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West Coast contract cancelled: another U-turn to add to the collection

The Government has changed its mind on several policy proposals Photo: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Government yesterday announced a relaunch of the tendering process for the West Coast Mainline.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, admitted his department had discovered serious "errors and flaws" in the sums used to award the franchise to First Group, and three officials were suspended.

This means that First Group, and Virgin, along with any other companies which expressed an interest in running the line, will have to resubmit their bids all over again, at a cost of up to £40 million for the taxpayer.

The Government says that its policy rethinks proves it is listening to the electorate, and is not afraid to admit mistakes, but this is the latest in a series of U-turns, apologies and rethinks.

Here is a selection:

  • The "Pasty Tax". In his budget George Osborne proposed that any food served above ambient temperature and designed to cool, would be taxed. This caused outcry among bakeries and pasty lovers and Mr Osborne soon backed down.
  • The "Caravan Tax". In the same document, the Chancellor recommended that static caravans, which until now have escaped tax, should be charged VAT at 20%. Holiday makers and manufacturers protested that it would snatch the chance of a holiday away from large swathes of the population, and put thousands out of work.
  • Forest sell off. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman put forward ideas last year to sell off the country's publicly owned forests, including areas of Sherwood Forest. The idea was dropped after 500,000 signed an online petition against the proposals and Mrs Spelman was forced to admit "We got this one wrong".
  • Charity tax. Plans to impose a cap on tax relief on charitable donations were scrapped after charities claimed they would lose a significant proportion of their income.
  • Guilty pleas. David Cameron ordered the then Justice Minister Ken Clarke to back down on his proposals to let criminals who plead guilty have their sentences halved. Mr Clarke had originally said this would apply equally to rapists, causing outcry from victims and their supporters.
  • House of Lords Reform. After significant opposition from within his own party, David Cameron abandoned plans to reform the House of Lords - increasing the elected members, removing hereditary peers, and reducing the number of religious representatives. Nick Clegg in turn then refused to back proposals to modify constituency boundary changes.

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