On the same day that Government unveiled its Brexit Bill (see my blog here ), Ministers also announced that another piece of legislation - the Finance Bill (which implements the March Budget) - would be delayed until the autumn and that MPs' vote on Heathrow expansion has been postponed until next year. This was confirmation - if any was needed - that Brexit will dominate government and Parliament for the next two years and that a fragile government will avoid any parliamentary debate on subjects where they could suffer a defeat.
Today the government announced that the 2017 Finance Bill (implementing the Budget the Chancellor announced over four months ago) will be postponed until the autumn. At the same time the government announced a delay in the requirement for all business tax records to be digital. As our head of tax at Grant Thornton, Jonathan Riley, said: "Whilst it is pleasing that the government has listened and reflected on those with concerns over the pace of making digital our tax regime, it does not augur well for the pace of more fundamental reform of our voluminous tax regime. The delay to the publication of the Finance Bill leaves uncertainty in the minds of taxpayers and their advisors. Changes announced in the last Budget will be brought back to Parliament, but in the meantime no one will know for sure what the impact of those measures will be."
This comes on top of other measures which Government has put on the back-burner, including reforms to corporate governance and a vote in Parliament on Heathrow expansion (also announced today - this won't take place until next year). Anything controversial risks defeat in a hung Parliament so is being postponed.
Maybe Brexit is enough change for business to digest over the next few years. Equally there are a number of big issues that need tackling including the changes in the modern workplace identified in the Taylor report earlier this week, as well as infrastructure, trust in markets, and affordability of social care in an ageing population.
This apparent paralysis in government led a friend of mine to label it a 'zombie government'. But anyone who has watched the film Zombieland will know that zombies can move at lightning speed. We saw that in the government's announcement this week of an inquiry into blood contamination - faced with a potential cross-party revolt in the House of Commons, the government rushed out a statement announcing an inquiry.
This shows that in a hung parliament backbenchers are building cross-party alliances to secure concessions from government. This type of cross-party consensus is going to be essential to make progress on the big issues of the day, including Brexit and industrial strategy. That's why, regardless of her motivations, MPs should take up Theresa May's invitation for cross-party thinking on policy issues and organisations should encourage this.
In practice it may be backbench MPs and the Select Committee chairs (elected by MPs yesterday), rather than the Opposition leaders, who seek to work across party political divides. If there is an issue you care passionately about I would therefore encourage you to talk to your local MP and to groups of MPs - more than ever, they may be able to help.
The government has caved into pressure and toned down its “making tax digital” plans for smaller businesses.