MPs have called for an investigation into how market-sensitive information was leaked ahead of the last Budget.
Members of the influential Treasury Select Committee said they were “deeply concerned” about how details of proposed increases to the national living wage was revealed before the Chancellor told Parliament.
Treasury senior official Sir Tom Scholar said it was not the intention for the policy to be pre-briefed but revealed alongside the Budget. ITV News reported the details after obtaining a leak.
“There was clearly scope for confusion in the market as to whether the report was accurate,” Sir Tom said.
“Recognising this, the Treasury moved as quickly as possible to regularise the situation, by bringing forward the formal on-the-record announcement.”
Sir Tom insisted that the Treasury did not believe the wage hike announcement for workers aged over 25 constituted market-sensitive information because it was an “economy-wide measure”.
But MPs said they believed it could be regarded so because it affected companies with high numbers of low-paid workers relative to other businesses.
“We are deeply concerned the rate of the national living wage was disclosed in an unauthorised fashion prior to the Budget, and we agree with the Treasury this could have caused confusion in the market as to whether the information was accurate,” their report – due to be published today – will say.
“The rate at which the national living wage is set will clearly affect some companies and sectors which have large numbers of staff at the minimum wage more than it affects others who do not. Some will be listed on the stock exchange.
“We therefore believe the policy may be considered to be inside information as defined by the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority].”
The Treasury said details of the announcement were “shared across a number of departments increasing the risk of unauthorised disclosure”.