Coalition under attack for its use of reviews to hide points of disagreement - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Coalition under attack for its use of reviews to hide points of disagreement

The coalition Government is under fire for setting up nine new reviews in its first week in power as it tries to head off potential disputes between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

A total of 12 separate reviews are now under way in Whitehall as the new administration kicks some tricky issues into the long grass. Two are on public spending and would have been carried out by Labour if it had won the election. The final one, on higher education funding, was set up by Labour and has not yet reported.

Today the two parties will publish their second "coalition agreement" as they continue to narrow the differences between them. It includes a review of the national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds, the Key Stage Two Sats boycotted by head teachers last week.

Although the review may calm teaching unions in the short term, they will be anxious about government plans to dismantle national pay scales. The new document says: "We will reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules to give schools greater freedoms to pay good teachers more and deal with poor performance."

The new blueprint endorses the flagship Tory policy to allow parents, teachers, charities and local communities to open new state-funded schools and does not mention Liberal Democrat plans for local authorities to have a "central strategic role" including admissions and performance.

In their foreword to today's agreement, "Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility", David Cameron and Nick Clegg say: "As our parties have worked together it has become increasingly clear to us that, though there are differences, there is also common ground. We share a conviction that the days of big government are over; that centralisation and top-down control have proved a failure.

"The time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain; to recognise that we will only make progress if we help people to come together to make life better. Our ambition is to distribute power and opportunity to people rather than hoarding authority within government."

The Prime Minister and his deputy add: "This is a historic document in British politics: the first time in over half a century two parties have come together to put forward a programme for partnership government.

"Difficult decisions will have to be taken; but we will ensure fairness is at the heart of those decisions so that all those most in need are protected. Working together, we are confident that we can take the country through difficult times to better days ahead."

But Labour claimed the growing number of commissions and reviews set up since the election showed that the coalition partners would struggle to reach agreement in crucial areas such as the 1998 Human Rights Act, which enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. At the election, the Tories pledged to replace it, but the Liberal Democrats strongly support it.

Phil Woolas, a Labour home affairs spokesman, said: "You can govern by review for about six months but in the autumn the Government will realise that it can't square the circle. Another review will not paper over the cracks between the Tories and Liberal Democrats on human rights. They promised a bonfire of the quangos but soon we will need a commission to review all the reviews."

Mr Clegg angered some Tory MPs yesterday by confirming that the Human Rights Act would be reviewed.

Bill Cash, a former shadow attorney general, warned there was "very acute" concern among Tory MPs that the party's position was being diluted. "Our manifesto commitment was crystal clear. It said we would replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. We want things to work, we want stability, but there are also these democratic questions about being elected on manifesto commitments."

Asked about Mr Clegg's warning not to "tamper" with the Act, Mr Cash retorted: "That is the view of Nick Clegg; it was not in my manifesto or my election address."

Mr Clegg said: "There will be a commission which will look into the case for a British Bill of Rights. It will, however, incorporate and build on the European Convention on Human Rights and the way that those rights are enshrined in British legislation." It would also include efforts to inform the public better of the rights they enjoyed, he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister was answering questions after making a speech in which he declared that the Government's programme of political reform represented a "fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen" and the most significant change to British democracy since the Great Reform Act of 1832. "This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state."

Norman Lamb, Mr Clegg's chief parliamentary and political adviser, said: "We are prepared to look at the case that the Conservatives put forward in the general election but we mustn't reduce the safeguards to the citizen. The convention is there to protect the citizen against the overbearing power of the state."

Under review

House of Lords Committee to bring forward proposals for wholly or mainly elected second chamber by December.

Human Rights Act Commission to look at rival Tory and Lib Dem policies.

Banking reform Commission to report within a year on whether their retail and investment functions should be separated.

Local government finance Full review will look at whether councils should be given more freedom.

Public sector pensions Independent commission to review their affordability amid concern about "ticking timebomb".

Libel laws Review follows criticism that Britain has become world's "libel capital".

Schools Review of how Key Stage 2 tests for 11-year-olds should operate.

West Lothian Question Commission to consider Tory pledge to ensure that laws referring specifically to England and Wales need majority support among English and Welsh MPs.

Office of Budget Responsibility Independent body set up by Chancellor to conduct audit of public spending.

Reviews that would have taken place anyway under Labour:

Comprehensive spending review To set budgets for all Whitehall departments for three years from 2011-12 financial year.

Defence Long-delayed strategic defence review, the first since 1998. Tories are committed to like-for-like replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system.

And this review is already underway:

Higher education: Review headed by Lord Browne of Madingley considering whether to raise university tuition fees.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'I felt like that was the lowest I’d ever felt'
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
Life and Style
techCriminals are targeting an e-reader security flaw
Life and Style
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Life and Style
news This video may make you think twice about ever taking the Tube again
Life and Style
A spider is seen in its web on September 16, 2014 in Hohen Meissner, Germany.
tech The 'Spider in Da House' app has been developed by scientists to tackle arachnophobia
Life and Style
fashionIncredibly, it hasn't been branded ''
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch
artAnd it's even for a good cause
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week