Chote confirmed as head of the OBR

16 Sep 10
MPs today formally approved the appointment of Robert Chote as the new chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

By David Williams

16 September 2010

MPs today formally approved the appointment of Robert Chote as the new chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Chote will continue as the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies for the next two weeks before becoming the first permanent head of the new body, set up earlier this year by the coalition government.

Chancellor George Osborne nominated him last week to replace interim OBR chair Sir Alan Budd. The appointment was subject to this afternoon’s hearing by the Commons’ Treasury select committee.

Committee chair Andrew Tyrie said he was ‘delighted’, hailing Chote’s independence of mind. He added: ‘An OBR along the lines proposed in the committee’s report, to be released next week, and led by Robert, has every prospect of adding to the quality of public debate on fiscal policy.’

Chote told MPs that the OBR had made the transition from ‘caterpillar’ to ‘chrysalis’. He said he hoped it would become a ‘beautiful butterfly’ when it was put on a statutory footing, which is expected to happen next year.

However, he expressed no preference over whether the OBR should be funded and answerable to Parliament, along the lines of the National Audit Office, or the Treasury should dictate its work and resources.

‘I would do my best depending on what Parliament decides,’ he said, adding that he would tell the committee if the Treasury did not equip him with the necessary resources to do his job properly.

Chote assured the committee that the OBR would be independent of government under his direction, but acknowledged that his reports would inevitably be subject to debate.

‘There is huge uncertainty about [fiscal policy] – I guarantee that the answers will be honest, but I can’t guarantee they will be accurate,’ he said.

The OBR’s independence was called into question in June during a row over the release of unemployment projections to the government. Chote put the difficulties down to a combination of factors involving a newly established body very quickly being given a complex, high profile job during the first weeks of a new government.  

Chote added that the key to establishing the OBR’s reputation as being fully independent of government lay in being transparent with its data and calculations. He added that he would establish a schedule for releasing new data, which he would be ‘very wary’ of diverting from.

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