Tory Hate and Red Tape-equality impact assessment and analysis

Robin Richardson 

Cameron CBI 2012

Copyright HarveyNash

On Monday 19 November the prime minister made a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). In it he made a claim which was at best disingenuous and at worst deceitful. Either way the claim was unlikely to rally his own core supporters, for they will quickly recognise that it was empty and misleading rhetoric. Further, it is extremely unlikely to give a valuable moral direction to society as a whole.

Mr Cameron claimed his government is going to abolish equality impact assessments (EQUIAs). This was naïve and misleading, or downright deceitful, because the decision to abolish equality impact assessments was formally taken on 8 April 2010, namely several weeks before Mr Cameron entered Downing Street two and a half years ago. That was the day the Equality Act 2010 received royal assent. EQUIAs ceased to be required from 6 April 2011, which was the day when the new public sector equality duty (PSED) established by the Equality Act came into effect.

However much he hates what he calls red tape, Mr Cameron cannot abolish a requirement that does not exist. So why did he mislead or lie to the CBI? Were he and his speechwriters simply mistaken? Or did they gamble on nobody in their audience, and nobody in the media, knowing or caring about the truth? And on the inability of people who do know the truth to make their voices effectively heard? Whatever his motivations and levels of knowledge and ignorance, what is the likely effect of his false claim? Read more of this post

Why the House of Lords Reform is Important but Unwanted

James Nickerson

Image © UK Parliament

By now we have all heard a lot of news about the House of Lords, its role at Westminster, and the pros and cons of reform. The coalition, last night, dropped its plans for a ‘timetable’ amidst its fears of defeat. The scale of opposition from Labour sparked these fears, but it was Cameron’s own backbenchers that put the nail in the coffin. This may have served as an embarrassment for both Clegg and Cameron, but more importantly Clegg’s fantasy of reform is simmering away.

Reform of the upper chamber is not a new concept. In fact, since the Lords was formed in the 11th century it has been continuously reformed, with arguably the most important changes occurring in the 19th century: The Parliament Act of 1911 and The Parliament Act of 1949, limiting the amount of powers severely that the Lords possess. By now, the power of the House of Lords is much inferior, and rightly so, to the House of Commons. The argument, however, has now moved on from the powers of hereditary peers to an argument against the appointment of peers.

For Nick Clegg, deputy Prime Minister, the House of Lords ‘lacks legitimacy’ due to its unelected status. So what does Clegg suggest we do about this problem? The House of Lords reform plans want to reduce the chamber from 826 members to 450, with the majority (80%) being elected. The other 20% (90 members) would still be appointed, on a non-party basis. These elected members would serve a 15-year term, instead of being life members. Spiritually, the number of bishops from the Church of England would decrease from 26 to 12.

From the coalition’s point of view, this cannot be seen as anything but a defeat. Cameron, ultimately, could not achieve the numbers that he needed. Reportedly, around 100 backbenchers, led by Jesse Norman, would rebel against these proposed changes. It is convenient that Sir George Young, the leader of the Commons, would place blame on the Labour opposition, and that William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, would shout about opposition for opposition’s sake. Clegg, however, has taken the view that it is ‘a plague on both their houses’. Read more of this post

The Irrelevance of the Lords Reform Bill

Eddie Hodgson 

Image © UK Parliament

Reform of the House of Lords has been taking up much of the headlines in the newspapers over the last few days. It must be the silly season when such an irrelevant subject grabs the attention of the leader writers.

Most of the (mainly) pro Tory newspapers are accusing the Lib Dems of blackmailing the Conservative Party by threatening to oppose boundary changes (that favour the Tories) if they oppose Nick Clegg’s proposals for Lords reform.

It is hard to see why anyone should care about this. The only significant facts in the proposals are that:

  • The aim is to have 300 members of the reformed House of Lords
  • The term of office for each member will be 3 parliamentary terms (15 years)
  • Members will be paid a salary

The reasons why this proposal is unnecessary and irrelevant are:

  • Assuming a salary of £75,000 per year, this will cost the taxpayer £22.5m a year. The Government should be looking at better ways to spend this considerable sum of money.
  • The present system is not perfect but it ‘ain’t broke’ so there is no need to fix it.
  • The proposed reforms would mean simply that parties nominate individuals who would vote along party lines, hardly much change from having a second House of Commons. We already have a parliament voted in along party lines and we don’t need another one.
  • The proposals are merely Nick Clegg’s attempt to show that he is trying to get Lib Dem policy enacted. This is one of the dregs left in the Lib Dem manifesto, the most important parts of the manifesto now either abandoned by Clegg for a taste of power (such as abolition of tuition fees) and others having been roundly rejected by the electorate (AV).

The main reason, however that the proposals are irrelevant is that there are much more urgent priorities for this Government than reforming the Lords.

People generally care about four main things: health, jobs, homes and friends. The Government has failed the electorate on at least two of these issues, jobs and homes. Ask any young person and they will tell you that all they want is an opportunity to work, not an internship or work experience stacking shelves at Tesco, but a real job. Usually one can rely on the market to create jobs but the market is essentially self interested and will not create opportunity unless it is in the market’s interest.

Governments on the other hand exist to carry out a duty towards the electorate. The duty is to take responsibility, where the market won’t, to ensure that the people have the opportunity to find work. That means creating jobs or incentivising the market to create opportunities. With jobs people become bigger consumers and the market itself benefits. People can afford to take out mortgages or pay rent again. But this won`t happen while the market is in ‘stall’ mode.  Read more of this post

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