The government announced on Thursday 3rd April 2014, that plans to roll out the badger cull across England have been abandoned following an assessment of two trial culls. The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, had said he wanted 40 culls across the nation.
The U-turn is the latest in a long line of reversals from the coalition government, including about-faces on the “pasty tax” and “caravan tax” after the 2012 budget. Below is a list of all the coalition’s U-turns so far.
3 April 2014: Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, drops plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across England after a damning independent report found the shoots were not effective or humane. The two pilot culls, in Gloucestershire and Somerset, will continue with improvements recommended by the independent expert panel (IEP), including more and better-trained marksmen. But plans to start badger culls in 10 other areas have been abandoned, Paterson announced on Thursday, telling MPs he was taking the responsible approach.
27 November 2013: plain packaging for cigarettes. In July the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had announced that ministers were going to hold off from introducing standardised packaging for cigarettes until the evidence from Australia – which introduced the measure last year – had been evaluated. That was widely seen as ministers dropping the policy, but in November the coalition surprised commentators by giving ministers the power to introduce the policy. In April 2014, the public health minister, Jane Ellison, said the government would introduce the measure. She told the House of Commons that a government-commissioned review made “a compelling case that if standardised packaging were introduced, it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health”.
26 November 2013: leverage ratios for banks. Labour accused George Osborne of a U-turn after the chancellor asked Bank governorMark Carney to review leverage ratios for banks – an indicator of their financial health that measures how much capital underpins their loans. Cathy Jamieson, Labour’s shadow financial secretary, accused Osborne of changing tack because he knew he would lose a vote overrecommendations in a high-profile parliamentary report to make banks financially stronger through tightening the leverage ratio.
25 November 2013: payday loans. Ending years of resistance to such a move, George Osborne announced a legal cap on the overall cost of payday loans. The chancellor told MPs last March: “I have to say—this was certainly the view of the previous Government, too—that although it could be worth looking at, simply introducing a cap might have the effect of pushing a lot of people into a completely unregulated black economy. I am not sure that any of us would want to see that.”
6 September 2013: lobbying. The government announced a U-turn on controversial lobbying legislation after a campaign by charity executives who believed the bill would hit their ability to campaign. Ministers tabled a series of amendments to the legislation and dropped proposals to change the way campaign spending by organisations other than political parties was defined.
5 September 2013: legal aid competition. Plans to award legal aidcontracts to the lowest bidders following criticisms it would reduce justice to a “factory mentality” were scrapped after fears were raised that price-competitive tendering for legal aid would allow multinational firms to provide justice at the cheapest cost.
17 July 2013: alcohol pricing. The government scrapped a plan to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, saying there was not enough concrete evidence that the unit price of 45p, which had been floated last year, would reduce the level of problem drinking without “penalising those who drink responsibly”.
12 March 2013: bedroom tax for foster carers and armed forces.Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, announced a partial U-turn on the government’s controversial bedroom tax, exempting foster carers and armed forces personnel who live at home.
5 March 2013: private sector involvement in NHS. After pressure from doctors, Lib Dem ministers, and Labour, health secretary Jeremy Hunt rewrote regulations that would have increased private sector involvement in the NHS, just four weeks before they were due to come into effect.
7 Febuary 2013: GCSE replacement. In September 2012, Gove said he wanted to replace what he saw as discredited, grade-inflated GCSEs with a more rigorous qualification to be assessed by exams only rather than coursework or modular elements. This English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) was opposed by the Liberal Democrats, teaching unions and famous names in the arts world, who felt their subjects would be downgraded, and concerns were also raised by exams watchdog Ofqual and the education select committee. Gove scrapped the plan to replace GCSEs with the EBC five months later, although many of his other planned changes to GCSEs will still take place.
30 November 2012: flood defences. Devastating flooding across Britain forced David Cameron into a partial U-turn over deep cuts to spending on flood defences. An extra £120m would allow 50 delayed schemes to go ahead, although hundreds of projects remained without financial support. The government cut flood defence spending on entering office, slashing it from £665m in 2010-11, to £540m for each year until 2014-15.
28 November 2012: payday loans. In the face of possible defeat in the Lords, the government agreed to change the law to give the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) powers to set a cap on exorbitant interest rates charged on payday loans. The government had said a cap could harm the interests of users of payday loan firms.
23 October 2012: badger cull. A controversial planned badger cull aimed at curbing the rise in bovine TB was postponed until summer 2013 following public and scientific opposition. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, blamed the rainy weather, time-consuming legal challenges, and the Olympics taking up police resources for the delay.
19 October 2012: energy tariffs. After telling MPs at prime minister’s questions that “we will be legislating so energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers”, Cameron was forced to admit the next day that he had only raised an option for inclusion in the energy bill. The government is now expected to demand only that firms limit their tariffs to four and tell customers which one is cheapest for them.
2 October 2012: West Coast Mainline. The government scrapped its decision to award the West Coast Mainline rail franchise to FirstGroup after admitting there were “significant technical flaws” in the process. Up to that point two transport secretaries had insisted the bidding process was robust in the face of threatened legal action by Virgin Trains.
11 September 2012: payments to victims of minor criminal assaults. The Ministry of Justice had wanted to limit payments under the criminal injuries compensation scheme so that only seriously injured victims would be eligible, but after critics claimed the move would leave victims unable to seek redress for attacks the plans were scrapped.
27 June 2012: fuel duty rise. The government backed away from a planned 3p increase in fuel duty in the face of opposition from motoring organisations and business groups. The U-turn led to a disastrous appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight from then-Treasury minister Chloe Smith, who was unable to explain which departments would contribute to an underspend that would pay for the change. She was moved to the Cabinet Office a few months later.
31 May 2012: charitable donations. In the 2012 budget, George Osborne, the chancellor, announced he would cap tax relief on charitable donations at £50,000 or 25% of income. This was greeted by protests from charities, which warned they could lose a significant proportion of their income and suggested the policy went against the principle of Cameron’s “big society”. It was scrapped two months later.
30 May 2012: buzzards. The environment department had planned to destroy buzzards’ nests to protect pheasant shoots. The proposal caused uproar among conservationists, who said the government itself admitted it was based only on anecdotal evidence.
28 May 2012: pasty tax. Also in the budget, Osborne announced plans to charge VAT on food designed to cool down, such as sausage rolls and pasties, prompting protests in Cornwall, claims that ministers were “out of touch”, and embarrassing photo-opportunities and press conferences as politicians of all stripes rushed to prove they loved eating pasties and sausage rolls. The plan was scrapped two months later.
28 May 2012: caravan tax. The budget also levied VAT on static caravans. Again the government was accused of being out of touch with ordinary people, and was subject to fierce lobbying from the Caravan Club. Two months later the new VAT rate was cut from 20% to 5%.
28 May 2012: secret courts. A government green paper on keeping evidence from the security services secret was watered down following opposition from the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
15 May 2012: Scottish independence referendum. Scottish Tories were furious after Cameron said he was not “too fussy” about the date of the referendum – in effect disowning the previous Conservative line that a plebiscite must be held within two years.
9 May 2012: Joint Strike Fighter. The coalition had replaced Labour plans to buy a jump jet for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, instead plumping for a “cats and traps” model that could catapult and recover a version of the Joint Strike Fighter. But the JSF model the coalition wanted became beset by delays and technical problems, meaning the government had to revert to Labour’s plans.
5 May 2012: unannounced Ofsted inspections. The chief inspector of schools announced in January 2012 the introduction of no-notice inspections, but Gove backed down a few months later following protests from headteachers, and admitted there was a perception that Ofsted was becoming “an arm of the Spanish Inquisition”.
21 March 2012: video games tax relief. In the March 2010 budget, Labour promised the same sort of tax relief for the video games industry that the film sector gets, but this was scrapped when the coalition came to power. Two years later Osborne changed his mind.
1 December 2011: Disability Living Allowance. The government announced plans in the 2010 spending review to cut the “mobility” part of DLA, worth £51 a week, for those in residential care, but after criticism that this was “callous” dropped the plans the following year.
23 November 2011: chief coroner. Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, scrapped plans to abolish the post of chief coroner after a year-long campaign to save the post by the Royal British Legion.
23 November 2011: Youth Justice Board. The board was supposed to be scrapped in the government’s “bonfire of the quangos”, but in the face of opposition ministers changed their minds.
17 November 2011: NHS waiting times. Andrew Lansley, the then-health secretary, had criticised waiting time targets as unnecessary and bureaucratic, but in the face of evidence that waiting times were creeping up he introduced a new rule to halt the growing number of patients not being treated within the 18 weeks guaranteed under the NHS constitution.
14 July 2011: coastguard centres. The government had planned to reduce the number of coastguard centres from 18 to eight, with only three open 24 hours a day, but partially backtracked, changing the plans to ensure 10 would stay open 24 hours a day.
22 June 2011: BBC World Service. William Hague, the foreign secretary, partially reversed huge cuts to World Service funding by announcing an extra £2.2m a year for the BBC’s Arabic Service. A report on the Foreign Office website: “Massive U-turn on BBC World Service funding.”
21 June 2011: sentencing discounts. Cameron abandoned plans to offer a 50% sentence discount to offenders who submitted early guilty pleas after tabloid criticisms of “soft justice”.
13 May 2011: circus animals. The government replaced a proposed ban on wild animals in circuses with new licensing conditions.
17 February 2011: housing benefit cut. The government announced a 10% cut in housing benefit for anyone unemployed for more than a year in the June 2010 budget. Clegg feared that private sector landlords might be reluctant to rent to jobseeker’s allowance claimants if their housing benefit was at risk, and the following spring the plans were dropped.
17 February 2011: selling off the forests. “We got this one wrong,” said the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, when she abandoned plans to sell 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodland in England only one month after they had been announced.
12 February 2011: Financial Inclusion Fund. In January 2011 the government said it would axe a £27m-a-year scheme paying for specialist debt advisers. Campaigners said this could lead to ill or vulnerable people lacking help dealing with serious debt. A month later the government said the service would continue for another year; it has now been replaced by the Face to Face debt advice programme.
9 February 2011: military covenant. In June 2010 Cameron said a promise of duty of care in return for the military’s sacrifices would be enshrined in law. But the armed forces bill eventually published required the Ministry of Defence only to produce an annual report on the covenant.
26 December 2010: Bookstart. Writers such as Philip Pullman and Andrew Motion protested in December 2010 after the government announced plans to scrap a scheme providing free books for children, and a few days later the plan was abandoned. However, two months laterit was announced that Bookstart would lose half its funding.
20 December 2010: school sports. In October 2010 Gove announced that the education department would no longer fund the £162m-a-year school sport partnerships. After heavy criticism from headteachers, Olympic sportspeople, Labour, young people and others, two months later Gove backtracked and said he had found £112m to keep the system going.
25 November 2010: domestic violence. Theresa May, the home secretary, announced in July 2010 she would abandon a scheme to remove violent partners from the family home. After pressure from charities she performed a U-turn four months later.
16 November 2010: photographer and camerawoman on the public payroll. Andrew Parsons was Cameron’s personal photographer before he became prime minister, and Nicky Woodhouse made “Webcameron” videos for the Tory website, but there was an outcry when they were placed on the public payroll when the Tories took office. Cameron defended this as a cost-saving measure, but a few days later decided the Conservative party would pay their salaries.
12 November 2010: rape anonymity. In the coalition agreement in May 2010, the Tories and Liberal Democrats had suggested extending anonymity in rape cases to defendants. After protests from women’s groups, who said it would have sent a message to juries that victims in rape cases should not be believed, five months later the government said there was not sufficient evidence to justify the move and scrapped it.
9 September 2010: NHS Direct. In August 2010 the Department of Health said the NHS Direct service would be scrapped. A month later Lansley said the department just meant the phone number.
8 August 2010: free school milk. Anne Milton, a Tory health minister, suggested withdrawing the scheme that gives free school milk to under-fives. The idea was quickly stamped on by No 10 – presumably because of its echoes of Margaret Thatcher’s scrapping of free milk for seven- to 11-year-olds in 1971.
5 July 2010: dissolution of parliament. In what was greeted with delight by the media as the first big U-turn of the coalition, the government’s plans to block the dissolution of parliament without the agreement of at least 55% of MPs were altered to allow a simple majority of MPs to trigger such a dissolution.
Source: The Guardian 3/4/2014