Ministers have been accused of burying bad news by publishing dozens of announcements on the final day of Parliament this year – when many MPs have already left Westminster and public attention focussed on David Cameron’s EU renegotiation.
No fewer than 36 written statements were pushed out, with departments flooding the news wires with news on controversial issues such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the bedroom tax, cuts to green energy projects, fracking, police funding, expansion to the badger cull and a rise in the number of taxpayer-funded special advisers.
Labour accused the Government of deliberately trying to avoid proper scrutiny and hiding his broken promise to cut the cost of politics by releasing the raft of announcements on the final day of Parliament.
Here are just seven of the announcements that the Government tried to bury on Thursday:
1. Badger cull
Environment Secretary Liz Truss announced that the badger cull will be extended again to more areas of the country despite the success of vaccine trials that could make further killing unnecessary.
She said the scheme to kill the animals had been successful in meeting its targets in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Dorset.
The expansion comes despite an independent analysis commissioned by the Government warned ministers last year that the policy was ineffective and inhumane.
2. Muslim Brotherhood
David Cameron finally published the long-awaited report into the Muslim Brotherhood organisation – a study that was completed in the summer but delayed after Saudi Arabia put pressure on the Government to ban the group.
Ministers have been accused of sitting on the report to avoid upsetting key allies in the Middle East.
The Prime Minister said in the report that members of the group should be considered as potential extremists but stopped short of banning the group as he set out the conclusions of the long-awaited government report on the organisation.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
Licenses to explore fracking at 159 blocks of land across the UK were granted on Thursday – a day after MPs approved fracking 1,200m underneath national parks.
The decision was attacked by environmental campaigners, who warned that it would give the green light for the controversial practice to take place under three national parks and five “areas of outstanding natural beauty” in the UK.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said Thursday’s decision to grant the new raft of licences undermined David Cameron’s election pledge to conserve Britain as the “most beautiful country in the world”.
4. Solar panel subsidies
The Government snuck out an announcement that subsidies for rooftop solar panels will be hit by heavy cuts, and taxpayer-funded support for large scale solar projects will also be scrapped - in a blow to the green energy sector just days after the historic Paris climate change accords.
Although reductions to support for household solar panels and small wind turbines are smaller than had been originally proposed, campaigners said the 65 per cent cut would be a “hammer blow for households, jobs and UK plans for tackling climate change”.
The Government estimates the cuts could cost between 9,700 and 18,700 jobs in the solar industry. Solar companies said that the decisions showed “Paris has changed nothing”.
5. Bedroom tax
A report ordered by the Government on the effects of the so-called bedroom tax was quietly released on Thursday.
It found that the removal of the spare room subsidy - otherwise known as the bedroom tax - has increased hardship among those affected, with nearly half reporting that they had to cut back on food spending to cope, a Government-ordered study has revealed.
Three quarters of people affected by the changes regularly run out of money by the end of the week or the month, the study found.
It also reveals that only a third of people affected who applied for emergency support to pay the rent received any help.
6. Rise in the number of Government spin doctors
A Government data release of all taxpayer-funded special advisers were also published and it showed that the bill for the Government’s team of 96 spin doctors had hit £8.4m.
A third of those special advisers, known as spads, are employed by Mr Cameron, with his director of communications Craig Oliver earning £140,000 – just £2,500 less than the Prime Minister.
This is an increase of six spads since May’s General Election.
The statement also revealed that George Osborne employs 10 spads – five times more than usual for heads of departments.
7. Police funding
A Home Office statement revealed that central Government funding for Britain’s 43 police forces is being cut by 2.3 per cent a year – around £41m.
This flies in the face of George Osborne’s pledge at last month’s Spending Review, when he said: “The police protect us so we will protect the police,” announcing there would be no cuts to the policing budget.
Any extra funds will have to come from local government – already one of the biggest areas hit by the Chancellor’s latest round of austerity.
Responding to accusations it had dumped out a load of bad news in a bid to bury bad news, a Downing Street spokesman said: "This is a Government which has a very busy agenda and we're delivering on a large range of commitments."Reuse content