New U.K. Coalition Accord Said to Be Delayed Until Next Year
A U.K. government document setting out the mid-term aims of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats has been delayed to January, a person familiar with the matter said.
Relations between the two parties hit a low in July after a rebellion by Tory lawmakers over an overhaul of the upper House of Lords sparked retaliation by the Liberal Democrats derailing changes to electoral-district boundaries that would have benefited the Conservatives.
Cameron and Clegg, seeking to reinvigorate the coalition following the spat, said July 16 a new coalition document setting out what their government had achieved would be published at the end of the summer. The release of the document has now been put back until the new year, according to the person, who’s familiar with the discussions and declined to be identified because the talks are private.
Asked by reporters in London about the delay in publication, Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, said: “I don’t have a date I can give you on that.”
The two parties’ annual conferences a month ago demonstrated potential flashpoints within the coalition in the months ahead, including differences over tax and welfare benefits. That will spill over into Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s preparations for his end-of-year statement on Dec. 5, in which he may need to announce further budget cuts.
Another potential area of disagreement between the two governing parties is the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union. Cameron is due to set out his position on Britain’s future in the EU in December amid pressure from his lawmakers to commit to a referendum on continued membership of the bloc.
While Clegg has backed Cameron’s call for an increase in the EU budget to be restricted to the rate of inflation, he described opponents of Britain’s membership of the EU as “insular,” “chauvinistic” and “short-sighted” at a private dinner for business leaders at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton in September.
Cameron faces a rebellion in a House of Commons vote today from Conservative lawmakers demanding a cut in the EU’s spending and said before the debate he is “quite prepared” to use the U.K.’s veto to get the deal he wants.
“This government is taking the toughest line of any government since we entered the European Union,” Cameron told the Commons at his weekly question-and-answer session. “At best we would like it cut, at worst frozen.”
The PoliticsHome website reported today that Cameron berated Clegg last night over a measure introduced in the Lords to delay further changes in parliamentary boundaries until 2018.
Asked about the report, Field replied that “I am sure they have discussed this issue.”
In another sign of tension between the two parties, Tory Energy Minister John Hayes was quoted as saying in interviews with two newspapers published today that the U.K. is “peppered” with wind farms and that “enough is enough.”
Hayes’s comments were contradicted by his Liberal Democrat boss, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who said the government’s position of supporting wind energy had not changed. Cameron also told lawmakers there had been no changes to renewable-energy policy.
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