The Coalition's much-vaunted Comprehensive Spending Review is entering its critical stage, with some government departments contemplating budget cuts on a scale never seen before in peace time. In this special edition of Beyond Westminster, Andrew Rawnsley probes the role of the secretive body where the critical decisions are being taken: the Star Chamber. He asks what it is, how it works, who sits on it - and which ministers will succeed and which fail in the ferocious battle for money.
Andrew Rawnsley talks to key insiders and leading figures across the political spectrum who have been involved in the most difficult and most celebrated Star Chamber spending battles. He finds out which strategies work for ministers trying to get money for favoured projects. And he discovers what tactics the Treasury uses to make sure departments stick to agreed plans.
He reveals the story of why Star Chamber has become so powerful and why its decisions matter so much - not just in the cockpit of politics but to all of us and not just now but for years to come.
Among those appearing in the programme are the former Chancellors of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling and Nigel Lawson; Michael Heseltine, Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s and leading spending minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major; the former Conservative Cabinet ministers, Gillian Shephard, Norman Fowler and Virginia Bottomley; and two top ex-Treasury officials intimately involved with the secret workings of Star Chamber, Rachel Lomax and Andrew Turnbull.
Producer: Simon Coates
Presenter: Andrew Rawnsley
Editor: Sue Ellis.