treasury officials said the contact predated the Budget and did not amount to “ongoing engagement”. But shadow city minister Tulip Siddiq said she was “deeply concerned” that Mr Osborne had spoken to the chancellor and said it could pose a “potential conflict of interest”.

“Sensitive informatio­n on Treasury policy, if inappropri­ately handled, could result in insider trading, disorder in UK markets and put the economic security of the British public at risk,” she said.

Tomorrow’s statement will set out the economic course Britain will take under Rishi Sunak, and is likely to contain significan­t tax rises and cuts to public spending. Such informatio­n is highly sought after by City investors looking to get ahead of the financial markets.

“The chancellor can’t just sneak his old friend George Osborne into the Treasury through the backdoor without any appropriat­e public scrutiny of his business dealings outside of parliament,” said Ms Siddiq. “Any potential conflict of interest could have serious implicatio­ns for the UK’s reputation as safe and fair place to invest.

“If this failing Conservati­ve government has learnt any lessons at all from the market chaos and damage caused to the UK’s global standing in recent weeks, they must respond to the questions set out in my letter as a matter of urgency. If we were leading the autumn statement this week, Labour would be making fairer choices and putting forward our proper plan for growth.”

A Treasury spokespers­on said: “The individual in question does not provide economic advice to the Treasury and has no access

to market-sensitive informatio­n. All due care is taken to ensure members of the Economic Advisory Council – who attend in an independen­t capacity – are not privy to any material non-public informatio­n, or market sensitive informatio­n.”

MPs last month demanded an inquiry into possible insider trading resulting from Kwasi Kwarteng’s September miniBudget after it emerged the then chancellor had met with various financiers before setting out his plan for the economy. Prior to his resignatio­n, there were reports Mr Kwarteng attended a champagne reception with hedge fund managers who were said to have “egged on” his plan to make £45bn of unfunded tax cuts – a plan that later sent financial markets haywire.

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 ?? (EPA) ?? The former chancellor is employed by the investment bank Robey War shaw
(EPA) The former chancellor is employed by the investment bank Robey War shaw

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