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6.30pm ToryDiary: What should we ask in the end-December ConservativeHome survey?

5pm: Today's teatime newslinks – including Cameron's surprise trip to Afghanistan, Danny Alexander's statement of public sector pensions negotiations, and discussions over the police's right to use firearms.

4,45pm WATCH: Sayeeda Warsi wishes Conservative Future a very happy Christmas, thanking them for all their hard work over the past year

3.45pm WATCH: Speaking from Kandahar, Cameron says more needs to be done "to recognise the service and sacrifice of the armed forces"

3.30pm MPsETC: Phillip Hammond says women serve in submarines on the same terms as men

Green12.15pm MPsETC: The Government is doing everything it can to "increase the number and speed of removals" of foreign criminals says Damian Green

Noon ConHomeUSA: Today's top Republican and American political news

10.45am Local government:

ToryDiary: Now it's Osborne's turn to say "no" to Europe

Peter BonePeter Bone MP on Comment: Would Clegg take over if Cameron was killed?

Also on Comment: Chris Skidmore MP – History is being forgotten in schools and should be made compulsory as a subject until the age of 16

Local Government:

ThinkTankCentral: Think tanks give cool response to Coalition's banking reforms

WATCH: Britain boycotts IMF Euro scheme 

Clegg's latest wheeze: he wants a wealth tax

"Nick Clegg has signalled he will make a tax on wealth a Liberal Democrat priority between now and the next election, saying it will be one way to attack the glass floors that allow the children of the privileged elite to be protected. In a speech to Demos on "the open society", he said he wanted to go further in an open society approach to tax – by which he meant "lower taxes on work and effort, a greater contribution from the wealthy"."The Guardian

Breakthrough in public-sector pension dispute

"A serious breakthrough in the dispute involving millions of public sector workers was achieved on Monday night after a majority of unions agreed to consider formal offers from the government. Accords on the main principles for further negotiation – so-called “heads of agreement” – were reached with all the unions representing local government workers, most health staff and some teaching and civil service unions." – Financial Times (£)

  • Danny Alexander to update MPs on pensions progress – BBC

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Downing Street is confident of a public sector pensions deal being reached with the unions

HMRC are accused of double standards by Select Committe, after it is revealed £25billion in "unresolved tax bills" has not been collected from major companies

Screen shot 2011-12-20 at 07.55.56"The revenue has recently sought to raise hundreds of millions of pounds in extra revenues by cracking down on tax avoidance by workers. Penalties for those submitting self-assessment tax forms late are being increased and professional workers are being aggressively targeted by tax inspectors …Yet at the same time, the parliamentary public accounts committee says revenue executives have become “unduly cosy” with larger firms and have tried to hide from public scrutiny details of a series of secret deals with companies" – Daily Telegraph

German foreign Minister praises Britain's EU role

"Germany last night ran up the white flag in a diplomatic row over David Cameron’s European Union veto. In an extraordinary surrender the German foreign minister begged Britain not to turn its back on the EU. Guido Westerwelle also promised that his government would support a “prosperous City of London” and insisted his country had “no hidden agenda” to penalise UK business – Daily Express

  • ECB warns of global contagion risks – Financial Times (£)
  • Sir Richard Branson and Sir Mike Rake have warned that 3 million jobs are at risk unless Britain remains at the heart of Europe - Daily Telegraph
  • Think Tank says UK economy will overtake France’s next year – The Sun
  • Boris tells it straight on Euro crisis – Stephen Pollard, Daily Express
  • What are the benefits of staying in the European Union? – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday:

Lord Tebbit and Lord Newton join a group of peers campaigning to protect legal aid for children's medical cases

Tebbit2"The former MP for Chingford has been joined by former Conservative social security minister Lord Newton in drafting an amendment that goes against part of a government bill that would cut access to legal aid in order to save money. Tebbit's backing of the amendment to the bill – which is designed to save £350m a year from the Ministry of Justice's annual budget – comes as the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, writes that Britain's legal aid system is facing an "existential crisis" and needs to be streamlined in order to survive" - Guardian

Ken Clarke: My reforms to legal aid are to threaten outdated practices, not the needy

"The threat I want my reforms to pose is to a failing system, outdated methods and unreformed working practices, not to the needy. This is where the debate must focus tomorrow: reconciling the reduced but generous funding that fiscal reality requires, with the protection of fundamental rights of access to justice for critical issues that no civilised society can do without" – Ken Clarke, The Guardian 

Cameron vows: I will help our heroes

Cameron-and-troops
"David Cameron is launching a personal crusade to make sure injured servicemen get the best medical care, housing and help to find new jobs. The Prime Minister will set up a powerful Cabinet committee to look after all aspects of our heroes' welfare. And he will make sure it delivers by overseeing it himself." – The Sun

  • Pay deal "breaks Military Covenant" – Daily Telegraph
  • £3million to convert our subs for women…with a separate air supply in case they get pregnant – Daily Mail

Osborne's new laws exempt big banks

"George Osborne has decided to only partially implement recommendations from the Vickers commission. The Chancellor said he would exempt some banks from a loss-absorbing buffer of between 17 to 20 per cent, although new legislation will mean all UK banks must increase their capital buffers. The loopholes will benefit large banks with overseas operations such as HSBC." Politics Home (£)

Yesterday:

John Hayes: We will crack down on poor apprenticeship provision

HAYES JOHN"All apprenticeships for under-19s will last for at least one year, according to John Hayes, skills minister. The new rules, introduced in response to concern about “short” apprenticeships, will insist that employers keep trainees on for at least 12 months in order to qualify for training subsidies." – Financial Times (£)

Lords warn on ministerial accountability in NHS reformsThe Guardian

World fears Kim Il Sung’s legacyThe Times (£)

Curriculum shake-up makes languages compulsory till 16The Times

Piers Morgan has some explaining to do today as he faces an inquisition over phone hacking The Independent

Moral judgment has its roots in religious faith – Andrew Mckee, Herald Scotland

And finally…Boris: "What else do I need to achieve now I've sat in Dumbledore's chair?"

"The grand unveiling of the Harry Potter set at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire was marked with the help of Boris Johnson, and will be open to other British muggles in March 2012...The 150,000-acre exhibition was described as a 'magical opportunity' for fans to see what went into making the films by Mr Johnson as he toured the set and even tried out a wand." – Daily Mail

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