British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was challenged about how London’s Evening Standard newspaper came to reveal details of his budget before he announced it.
Around 15 minutes before Osborne began speaking in Parliament, the Standard’s Twitter feed posted an image of its front page, showing details of lower growth figures and higher borrowing, as well as cuts in duty on alcohol, a freeze in fuel duty, a rise in the income-tax threshold and a corporation-tax cut. Labour treasury spokesman Ed Balls waved a printout of the page at Osborne as he began delivering his budget statement.
“The whole budget, including the market sensitive fiscal forecasts, were in the Standard before he rose to his feet,” Labour leader Ed Miliband said. “I hope he will investigate.”
While elements of U.K. budget statements are often reported in advance, comprehensive leaks are rare. In 1947, a previous chancellor, Hugh Dalton, resigned after leaking details of his budget to a reporter, who got them into print before Dalton began speaking.
“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,” the newspaper’s editor, Sarah Sands, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies.”
In 1996, Ken Clarke’s entire budget was leaked to the Daily Mirror, which returned the documents to the Treasury without printing the contents.