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LibDems turned down King briefing in coalition talks

Liberal Democrat MPs negotiating the coalition deal twice refused to be briefed by the governor of the Bank of England for fear of feeling pressurised into policy decisions, according to LibDem MP David Laws.

Writing in his book, 22 Days In May, published by Biteback Publishing, Yeovil MP Laws, who led the LibDems on economic matters during the negotiations says twice on May 9 the LibDems were offered briefings.

The first offer was from Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, who asked both the LibDems and the Conservatives if they wanted to be briefed by BoE governor Mervyn King. Both declined, saying it was too early in the negotiation process.

Laws says later in the day, the Conservatives suggested the LibDem negotiators should attend a briefing with the BoE but he says it was more appropriate that the party’s then Treasury spokesman Vince Cable was involved in any talks with the bank.

Laws writes: “William Hague said we might want…in advance of our economic discussions, to hear from the governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King and perhaps even the permanent secretary to the Treasury, Nick Macpherson. But we declined – we did not want to feel bounced on economic policy by what anyone else might say and we felt we understood the issues. In addition, our view was that any such discussion really needed to involve Vince Cable.”

At the time the offers were made, the monetary policy committee met to agree its inflation report which contained a paragraph calling for a more “demanding path of fiscal consolidation” than suggested by Labour.

The comment was later criticised in a Treasury select committee hearing by MPC external member Adam Posen as being able to be seen as “excessively political”.

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