UK Politics

Ed Miliband and David Cameron clash over coalition's pledge audit

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Media captionEd Miliband taunts David Cameron over publication of the coalition audit

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed over a government dossier detailing progress on hundreds of pledges made by the coalition.

Mr Miliband said the document, published on Wednesday, was an "audit of coalition broken promises".

But Mr Cameron insisted it was a "full, frank and unvarnished" assessment of the coalition's pledges.

The document gives details of progress on each of the 399 pledges, including some which have not been met.

It was expected to be released as part of the Mid-Term Review, unveiled by the Prime Minister and deputy PM on Monday.

Downing Street deny that it was held back to avoid damaging media coverage of the two leaders' press conference.

During Prime Minister's Questions, Ed Miliband told MPs he did not have "high hopes" for the document, adding it was an "audit of coalition broken promises".

But the prime minister dismissed this, saying the government was publishing "every single audit of every single promise - all 399 pledges set out in the Mid-Term Review".

"This will be full, it will be frank and it will be completely unvarnished," he said.

Nick Clegg last month promised the government would publish a "candid" audit of the government's performance as part of a Mid-Term Review "which would surprise on the upside".

Vote on hunting ban

Downing Street said the audit, which is 119 pages long showed "the vast majority" of pledges had been met.

The document had been expected to show that the coalition had missed more than 70 pledges, but it does not divide the promises from the 2010 coalition agreement into those which have been met or missed.

Examples of areas where the coalition has not met a pledge or is still in the process of implementing it include:

  • The planned cull of badgers to help control bovine TB, which has been "postponed" until the summer.
  • A free vote on repealing the hunting ban, which has "not yet been taken forward".
  • A pledge to extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants, which was dropped after an independent assessment found insufficient evidence to support it.
  • Plans for all-postal primaries for candidates in 200 seats before 2015, which are being reconsidered in light of the stalled boundary review process.
  • A plan to replace Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight duty after concerns over "legality and feasibility".

The Institute for Government said the mid-term update was welcome but not the audit it had urged.

Its chair Peter Riddell said the document was "mainly a list of activities not outcomes, so little help for the public".

David Cameron's official spokesman defended the way in which the information had been published and denied the government was failing to live up to its promises on transparency by publishing the audit without any clear indication of how many of the 399 pledges have been broken.

"We are not giving a numerical update," he said. "What we have done is set out, against every single one of the commitments, progress to date."

Image caption No 10 adviser Patrick Rock revealed the existence of document while walking in Downing St

He also defended the decision not to mention the double-dip recession or higher public borrowing in the audit, saying the figures were already freely available.

Labour vice chairman Michael Dugher said: "There's no mention of his government's failure on growth, of the double-dip recession or of £212bn extra borrowing.

"It turns out that the document David Cameron tried and failed to cover up is now itself a cover-up."

According to the Daily Telegraph, officials decided to delay the dossier's publication because they were concerned it would overshadow any favourable coverage of the Mid-Term Review.

The newspaper said the existence of the "annexe" to the review emerged when one of Mr Cameron's senior advisers, Patrick Rock, was photographed in Downing Street on Tuesday carrying a document weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of releasing it.

It warned that the full version of the Mid-Term Review, containing the audit, would identify "problematic areas" and lead to "unfavourable copy" identifying "broken pledges", the newspaper said.

Instead it is suggested the annex could be "published without fanfare" on the Government's website several days after the release of the main review.

Number 10 has denied trying to avoid negative coverage by delaying the document, saying it was always the intention to publish the audit separately and the "fact dense" document was not ready on Monday as details still had to be checked with government departments.

Unveiling their Mid-Term Review, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said the coalition would last a full five years and give Britain "strong, stable and determined leadership".

The prime minister promised help on childcare costs, care costs for the elderly and investment in roads, as they marked the halfway point of their government.

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