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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Liberal Democrats set out plans to retain independence

The Guardian reports that the Liberal Democrats are to adopt a new structure that will enable them to keep a distinctive voice while in coalition.

They say that the party high command have modified the demands of Simon Hughes, the new deputy leader, to appoint independent spokespeople to shadow every government department:

Instead, in proposals put to the party's MPs, a series of small backbench select committees will be set up, spanning several government departments, with one chair and vice-chair chosen to orchestrate policy development and Lib Dem questions in the house.

The chairs will be appointed by Clegg and are not supposed to be the committees' only spokesperson since they could come to rival the coalition's official appointment. The chair and vice-chair will represent both MPs and Lords.

There is also a suggestion those committees will have access to government departments.

This is a very welcome proposal as it underlines the party's determination to avoid the accusation that we are being subsumed by the Tories. More importantly these committees will provide a useful forum by which MPs can exert influence and lobby for certain positions.

This is of course not a new development. In countries where we are used to coalitions such as Wales and Scotland the two parties have operated similar arrangements so as to ensure they retain a distinctive voice. It is something the UK will have to get used to as well.
Peter, What would your reaction be if Sheffield Forgemasters were based in Swansea? The company were asking for a £80 loan which would have created over 180 jobs in just the sort of industry that the UK should be promoting. It's peanuts given,for example , that an internal report showed that the MOD wastes about £2.5 billion a year. Their only competitors are in Japan who must be amazed at yesterday's decision. It just doesn't make economic sense and we are beginning it seems to have cuts for the sake of it. It was also sad to see Chris Huhne arguing last night that the UK has the potential to become another Greece. No one in the Western world believes that. Best of luck with your attempt to keep the Liberal Democrats independent. But at this stage it looks as if the Orange Book faction and those who wish to hang on to the perks of office are following in the footsteps of their predecessors,the Liberal Unionists and National Liberals and will eventually end up as full members of the Conservative Party. Probably when they get 'Cameron's coupon' to fight the 2015 election
Jeff, naturally I would be disappointed but this was a cynical election bribe by Labour which like many such commitments, was unfunded. There will inevitably be casualties of the cuts that have been forced on this government by Labour's mismanagement. I think the point was made that if Forgemasters had a viable operation then they should be able to raise this money in the private sector.

I believe that the Government have upheld the commitment to Ford in Bridgend as well as other businesses such as Nissan.

As it happens I agree with Chris Huhne. We only have to see the pressure on Spain to understand that this could happen to any country. Because Gordon Brown sold off our gold reserves cheaply we are particularly susceptible to a run on the pound. Quite a lot of people in the Western world actually believe that if we do not start to tackle this deficit immediately then it will undermine confidence in our economy internationally and see our credit status downgraded.

Not sure what the Orange Book faction is. There is no such organisation in the Liberal Democrats and if you actually read the book you will find many of the contributions came from the left of the party, people like Steve Webb for example.
jeff - afraid you do little for my (already shattered) faith in labour's ability to do maths, or ever achieve anything like value for money!

You say that Sheffiled forgemasters are looking for an £80 loan to create 180 new jobs. As far as i can see, the company was actually asking the taxpayer to pay £80 MILLION in a loan to 'create' 180 new jobs.

That works out at a loan of more than £440,000 for each job 'created'! Leaving aside whether labour should use the taxpayer to give loans to industry, that sort of ratio could never be value for money. Really, never. the lost interest alone could keep the would-be employess quite comfortably off!
Sheffield Forgemasters wanted the money to purchase a specialised press to manufacture the specialised forgings required for the nuclear industry. It isn't an artificial job creation scheme. It's a vital investment designed to ensure that Britain can compete on a world basis in an industry essential for secure energy supply in the future. No wonder journalists are describing the reaction in companies such as Japan Steel Works which already make the pressure vessels as a mixture of 'bemusement and glee'. It's short termism at its worse when we should be encouraging manufacturing in this country. It will mean that when the new nuclear reactors are commissioned a vital part will now have to be imported. To put it into context scrapping winter fuel allowance for all over 60s would save £2.7 billion. Combining child benefit and child tax credit and means testing the two would save £6.5 billion. The savings on Sheffield Forgemasters was basically an example of macho posturing on the part of the Coalition and makes no economic sense whatsoever.
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