The coalition's broken promises audit: All the best bits

Broken promises: The coalition audit
Broken promises: The coalition audit

All the juiciest bits from the coalition's audit of its own broken promises - updated live as we find them.

Promise: Snoopers' charter

Original promise: We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.

What it says: We have published proposals in the draft Communications Data Bill, to provide clarity over what types of personal data are required to be stored by communications and internet service providers for security and law-enforcement purposes, as well as strengthen safeguards around the acquisition, retention and use of such data.

What really happened: The coalition went against all its privacy principles by trying to store electronic and phone communication information at the point of the internet service provider. While the content of the emails and calls allegedly won't be recorded, information about the time and people involved in the communication will. This massive increase in state snooping powers relies on them not checking the content of the message - because most experts believe it is impossible to track information about the communication without also recording the content. the overnment says the measure is to stop terrorists and criminals using Facebook and other social media sites to communicate. Opponents say it is an intolerable intrusion on British privacy. It marked the turning point of the Home Office's newfound commitment to civil liberties.

Broken promise status: HIGH

Promise: Rape defendant anonymity

Original promise: We will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants.

What it says: An independent assessment found insufficient evidence on which to base an informed decision on the value of providing anonymity to rape defendants. We made clear from the outset that we would only proceed with defendant anonymity in rape cases if the evidence justifying it was clear and sound. In the absence of any such finding, we will not proceed further with this commitment, and announced this in November 2010.

What really happened: As the audit acknowledges, it didn't take long for the government to realise this reform simply wasn't feasible. Justice minister Crispin Blunt was very positive initially that the change would go ahead, but the case of John Worboys, a London taxi cab rapist, changed all that. He was suspected of having raped hundreds of women, many of whom came forward after the initial publicity surrounding his arrest. This was a setback for the coalition, but not a massive one.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: British bill of rights

Original promise: We will establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties. We will seek to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.

What it says: We established a Commission, chaired by Sir Leigh Lewis, in March 2011. The Commission reported to the Government in December 2012 and we are now considering its findings.

What really happened: What the document fails to mention is that the commission was beset by cross-purposes and infighting. It was set up by a government which had competing aims - the Lib Dems wanted to expand civil liberties protections while the Tories just wanted to scrap the Human Rights Act. It did very little and then it published, in the manner someone might breathe heavily before passing away. A damp squib.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: British justice

Original promise: We will protect historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

What it says: We have ensured that no measures undertaken have threatened to undermine the right to a jury trial.

What really happened: Well, yes, sort of. While the government didn't publish anything to limit trial by jury exactly, it did decide to severely chip away at another cornerstone of British justice: public trials. Ken Clarke's secret courts scheme, designed to allow sensitive intelligence material to be discussed in secret in court, sparked anger from civil liberties advocates and legal experts. It also prompted a robust campaign against the justice secretary in the Daily Mail. Clarke was eventually demoted to minister without portfolio but the secret courts battle goes on.

Broken Promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: NHS reorganisation

Original promise: We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care. We are committed to reducing duplication and the resources spent on administration, and diverting these resources back to front-line care.

What it says: The measures contained within the Health and Social Care Act 2012 will help deliver better health, better care and better value for money, encouraging greater focus on preventing ill health and empowering local communities to plan services according to local priorities. The modernisation will help the health service to develop from a system of management control to a system where power and decision-making is devolved to the most appropriate level, and has also enabled us to make substantial administrative savings. There are fewer managers and more doctors in the NHS since the 2010 General Election. The number of people waiting longer than 26 and 52 weeks to start treatment is at its lowest level since records began.

What really happened: In retrospect, the first sentence of this coalition bullet-point is perhaps the most laughably preposterous of all. It is hard to see how the government could have done more to break its pledge than the massive reform of the health service undertaken by Andrew Lansley, despite huge opposition from healthcare professionals. The anger it prompted sprung from the fact that, in addition to sending every tier of the NHS into tumult, it appeared to be ideologically driven. Driven forward into reality by the government against a reluctant NHS, this reform is perhaps the biggest top-down reorganisation in the NHS' history.

Broken promise status: HIGH

Promise: Patient power

Original promise: We will ensure that there is a stronger voice for patients locally through directly elected individuals on the boards of their local primary care trust (PCT). The remainder of the PCT’s board will be appointed by the relevant local authority or authorities, and the Chief Executive and principal officers will be appointed by the Secretary of State on the advice of the new independent NHS board. This will ensure the right balance between locally accountable individuals and technical expertise.

What it says: In light of the abolition of PCTs, we are ensuring greater democratic legitimacy in healthcare through the transferral of responsibility for public health to local authorities. We are also introducing Health and Wellbeing Boards (within local authorities), which will set the overall strategies for healthcare in their localities.

What really happened: It would have been easier for the coalition to keep this promise if it had not decided to do away with primary care trusts altogether. During the drawn-out NHS reforms debate the issue of accountability has been a big one. Only now, looking back at the coalition's original pledge, can we appreciate quite how far they deviated away from their starting point. "Greater democratic legitimacy" now comes via local authorities - not really an extension of democracy at all.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: Protecting low-earners

Original promise: We will introduce arrangements that will protect those on low incomes from the effect of public sector pay constraint and other spending constraints.

What it says: We ensured that the pay freeze did not apply to those earning less than £21,000 per year in areas of the public sector where pay is controlled by the Government. Employees’ public sector pension contributions increases began on 1 April 2012 but have not applied to those earning less than £15,000 and will be lower for those earning less than £21,000. Increases for 2013/14 will be implemented on the same basis, while those for 2014/15 will be decided following a review of opt-out rates.

What really happened: There are several useful policies for low-earners, such as the efforts to take them out the tax system altogether. But with Tory and Lib Dems Mps voting for a below-inflation rise in benefits last night - a move which will hit more poor working families than those out of work - its hard to take this promise as anything other than a cruel joke.

Broken promise status: HIGH

Promise: Lords reform

Original promise: We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

What it says: We published a draft Bill and White Paper on House of Lords reform in May 2011. These were subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by an ad hoc Joint Committee. The Government responded to the Joint Committee’s recommendations and introduced the House of Lords Reform Bill on 27 June 2012. The Government took the decision not to proceed with the Bill following second reading in the House of Commons and the lack of support for the necessary timetabling motion.

What really happened: Anything must have seemed possible in those heady days of May 201o - even reforming the Lords after a century of failure. Two-and-a-half years later, the coalition - and Nick Clegg in particular - have a failure of their own to add to the list. It was the intransigent suspicions of Conservative backbench MPs which made this simply impossible for the deputy prime minister - and some tortuously opportunistic positioning from Labour to make a government defeat possible. When that humiliation loomed, Clegg accepted the inevitable - but has vowed to wreak his revenge by killing off boundary changes. 

Broken promise status: HIGH

Promise: Third runway at Heathrow

Original promise: We will cancel the third runway at Heathrow.

What it says: We have not proceeded with a third runway at Heathrow. The Government recognises, however, that we must address the issue of future airport capacity, and we are committed to doing so. To this end, we have established an independent commission to gather evidence and provide analysis of all the options for airport capacity. Maintaining the UK’s status as a leading global aviation hub is of fundamental long-term importance to our economy.

What really happened: What's that sound you hear? That is the noise of a very long, very agonising U-turn. Taken on a literal level, it is true. The coalition has not proceeded with a third runway at Heathrow. Nor is it likely to do so for the duration of this parliament. But it is quite clear the Tories are seriously contemplating proposing the runway for their 2015 manifesto. The independent commission was set up to kick it into the long-grass, which it is duly doing. Justine Greening, who vociferously opposed a third runway, has been duly moved in a reshuffle to clear the way for a change of policy.

Broken promise status: LOW

Promise: All-postal primaries

Original promise: We will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targeted at seats which have not changed hands for many years. These funds will be allocated to all political parties with seats in Parliament that they take up, in proportion to their share of the total vote in the last general election.

What it says: Ministers are considering the available policy options, in light of the boundary review process.

What really happened: Part of the wave of political reforms the coalition hoped to push through, before working out how little spare cash it has to spare. Interestingly, today's claim is that the measure is being put on hold until the boundary review impasse resolves itself. Don't let that fool you - it will be very hard for this much spare cash to be opened up by the time that process is over some time at the end of this year.

Broken promise status: LOW

Promise: Cutting the number of spads

Original promise: We will put a limit on the number of special advisers.

What it says: The numbers of special advisers Ministers can appoint are set out in paragraph 3.2 of the Ministerial Code, published in May 2010.

What really happened: To save you time and effort, we have looked up paragraph 3.2 of the ministerial code. All it says is each Cabinet minister gets two spads, and the PM gets a few more. Not very helpful. But the simple fact of the matter is that by June last year the number of spads had increased to 85 - thought to be a comparable amount to the levels seen under Tony Blair. If you're still not convinced this is a broken promise, you need merely turn to the prime minister's own political adviser, Patrick Rock. He was photographed holding a restricted document worrying about whether to publish this document because, it warned, failures like the special adviser numbers issue would be included. From the horse's mouth, as it were...

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: The forests

Original promise: We will introduce measures to protect wildlife and promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.

What it says: We launched the Local Green Space Designation within the National Planning Policy Framework. This is a mechanism by which communities can work with their local authorities to protect spaces that are special to them (such as for wildlife value or recreation).

What really happened: That's true as far as it goes, but the coalition also caused uproar when it tried to sell off state owned forests, thereby raising fears about the impact on biodiversity and public access. It was one of the coalition's first and most embarrassing disasters, with environment secretary Caroline Spelman ebing gragged to the Commons where she told MPs she was sorry and that the government "got this one wrong". Ouch.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: Fox hunting

Original promise: We will bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act.

What it says: This proposal has not yet been taken forward.

What really happened: Finally an honest answer. The free vote on fox-hunting is a half-remembered story from an ancient time. It didn't feature in the Queen's Speech. It didn't. Feature in the coalition mid-term policy package. The only obfuscation is the use of the word 'yet'. This implies it eventually might, which seems unlikely. But never say never. You never know.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: Letting voters have local referenda

Original promise: We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue.

What it says: This provision was included in the Localism Bill, however, the provision was removed following opposition in the House of Lords during the passage of the Bill. Notwithstanding, the Localism Act has introduced local referendums in relation to levels of council tax and on neighbourhood planning.

What really happened: What the document doesn't mention is that it was actually Liberal Democrat peers who killed off this reform. They were worried by the idea of voters actually being able to make a difference and trigger a democratic process, God forbid. As Peter Facey, the director of Unlock Democracy, wrote: "The last Labour government gave powers to local communities and people, but only to do the things it wanted to be done. I never thought I would say this but that mind set is alive and well in the Liberal Democrats group in the Lords."

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: Friendly EU relations

Original promise: We will ensure that the British Government is a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

What it says: The Government has led the debate on reducing the burden of EU regulation on businesses, securing agreement to a breakthrough step to exempt micro-businesses from new EU proposals from 1 January 2013 and to review the body of EU legislation to identify existing obligations from which micro-businesses could be exempted. We have also worked with other Member States to push the Commission to take further ambitious action to tackle the burden of unnecessary EU regulation. [This response is extremely lengthy and has been shortened]

What really happened: Whichever way you view Britain's relations with the EU, it's hard to argue we have been a "positive participant". David Cameron's well-received veto froze relations at a European level, prompting the continuation of alignment practices with the UK on the sidelines. The eurozone crisis has immeasurably boosted the confidence of eurosceptics in the Tory party, which have made it clear they expect definitive action. Britain is trundling toward a referendum, although it's not yet clear if it will be on membership or on a new transfer of powers. European leaders complain that Britain comes to Brussels only to carp at others, but unwilling to fully engage. It's a partnership heading for a not-so-amicable divorce. UK-European relations are at an all-time low.

Broken promise status: MEDIUM

Promise: Aviation tax reform

Original promise: We will reform the taxation of air travel by switching from a per-passenger to a per-plane duty, and will ensure that a proportion of any increased revenues over time will be used to help fund increases in the personal allowance.

What it says: We announced (in Budget 2011) that we would not introduce a per-plane duty, given concerns over the legality and feasibility of this approach. The Government will continue to work with our international partners on this issue to achieve a consensus.

What really happened: The lawyers defeated this one. This approach was all very well when being thrashed out in the coalition negotiating room, but when push came to shove the new government had to conclude this one simply wasn't a goer. It turned out switching to a more environmentally friendly per-plane duty would go against the terms of an international convention signed during the Second World War. Oops. Remember the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats hadn't been in power for a very long time..

Broken promise status: LOW

Promise: Child poverty

Original promise: We will maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.

What it says: We published the first-ever Child Poverty Strategy to tackle the causes of poverty: including unemployment and welfare dependency, family breakdown and low educational achievement, poor health and disability and financial insecurity. We published a report in June 2012 into progress against the Child Poverty Act target of halving child poverty by 2010. We have also published a consultation on changing the way we measure child poverty to better capture the reality of child poverty.

What really happened: The reduction in child poverty achieved by Labour is set to be reversed by the coalition's austerity drive, according to Unicef. Tax credits and improving public services for children have been cut. Policies such as the cap on benefits rises are expected to trigger a worsening of child poverty in the UK, which currently stands at 3.6 million – roughly 27% of children. The situation is so dangerous Save the Children have released their first ever report into the UK.

Broken promise status: HIGH

Promise: No tuition fees

Original promise: We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding... if the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.

What it says: Following Lord Browne’s report, in November 2010, the Government has agreed a new funding regime for higher education.

What really happened: You can remember, can't you? The carnage in the Tory central office reception, ripped to shreds by angry protesters. The surging crowds pushing police back in Parliament Square. And, after it had all died down, a ridiculous video of Nick Clegg singing 'I'm Sorry' in a bizarre bid to try and make it all go away. It is not going to go away. The Lib Dem decision to "accept" the tuition fee findings was, surely, the biggest broken promise of all.

Broken promise status: HIGH


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