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Thu, 2 April 2020

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Blow for Sajid Javid as Treasury blocked from publishing cost of Labour policies

Blow for Sajid Javid as Treasury blocked from publishing cost of Labour policies
3 min read

Sajid Javid has been left red-faced after the Government's top civil servant intervened to stop the Treasury publishing its assessment of Labour's policies.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill stepped in after John McDonnell mounted a furious protest at the move.

The Shadow Chancellor contacted Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, to complain about the "abuse of power" by Whitehall officials.

Mr Javid told a meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday morning that his department had calculated the cost of nine Labour policies and planned to publish the findings before the pre-election "purdah" period kicks in at midnight.

But Sir Mark ruled at 5pm that it would be inappropriate for the civil service to produce the document and said he would not allow it.

A Treasury source told PoliticsHome: "This is a very well established process and has been going on since Gordon Brown's time.

"It's a very ordinary thing for the Treasury to look at opposition policies and work out how much they would cost to implement.

"The work has been going on for a good couple of weeks and Sedwill was aware of it - it's not a surprise that it's come up.

"Last week we were talking about how it would be handled and when we were putting it out. But Tom Scholar spoke to John McDonnell on Tuesday morning and he went bananas, saying it was a terrible waste of resources.

"There was then a call between Tom Scholar and Mark Sedwill and Sedwill said no."

The source added: "The Chancellor is pretty cross about the whole situation. He was talking about it at Cabinet this morning, it was welcomed by his colleagues and now it's not happening."

Mr McDonnell had earlier told The Independent: "It's an abuse of power.

 "The Treasury civil servant phoned me up this morning to confirm that that was happening today. What he said is they've looked at a range of our policy statements.

"I said first of all, one you do not know what is in the manifesto so that is pure speculation. Secondly, this being done within hours of the formal campaign being undertaken. Thirdly, I think it's an abuse of power.

"I suggested he goes back to the Cabinet Office and advises them it is completely contrary to everything we expect from the civil service in this country. I'm happy for anyone to examine our policies, but to do this hours before a general election campaign is I think an abuse of power. Unacceptable."

A senior Labour source said: "This is an embarrasing slap in the face for Tory ministers, who have been caught red handed attempting to blatantly use the civil service for party political purposes in an unprecedented way."

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