Straw invites advisers into Budget committee

Jack Straw, government business manager and Gordon Brown’s leadership
campaign manager, hinted at the proposal, which would revolutionise scrutiny of
tax legislation.

Currently senior advisers can appear at the Treasury Select Committee, but
not before the standing committee looking at the detail of the finance bill.

The Treasury committee’s brief is, however, wide-ranging, and its reports rarely
cover tax in detail.

The Commons Leader said he did not think there was any objection in principle
to having evidence sessions on finance bill provisions.

He added that it would require strict timetabling. The proposal was pushed by
Lib Dem MPs. Lib Dem business manager David Heath said: ‘Surely it is most
important that those who are affected by the finance bill should be able to give
evidence to facilitate an informed debate. It is the one bill for which we
cannot have evidence sessions.’

Currently Treasury and HMRC officials brief ministers, who are scrutinised by
opposition MPs, often poorly briefed.

Government figures may not relish the prospect of well-briefed MPs going
through their work.

John Whiting of PricewaterhouseCoopers welcomed the move. ‘I have been the
only taxman [at the Treasury committee] for the last few years,’ he said.

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