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Coalition under fire for delaying key decisions

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 May 2010

The coalition government has come under fire for setting out 27 policy reviews and six independent commissions in its first week, drawing criticism for leaving key policies undecided.

David Cameron has unveiled the details of the coalition deal

The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition unveiled its full policy document this morning, building on the deal agreed during talks between the parties last week.

The document - titled Coalition: Our programme for Government - fleshes out the four page draft deal hammered out in the wake of the inconclusive General Election.

It covers 31 areas ranging from banking to universities and further education. Moves to scrap ID cards and the National Identity Register are confirmed, as well as the introduction of a Freedom Bill to bolster civil liberties, and schools reforms.

There is also a new commitment on providing anonymity for defendants in rape cases, which did not appear in either party's manifesto.

But a number of Tory pledges have been dropped or watered down, including the introduction of a Sovereignty Bill, trying to repatriate powers from the EU, scrapping the Human Rights Act and Financial Services Authority, repealing the fox-hunting ban, cutting stamp duty and imposing a levy on non-doms.

FactCheck: Coalition agreement: 'bad news' for Tory voters?
Click here to read our latest FactCheck

The Lib Dems have abandoned commitments including an "earned amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and ruling out military action against Iran.

Many tough issues have been deferred for reviews consideration by independent commissions. They include banking reform, where the parties were at loggerheads over whether retail banks should be split from investment banks.

The Coalition deal: document in full

The Conservatives' plan to place a levy of £25,000 a year of non-doms, has been dropped in favour of a review.

Channel 4 News economics editor Faisal Islam says it leaves the chances of crackdown on non-doms in a "palpably weaker position" than both parties' manifesto had promised.

"Of the many mysteries of the coalition negotiation, the promise 'to review the taxation of non-domiciled individuals' is the most puzzling," writes Faisal Islam.

"Both parties had different but cast iron commitments to squeeze more tax out of non-doms. The Conservatives were to charge 'a simple flat rate levy' and the Lib Dems were to abolish non-dom status after seven years.

"Given the overriding priority of the coalition is to close the deficit, it seems extraordinary that the combination of both parties' thinking on this controversial issue, is a palpably weaker government position."

The deal confirms the introduction of a banking levy, with an independent commission to examine the Lib Dem commitment to separate retail and investment banking - due to report in a year's time.

Britain's commitment to Trident will be kept and scrutinised for "value for money", but the Lib Dems will continue to make the case for alternatives.

Rape cases
Campaigners today lashed out at the pledge to extend anonymity in rape cases from victims to include defendants. Jill Saward, who has spoken out on tackling rape since being attacked at her Ealing vicarage home in 1986, said she is "horrified" by the news.

Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said the decision was an "insult".

"More attention needs to be paid to the 94 per cent of reported cases that do not end in conviction rather than the few that are false," she said.

"If men accused of rape got special rights to anonymity, it would reinforce the misconception that lots of women who report rape are lying.

"False rape allegations are extremely rare, but receive disproportionate publicity.

"Of course, being wrongly accused is a terrible ordeal but the same can be said of being wrongly accused of murder, theft, fraud or any other serious offence.

"We are against a special case where men accused of rape are singled out for special protection."

More Channel 4 News coverage of the coalition:
- Coalition politics: the enemy within
- Who Knows Who: the coalition cabinet
- Coalition deal: the winners and losers
- Dealing with a marriage of convenience

Home Information Packs
The document also includes a commitment to scrap Home Information Packs. Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers, said he was hugely disappointed at the decision.

"Over 3,000 jobs will go and 10,000 will be affected as a result of the suspension of Hips and £100 million revenue will be lost to the Treasury in VAT receipts," he added.

The group said it had accepted that Hips would be scrapped, but it is proposing that a legal or exchange ready pack, which would be instructed at the start of the sales process, could replace them.

And the shadow housing minister, John Healey, said: "The Tories have talked of little else but HIPs over the past few years, and this announcement merely highlights the limits of their ambition and concern - pleasing estate agents rather than supporting first time buyers.

"And with the housing minister no longer sat in cabinet, we've seen quickly how housing is a lower order issue for this shoddy coalition."

Stamp Duty
The coalition has schedules a review for stamp duty - watering down the Tories' pledge to cut the tax.

Royal Mail
Meanwhile, the coalition government will seek an injection of private capital into Royal Mail, including opportunities for employee ownership - and Post Office Ltd will remain in public ownership, according to the document.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the coalition's plans for the NHS were "much more radical" than either the Conservatives or the Lib Dems had originally planned.

The deal includes plans to strengthen the voice of patients locally through directly elected individuals on the boards of their local primary care trust (PCT), strengthen the power of GPs and stop the centrally dictated closure of A&E and maternity wards.

It promises to significantly cut the number of health quangos and cut the cost of NHS administration by a third, transferring resources to support doctors and nurses on the front line.

However, the Tory manifesto promise to scrap government-imposed NHS targets, was missing in the document today.

Balancing act
Compromising on a coalition deal had not been easy, Cameron said, and with many new commissions appointed, he added: "clearly we're going to have to get used to a new world".

"Some policies have been lost on both sides, some have been changed and yes, we have had to find ways to deal with the issues where we profoundly disagree," he added.

Cameron will face his first Prime Minister's question time on Wednesday 2 June, it emerged today, where he is likely to face acting Labour leader Harriet Harman.

However, the two are expected to clash before then - when the coalition unveils its Queen's Speech next Tuesday 25 May.

Backbench "stitch up"
Cameron will be buoyed by the passing of today's controversial bid to reform a key Tory backbench committee. Tory MPs voted to accept changes that will see ministers able to play a full part in the 1922 Committee by a margin of 168 to 118.

Traditionally, membership has been limited to backbenchers when the party is in government.

However, the Tory leader faced unrest from the party's backbenchers who argue that the committee was established to speak for them.

Cameron's coup
David Cameron has won what one Tory backbencher called a "North Korean" style coup on the 1922 Committee, writes Gary Gibbon.
Read more of this blog here...

Voting problems
The Electoral Commission called for "urgent changes" to electoral law after finding that at least 1,200 people were left queuing when polling stations closed on 6 May.

Politicians from all the parties had condemned the problems as "unacceptable".

Jenny Watson, the Electoral Commission chairman, said people who were still queuing at 10pm should have been allowed to vote.

"We are calling for urgent changes to electoral law so that any elector who is entitled to vote and who is queuing at a polling station at the close of poll will be allowed to vote.

"However, returning officers in the areas affected did not properly plan for, or react to, polling day problems.

"That is unacceptable. People in these areas were badly let down and have every right to be angry."

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