Omni-shambles: Get a grip on strategy, MPs tell government

Ministers need to develop a clearer overall direction to prevent the impression of a rudderless government, according to MPs.

The Commons' public administration select committee has published a report criticising a 'strategic vacuum' at the heart of the coalition government, which is united around a commitment to reducing the deficit.

The report acknowledged that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government faces "very severe economic and political challenges". That has seen the coalition's leaders criticised by its backbenchers, including Nadine Dorries calling David Cameron and George Osborne "arrogant posh boys" yesterday.

Mr Cameron has said he wants the government to "raise our game" and "do better" and has pledged to concentrate on the "big picture".

But in today's report MPs poured scorn on the coalition's strategic aims, which include being a 'free and democratic society', dismissing them as "so general as to be meaningless".

"We have invited the government to formulate aims which indicate more clearly what policies its departments should pursue as a consequence," committee chair Bernard Jenkin said.

"In the UK, too often the annual Budget appears to determine strategic priorities but this does not necessarily lead to coherent national strategy: this is the wrong way around."

MPs instead proposed using the publication of an annual national strategy statement as the start of the annual spending round.

"Tax and spending decisions should be the consequence of a more visible national strategy, aligning spending and tax decisions with the national strategic aims of government," Mr Jenkin added.

The committee also recommended a focus on working strategically across 'departmental silos' and a more public discussion about how public spending is divided between what its report called "entitlement and investment priorities".