Daily Archives: September 16, 2010

Jim Pickard

Vince Cable has laid down the gauntlet against his own coalition government today as he stepped up his criticism of immigration policy.

Vince was talking during a Q&A after a setpiece speech. He said the cap was “doing great damage” and cited a British company that needed 500 specialists – half of which needed to come from outside the EU – but had geen given a quota of just 30. Read more

There are some small signs of the coalition transparency agenda stalling a bit, at least with regard to the spending review.

1) No one has settled even if they’ve settled

Cameron has laid down the law: no talking about the spending review negotiations. Even if you’ve settled, you haven’t really settled. And if your numbers leak out, expect them to change.

Even so, the negotiations are moving on at a clip. We disclosed today that five departments have basically agreed deals with the Treasury: the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office, Treasury, Environment, and Culture. Some of them have reached a “provisional settlement” — and if you’re wondering what that means, so are we. I suspect it will stay that way until they’re announced by the chancellor. It sounds like a bit of a charade.

2) Even when you reveal the budget settlement, keep the details secret

There’s growing angst in some departments over the presentation of the spending review.

Everyone is busy in No 10 attempting to find some happy reform narrative that counters the impression that the government is obsessed with cuts (which it is). Meanwhile, to the surprise of some in the Treasury, a decision has been taken not to release all the bad news in one go. Read more

Jim Pickard

I wrote a few weeks ago about Labour’s concerns that the aid budget will be governed more by security concerns under the coalition. A leaked document from Dfid confirmed that David Cameron’s new security council would take direct control of parts of the aid budget, before adding:

“The National Security Council said the ODA [overseas development assistance] budget should make the maximum possible contribution to national security consistent with ODA rules.”

That, of course, means that Afghanistan, for example, would become a higher priority for aid than countries with less of a strategic role. It also opens up the possibility (in the eyes of Labour and others) of MoD and FCO spending in such countries being reallocated as “aid” – as a way to erode the ring-fence on the aid budget – although the coalition is fiercely rejecting this suggestion.

Now, interestingly, a Lib Dem policy document has made the same warning in very similar terms.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Allies of Ed Miliband are letting it be known that some MPs are now committed to jumping ship from the Mili-D campaign when it comes to the final voting in the leadership contest. The theory is that they have been “inspired” to change their minds by the weekend poll that put the younger brother slightly ahead. And ambitious MPs will want to be in the right camp when the result comes in.

But it’s not clear how much this is just gamesmanship. After all, most Labour MPs have already committed one way or another in public. Who wants to emerge as a turncoat when the final list comes through (on the Wednesday after the September 25 result)? Read more

Here is an idea for the new “nudge unit” in Downing Street.

David Cameron has pledged to protect the £2.7bn winter fuel payments to the over-60s — but he never promised to keep the name.

Surely it is time to stop people claiming these handouts by calling them something more appropriate that would deter the wealthy middle-classes? After all, the payment has nothing to do with fuel. Done properly, this cunning intervention could save hundreds of millions of pounds — while still permitting the needy to claim.

Neil O’Brien of Policy Exchange thought something absurdly bureaucratic would do the trick. Would you bother to claim the Voluntary Age-Related Season Specific Dependency Credit? And would you be able to ever find the forms on the internet?

My preference is for something much more unappetising. Perhaps the Old Age Support Ration? That would put off Ken Clarke and Vince Cable from sending in the application. Or maybe the Elderly and Infirm Support and Sustenance Payment? Read more

Jim Pickard

Simon Lewis, who was Gordon Brown’s director of communications at 10 Downing Street, is quitting his current post in Whitehall to join a financial trade association.

The suave former spinner – who had previously worked at Vodafone and Buckingham Palace – is to be chief executive of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe. In his new role at the London-based AFME, Lewis will lobby governments and regulators on behalf of Europe’s major financial institutions. Read more

Jim Pickard

Free schools on aircraft carriers – a solution to defence spending crunch? Robert Shrimsley’s Notebook, FT
I feel sorry for David Miliband – Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman
Pope’s aid says Britain is a “Third World” country full of atheists - Daily Mail
Several departments reach agreement with Treasury - FT
Coalition could delay decision on Trident for entire Parliament – FT