The people have spoken – and party leaders Nick Clegg and David Cameron, henceforth to be known as Dick Clameron, have filled in the details.
A document released this afternoon reveals what Lib Dems and Tories have been talking about for the last four days, and what our new coalition overlords have in store for us over the next four years.
On the economy, it’s the Tories who got their way on key points such as the speed of deficit reduction (“modest cuts” of £6bn will start this year) and the scrapping of Labour’s “jobs tax” (aka the proposed hike in NI for next year). There will be reductions to the Child Trust Fund and tax credits for high earners. The details will follow in an emergency budget to be held within the next 50 days, or no later than 1 July.
There will be spending reviews for NHS, Schools and Defence. The former will be protected, however, with real terms spending set to increase year on year: and Trident is also safe – although Lib Dems are allowed to vote against it. [Edited to add: The replacement of Trident like-for-like with submarine-based ICBMs is not certain. The Coalition pact specifies that the UK will retain nukes of some sort, but leaves the door open for cheaper delivery options following a review of costs.]
The Lib Dems got their way on tax allowances, with a substantial hike in personal allowances to be announced in the budget – and a longer-term aim to move that allowance upward, so no one pays tax on the first £10,000 of earnings. Inheritance Tax cuts are shelved for the time being.
There is to be a banking levy, as well as a clampdown on city bonuses. We won’t be joining the single currency any time soon. Also, no further transfer of power to Brussels without a referendum: support for the EU, but a robust defence of British national interests.
As expected, there will be an annual limit to the number of non-EU economic migrants – but no more detention of children for immigration purposes.
Education is mostly wait and see, although the general approach seems to be freedom to schools to act, within a broad framework of “accountability”. New providers will be encouraged to set up schooling.
On civil liberties, there is much to please (most) Reg readers, including
A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill
- The scrapping of the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database
- Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission
- The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act
- Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database
- A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech
- Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation
- Further regulation of CCTV
- An end to storing internet and email records without good reason
- A mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences
There is also a series of environmentally friendly measures, with a hi-tech feel to them. These include:
The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters
- The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs
- The creation of a green investment bank
- Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs
- The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard
- The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits
- A mandatory national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles
- Continued public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power plants and a specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months
Opt-outs, however, for the Lib Dems as they will be allowed to speak against a new nuclear power planning statement – but not vote against it.
Last but by no means least, good news for Reg readers, with “generous [tax] exemptions for entrepreneurial business activities” and measures to ensure “the flow of credit to viable SMEs”.
When it comes to the personalities behind the politics, this new government is, at first sight, a lot less reactionary than it might have been. The inclusion of the Lib Dems will see to that. However, the top appointments to the Cabinet table are also relatively benign.
Ken Clarke at Justice brings back one of the soggier Tory voices from the Thatcher past, while Theresa May, described by the Beeb as a “moderniser with an exotic taste in shoes” is a particularly clever choice. By including her – and not appointing the slightly dull Chris Grayling to the Home Office – Cameron satisfies the case for bringing women forward: by giving her as well the portfolio for Women and Equalities, he makes her a true heavy-hitter in Cabinet.
William Hague may be slightly miffed at not inheriting the post of Deputy PM – which now goes to leader of the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg: but he is witty, popular and pragmatic, and likely to prove an innovative Foreign Secretary. George Osborne, the eternal bean-counter, is now Chancellor: overshadowed in recent years, his hour has finally come and we will at last find out where his real politic instincts lie.
Economist Vince Cable is likely to prove one of the most popular Lib Dem appointments, bringing his considerable experience now to Business and Banking. Chris Huhne at Energy and Climate Change is likely to prove more volatile: if there are to be any future walk-outs on issues of principle, Huhne may prove the right man with the right portfolio to do it. ®