There was an exchange in the Commons this week between Danny Alexander and former Labour Treasury minister John Healey over the stats in last week’s National Infrastructure Plan.
Healey challenged the chief secretary to the Treasury over a chart in the report (page 5) which shows higher infrastructure investment by the coalition than in the last five years of the previous Labour government. The Labour MP asked Alexander whether he would let the chart be vetted by the UK Statistics Authority or the Office for Budget Responsibility. Read more
Ed Miliband used to hate the Heathrow third runway project so much that he nearly quit as energy secretary towards the end of the Gordon Brown regime in protest.
Now, his aides say that he wants aviation expansion in the South-east and is open-minded about where that should be. One said his position on location is “neutral”. Another senior Labour MP said “all options are now on the table.” Read more
Vince Cable, the business secretary, yesterday warned of a danger of house prices “getting out of control” as Whitehall’s official forecasters predicted a near return to the bubble of 2007.
In real terms the market will by 2018 peak at just 3 per cent below the heights last seen six years ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated in new figures produced on Thursday.
The OBR has revised upwards its forecast by some 10 per cent since March, in part because of the projected impact of the coalition’s controversial Help to Buy mortgage scheme.
Annual house price inflation is not expected to return to the giddy pace of the last decade, with in-year rises set to peak at 7.2 per cent in 2015, the OBR suggested.
But the inflation-busting rises from 2013 to 2018 will together add more than 20 per cent to a market that Read more
An eagle-eyed reader brings my attention to a curious little amendment that appears to speak volumes about Number 10’s fear of errant backbenchers.
Rewind the clock to this summer when two Tory MPs – John Baron and Peter Bone – put forward an amendment to the Queen’s Speech which turned into a full-scale uprising.
In the end some 130 MPs, mostly Tories, backed the amendment which called for the coalition to legislate for a 2017 EU referendum this side of the general election.
The vote was not technically a “rebellion” because there was no whip by either side. But it was a very vivid expression of Euroscepticism by the Tory benches.
Bear in mind that these MPs still voted against David Cameron even after he had gone Read more
Downing Street has rejected claims that David Cameron described environmental levies as “green crap” as the coalition explores ways to minimise the impact of green subsidies on household energy bills.
The prime minister is said to have used the dismissive language to describe the state subsidies which pay for renewables and help the poor cut their fuel use.
The Sun newspaper quoted an unnamed source saying: “The prime minister is going round Number 10 saying: ‘We have got to get rid of all this green crap’.”
Officials said they did not “recognise” the phrase but emphasised that the prime minister had repeatedly promised to roll back to green taxes with an announcement expected in next month’s autumn statement.
The fact that Mr Cameron did not directly deny having used the “crap” phrase underlines Read more
We have written before, at great length, about how the lobbying bill is one of the worst piece of legislation put before the Houses of Parliament for many moons.
Even the recent concessions from ministers have failed to quell the dissent, with the FT recently opining: “The retreat is welcome. But it fails to resolve other flaws in a hastily drafted bill which, as it stands, should be rejected.” Read more
It’s no secret that economics is far from an exact science. Some would say it isn’t a science at all. Even the intelligentsia at the top of the Bank of England failed to see the financial crash coming, despite all their charts and graphs and post-graduate degrees.
Anyone who still maintains a religious attachment to economic charts should consider this one, published in the Bank of England’s inflation report yesterday. The yellow line you see is “newspaper citations of ‘economic uncertainty’”, based on mentions of the phrase in the FT, Independent and Times. Read more
The Conservatives have claimed they did not mean to delete David Cameron’s pre-election speeches from the internet in a move that prompted accusations of Orwellian interference.
At present the Tory website retains an archive of speeches only going back to January 2013. Meanwhile its own transcripts of historic orations by Mr Cameron cannot be found through engines such as Google – except on other websites such as newspapers.
There was speculation on Wednesday that Mr Cameron had authorised a deliberate drive to minimise the reminders of his pro-green, pro-localism speeches from the halcyon days of opposition.
The Tory leaders has struck a more hard-headed note since taking power against a backdrop of a bleak economy and a soaring national deficit.
Other speeches he might want to forget include the 2006 promise of no more top-down Read more
What has happened? The government has promised to pay tens of billions of pounds of subsidy to the Chinese and French governments to get a new nuclear reactor off the ground at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The £16bn plant will provide 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity for six decades or longer.
Really? I thought George Osborne was a fan of free markets? You could say it’s very “free market” to encourage investment into one of Britain’s most sensitive industries from almost anywhere – including Beijing. Maybe less so to pay them a guaranteed price through to the middle of the 21st century. Read more
State “energy and climate change” policies – including subsidies for wind farms and nuclear power stations – will add 41 per cent to the price of electricity in the UK by 2030 according to forecasts by the energy department.
Green measures including billions of pounds of subsidy for low-carbon generation will lift the price of electricity from £149 to £210 per MwH, the government’s own officials have predicted.
That forecast comes as ministers are poised to announce that they have struck a deal to guarantee the price of power from a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point for decades into the future.
The energy department has predicted that actual bills will fall by 11 per cent by 2030 as household products become more energy-efficient millions of people insulate their homes, more than offsetting the rise in green subsidies.
But critics suggest this is optimistic given the paltry take-up of the coalition’s flagship Read more
From (almost) day one I have been arguing that the reforms to Labour’s union funding were not quite the seismic shift that everyone first thought.
The reasons why are a bit convoluted but I tried to explain it in this Q&A a while back.
In essence, the trick is that the millions of pounds flowing into the unions will stay the same.
What is changing is that the percentage of that cash which then automatically goes to Labour is set to decrease – presuming that many of the 3m affiliated members don’t sign Read more
If there is one persistent theme throughout the Tory conference it is the over-use of the word “hard-working” to describe the general public. Or rather “hardworking”, with no hyphen.
The phrase is not entirely new: Tony Blair was a big advocate as early as 1994 as he sought to redefine Labour as a centre ground party.
But here the word is being flogged to within an inch of its life. In its relentless, over-powering, repeated use one can detect the hand of Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist/lobbyist who has sharpened the Tory message in recent months.
Take Owen Paterson, environment secretary, who promised to support “hardworking rural communities”. He had struck a deal with insurers over flood protection that would “help with the cost of living, enabling hardworking people to access insurance,” he claimed.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, sprayed the phrase around at least four times. Under Labour “hardworking people didn’t stop travelling”, he said. “Ask those hardworking people whose trips to work are quicker and smoother already.” And he would Read more