Whitehall will be sold off in the name of reform
Westminster Outlook Royal Mail aside, this Tory-led Coalition has not been a government marked by grand privatisations.
Indeed, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has been fairly true to his word in a meeting with CBI director-general John Cridland three years ago. A leaked memo showed Mr Maude vowed that there "would not be a return to the 1990s with wholesale outsourcing to the private sector".
Although he was once a managing director at Morgan Stanley, Mr Maude argued that the Government "was not prepared to run the political risk of fully transferring services to the private sector". The Horsham MP did not want the Coalition to be accused of "allowing excess profitmaking by private sector firms".
Instead, the Coalition has altered the corporate status of great swathes of the state, slowly ripening departmental bodies for privatisation. Large chunks of taxpayer-funded work, from the £14bn-budget arm of the Ministry of Defence that buys military kit to parts of the Health & Safety Executive, have been loosened from the Civil Service's grip and granted certain commercial freedoms.
The legislatively thin Queen's Speech on Wednesday might have betrayed that this is a Coalition preparing for separation at next year's general election, yet still there was a continuation of this policy.
The Infrastructure Bill will turn the Highways Agency – which runs, maintains and improves Britain's most important 4,300 miles of motorways and trunk roads – into a Government-owned company. This means the agency will be able to break the Civil Service's strict pay code to help attract top staff from the private sector and could be granted certain borrowing powers, in moves the Coalition believes will save £2.6bn over 10 years.
The transport minister, Robert Goodwill, has been very clear that he doesn't see this as a move towards privatisation, as many industry insiders hope and virtually all union chiefs fear.
What is unquestionable, though, is that it will be less of a major step, and therefore not as controversial, for a future government to sell off the Highways Agency – as well as those other parts of the state that have been commercialised under David Cameron's watch.
This leaves two big questions: will a Conservative government armed with a sizeable majority after the next election make that final, decisive move and float shares in these agencies or at least outsource the management to the likes of Serco and Capita? And what is next?
I'm not sure of the answer to the first, but I'd be willing to bet that the Government is taking a good hard look at the Environment Agency.
After being trounced for its lax response to the winter floods, the Environment Agency finds itself in a precarious position. And this gives the Government the excuse it barely needs to expand a policy of commercialising Whitehall under the guise of necessary reform.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
Ayesha Ali death: Mother and her girlfriend found guilty of manslaughter of eight-year-old
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, claims photographer
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...
£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...