POLITICS
17/12/2011 04:47 GMT | Updated 15/02/2012 05:12 GMT

Bercow Punished Osborne For Leaking Autumn Statement By Making Chancellor Stay In Commons

George Osborne was forced to face a marathon grilling by MPs as "punishment' for media leaks of the contents of his Autumn Statement, Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

Mr Bercow allowed questioning of the Chancellor to run on for around three hours after he delivered his verdict on the state of the economy last month.

Many of the measures included in the rescue package set out by Mr Osborne had been widely trailed in the weekend's newspapers despite conventions that announcements should be made first to Parliament.

The Chancellor himself appeared on television two days before the statement to talk about one element of his plans.

Mr Bercow told BBC Parliament's The Record Review that his displeasure that the contents of the statement had been "brazenly leaked and chatted about" in advance in part drove his decision to prolong the session.

He pointed out that he had a track record of "presiding over much fuller exchanges" than previous speakers on major statements - such as Prime Minister David Cameron's appearances to talk about the summer riots and last week's European Union summit veto.

"In the case of the Chancellor, again, I felt that the issue ought to be fully aired but, yes, it is absolutely true that I was displeased that the contents of the statement had been brazenly leaked and chatted about in the public domain long before Parliament got to hear about them, and to question the Chancellor.

"Apart from anything else I thought, well, let's have a very full airing of the issues, not least so I can hear whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has anything to say in the Chamber about these matters that he hasn't already said in the media."

Asked if he meant it had been a punishment, he replied: "Yes."

Mr Osborne insists most of the reports were "pure speculation" and that none of the "very significant fiscal decisions we were taking" were released in advance to the media, and defending his television appearance, he told the Treasury select committee he had "tried to talk about some of the things that never get any attention and that I thought were important for business to hear".