29
Corkers
42
U-turns

  • David Cameron stubs out plan for cigarettes in plain packaging – the Express, 6 May 2013
  • David Cameron ‘U-Turn’ Over Cigarette Packaging - Sky News, 28 November 2013

In May of this year it was reported that David Cameron told campaigners advocating plain cigarette packaging to forget another extension of the “nanny state”.

“Tory ministers are determined that the Coalition does not repeat the mistakes of the previous Labour government and risk being seen as bossy and curbing individual liberty.

“The source said: ‘This proposal is not going to be in the Queen’s Speech and the Government doesn’t see this as a priority. It’s not going to be pursued.’”

In November 2013, however, Cameron suddenly decided that cigarettes should be in plain packaging after all.

“David Cameron has been accused of a humiliating U-turn after ministers dramatically revived the prospect of plain packaging for cigarettes.

“Public Health Minister Jane Ellison announced that the eminent paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler has been asked to carry out a rapid review of the evidence, which will be completed by March.”

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  • Tory “veto moment” on justice and home affairs damages the real interests of UK citizens – Left Foot Forward, 16 October 2012
  • Tory backbenchers in revolt as Theresa May backs down over European arrest warrants - The Independent, 9 July 2013

In October 2012, after weeks of speculation, home secretary Theresa May confirmed that the Conservative Party’s intended to go ahead with the block opt out of European Union crime and justice measures:

“The UK cannot pick and choose the measures from which we wish to opt out.

“We can only opt out en masse and then seek to rejoin individual measures.

“The government’s current thinking is that we will opt out of all pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice matters, and then negotiate with the Commission and other member states to opt back into those individual measures that it is in our national interest to rejoin.”

In July 2013, however, May backed down, admitting that the coalition would remain a participant in the European arrest warrant scheme:

“For reasons of policy, principle and pragmatism, I believe that it is in the national interest to exercise the United Kingdom’s opt-out and rejoin a much smaller set of measures which help us to co-operate with our European neighbours in the fight against serious and organised crime.”

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  • Government to legislate for plain cigarette packaging this year - The Guardian, 5 March 2013
  • Plain fag packets plan up in smoke - The Sun, 2 May 2013

In March 2013, a senior Whitehall source told the Guardian that:

“We are going to follow what they have done in Australia. The evidence suggests it is going to deter young smokers. There is going to be legislation.”

Shortly before the Queen’s Speech in May, however, the plan was shelved without warning. A Whitehall source told the Sun:

“Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the Government’s key purpose.

“The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”

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  • David Cameron backs minimum unit price for alcohol – number 10.gov.uk, 23 March 2012
  • Government in U-turn on minimum alcohol pricing - City AM, 13 March 2013

In March 2012 David Cameron said that it was wrong that beer could be “cheaper than water” and that he would make no excuses for clamping down. As Cameron put it:

This isn’t about stopping responsible drinking, adding burdens on business or some new kind of stealth tax – it’s about fast immediate action where universal change is needed…

If the minimum price is 40p a unit, it won’t affect the price of a pint. In fact, pubs may benefit by making the cheap alternatives in supermarkets more expensive.

A year later, and Cameron suddenly shelves the plan after a revolt by backbench Tory MPs. City AM reports:

The government has shelved plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol sales, the latest in a string of policy U-turns…

Despite Prime Minister David Cameron supporting a proposal that would see alcoholic drinks selling for at least 45p per unit, a cabinet revolt on the issue led by home secretary Theresa May is set to mean the policy is dropped.

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  • PM: We’ll come through if we hold firm – Sky, 7 March 2012
  • David Cameron Rebuked For Making Misleading Economy Claim, Again - the Huffington Post, 8 March 2013

In March David Cameron claimed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) position was that austerity was not the cause of the flatlining economy. Sky reported:

In a high-profile speech on Thursday, the prime minister said the OBR was “absolutely clear that the deficit reduction plan is not responsible” for depressed growth, adding “in fact, quite the opposite”.

A few days later, the head of the independent fiscal watchdog wrote to Cameron saying he had misrepresented the OBR’s position. The Huffington Post reports:

David Cameron has been rebuked for giving a misleading account of his government’s economic record, after he claimed the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said austerity measures were not to blame for the lack of growth.

…On Friday Robert Chote, the chairman of the OBR, has wrote to Cameron to complain this was misleading. “For the avoidance of doubt, I think it is important to point out that every forecast published by the OBR since the June 2010 Budget has incorporated the widely held assumption that tax increases and spending cuts reduce economic growth in the short term, ” he said.

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  • Michael Gove announces radical plan to scrap GCSEs  – The Daily Mail, 20 June 2012
  • Gove forced into humiliating U-turn – the Independent, 7 Feb 2013

In June Michael Gove announced that GCSEs would be scrapped in favour of a return to O-Level style exams. The Daily Mail reported:

Proposals to axe GCSEs and return to an O-level style exams will ensure an education system that compares with most rigorous in the world, Michael Gove told MPs.

…The proposals could see less-able pupils taking simpler qualifications similar to old-style CSEs and the end of the national curriculum.

…The new exams will ‘meet or exceed the highest standards in the world for that age group’.

Today the education secretary announced a dramatic climbdown over plans to scrap GCSEs. As The Independent reports:

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will announce a major climbdown over his controversial plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of a new English Baccalaureate. In a surprise statement in the Commons, Mr Gove will reveal that he is abandoning plans to introduce the new qualification in 2015.

GCSEs will remain, although they will be reformed in an attempt to restore confidence in them as an internationally respected qualification.

The U-turn represents a political defeat for a minister seen by some Tory MPs as a potential successor to David Cameron.

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  • Health secretary backs lower pay for NHS staff in poorer areas – The Observer, 22 Apr 2012
  • Chancellor abandons regional pay – Health Service Journal, 5 Dec 2012

In April, Andrew Lansley gave his support to plans for regional pay in the NHS.

The Observer reported:

Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, is threatening another controversial revolution in the NHS by proposing that its staff be paid less if they work in poorer parts of the country.

The cabinet minister is backing a plan for regional pay, which would mean that nurses, midwives, hospital porters, cleaners and paramedics would earn less if they work in the north or the Midlands rather than in the south of England. Official documents reveal that the only exemption backed by the Department of Health would be for highly paid managers working in new bodies established to deliver Lansley’s controversial NHS reform programme, widely criticised as a privatisation of the health service…

The revelation was seized upon by the government’s critics on Saturday night as fresh evidence that the coalition is out of touch with the British public.

Health unions accused the health secretary of seeking to drive down wages in the provinces with the crippling consequence of creating an ever deeper north-south economic divide. They said women would be particularly badly hit by the proposals.

In today’s autumn statement, chancellor George Osborne abandoned NHS regional pay, as the HSJ reports:

Osborne has abandoned plans to introduce regional pay in the NHS. However, he accepted the NHS Pay Review Body’s call for the Agenda for Change pay framework to be altered in order “to meet the challenges and cost pressures in the NHS”.

The review body has also recommended a “fundamental review of higher cost area zones” which see staff working predominantly in London and the South East paid more.

The decision to retain national pay bargaining is a major victory for health unions and Liberal Democrats who had opposed the introduction of regional pay when it was mooted in March this year.

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  • School building programme scrapped in latest round of cuts – The Guardian, 5 Jul 2010
  • Autumn statement: £1bn for school funding – Local Government Chronicle, 5 Dec 2012

In July 2010, the government cancelled the Building Schools for the Future programme, as part of £1 billion of cuts from schools.

The Guardian reported:

The coalition government took its axe to a further £1.5bn in spending commitments, cutting £1bn from the schools budget and millions from the business department, communities and local government and the Home Office.

The announcement coincided with the education secretary’s confirmation that the £55bn, 20-year Building Schools for the Future programme would be cancelled altogether. Some 706 new school buildings and services that already have contracts signed will go ahead, but 715 more will be scrapped.

Today, in the autumn statement, chancellor George Osborne announced plans to spend almost £1bn on schools over the next two years. He said the money would fund 100 new free schools and academies – alongside investment to expand good schools in areas with a severe shortage of school places; £275m of this is due to be spent in 2013/14 and £895m in 2014/15, totalling £980m.

The figure, though, is well short of what is needed to cope with the shortage of school places, according to London Councils, and has been dubbed “insufficient”. The abolition of the Building Schools for the Future Programme has been catasrtophic, with its belated replacement not nearly enough. No education, no education, no education…

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  • Finance Bill 2011 – Treasury, 30 Mar 2011
  • Tenfold increase in 100% capital allowances in Autumn Statement – The Manufacturer, 5 Dec 2012

In the finance bill 2011, capital allowances were cut from £100,000 to £25,000.

Today, in the autumn statement 2012, capital allowances for plant and machinery increased ten-fold to £250,000, as The Manufacturer reports:

Manufacturers will breathe a collective sigh of relief after campaigning for higher capital allowances finally pays off in the autumn statement…

What are capital allowances? Companies deduct capital allowances from your taxable income, so they pay less tax with higher allowances. The higher the allowances, the less time it takes to write-off a large investment such as a new machine against tax.

From January 1, 2013 for two years, the Annual Investment Allowance for plant and machinery will increase tenfold from £25,000 to £250,000, which he [Osborne] said will bring 99% of all business investments in Britain in line for tax relief, encouraging them to reinvest their profits.

This u-turn on capital allowances for manufacturing, as the quote above shows, will be welcomed. Osborne used to call them “complex reliefs”; finally sees he was hurting investment.

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  • Cameron to axe housing benefits for under 25s – Mail on Sunday, 24 Jun 2012
  • Plan to end housing benefits for under-25s is dropped – The Guardian, 5 Dec 2012

In June, David Cameron revealed housing benefit will be scrapped for under 25s, who’ll be “forced to live with their parents”.

The Mail on Sunday reported:

Radical new welfare cuts targeting feckless couples who have children and expect to live on state handouts will be proposed by David Cameron tomorrow.

His bold reforms could also lead to 380,000 people under 25 being stripped of housing benefits and forced to join the growing number of young adults who still live with their parents.

However, in today’s autumn statement, the plans were axed, as The Guardian reports:

The Liberal Democrats had successfully blocked Tory plans to end housing benefit for under-25s, which would have saved £2bn from the welfare budget – a move welcomed by homeless organisations such as Crisis.

Although the idea was floated by David Cameron in the summer, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, argued that young people are suffering from rising unemployment and warned that if the government stopped housing benefit payments to young people then many would end up on the streets.

The government’s figures show the state spends almost £2bn a year on housing benefit for under-25s, and there are currently 210,000 people aged 16-24 who are social housing tenants.

In a speech in June the prime minister had painted a picture of those on benefits as having an easier time than their working peers forced to live at home. He said: “This is happening when there is a growing phenomenon of young people living with their parents into their 30s because they can’t afford their own place … almost 3 million between the ages of 20 and 34.

“So for literally millions, the passage to independence is several years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to move out while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19 – even if they’re not actively seeking work.”

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