Government facing accusations of spin and whitewash after publishing 'audit' of its time in power
Report lists dozens of targets that have not been achieved or have been dropped
The Coalition is facing accusations of spin and whitewash after releasing a detailed “audit” of its record which glossed over some of the most contentious episodes that have confronted it since coming to office.
The Government said it proved it had achieved the “vast majority” of its initial objectives. By its own admission, however, nearly 90 of the 399 pledges that it wanted to be judged against have either been dropped or are still to be completed.
Critics also seized on the omissions in the 119-page document, which was belatedly released as an annexe to the Coalition’s mid-term review.
It failed to mention George Osborne’s abandoned promise to cut debt as a share of gross domestic product within five years, the introduction of £9,000 a year university tuition fees or the rejection of plans for elected mayors in large cities.
It also claimed that plans to require phone and internet companies to store more information about users’ online contacts were designed to “provide clarity over what types of personal data are required”.
The audit’s existence only emerged when one of David Cameron’s aides was spotted carrying a memo which suggested the audit publication could be delayed to avoid overshadowing publicity around the review, which took place three days ago amid great fanfare.
At the time the Prime Minister described the Coalition’s performance over its first two and a half years as a “Ronseal deal”, proving two political parties could come together in the national interest.
He returned to the metaphor in angry exchanges with Ed Miliband yesterday ahead of the audit’s publication, promising the document would be full, frank and “completely unvarnished”.
The audit does not rate Coalition promises by whether they have been achieved or missed so far. But an analysis by the Independent concluded that 19 have been abandoned and a further 67 have not been completed.
Those that have been scrapped or postponed include staging a free vote on repealing the hunting ban, the planned cull of badgers, introducing elections to the House of Lords and the establishment of a dedicated border police force.
The audit acknowledged that moves to hold all-postal primaries to select candidates in 200 parliamentary seats were being reconsidered, while a plan to replace Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight levy had been shelved amid concerns over its “legality and feasibility”.
Promises still in the pipeline include banking reform, banning the sale of below-cost alcohol and the introduction of more flexible working patterns.
The audit sidestepped the Coalition’s original promise not to introduce a top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service, claiming that last year’s sweeping health reforms would help deliver better health, better care and better value for money”.
Michael Dugher, Labour’s vice-chair, said: “David Cameron has gone from Ronseal to whitewash in just two days. It turns out that the document David Cameron tried and failed to cover up is now itself a cover-up.”
Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said the document proved the Government had achieved or was making progress on the “vast majority” of its commitments.
Asked about the absence of figures on the economy’s performance, he said those figures were freely available and it was not the intention of the new document to repeat them.
“The aim of the document is to go through one by one each of the commitments made by the Government. What we have done is set out, against every single one of the commitments, progress to date.”
The spokesman said the audit had not been ready for publication alongside the mid-term review because the process of “copper-bottoming” its accuracy had not been completed.
The audit’s existence emerged when the photographer Steve Back took pictures of Downing Street aide Patrick Rock holding a memo warning that publishing it alongside the mid-term review could highlight “problematic areas” and lead to “unfavourable copy” identifying “broken pledges”.
* Raise the income tax threshold. It went up to £8,105 in 2012/13 and will increase to £9,440 in 2013/14.
* Introduce a system of Free Schools. Eighty have now opened, with 102 more due to follow in September.
* Bring in civil liberties measures, including scrapping Labour’s identity card plans.
* Promise to “support an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30 per cent by 2020”. Instead has backed a directive cutting energy consumption by 20 per cent.
* House of Lords reform. Ministers “took the decision not to proceed” after rebellion against the move by Tory MPs.
* Vote on repealing fox-hunting ban on ice.
* Double dip recession and abandonment of moves to cut debt as share of GDP by 2015.
* The turmoil over introducing £9,000 a year university tuition fees.
* Nine cities out of 10 rejected the idea of elected mayors in referenda last year.
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