Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Final PMQs of the decade

The final PMQs of the year and the decade passed off in a rather bizarre and agreeable mood earlier today. Harriet Harman was in the driving seat for the government, as the PM is currently in Copenhagen for the climate change summit.

William Hague deputised for Cameron and failed to land any blows with his attacks on the Lizny arrest warrant, ineffective sanctions against Iran and the House rising early for Christmas. He also offered support for the climate change summit. Harman, whilst remaining in control also failed to impress today.

Vince Cable led with a question about tax evasion and asked for an ammendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill to ensure non-doms could not sit in parliament, citing Lord Ashcroft as an example. Harman agreed and said the government would bring forward legislation to deal with the issue. Overall an entirely forgettable session today.

This blog will return in the New Year, seasons greetings from PSA. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pre-Budget Report 2009

The PBR as expected read like a manifesto, in an attempt to exploit perceived Conservative weaknesses on the economy. As expected the Chancellor outlined a super tax on bankers’ bonuses, he also decided to freeze inheritance tax allowance at £325,000 for the next year and outlined measures against offshore accounts. 
Other headline measures included:
  • The chancellor confirmed that VAT is going back up on 1 January to 17.5%, but says he has no other announcements on VAT. This may surprise some commentators who had suspected it could go up further.
  • Confirmation too that the 1p rise in corporation tax is being postponed.
  • From next month no-one under-24 needs to be unemployed for longer than 6 months before being guaranteed work
  • Basic state pension to rise in April and a cut in Bingo Duty
  • Child benefit and disability benefit to rise by 1.5% in April.
  • Forecasts: Growth return this quarter. 2009/10 growth minus 4.75%. Next year 1.5%, 2011 on 3.5% i.e. not much change
  • Chancellor revised provision for any potential impact from financial interventions on the public finances from £50bn to around £10bn
  • Public Sector Net Borrowing - forecast next year £176bn which as a share of GDP will be 12%
  • Inflation will rise to three per cent, the Chancellor predicts, partly because of the VAT reintroduction
  • National Insurance to rise by a further 0.5% from April 2011 on incomes over £20k
Political reaction:
The shadow Chancellor - George Osbourne MP
"We were promised a pre-budget report and what we got was a pre-election report - they have lost all the moral authority to government today.
National insurance is a tax increase worth £40bn, he says, adding that Darling has confirmed that “all Labour governments bring the country to the verge of bankruptcy”.
He also accused Darling of "setting one part of country against another" and "turning his back" on enterprise.
Liberal Democrat  Economic Spokesperson – Vince Cable MP
He questioned the Chancellor’s assumption that Britain would return to growth in 2009.
"What we needed was a national economic plan and what we have got is an election manifesto." "The economy is now being rebuilt on sand. The only real sign of recovery we have are rising house prices and booming bank profits, at a time when industry is continuing to decline."

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Pre-Budget Report Preview

Next week the Chancellor will set out his final Pre-Budget report before the next general election.

In it he will hope to define the Labour government as the only party that can ensure economic recovery, and drive a wedge of economic policy between Labour and the Conservatives.

The economic plan will need to ensure Britain’s economy is nurtured back into growth coupled reducing the public deficit will have to be cautiously balanced with ‘gifts’ to the electorate.

In what will no doubt be dubbed a bold PBR, we know this from leaks thus far:

• VAT will return to the 17.5% level
• Income tax and national insurance look set to be increased
• New ‘green’ taxes are expected
• Measures to ensure continued growth of low carbon sectors is certain

It will be interesting to see how many of the Chancellor’s measures are tabled for introduction before the General election.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Queen's Speech 2009

The General Election campaign kicked off today, with the Queen detailing the final legislative programme before the next general election.  Full summary below:

Financial Services Bill
  • Strengthen and reform financial regulation, support better corporate governance, and protect and empower consumers;
  • Ensure that the financial system that emerges from the crisis is one not only rebuilt on a stronger and sounder footing, but is also one that is fairer and works better for consumers.
Fiscal Responsibility Bill
  • Put the Government's deficit reduction plan on a statutory footing, in order to half the deficit over 4 years and put debt on a sustainable path in the medium term.
Personal Care at Home Bill
  • Help around 400,000 people with care needs;
  • Offer for the first time free personal care at home for those with the highest needs, regardless of means;
  • Be the first step towards setting up a new National Care Service - a simple, fair and affordable care system for everyone.
Children, Schools and Families Bill
  • Provide guarantees for parents and pupils setting out what they can expect from a 21st century schools system. These will equip every child, every family and everyone who works with them to meet the challenges ahead, and so help secure this country's success now and in the future.
Crime and Security Bill
  • The Bill would protect communities by making parents take responsibility for their child's antisocial behaviour. The Bill would also introduce new powers to help victims break the cycle of domestic violence.
Digital Economy Bill
  • Strengthen the nation's communications infrastructures, equipping the UK to compete and lead in the global digital economy.
Energy Bill
  • Provide support for energy consumers, giving a greater amount of help to the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as introducing a new financial incentive for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.
Floods and Water Management Bill
  • Provide better, more sustainable management of flood risk for people, homes and businesses, help safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges and protect water supplies to the consumer.
Bribery Bill
  • Provide a modern and comprehensive scheme of bribery offences to equip prosecutors and courts to deal effectively with bribery at home and abroad.
Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill
  • Create prohibitions on the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions in the UK and by UK nationals, and thereby implement the UK's international obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).
Draft Bills:
House of Lords Reform Bill
  • Set out how the Government proposes to take forward the vote of the House of Commons in March 2007 in favour of a wholly or substantially elected second chamber.
International Development Spending Bill
  • The Draft Bill would ensure that the Government spends 0.7 per cent of gross national income on Official Development Assistance from 2013.
Carry-Over Bills:
Equality Bill
  • Set out groundbreaking new laws which will help narrow the gap between rich and poor; require businesses to report on gender pay; outlaw age discrimination; and will significantly strengthen Britain's anti-discrimination legislation.
Child Poverty Bill
  • Enshrine in law the Government's commitment to end child poverty by 2020.
Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

  • Rebalance the relationship between Parliament, the Government and the public. It aims to rebuild trust in our democratic and constitutional settlement by reinforcing the principles of transparency, accountability and probity across government.

    Wednesday, 11 November 2009


    Today's session of PMQs was at the later time of 15:00 due to Armistice Day services. The PM began with a tribute to soldiers who have died in conflicts both in the past and present, which was echoed by Clegg and Cameron.

    The sombre mood was dispensed with following Cameron's first question, in the most bitter exchange since the return of parliament, the economy dominated.

    Cameron using the latest jobless figures in attempt to lay into the government's handling of youth employment, claiming a record number of young people were now unemployed. The PM rebuffed with ease, which gave him the confidence for good performance throughout the session. "Every time we mention policy, he [Cameron] loses it." stated the PM, whilst claiming the government have invested £1 billion into a future jobs fund. Cameron look flustered after failing to land any blows with the employment figures, and his poor performance reflected by the unusually quiet Tory back benches.

    Clegg led with cuts to housing benefit, the PM said with gusto, "this is coming from the man who wants savage cuts". A very strong performance from the PM today, the clashes on the economy look set to become all important in the run to the next general election, Cameron needs to convince the public that the Tories have a better grasp on economic recovery.

    N.B - The Chancellor today annouced that the Pre Budget Report would be read before the house on the 9th December. 

    Wednesday, 4 November 2009

    Today in Westminster...

    Kelly report

    An eventful day, kicking off with the formal publication of the Kelly report on MPs expenses, already heavily leaked and contained no great surprises; see below for a summary of the key recommendations. Full report available here.
    • No more allowances for mortgage payments, only for rented properties.
    • Outer London MPs will lose second home allowance.
    • Family members to banned from being employed by MPs (will not come into affect for another five years)
    • No claims for furniture or food to be allowed.
    • Abolition of the communications allowance.
    • Redundancy payments for MPs choosing to step down reduced to 8 weeks

    All three party leaders used their opportunity to speak at PMQs today, to fully support the entirety of the report’s recommendations.

      Another sombre PMQs today, which was dominated by Afghanistan, with particular interest in the Afghan security forces and the legitimacy of the newly formed Karzai government. There were many references to cast iron guarantees from Labour backbenchers, who could not resist mocking Cameron’s abandonment of a Lisbon referendum. 

      David Cameron is expected to update the press with his reviewed European policy at 4pm today, after meeting with his backbenchers. 
      Following PMQs, Speaker Bercow announced that Prof Sir Ian Kennedy has been selected as the chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. 

      Tuesday, 3 November 2009

      The Queen’s Speech – Preview

      The legislative programme for what could be the last session of parliament with the current Labour government will be announced by the Queen on 18th November. With a general election expected in May 2010, the legislative timetable will be tight and many of the expected bills may never make it through parliament to Royal Ascent.

      In what will become a General Election battleground, the legislation announced may define Labour for decades. The PM had already given a flavour of what to expect when he published ‘Building Britain’s Future’ in June of this year.

      In summary, the following 11 bills are expected:

      · Constitutional Renewal Bill

      · Financial Services and Business bill

      · Digital Economy Bill

      · Energy Bill

      · Flood and Water Management Bill

      · Equality Bill

      · Policing, Crime and Private Security Bill

      · Child Poverty Bill

      · Animal Health Responsibility and Cost Sharing Bill

      · Cluster Munitions Prohibitions Bill

      · Improving schools and safeguarding children bill

      Two of the significant bills expected are the Financial Services and Business Bill and the Digital Economy bill. With the former aimed at tackling the ‘bonus culture’ in British banks and strengthening the role of the FSA. Expect a number of vote winning measures to be introduced, to ensure that Labour is deemed the party that punished the banks for causing the financial crisis.

      The Digital Economy Bill will detail how Britain will become a leader in the global digital economy. This will include several commitments that were laid out in the Digital Britain report including; a commitment to universal to 2mb broadband access, new curbs on illegal file sharing, a new system of videogames classification and enhancement of OFCOM.

      N.B. Parliament will be in prorogation beginning the 12th November.

      Upcoming recess dates:

      · Christmas 16 December 2009 - 5 January 2010

      · Half Term 10 February 2010 - 22 February 2010