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Coffee House

The coalition’s half-time score

10 January 2013

4:42 PM

10 January 2013

4:42 PM

Yesterday, the coalition released its mid-term self-assessment, comparing the commitments made in its Programme for Government back in May 2010 to the policies it has actually implemented to date. Sadly, it does not allow for a simple tick/cross exercise as to whether each commitment has been kept, as there is a lot of grey area. Some of the promises were too vague, some may be being stuck to but haven’t been delivered yet, and on others it depends how charitable you’re willing to be to the government.

I’ve therefore given each commitment a tick (delivered), a cross (not delivered at all) or a question mark (those you might give a tick if you’re being kind to the coalition, or might give a cross if not). My scoring simply takes everything in the review at face-value, so if the agreement promises ‘we will do x’ and the review says ‘we have done x’, it gets a tick.

Overall, I make it 264 ticks, 108 question marks and 18 crosses. Here’s the breakdown and summary for each of the 31 areas of the agreement:

1. Banking

 The Banking Reform Bill is still in draft form, but the government has introduced a bank levy, new rules on bonuses and regulatory reforms. And it hasn’t joined the Euro.

 

2. Business

The government did introduce a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule for regulations, stuck to its plans on Royal Mail and the Post Office, and ‘took steps’ to help the tourism industry. But it abandoned plans to scrap IR35 and has not made small business relief automatic (it’s left this up to councils).

 

3. Civil liberties

Many of the promises were fulfilled in the Freedom Bill (including ‘We will introduce a Freedom Bill’) and the Bill of Rights commission was established and has reported. But ‘ending the storage of internet and email records without good reason’ is still (to put it very generously) a work in progress.

 

4. Communities and local government

Between the council tax freeze, the Localism Act, the Local Government Finance Act and the National Planning Policy Framework, this has been quite a successful area according to the review. But the restrictions on councils using investigatory powers didn’t go as far as promised.

 

5. Consumer protection

Some successes, such as new powers for the Financial Conduct Authority and the introduction of a Groceries Code Adjudicator, but many of the promises in this area have only been partially fulfilled (so far). And one — to ‘give Post Office Card account holders the chance to benefit from direct debit discounts and ensure that social tariffs offer access to the best prices available’ — has been explicitly abandoned because of the Universal Credit.

 

6. Crime and policing

The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners, plans for a minimum unit price for alcohol and ‘Temporary Class Orders’ to ban ‘legal highs’ are some of the ways the coalition has found to fulfil its promises here, making it a relatively successful area in this review.

 

7. Culture, Olympics, media and sport

‘A safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games’ was indeed delivered, the Live Music Act 2012 cut red-tape, the government has invested in superfast broadband and has kept entry to national museums and galleries free. The review says nothing about banning lobbying for National Lottery distributors though, and their gross costs are being capped at 8 per cent rather than the promised 5.

 

8. Defence

A clean-sweep. The MoD’s running costs are actually being cut by a third — more than the promised quarter — and the Military Covenant has been enshrined in law.

 

9. Deficit reduction

Whether the government has managed to ‘significantly accelerate the reduction of the structural deficit’ is debatable, but in general it has delivered the cuts promised in this section.

 

10. Energy and climate change

This is an ambitious section of the coalition agreement, and many of the promises are long-term and so haven’t been completed yet. The coalition has created the Green Investment Bank and scrapped Home Improvement Packs. But it has not supported increasing the EU’s emission reduction target from 20 per cent to 30, hasn’t increased the target for renewable energy, hasn’t turned the per-passenger flight tax into a per-plane tax, and hasn’t exactly cancelled Heathrow’s third runway.

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11. Environment, food and rural affairs

A reasonably successful area, apart from on the promise to ‘bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act.’

 

12. Equalities

Flexible working is the main achievement here, the overall picture is largely flattered by relatively vague promises, such as to ‘look to promote gender equality on the boards of listed companies’.

 

13. Europe

Despite everything, the ‘referendum lock’ on treaty changes and the vagueness of the other commitments makes Europe look like a successful area in the review. Oh, and we haven’t joined the Euro.

 

14. Families and children

The first commitment here is to ‘maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020’. Whether the government is doing this or not is debatable, as it is looking to change the measure of child poverty. Plans for shared parental leave is perhaps the biggest achievement here.

 

15. Foreign affairs

Most of the commitments here were of the vague ‘support efforts to…’ or ‘push for…’ kind that would’ve almost been hard not to meet.

 

 

16. Government transparency

In summary: more things are published online.

 

 

17. Immigration

Ending child detention, limiting non-EU immigration and imposing transitional controls for new EU members have all been delivered.

 

 

18. International development

The commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on aid has been met, but it has not been enshrined in law as promised. On ‘exploring ways of helping poorer countries’, ‘supporting actions to achieve the Millennium Goals’ and ‘encouraging other countries to fulfil their aid commitments’, we’ll have to take the government’s word for it.

 

19. Jobs and welfare

 According to the review, the Work Programme alone pretty much fulfils the first four pledges.

 

 

 

20. Justice

A focus on rehabilitation and payment-by-results has been delivered, but the promise to ‘extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants’ has been abandoned.

 

21. National security

The coalition has reviewed anti-terror laws, proscribed four groups that ‘espouse or incite violence or hatred’ and extradited about a thousand ‘dangerous people’.

 

22. NHS

Several of the promises here — most notably to ‘stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS’ — went out of the window with Andrew Lansley’s reforms. And the government has not increased health spending in real terms each year (though it stops short of admitting as much, the review tellingly doesn’t say it has done so). But there have been successes, such as GP commissioning, cutting the number of health quangos and prioritising dementia research.

 

23. Pensions and older people

An rare area where the promises were substantial and have actually been delivered: the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, raising the retirement age, ending compulsory annuitisation at 75, and retaining pensioner benefits.

 

24. Political reform

 The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was passed, the AV referendum was held, and a devolution commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’ was formed. The Lords reform commitment has also been fulfilled, as it only promised to bring forward proposals (not pass them). But while the Localism Act did introduce local referendums for certain issues, it did not do so for ‘any issue’ as promised. The ‘200 all-postal primaries’ have not come about (because of the boundary review, apparently), and no limit has been put on the number of special advisers.

 

25. Public health

Public health budgets are being devolved to local areas, and the government has invested in psychological therapies.

 

 

26. Schools

Lots of promises kept here: on free schools, the Pupil Premium, Teach First, league table reform and more disciplinary powers to teachers.  Giving schools ‘greater freedom over the curriculum’ is still to come, though.

 

27. Social action

The introduction of ‘National Citizen Service’, a ‘Big Society bank’ and measures to encourage charitable giving have all been delivered.

 

 

28. Social care and disability

The Dilnot Commission fulfilled the coalition’s pledge to ‘establish a commission on long-term care’, but the real test will be what the government does with its report.

 

29. Taxation

Increase the personal allowance: check.  Increase the capital gains rate: check. Efforts to tackle tax avoidance: check. But the government decided not to introduce per-plane flight duty due to ‘concerns over the legality and feasibility of this approach’.

 

30. Transport

 The promised high-speed rail network is coming, as is Crossrail. Central government funding for speed cameras has been halted, the use of ‘drugalysers’ has been approved, and the Protection of Freedoms Act included a new offence to tackle rogue clampers.

 

31. Universities and further education

As we all remember, the government did change the tuition fee system following the Browne Review. As the coalition agreement promised, Lib Dem MPs unhappy with them were able to abstain.

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