Truth in government

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer’s proposal to set up an independent Office for Budget Responsibility sounds like a good idea. But how sad that government ministers cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Who thinks that Sir Alan Budd and his team will come to the conclusion that Alastair Darling’s estimates of likely national economic growth rates over the next few years were too low?

The Greek government, it now appears, told lies in order to pretend that they had “qualified” for entry into the euro. But as the government of almost every other current member-state in the eurozone did the same thing, the only sensible rejoinder is: “Join the club!” After seeing what France did to the Stability and Growth Pact, it hardly seems the eurozone is yet ready for budget responsibility.

Perhaps other British government departments could follow the Treasury’s example. What about an independent Office of School Honesty, to get away from the pretence that standards in state schools have been rising? Or why not an independent Office of Military Straightforwardness, which could reveal genuine statistics about the quality and quantity of the armed forces’ equipment?

The possibilities are endless, though we must be realistic and not let our hopes rise too much. Obviously one couldn’t have accuracy in election results, given electoral fraud in this country that (as one magistrate pointed out recently) would disgrace a banana republic. And it would hardly be England if one could trust the statistics on crime or immigration.

Somehow I doubt if it will catch on.