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11 Awkward Stories For The Government Given Cover By The Election

Amid 'mugwump' and 'strong and stable', this has happened.

02/05/2017 07:49 | Updated 02 May 2017

Ever since Theresa May called for a general election on April 18, the UK has been on election footing. All eyes have been on the campaign trail.

But the world keeps turning. Since then, the Government has made decisions that would have received greater attention otherwise, announced delays because of the vote or, as critics have claimed, attempted to bury bad news.

Here are just 11 stories that have been affected by the June 8 vote.

  • Dubs Refugee Scheme 'Error'
    Neil Hall / Reuters
    Campaigners are calling for the UK's child refugee scheme to be re-opened after an admin error delayed 130 refugee children from coming to the UK.

    The programme controversially closed earlier in the year having accepted just 350 displaced youngsters, not thousands as was expected.

    Minister for Immigration Robert Goodwill quietly used a written statement to make the announcement on the penultimate day MPs sat before the election.

    Labour peer Lord Dubs, who came to the UK as a refugee from the Nazis and was pivotal in establishing the programme, slammed the Government: "I don't like the way they're doing it just before the election - the Government should be ashamed of themselves."
  • Digital Tax Return U-Turn
    Matthew Lloyd via Getty Images
    The Government had announced plans to force millions of businesses and self-employed people to file multiple tax returns each year under its "Making Tax Digital" policy.

    But the policy was dropped from its Finance Bill, which was the last piece of legislation debated before Parliament adjourned for the election.

    Under plans launched by George Osborne, business owners, the self-employed and landlords were to provide digital quarterly updates to the taxman, in move which HMRC said would generate £2 billion extra in tax per year.

    But critics warned the changes would hurt many of the four million people affected.
  • Distraction From Tory Expenses Investigation
    PA
    Labour Party, SNP and Ukip politicians have claimed Theresa May has used the election as cover for the brewing Conservative expenses scandal.

    The allegation from a series of MPs came as Channel 4 News reported the Crown Prosecution Service is considering charges against more than 30 individuals in relation to over-spending in the 2015 election. They are thought to include MPs and agents.

    Channel 4 News has led the investigation into how local Tory campaigns failed to declare the expenses accrued by battle buses packed with activists that toured the country.

    The issue stems from the failure to declare the costs locally - which could have pushed their spending above the legal limit.

    Deadlines on whether charges will be brought expire around the end of May and early June, which means MPs and their agents could be prosecuted over spending two years ago during the current election campaign.

    “Could this be another reason for Mrs May breaking her promise not to hold an early election?,” tweeted Labour MP and former Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw.
  • Southern Rail Report Delayed
    PA Wire/PA Images
    Disruption to Southern Railway services have been a recurring theme, and a report looking into its owner Govia Thameslink Railway is being carried out by Chris Gibb, a non-executive Network Rail director.

    But the analysis has been delayed until after the election, with some MPs criticising the Government for shelving the findings.

    Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee of MPs, said: "The full report was received by the government in December, so I question why they have been sitting on it since then."
  • Green Investment Bank Sale 'Buried'
    PA Wire/PA Images
    The Government was accused of "burying bad news" after announcing it was to sell the Green Investment Bank to Australian bank Macquarie for £2.3 billion in the days after Theresa May dramatically called for an election.

    Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “Selling the Green Investment Bank is environmentally irresponsible, and on the eve of an election is politically dubious. The government clearly hopes to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.”

    A government spokeswoman said it had always aimed to sell the bank by the spring.
  • Investigation Of Murdoch’s Takeover Of Sky
    An investigation by the Ofcom regulator into 21st Century Fox’s £11.7bn takeover of Sky has been delayed until after the general election.
     
    Culture Secretary Karen Bradley was set to receive the findings of two investigations into Rupert Murdoch’s bid by the watchdog by May 16.

    But under the rules of 'purdah' - the period immediately before elections which came into effect on April 21 - Bradley is not allowed to make a decision on the report and the deadline has been pushed back to June 20.
  • State Pension Age Rise Delay
    PA Wire/PA Images
    The Government has delayed until after the election its response to an independent review which recommended raising the state pension age of millions of people.

    Former CBI director-general John Cridland was appointed as the Government's independent reviewer of the state pension age last year and recommended that it should increase from 67 to 68 between 2037 and 2039.

    But the responsibility for responding to his report has been passed on to whoever wins the June 8 election.

    Labour argues the move will worry voters given Theresa May's refusal to commit to maintaining the pensions triple-lock.
  • No FGM Convictions Revealed
    VIPDesignUSA via Getty Images
    The Government came under fire in September 2016 after the Home Affairs Select Committee branded it a 'national scandal' that no convictions been secured in the UK against perpetrators of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

    In a report, MPs said it "beyond belief" that no-one had been convicted of FGM, 30 years after the practice was made illegal in the UK and the Home Office said it was tackling the issue by strengthening the law.

    But on the final day of Parliamentary business, in response to a written question by Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking, the Attorney General said no further prosecutions or convictions had been made since two people were cleared in 2015.
  • Air Pollution Plan Delay
    The Government sought to delay publication of its plan to tackle air pollution until after the general election on June 8.  

    But it was ordered by the High Court to publish its final Air Quality Plan by the original date at the end of July and must publish a draft after the local elections on May 4.

    Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: "With 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK from air pollution, every delay in action costs lives. This is why it’s great news that the final Air Quality Plan will still be published on time.”
  • NHS Statistics Pushed Back
    PA Wire/PA Images
    NHS performance data due to be published on the day of the general election has been pushed back. NHS England will instead delay publication of its April statistics until after the vote.

    Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused the government of a "panicked cover-up" and said Theresa May was running from her "record of failure" on the NHS.

    "Four million people are on waiting lists, 25,000 wait beyond two months for cancer treatment and hospitals have been dangerously over crowded this winter. Theresa May can try to hide the truth but she can't hide the reality from the public. Voters deserve to know the full scale of the crisis engulfing the NHS in the week they vote," he added.
  • European Patent Court 'Up In The Air'
    ericsphotography via Getty Images
    The implementation of a new Unified Patent Court, which will deal with all European patents and help solve a fractured system, was expected to be approved by the Commons and Lords and ratified by the government by the end of May.

    The court was expected to be up and running by December, but lawyers say early 2018 now looks like a more likely start date thanks to the election.

    One knotty issue is the UK's participation in the new regime post-Brexit, as the continent-wide agreement requires participating countries to be EU members.

    "The decision to ratify may even be up in the air," said Luke McDonagh, a lecturer at City University. "Suffice to say, the UPC organisers will not be best pleased at yet more uncertainty."
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