Number 10 officials have been working on the mid-term review since the autumn, with what the Prime Minister’s spokesman described today as a ‘long-term intention’ to publish the awkward annex. But even though the review itself was delayed from the real mid-term point of the Coalition to this Monday, it doesn’t seem to have given those working on it sufficient time to get the annex ready for publication at the same time. The PM’s spokesman said:
‘It has been a long standing intention to publish the annex. What we needed to do was to copper-bottom it.’
The implication was that there was a great deal of copper to put on the bottom of this point-by-point analysis of the government’s progress against the pledges in the Coalition agreement. What the spokesman wouldn’t comment on directly was the document that Patrick Rock was snapped with which suggested there were plenty of reasons not to publish the annex, or at least to slip it out ‘without fanfare’.
Now there will be fanfare when the annex does finally appear online this afternoon, but hopefully it will shed a little more light on how the government is doing than some of the more oblique sections of the Mid-Term Review document itself. Particularly entertaining ones were the promise of a ‘vote’ on the doomed boundary changes, rather than a pledge for the changes themselves, and the non-promise on tax breaks for married couples, which said:
‘We will, in line with the Coalition Agreement, ensure that provision is made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on proposals to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples.’
Nice for the Lib Dems, maybe, but not quite so helpful for Tory MPs desperate for the tax break itself. Perhaps rather than listing the reforms it has already announced, the document might also assess whether some of them are having much of an effect, too.
UPDATE, 12.50pm: Labour has produced its own ‘secret audit’ for the government. Party sources are joking that it only took them a morning to produce, unlike Number 10 officials. Some of the points on the list are rather nebulous such as ‘most family-friendly government’, and others, such as anonymity for rape defendants, were dropped after a little bit more thought from ministers. The list is also a mish-mash of promises from here, there and everywhere, with the Lib Dem promise to scrap tuition fees included when that was simply a manifesto commitment, not a Coalition Agreement pledge. But here’s the list all the same:
1. Balancing the books in five years.
2. ‘Most family friendly government’.
3. No frontline cuts.
4. No VAT rise.
5. Preserving tax credits for middle earners.
6. Keeping the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
7. Retaining the Child Trust Fund for the poorest families.
8. Keeping the Future Jobs Fund
9. Keeping Child Benefit universal
10. Removing the couple penalty in the tax and benefits system.
11. Removing high marginal tax rates.
12. No more top-down NHS reorganisations.
13. Cut NHS bureaucracy.
14. Stopping hospital closures.
15. Protecting the NHS budget.
16. 3,000 more midwives.
17. Scrapping tuition fees.
18. Compensating Equitable Life policyholders.
19. Three more army battalions.
20. Stopping any cuts to the Royal Navy.
21. A ban on illegal timber.
22. No bank bonuses over £2,000.
23. Banning Hizb-ut Tahrir.
24. 45,000 new single rooms in the NHS.
25. 5,000 new prison places.
26. Reducing taxes on savings.
27. Protecting Sure Start.
28. Legislate on the 0.7 per cent target for international aid.
29. Cap rail fares at 1 per cent above inflation.
30. ‘Greenest government ever’.
31. Presumption of prison for those carrying a knife.
32. Making work pay.
33. The bank levy would raise £2.5 billion.
34. Legislate to give people the lowest energy bill tariffs.
35. No cuts to public spending in 2010.
36. 3,000 more police officers.
37. Cutting rail fares each year.
38. No new nuclear power stations.
39. A Post Office Bank.
40. Anonymity for rape defendants.