Chancellor urged to reconsider refusal to face questions on Spending Review

The Chancellor has been urged to think again on his refusal to be grilled by MPs on his Spending Review.

Mel Stride, chairman of the Treasury Committee, has written to Rishi Sunak requesting again that he appear before the panel to answer questions about the one-year review, which he revealed on Wednesday.

Mr Sunak announced what amounted to a pay freeze for an estimated 1.3 million public sector workers and cut overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI) in 2021, slicing about £5 billion from the budget.

The overseas aid cut has been widely criticised by the sector and MPs, including those on the Government backbenches.

Former international development secretary Justine Greening, who stepped down from the Commons last year, is the latest Tory to wade in, labelling it a "weak decision" in an interview with BBC Newscast.

Mr Sunak also told MPs on Wednesday the economy is not scheduled to recover to pre-coronavirus crisis levels until the end of 2022.

According to the Commons Treasury Committee, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and a host of economists have agreed to give evidence about the Spending Review and current fiscal situation, but the Chancellor has so far declined.

In his letter, ex-Treasury minister Mr Stride told the Cabinet minister, who has been in the job since February, that his predecessors had shown a willingness to give evidence, especially during times of economic upheaval.

Mel Stride
Mel Stride

He said: "The committee and I do not agree that your next appearance would be most appropriate after the Budget.

"We appreciate that you have appeared in front of us twice this year, but this is an especially critical time when scrutiny of Government policy is particularly vital.

"Previous chancellors have often appeared before the Treasury Committee three times a year and in 2008 during the financial crisis the then chancellor gave evidence to our committee on five occasions."

Mr Stride, in a separate statement, said the Spending Review was a "major fiscal event with profound implications" for millions of people.

"At a critical juncture for our economy, it's now more vital than ever that the Government engages with select committees," the senior Tory MP said.

"The committee hopes that the Chancellor will now agree to provide evidence to us before the end of the year."