Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jim Pickard

This is not a complete guide to everything the coalition will do in 2012/13; many of the government’s actions do not need fresh laws. But here is the full list of all the legislation that ministers plan to enact in the coming Parliamentary calendar. Ministers will also reaffirm their plan to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid by 2013, although there is no bill to legislate this commitment.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill:

- repealing unnecesary legislation and limiting state inspections of companies

- setting up a Green Investment Bank

- reforming competition law

- give extra powers to shareholders to influence executive pay

- overhaul employment tribunals

Banking Reform Bill:

- implementation of some of the Vickers report to ringfence retail and investment Read more

Jim Pickard

Proposals to create a system of shared parental leave have been bogged down in wrangling between ministers over a radical plan to grant a £5,500 “baby bonus” to parents on the birth of the child.

The plan was put forward by Oliver Letwin and would replace statutory maternity pay; the idea is that it would increase individual choice and remove a bureaucratic cost from employers. But it has not yet been implemented because of fears that it could end up costing more; given that many mothers don’t take their full 39 weeks of paid leave. Read more

Jim Pickard

The BBC is reporting today that Lord (Chris) Smith, chair of the Environment Agency, has come out in favour of fracking – the controversial method for extracting gas from shale. In reality his words are not a clearcut endorsement for the practice.

The Beeb points out that Smith said on the Today programme that he only backed fracking if it was accompanied by successful carbon capture & storage, which so far only exists in pilot form.

In fact his concerns are wider. In his speech tonight at the RSA he will say that fracking “potentially ticks the box on energy security, on availability and on cost“.

But he adds: “Does it tick the box on environment? The answer is complex, and is something like ‘up to a point’.” If Britain locks itself into a new generation of gas, “with all the carbon consequences“, it would be unable to reduce the carbon impact of its power generation to zero, he will say.

Lord Smith will also add that fracking needs careful use of drilling technology and rigorous monitoring and inspection. No doubt he is aware of the controversy surrounding the chemicals which are used in the process of extraction – skilfully described in this excellent feature by our environment correspondent, Pilita Clark.

The peer will use his speech to make a broader warning that green issues are sliding down the political agenda despite being among the most important challenges facing the UK.

In a rare intervention by the former Labour culture secretary, the peer will use his first big speech for three years to call for the government to “acknowledge and respect” that environmental policy is essential and not an optional extra.

The comments come as the coalition is shedding several green commitments in order to focus on economic growth. “We can’t abandon either green or growth,” he will say in tonight’s speech.

Lord Smith told me he backed the coalition’s attempts to streamline regulation to make it less bureaucratic. The government has carried out a “red tape challenge” to strip away unnecessary burdens on companies.

But he challenged the focus on cutting legislation, saying there was a reason why many regulations existed. “Because things like putting toxins into our water or Read more

Jim Pickard

The House of Lords authorities are refusing to hand over officials’ estimates of how much it will cost taxpayers to replace the chamber with a mostly elected senate, prompting anger from Tory politicians.

Officials have rejected a freedom of information request by the Financial Times, saying that the relevant information was produced “solely” for the joint committee on Lords reform. “A decision was taken by them not to publish it as part of their report,” they said in their response.

David Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, said there was a “clear-cut case” for the cost estimates to be put in the public domain.

There is a very clear argument for this,” said the influential former frontbencher. “It will be very hard for them to refuse to do it.” Mr David predicted that the question would be put to Nick Clegg: “What’s he going to say? ‘We don’t know?’ He can’t do that can he?

Another Tory MP told the FT: “This is a genuine public issue how can we reach a decision about its merits when we have no cost-benefit analysis?

The issue comes to a head on Wednesday when Lords reform is part of the Queen’s speech setting out the legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary Read more

Kiran Stacey

Lembit OpikLembit Opik is leading the charge. The former Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire is the first one to break ranks in the wake of another terrible set of local election results for the Lib Dems and call for Nick Clegg’s head. He told BBC Radio 5 Live:

The problem is Nick Clegg: there is a poll today which suggests that 19 per cent of the people like the Lib Dems without Clegg; 12 per cent like Clegg without the Lib Dems.

My empirical view is that we would have done better with a different leader.

I don’t dislike Clegg as a person but I think you can actually point at specific mistakes he has made.

Except there is no charge. Lembit is the only one saying anything remotely like this. And his stock has fallen so low that party strategists think his intervention is actually helpful for the Lib Dem leader. Read more

Welcome to our live blog on the local elections

Through the day, we’ll be providing results from the local elections held yesterday in England, Scotland and Wales, with additional comment from the FT’s political reporting and commentary team as well as pulling in analysis and illumination from wherever we find it on the web.

The results are still coming in, but with the national pattern now becoming clear we’re going to put this blog on pause, at least until we get some sense of what is going to happen in the contest for London mayor. Here are the 11am headlines:

  • Labour has done very well across England, winning an estimated 39 per cent share of the vote, compared to 31 for the Tories  and 16 for the Lib Dems.
  • So far, Labour has won 22 new councils and 470 new councillors. The councils are spread across England, including Carlisle, Birmingham and Southampton.
  • Nick Clegg and William Hague have both re-pledged their commitment to the coalition, amid sniping from the Tory benches that the party needs to move to the right.
  • Four cities – Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford and Coventry have all voted no to a directly elected mayor. Birmingham is predicted to go the same way.
  • Boris Johnson is pulling ahead in early counting for London mayor. Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem, is being pushed for third place by Jenny Jones, the green, and Siobhan Benita, the independent.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

There is a curious anomaly on the House of Commons MPs’ register. Under Ed Vaizey’s list appears an event sponsored by BSkyB in late 2009 when the Tory party was in opposition. Here is a link to the right page.

Name of donor: British Sky Broadcasting Group plc Read more

Kiran Stacey

Nick Clegg hit the campaign trail for the last time yesterday, jetting to Edinburgh (where the party could lose half its seats), then down to Stockport (where it could lose control), and then catching the train over to his constituency home in Sheffield.

It’s a grinding schedule, especially as the Lib Dems prepare for another year of heavy local government losses as they continue to suffer for their decision to join the Tories in government. The party could end up losing councils across the country: Cardiff, Stockport, Burnley, Cheltenham, and in other places it could be wiped out altogether.

You might expect Clegg to be jaded, especially as he visits places he’s expected to lose. But if the Lib Dem leader was tired, he didn’t show it. Far from it, as he turned on the charm for voters in a chip shop on a grey suburban shopping precinct in Stockport, it became clear why voters had taken to him so enthusiastically in 2010Read more

Rupert Murdoch  

Rupert Murdoch

It will be a shame if bitter and partisan debate over whether Rupert Murdoch is “a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company” obscures the more important conclusion of the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport committee on phone-hacking: that he and his son James were wilfully blind to what was going on.

Whether BSkyB, controlled by the Murdoch-owned News Corp, is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence is a question for Ofcom, the regulator, which has now entered an “evidence-gathering” phase of its probe.

 Read more