This piece is the second part of a brief ConservativeHome series that seeks to identify five major policy decisions that confront the new Government as the political year begins.
These are not necessarily the most urgent facing the country. For example, we will not be asking: how should Brexit be managed? (Since we plan to do so elsewhere.) Nor have we included questions that the Government is unlikely to ask itself. (Such as: what should the net migration target be replaced with?)
None the less, all are bound up with key policy areas, and some touch on a point we raised last week. Namely, to what extent, if at all, an efforts to create ” a country that works for all” (i.e: all people) be squared with “a relentless focus on governing in the interests of ordinary, working people” (i.e: some people).
- Energy policy aims to keep prices as low as possible, maintain security of supply, keep the lights on. If the new Government doesn’t proceed with Osborne’s Hinkley Point scheme, or goes ahead but doesn’t give CGNC the go-ahead to directly construct a new reactor in Essex, a gap is left in the Government’s plans that must be filled. Does it seek other nuclear solutions, seek to speed up fracking, ease the phasing-out of coal, dash for more gas, push for more energy efficiency, better storage, and more renewables? All of these policy options meet some of those policy objectives, but none can single-handedly deliver all of them. And what about the framework as a whole – the Climate Change Act and the current tax settlement, including the Carbon Price floor?
- The Hinkley Point decision is only one of a series of a series of infrastucture decisions that governments have tended to postpone. Osborne at least took the plunge with his Hinckley Point scheme, and committed the Cameron Government to HS2. ConservativeHome is not a fan of the latter, but the new Government seems set on sticking to it. A big decision to come is where airport expansion should take place, and whether the Government will or won’t put most of its eggs in the Heathrow basket. Theresa May is apparently to chair a Cabinet sub-committee which will take the decision. One report claimed that it will be made by October, which implies an announcement before or at Party Conference. Stephen Hammond has written twice on this site (see here and here) proposing that infrastructure planning as a whole be given force and focus by means of a new department.