Loveless partners in coalition ditch plan to renew their vows

Parties keep their distance after ministers realise running the country is tougher than they thought

Parliamentary Correspondent


Plans for a second coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have been jettisoned as the parties struggle to sustain their existing reforms. Senior ministers had been working on a mid-term document – dubbed Coalition 2.0 – listing new policies to pursue from the end of this year until 2015. But The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the idea of a new agreement has been abandoned because ministers realise running the country is harder than they had thought.

Oliver Letwin, the Conservative policy guru, had confidently predicted that the Government would "run out of ideas" by 2012 because the big reforms negotiated in May 2010 would all have been implemented. However, several Bills, notably reforms to the NHS and benefits, have been widely criticised by charities, professional bodies and parliamentary committees and have been delayed by a string of defeats in the Lords.

"Coalition 2.0 is not going to happen," admitted a senior cabinet source. "We have realised that governing is more than just passing legislation. We really need to focus on ensuring they [the laws] work so we can go to voters with proof that we have made a difference."

Parliamentary setbacks have brought an end to the bonhomie of the early days, when both sides joked about how much they had in common. Each party is expected to publish a mid-term review focusing solely on its own achievements.

After recent public rows over the use of Britain's EU veto, the health and welfare reforms and tax policy, ministers conclude that it is all but impossible to agree a new programme and that they should concentrate, instead, on making a success of the 36-page document drawn up in five highly charged days in May 2010.

In particular, they want to focus on persuading the public that the NHS reforms will improve patient care, despite widespread opposition from most professional bodies. This week, Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health , is expected to table at least 200 amendments aimed at appeasing the Lords and easing the troubled legislation on to the statute book. "The Bill just has to happen," one minister said. "We have to just knuckle down and get it through."

It is also understood the Queen's Speech could be pushed back from May to June this year, to give the Government more time. In the next session, Lords reform is likely to dominate, but major new legislation is expected on gangs, employment law, social care and utility companies. The IoS revealed earlier this month how Mr Cameron told ministers he wants "less and better legislation" in the next session of parliament.

The Government has suffered six defeats over welfare in the Lords, including the removal of child benefit from the £26,000 cap, not charging single parents for help in obtaining child maintenance, and exempting cancer patients from limits on the new Employment Support Allowance.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, insists he has public support for reforming the welfare state and will this week urge MPs to reverse the Lords' amendments. "Millions of people are trapped on benefits under a welfare system where taking up work can leave many worse off," he said. "This is absurd and the British public expects this government to do something about it."

The Legal Aid Bill, described as a "monster" piece of legislation by one minister and "the hardest for us to get through unscathed" by another, is due in the Lords next week. Lib Dems, Labour and crossbench peers are expected to try to block changes to "no win, no fee" rules, claiming they will deprive the poor, elderly and homeless of justice.

Recently, the Lib Dems have adopted a more strident "differentiation strategy", to distance themselves from the Tories. And, in a further sign of the loosening of coalition harmony, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, last week gave a speech demanding the Treasury go "further and faster" in lifting the income tax threshold to ease the burden on low earners.

A study at University College London last year found 75 per cent of Lib Dem manifesto pledges were in the original coalition agreement, compared to just 60 per cent of Tory promises. One Conservative MP remarked at the time that any new agreement would mean "pay-back time".

This week's wrangles: Challenges over legal aid, welfare and Scotland

Monday Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill goes to the Lords amid claims that justice will be denied to the least well-off.

Tuesday Lords finish scrutinising the Welfare Reform Bill after inflicting six defeats on the Government.

Wednesday Government banking on Lib Dem MPs to help reverse Lords amendments to Welfare Bill. Two hundred amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to be outlined, aimed at buying off opposition.

Thursday Scotland Bill in the Lords against backdrop of growing row over Scottish independence.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
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

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style