I had a light-hearted exchange with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Treasury questions today:
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Treasury cannot even get its forecast for growth and the deficit correct for next year. Does the Chancellor realise that instructing his officials to produce a speculative report based on thoroughly tendentious figures about what might or might not happen in the event of Brexit simply belittles the reputation of the Treasury for economic competence and forecasting? Instead of relying on fear, why does he not give us his vision, compared with our vision of a free people in a free Parliament, controlling our own borders and leading the world towards free trade?
Mr Osborne: Our positive vision is that by being part of a reformed EU we can raise living standards, create more jobs and make sure that consumers have access to lower prices. We have set out in the Treasury analysis a range of possibilities for the alternatives that might happen if Britain leaves the European Union. All of them would make Britain permanently poorer, but if my hon. Friend and the leave campaign want to produce their own plan and their own analysis, then be my guest.
In response, I have sent him a somewhat cheeky letter asking him to lend me the Treasury to produce a 200-page report outlining the positive case for leaving the European Union.
I enclose the text of my question to you today and your response in which you suggested that I and the Leave campaign produce a report showing the positive case for leaving the European Union.
As you recall, at the beginning of the previous parliament you very kindly appointed me an Independent Advisor to the Treasury and asked me to produce a report on improving budget accountability, and helped by putting Treasury officials at my disposal. The Procedure Committee of the House has taken it up and will report on it further in the hope of enacting some of its proposals.
You know that as a mere backbencher I do not have the resources to produce 200 pages of long economic analysis. You have hundreds of Treasury officials capable of this and, as you have now suggested me producing a report putting the case for ‘Leave’ – as you put it, ‘be my guest!’ – would you be prepared to back up that suggestion by lending me a few Treasury officials to do so?