Coalition Government’s policies take shape

Yesterday the new Coalition Government published its Five Year Policy Programme, a 32 page document summarising their policies, and in some case the compromises both parties have made to form an alliance.

Described by the leaders as “a programme for 5 years of partnership government”, the document outlines key pledges in a list of public policy areas, as well as 28 reviews, including one on research and development grants. Here for example they have pledged to “consider the implementation of the Dyson Review to make the UK the leading hi-tech exporter in Europe, and refocus the research and development tax credit on hi-tech companies, small firms and start-ups”.

On higher education, they await Lord Browne’s final report into funding, and will consider its proposals alongside other necessary considerations, with the option for a Liberal Democrat abstention from vote if needed. On energy, alongside securing supply and low carbon energy, the role of Ofgem will be reviewed. Helping with fuel costs in rural areas is a priority, as is the promotion of community-owned renewables and smart meters. Grid investment also features, in an offshore electricity grid and a smart grid. The disagreements over new nuclear build remain – Liberal Democrats will be able to express opposition even if the Conservatives want to pursue it.

On food, they will encourage sustainable food production, and ‘introduce honesty in food labelling’ to ensure origin and environmental impact are reported. On farming they wish to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by ‘moving to a risk-based system of regulation’. They will also investigate ways to share the responsibility of disease outbreaks with livestock keepers. A science-led policy of badger control in high risk areas will be introduced to tackle bovine tuberculosis.

On animal welfare, they will promote high standards of farm animal welfare, and end the testing of household products on animals whilst aiming to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. They will enable a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in parliament.

On biodiversity they will introduce wildlife protection measures such as wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats. A national tree planting campaign is promised, alongside a review of National Parks which aims to increase local accountability. Stronger measures to prohibit the import and possession of illegal timber will also be introduced, alongside a new Border Police Force to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

On the environment, notable goals are full compliance with European Air Quality standards, reforming the water industry, introducing further recycling incentives and improving flood defences. The Marine and Coastal Access Act will be implemented effectively, including the conservation measures therein. For further details on all the policy announcements, see the full document here.

Last week the ministerial team at Defra was announced, to include James Paice as Minister of State for Agriculture and Farming, Richard Benyon and Lord Henley as Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State. Mr Benyon’s portfolio includes the natural environment and fisheries in particular. Detailed ministerial portfolios have been announced this week, which can be found on the Defra website.