Philip Hammond condemns Cabinet leaks
Philip Hammond has called for an end to Cabinet leaks after a series of reports about ministerial disputes over plans for leaving the European Union.
The Chancellor told the Treasury Committee it would be “much more helpful if ministers were able to conduct internal discussions privately and without leaks to newspapers”.
His comment follows reports of clashes within the Cabinet, with leading Brexiteers increasingly frustrated by Mr Hammond’s position on Brexit.
Mr Hammond has been the subject of negative briefing from Cabinet colleagues after he voiced concerns about the economic impact of a proposed new work permit system to prevent unskilled EU immigrants coming to the UK.
One Cabinet source told the Telegraph he is “overly influenced by his Treasury officials”, while another said “he is arguing like an accountant seeing the risk of everything rather than the opportunity.”
When later asked if officials briefing against any member of the government would warrant disciplinary procedures, Mr Hammond asserted “absolutely”, but then dismissed suggestions “anyone is briefing or leaking”.
On immigration Mr Hammond reinforced Prime Minister Theresa May’s assertion that freedom of movement is a “red line” for Brexit negotiations.
He also indicated that the Government was open to altering the methodology of net migration statistics to change the way students are recorded.
When committee chair Andrew Tyrie cited polling that 80% of the public do not recognise students in the same category as other migrants, the Chancellor responded that this was “interesting” and “noted” the figure.
While repeating that it would undermine the Prime Minister to “declare her hand” over negotiations, the Chancellor also said that regaining control of Britain’s borders would not affect financial or other professional services.
He told MPs that concerns about immigration did not centre on computer programmers, bankers or brain surgeons - rather on people competing for "entry-level jobs".
Mr Hammond also swept aside his predecessor George Osborne’s report that families could be £4,300 worse off following a Brexit, saying that some of the report’s predictions, which were derided by critics as ‘Project Fear’, "have already proved to be invalid".
Elsewhere, the Chancellor batted away suggestions that the Government could threaten the independence of the Bank of England, following Theresa May’s claim that there “must be a change” over policies such as the maintaining of low interest rates.
He insisted to committee members that monetary policy would continue to be decided independently.