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.
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."
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