Coalition, is it going to let the people down once again?
Are the coalition government going to let us down?
Well they already are, the people who voted for each party on their manifesto’s are watching them get cut to ribbons as only a few things can be agreed on.
The main question for me, while all these cuts are imminent is: What is going to happen about the excess monies contributed to the rest of the union via the defunct and unfair Barnett formula?
Will the WLQ be answered, and a fairer system found so we are all treated the same in the unwanted union all politicians seem to want to hold on to?
Coalition policies: a fresh start, but tough choices are kicked into the long grass
David Cameron defended the coalition Government’s decision to defer decisions on many issues where the Tories and Liberal Democrats have been unable to agree.
The Prime Minister insisted that the two parties agreed on most policies, even as he unveiled an agreement that put off many decisions by establishing independent reviews and commissions.
The coalition has not clearly defined policy on more than 20 issues, promising instead to take a position at some point.
Mr Cameron and his Lib Dem deputy, Nick Clegg, hailed the agreement as a historic act of “partnership”. The Prime Minister told reporters it was “churlish” to focus on the number of issues where the coalition had deferred decisions.
“It’s the shortage of commissions rather than the amount of them that Her Majesty’s press corps should be focusing on,” he said. “There are so many commitments that are solid, bankable, deliverable.”
There will be commissions on issues including whether to split banks’ retail and investment arms; whether to devolve more power to Scotland; and how to fund care for the elderly.
The Tories promised to scrap the Human Rights Act, a law that the Lib Dems have defended. The coalition text confirmed that the issue would be reviewed, as would Tory plans to assert the supremacy of Parliament over the European Union.
Other issues put under review included: local government finance; public sector pensions; reform of the House of Lords; rights to flexible working; control orders for terrorist suspects; and sentencing in English courts.
Before the publication of yesterday’s document, some Tories were unhappy at the initial compromises Mr Cameron had made to secure his coalition with Mr Clegg’s party.
The Prime Minister accepted that some members of his party would be unhappy about certain details of the deal, but he insisted that it would be welcomed overall because it would deliver “strong and stable government”.
“Of course, people will be disappointed that some policies have had to be discarded,” he said. “It’s not just about day-to-day events, it’s about a shared vision.”
The final coalition text, The Coalition: our programme for government, confirmed that another of the Tories’ tax-cutting promises had been sacrificed to secure the Lib Dem deal.
The manifesto promise to cut stamp duty for first-time buyers has been dropped for an independent review of thresholds.
Mr Cameron shifted his position on several other issues important to Right-wing Tories, including shelving promises to cut inheritance tax and give tax breaks to married couples, and proposing increases in capital gains tax.
What follows is a summary of the 31 policies covered by the 32-page document.
Britain’s big banks will be broken up as part of an overhaul of the sector to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. But no action is expected immediately as a review looking at separating retail and investment banking will take at least a year.
Action will be taken against “unacceptable” bonuses and banks face new lending targets. A banking levy will be introduced but there is no agreement on how it will be implemented.
Red tape will be cut, with a “one-in one-out” rule under which no new regulation is brought in without another regulation being axed.
Corporation tax will be reformed by simplifying reliefs and allowances, with the aim of making Britain the most competitive regime in the G20. The Government also aims to encourage new start-ups by reducing the number of forms needed to register a new business.
Human freedoms, which have been “abused and eroded”, will be restored “in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness”.
In particular, the Government will introduce a Freedom Bill, scrap the ID cards scheme, halt new biometric passports, review libel laws to protect freedom of speech, and regulate the widespread use of CCTV.
There will be a commission on a Bill of Rights to “build on” the European Convention on Human Rights and promote “understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties”.
Communities and Local Government
The coalition wants “a fundamental shift of power from Westminster to people”. Local councils, communities and neighbourhood schemes will be given more power to determine local issues by a “radical devolution of power”.
Local councils will be given powers to stop “garden grabbing” by developers and to bring empty homes back into use. Council tax in England will be frozen for at least a year, and possibly two years; the 12 largest English cities will be given directly-elected mayors; councils will be banned from using anti-terrorism laws to snoop on people.
A limit will be put on the interest rates that companies can charge customers on bank and store cards. Any card charging more than 25 per cent could be banned.
However, financial experts said the move, while welcome, would be meaningless if the Government did not tackle the wider problem of high debt charges elsewhere. The coalition document did not, for instance, mention either “door step lending” or “payday loans”, a type of borrowing in which borrowers can be charged an annual percentage rate of 2,000 per cent for short-term loans.
The Government has also promised to look again at the issue of “unfair” bank charges, although there was no suggestion that the millions already affected would be refunded.
Other measures included clearer food labelling, specifically a suggestion that supermarkets be forced to detail the origin of any meat in a ready meals.
Gas bills will be made clearer for customers by providing information on how to move to the cheapest tariff offered by their supplier, and how each household’s energy usage compares to similar households.
Crime and Policing
New measures to tackle alcohol-fuelled disorder form a key part of the crime and policing pledges.
There will be a ban on retailers selling alcohol at below cost price amid concerns that promotions have fuelled the binge-drinking culture.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has already promised to review 24-hour licensing, introduced in 2005, but there will also be a review of alcohol taxation and pricing.
The maximum fine for selling alcohol to under-age children will double to £20,000 and local councils will be given the power to charge more for late-night licences to help fund the necessary additional policing that is required.
Under drug enforcement, any new substance marketed as a legal recreational drug will be prohibited instantly to allow a full assessment by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
The public will be better protected in law if they confront criminals, and police authorities will be replaced with directly-elected individuals.
Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
The Government faces a battle with the BBC over spending, after confirming that it plans to give the National Audit Office full access to the corporation’s accounts. The BBC currently employs accountants as external auditors of its £3.6 billion annual budget, and has previously insisted on limiting the NAO’s role to conducting individual “value for money reviews” at the instruction of the BBC Trust.
Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, believes he can amend the remit of the NAO to give it jurisdiction over the BBC, although his view is challenged by the BBC Trust.
The Government also said yesterday that it may take licence fee money that was earmarked for subsidising the switch to digital TV, and use it to help pay for high-speed broadband to reach rural areas.
It also proposes to enable partnerships between local newspapers, radio and television stations. That will spell the end of Labour’s proposals for government-funded regional news programmes, which were intended to replace ITV’s loss-making regional news services.
The Government said it would “urgently” move forward with plans for a “genuine and lasting” legacy for the 2012 London Olympics.
An ambitious cut of “at least 25 per cent” in Ministry of Defence running costs is promised by the Government, amid controversy over the levels of bureaucracy in the department.
At the same time the coalition is promising to double the operational allowance for Armed Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan, and include Armed Forces pay in its plans for a fair pay review.
The document highlights a potential coalition split on the issue of renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent. The Tories support the £80 billion project, but the Lib Dems say it is too expensive. The document says the Lib Dems will be free to “make the case for alternatives” while the project is “scrutinised to ensure value for money”.
There will be dedicated military wards for injured Service personnel and there is a promise to “look at whether there is scope to refurbish Armed Forces’ accommodation from efficiencies within the Ministry of Defence.”
There is a promise of university scholarships for the children of those killed on active duty since 1990 and a new programme called Troops for Teachers to recruit ex-Service personnel into the teaching profession.
Promising immediate action to tackle the deficit in a “fair and responsible way”, the document says the “main burden” will be borne by reduced spending rather than tax rises.
People on low incomes will be protected from public sector pay squeezes. As well as the declared intention to save £6 billion this year, the Government will hold a Spending Review reporting in the autumn.
Higher earners will receive less from the Child Trust Fund and tax credits. The number and cost of quangos will be reduced.
Energy and Climate Change
The Government will go ahead with plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, despite the opposition of Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary.
The coalition agreement states that the last Government’s plans to build up to 10 new nuclear power stations will be brought forward in the next Parliament.
Liberal Democrats have agreed to abstain from voting on the proposals so that the building work can go ahead if it is backed by other parties.
The Government will look at increasing the current target to generate 15 per cent of power from renewables by 2020.
A “green deal” is expected to be brought forward that will include plans to install a smart meter in every home and provide loans for household insulation and solar panels.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Households will be fined for failing to recycle and forced to put food scraps in a separate bin. The Conservative manifesto promised to scrap Labour’s plans for bin taxes on families and instead introduce incentives to reward people who recycle, but Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said it was up to local town halls to decide the best way to get people to recycle.
This will mean more councils introduce separate bin collections and households could have up to five bins in the kitchen.
Schools and hospitals will be asked to serve British meat, fruit and vegetables unless it is more expensive.
Other measures include plans to plant one million trees during the life of the parliament and create “green corridors” for wildlife to move between nature reserves.
MPs will be given a free vote on whether to overturn the ban on hunting with dogs.
All workers will have a right to request to work flexible hours after David Cameron gave way to the Liberal Democrats.
At present, employees have a right to ask to work flexible hours if they have children under the age of 16, a disabled child under the age of 18, if they are the registered carer for a family member.
The Conservatives had promised to extend the right only to parents with children under the age of 18 but the Lib Dem proposals of the flexible working policy has been adopted in full, with Tory plans for a consultation process with businesses dropped.
Employers do not have to agree to a member of staff’s request to work flexible hours, but they must listen “seriously” to a proposition, and give reasonable grounds for turning it down.
A fair pay review in the public sector will ensure that top earners in an organisation are never paid more than 20 times more than the lowest.
The Government will encourage other countries to support homosexual rights and to recognise civil partnerships.
In an attempt to meld the two parties’ differing stances on Europe, the paper says Britain “should play a leading role in an enlarged European Union, but no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum”.
The Government promises to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the UK, which sets maximum working hours, and introduce a so-called “referendum lock” to ensure that any future proposed transfer of power must be subject to a referendum.
Britain will not join the euro in this Parliament, and the possibility of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, stressing the “ultimate authority” of Parliament, will be explored. Pressure will be put on the EU to scrap Strasbourg sessions and sit only in Brussels. Further enlargement of the EU will be supported.
Families and Children
Secret reports into child deaths, such as the killing of Baby P, will be published under the coalition agreement.
The Government said serious case reviews – carried out after any suspicious death – would be released with identifying details removed.
It reverses Labour’s decision to withhold reports amid claims social workers may be discouraged from speaking frankly to future inquiries.
The coalition deal also outlines plans to review the vetting and barring scheme, which forces anyone working with children or vulnerable adults to undergo a criminal records check.
It also pledged to crack down on “irresponsible” advertising aimed at young people, as well as taking action to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.
In a further move, the Government said it would reform Labour’s Sure Start child care programme, increasing its focus on the neediest families.
A new “special relationship” with India and closer engagement with China will be near the top of the in-tray of the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Reform of the UN Security Council will be promoted, including permanent seats for Japan, India, Germany, Brazil, and representation for the African nations.
The Foreign Office will also continue with existing policies to support the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere, push for a “sovereign and viable” Palestinian state, and support efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The use of torture will never be condoned.
The coalition promises to “throw open the doors of public bodies” so they can be better held to account. Public bodies will be required to publish online the job titles of every employee and the salaries and expenses of senior officials. All government contracts worth more than £25,000 will also have to be disclosed in full online, and councils will have to publish all items of spending greater than £500.
Any public servant paid more than the Prime Minister will have to have their salary signed off by the Treasury. On the issue of party funding, major donations will be limited, to remove “big money” from politics.
An annual cap will be placed on migrant workers as part of a drive to cut net immigration.
Limits will be placed on all economic migrants from outside the EU who want to live and work in the UK, although the Government has so far refused to put any figure on it.
As predicted, the Lib Dem policies of an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in the country for 10 years and a regional-based points system to send migrants where they are most needed have been dropped.
The document does not mention Mr Cameron’s promise to bring net migration – the difference between those arriving in the UK and those leaving – down from “hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands”. But as he unveiled the joint agreement yesterday the Prime Minister confirmed that remains the Government’s intention.
Workers from any future new members of the EU will be subject to transitional controls, meaning they will not have full access to the labour market in the way Labour gave the new members in 2004.
The UK has a “moral responsibility” to help the world’s poorest nations, and will honour all existing aid commitments.
A promise to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas aid from 2013 will be enshrined in law, with priority given to schemes for clean water, sanitation, health care and education. The coalition also promises to find ways in which the public can have a greater say in how aid money is spent.
Jobs and Welfare
People who turn down “reasonable offers of work or training” will face sanctions, including a reduction in benefits, though there are no details of exactly how severely payments would be cut.
Everyone who claims incapacity benefit will be assessed to determine their “readiness to work” and anyone who is deemed to be fit to work will be moved on to the Jobseekers’ Allowance, meaning they will have to accept work or face their benefits being cut.
Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants will be put on a welfare to work programme immediately, rather than after 12 months as is currently the case, and local work clubs will be developed where unemployed people can exchange skills and make contacts.
Men accused of rape are to be granted the same anonymity rights as their alleged victims under a major change in the law.
The coalition agreement pledges to extend the ban on identifying victims in rape cases to defendants as well.
It would mean only those convicted of rape would ever be named. Rape support groups said it was an “insult” that would discourage victims from reporting attacks, but those who have been falsely accused in the past welcomed the decision as long overdue.
There will also be a “full review of sentencing policy” within the criminal justice system.
That could include examining proposals by the Lib Dems to scrap jail sentences of six months or less as well as allowing magistrates to sentence people for up to 12 months rather than six. A “rehabilitation revolution” will see independent groups involved in the rehabilitation of offenders on a “pay by results” system based on whether they help cut reoffending.
There are also plans for a fundamental review of Legal Aid and moves to place drug offenders and mentally ill offenders in secure accommodation, alternative to prison, where they can receive specific treatment.
An “urgent review” of control orders, under which foreign terrorism suspects are electronically tagged, will form part of the new coalition programme.
It puts the government on a potential collision course with the security services, which have argued that control orders are essential where intelligence material cannot be used in open court.
There will also be a new attempt to allow intercepted emails and telephone calls to be used as evidence in court.
The coalition is promising a “wide review of counter-terrorist legislation, measures and programmes” leaving open the possibility of an unwinding of much of the legislation introduced since September 11.
A third National Security Strategy will be published, along with a Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Foreign doctors and nurses would be forced to pass tough language tests before they can work in the NHS.
All health care staff would also have to show that they have the skills to do their jobs. The move would end the scandal of overseas doctors working in British hospitals without having to prove their grasp of English.
The programme makes no mention of a key Tory manifesto pledge to scrap health service targets, but it does say that the Government will seek to measure “health results that really matter”.
Other plans include scrapping “centrally dictated” health service closures.
The number of health quangos will be also be cut with the cost of NHS administration reduced by a third.
The coalition also plans to allow patients to register with any GP, to create a fund to provide any cancer drug a doctor recommends, to set up an independent board to oversee the day-to-day running of the NHS and increase access to health service dentists.
Other plans include renegotiating the controversial GP contract, which allowed family doctors to opt out of providing out-of-hours care, and a pledge to spend more on dementia research.
Pensions and older people
The cost of gold-plated public sector pensions will be reviewed while the basic state pension will be linked back to earnings from next April.
The default retirement age will be phased out and the date when the state pension age rises to 66 will be set – although the Government has promised it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.
Older people will continue to benefit from the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and free eye tests and prescriptions.
Voters living in safe Parliamentary constituencies are to be given the opportunity to select who should stand as their MP under proposals to open up the House of Commons to a wider range of people.
American-style primaries will be held to allow voters to select Parliamentary candidates in the areas which are habitually won by one political party.
Currently, committees set up by political parties effectively select candidates along with local activists.
The proposal is designed to put pressure on so-called “bed blockers” – older MPs who represent safe seats but often pay little attention to their constituents. It will also help prevent people who work for parties in Westminster from being parachuted into safe constituencies.
The agreement states that 200 primaries will be funded during this Parliament.
New legislation will also be introduced this year allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing.
A committee will also be established to create plans to make the House of Lords an elected chamber with members voted in under proportional representation.
The Commons will also vote on whether to hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote. The Tories and Lib Dems will vote in favour of a referendum.
The document contains no detailed promises on improving public health, other than a general ambition to “encourage behaviour change to help people live healthier lives”.
Local communities will be given greater control over public health budgets. GPs will be given “greater incentives” to tackle public health problems and people living in the poorest areas will be given “improved access to preventive health care”.
More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England.
England already has 7,000 faith schools, the vast majority of which are Anglican and Roman Catholic.
Any expansion would be likely to lead to a growth in Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh schools. In a move seen as a concession to the Lib Dems, the coalition’s new policy blueprint said these new schools would be expected to run “inclusive” admissions policies.
A separate document – outlining the principles of the coalition’s legislative programme – confirmed plans to allow new providers to open new schools funded by the taxpayer.
In a controversial move, any parents’ group, company, charity or teachers’ organisation will be able to run their own “free school “to meet local demand.
The document also outlines plans to provide a “pupil premium” – extra money for schools educating children from the poorest backgrounds – funded by cuts from outside the schools’ budget. Sats tests for primary school pupils will be reviewed, schools will be allowed to pay higher salaries to good teachers.
Putting some flesh on the bones of Mr Cameron’s “Big Society” plans, the Government promises to encourage “social responsibility, volunteering and philanthropy”.
A National Citizen Service for 16-year-olds will be introduced so they can volunteer for community projects, mix with people from different backgrounds and develop new skills.
Funds from dormant public sector bank accounts will be used to found a “Big Society Bank” which will fund community groups.
Social Care and Disability
The coalition promises to give more control to individuals and their carers and “ease the cost burden” which they face.
The key pledge is the establishment of a commission on long-term care to consider proposals including a voluntary insurance scheme to protect the assets of people who go into residential care. The personal budgets scheme, which gives people and their carers more control and purchasing power, will be extended.
The Lib Dems’ policy of increasing the personal allowance to £10,000 is enshrined in the document, with a pledge to increase the tax threshold in stages, starting in 2011. It will be funded in part by increases in capital gains tax.
Air passengers could face a rise in the cost of flying, as taxes will be introduced on a per-plane basis, rather than per-passenger.
This extra money will also help fund the increased personal allowance.
Lib Dem MPs will be allowed to abstain from votes on tax benefits for married couples, and the taxation of non-doms will be reviewed. Tory plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold will no longer be a priority.
The new Government has pledged to stop funding fixed speed cameras and will switch to alternative methods of making roads safer.
In addition, the coalition will authorise the introduction of a “drugalyser” which would enable the swift screening at police stations of motorists suspected of driving under the influence of illegal narcotics.
Lorries face road pricing and there will be a number of green initiatives including setting up a national network of charging points for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Universities and Further Education
The coalition has pledged to abolish a series of quangos running education for teenagers and adults in England.
Extra money will be used to create more apprenticeships, internships and college places.
The Government also said it would await the outcome of an independent review into tuition fees led by Lord Browne, the former head of BP.
The Tories have previously refused to rule out a tuition fee rise, although the Lib Dems want fees abolished altogether.
According to the coalition document, the Lib Dems will be allowed to abstain from any future Commons vote on the issue.
Posted on May 24, 2010, in British Politics, cameron, coalition, conservative, English, liberal democrats, politics, union and tagged cameron, Coalition, English, government, liberal democrats, The English Question. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.