Picking Losers

Taxing regulation

A CBI survey found that some of the major British companies have moved abroad and more companies are considering the move to escape high corporate taxes. Businesses are discontent with the complexity of tax rules, aggressive attitudes of tax collection and high compliance cost.

Gordon's green credentials

Today's Independent (24 Nov) reports the fall of revenue from green taxes which have fallen to their lowest level for at least 18 years. Green taxes is the most efficient way of tackling climate change but the Government doesn't seem to understand that. Gordon Brown is almost certainly preparing another of his famously complex solutions to the problem which will help no one in the end.

Regulating travel insurance

The Treasury yesterday (23 Nov) launched a public consultation on travel insurance on grounds that "the market is not working well enough to prevent mis-selling." The last consultation on travel insurance was only three years ago when the Government decided that it is not necessary to regulate the sector. During the last review, most of the travel agents were against regulations and argued that the sector's code of conduct is sufficient to prevent any wrong-doing. Much could not have changed since. Regulations is not the way forward but it is the responsibility of the purchaser to check the T&C of the insurace one is buying.

MoD spending

NAO report reveals that MoD projects are overspent by £3 billion and are a total of 36 years late. The fleet is ageing, it takes more and more money to carry out repairs and the supply of new equipment is months if not years away. This must make a grim reading for the Government especially at a time of continued heavy fighting on two fronts.

Great war tactics

The troops in Afganistan fighting the Taleban don't only fight the dangerous enemy but also the MoD to get proper ammunition. According to the Telegraph, the MoD sent the troops faulty ammunition as it was cheaper. Proper ammunition was sent after the special forces got involved. The MoD ended up spending more than it would have done if it had bought working ammunition in the first place.

Conflicting health policies

The Telegraph reports that hopitals are advised not to treat patients "too promptly" as this is costing too much money. The "Choose and Book" system has allowed patients to book early appointments which means that hospitals might lose money by giving appointments to patients that have waited less than 8 weeks. The "Choose and Book" system was created to give patients a wide choice of hospitals and to be treated promptly. But by restiricting available appointments to save money the Labour government contradicts its health policies yet again.

Eddington review

The release of the important transport review has been delayed and it is now expected to be published with the pre budget report. The delay has not stopped the chief of the review to move to Australia and take up several high positions, including leading a transport review of the state of Victoria.

The review that examines issues such as north south high-speed rail link, road charging and greater investment, is now led by a group of civil servants. This of course poses the question whether the review will represent independent findings as was its original function.  

Tsunami aid

Public Accounts Committe yesterday congratulated officials and ministers for "swift and impressive" response to the Asian tsunami. But the Independent reports that more than £9 million of British aid was sitting unspent in bank accounts 16 months after the distaster and the Department for International Development (DfID) has clawed back £2.5 million of it. DfID will now decide how to spend the money, partly donated by the public. £9 million is a relatively small amount but could make a huge difference to the people affected.

Scrap the site

Downing Street has set up an e-petitions website and it has become very succesful. Succesful in a sense that people are visiting the site and signing petitions, but will it really change anything? There is a petition to scrap the ID cards with almost 3,000 signatures but it is certain that the Government will not change its line on ID cards. People will receive a response to the petitions they have signed but that does not mean that any action will be taken. So really, what's the point...?


The Olympic bill has risen by 40% since the Games were won last year and its is likely that it will go up even further. The Government must sort out this chaos at once and it needs to get a grip on all the costs and where the funding will be coming from.

One thing at a time

John Reid's tough talk when becoming home secretary has not been matched in paractice. The Home Office has missed the PM's "tipping point" targets of deported asylum seekers and 25% less people were deported in the last three months. The Home Office has been busy sorting out other matters and staff responsible for immigration was switched to deal with the issue of foreign prisoners.

Parenting centres, super nannys and databases....

The Guardian reports that the Government is creating a new database containing the details of every child in England from birth to the age of 18. It is justified on grounds of better protection and for improved coordination among different bodies. This, like the previously announced parenting schools and super nannys, is a clear example of government interferring further into our daily lives. The recent initiatives show that the Governemnt does not trust parents to bring up well-behaved children and that they believe only heavy-handed methods will help to improve behaviour and protection.

Super nanny to the rescue

First the Government announced that parents that don't read and sing for their children will be helped to do so in new parenting centres and today's (21 Nov) papers are reporting that £4 million will be spent on "super nannys" (=child psychologists) to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

An Olympian Mess?

Inevitably fears are mounting that the costs of staging the 2012 Olympic Games are spiralling out of control. To its credit, the Olympic Devlivery Authority has brought in private sector experts to help them manage the project. However, the inevitable political infighting within government, with everyone and anyone remotely associated with the Olympics seeing it as a gravy train, means that the project is seriously in danger of running over budget and behind time. When will we need to start getting used to the idea of a 2013 Games?

Identity Crisis?

So, the Guardian claims to have successfully cracked the encryption of the prototype new ID cards[don't seem to be able to add the link today].

Everything from the dubious justification, through to the inherent dangers of allowing the publuc sector to take on a project of this scale, suggests that this policy is doomed to failure. The sooner the Government announces a proper review, the better.

Deal or no deal

The Government has interfered with the flotation of KBR, a subsidary of Halliburton, that operates the Devonport Dockyard, western Europe's largest naval port. MoD is not happy with the sell-off of KBR on grounds that it might have severe strategic/security implications. The Government has warned Halliburton that it might lose the Dockyard if the company will not delay the launch.

Nanny state

The children's minister Beverley Hughes announced today that parents that do not read and sing for their children will be helped to do so. New parenting centres will be opening from next year to give parents advice. The minister says that singing and reading will give children a "flying start" and will imporve their wellbeing and intellect. This might be true but do we really need the government to point this out and to establish such advice centres? 

"Hard-up" Defra

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has underspent its budget by almost £750 million since it was formed in 2001. The Telegraph describes the deprtment as "hard-up" and mentions that due to cutting £200 million from its budget to cover the levies imposed by the EU for the late payment of agricultural subsidies, Defra has decreased spending in other areas, like coastal defence schemes.

The CBI - cheerleader for government intervention, promoter of vested interests, or both?

According to their website, the CBI's mission is:

"to help create and sustain the conditions in which businesses in the United Kingdom can compete and prosper for the benefit of all"

and their policy is:

"decided by our members – senior professionals from all sectors and sizes of business are directly involved in the policy-making process"

In the experience of this author, the CBI are now complicit in the government's ever-expanding intervention in the economy, and listen only to their bigger members. A recent exchange of correspondence seemed to illustrate this attitude. It is repeated below - decide for yourselves.