Friday, 23 November 2012

Coalition removes energy subsidy cap..

The Coalition have reached a compromise aimed at putting to bed the squabbling over energy policy which has erupted in recent months. Ed Davey will give up his demand for a zero carbon energy sector by 2030 (a demand which Ed Miliband picks up, polishes off and presents as his own in today's Guardian). However, it is the Tory concession which theTelegraph splashes on and which receives most of the attention elsewhere. The party have agreed to remove the subsidy cap called the "levy control framework", in order to provide energy companies with capital to build new power plants and wind farms. It is hoped the compromise deal will also head-off growing tension between Mr Davey and George Osborne, who the former blames for John Hayes' anti-wind outburst.
In any case, the move will cost £178 a year for the average household, £95 of which will go to green energy by 2020. Add this to the news that Dave's new tariff plan will increase costs, and while polar bears might be smiling, Coalition energy policy has produced a very tough week for the consumer.
Progress is slow in Brussels, as the Telegraph reports, and this morning Herman Van Rompuy's proposed budget has still come in some €50bn over the initial British demand. Dave wrong-footed Mr Von Rompuy and Manuel Barroso yesterday with his insistence that eurocrats share the pain by making similar salary and pension adjustments to those asked of southern European states. So unexpected was the stance that his early morning meeting was re-scheduled for a late afternoon slot. Dave has been specific about where the axe should fall, suggesting:
  • Increasing the retirement age for eurocrats from 63 to 68 for staff currently under 58-years-old, saving 1.5 billion euro (£1.2bn) over the seven years of the proposed budget
  • Cutting 10% from the pay bill, saving three billion euro (£2.4bn)
  • Cutting eurocrat pensions, currently capped at a maximum of 70% of final salary, to 60%, saving 1.5 billion euros (£1.2bn).
Mr Cameron's suggestions are said to have received a frosty welcome from Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, who claimed it would be too legally complex to change existing contract terms. There is also the problem of France, which is nowhere near agreement with the UK on the eurocrats issue. There may, however, be a deal to be done. The Sunreports that France would agree to a budget freeze provided the CAP element of spending continued to increase.  As the Guardian  reports, big cuts are probably now off the table. A day of exhaustive negotiating by exhausted negotiators lies ahead. Don't bet against this running long into the night.
MPs will be given a vote which would allow them to choose to reject the ECHR's ruling that it must extend the franchise to prisoners. MPs will be offered the opportunity of either rejecting the idea outright, allowing votes for those serving four years or less, or allowing votes for those serving six months or less. A joint committee has been asked to scrutinise a draft bill, meaning the vote itself may not be until well into the new year, according to the Guardian . How the votes break down will be interesting. While the Conservatives are set fast against the idea of votes for prisoners, the Lib Dems are never averse to anything which makes Dave "physically sick". Today's Telegraph reports that the party is leaning towards supporting prisoner votes as it believes this will aid Britain's position in Europe, a curious position seeing as the EU and the ECHR are not connected.
Sentiment is against the Lib Dems on this issue. Dominic Grieve QC, health and safety law specialist turned Attorney General, comes in for severe criticism in today's Mail. The paper labels him "a very perverse Tory" and says that "Downing Street is in despair at his obduracy. Cabinet colleagues are in open revolt". But then, how many Cabinet ministers could those last words not have applied to at some point since 2010?
The date for the publication of the Leveson Inquiry has been confirmed as next Thursday. Dave will have only 24 hours of advance warning of the findings in which to craft a response, according to the Guardian. The paper adds that Number 10 has been advising the newspaper industry to adopt a penitent tone across the board. Given the success of the Government's spin operations this year, I suspect some editors may give that a miss. Writing in today's Telegraph , Fraser Nelson says he is worried for the future of Britain's "uniquely disrespectful" press:
Given that the state is busily arresting bloggers and Twitterers – and even disputatious neighbours – freedom of the press all of a sudden starts to look rather anomalous...Throughout the inquiry, the judge seemed not to grasp a very important principle: that for a government to prescribe regulation for the press establishes a hierarchy of power – it puts the politicians in charge."
MPs will tell the new Archbishop of Canterbury that they "will not wait years" for women bishops, the Guardian reports (not online). The new Archbishop of Canterbury has been summoned to meet MPs and Lords in a bid to thrash out a way of "accelerating" the process of another vote on women bishops, Sir Tony Baldry announced yesterday. It isn't compulsion, yet, but it does not sit easy to see the Mother of Parliaments demanding the CoE vote until it gets it right. There is some succour today for Anglican traditionalists, though. As the Times (£) reports, churches will be given a specific exclusion from gay marriage legislation when it comes before Parliament.
Having been evicted from the jungle, Nadine Dorries may now find herself permanently evicted from the Conservative party. Mrs Dorries may be contractually obliged by ITV to remain in Australia for another fortnight until the programme ends, and senior Tories are saying privately that it is "far from clear" she will be allowed back, as theTelegraph reports. Of course, not all of Mrs Dorries' colleagues are in Britain all of the time. The Independent splashes on the news that MPs have enjoyed 53 all -expenses-paid trips to China, 34 to the USA, and 23 to India in this parliament, but found time for only one to Afghanistan. It's a tough, dirty job, but someone has to do it. 
Andrew Gwynne with five words seldom seen together:
@GwynneMP: "Yay! hallelujah - Stockport at last!!!"
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
Tom Wright in The Times (£) - It's about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress
Samuel Brittan in the FT (£) - British economic policy echoes Habsburg decline
Frederick Forsyth in the Daily Express - A clerar-out is now crucial at the BBC

TODAY: Continuation of European Council summit to set EU budget for 2014-20.