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Barker’s ultimatum for the Big Six: Refund customers or face fines

Nuclear power towers“Ministers will [tell] the power giants to stop stockpiling more than £2 billion from households. … The companies will be told that if they don’t return the money – or pay back the estimated £36 million a year that the cash pile earns in interest – they will face fines. … Greg Barker said consumers would be ‘outraged’ that companies boost their revenues by holding on to customers’ cash.” – Mail on Sunday

More energy-related news:

  • “The Independent on Sunday can reveal the energy companies that are saving millions by exploiting a legal tax loophole. … Scotia Gas, 50 per cent of which is owned by SSE, the energy giant which is about to put its prices up by more than 8 per cent, has avoided an estimated £72.5m in tax. UK Power Networks and Electricity North West, responsible for running large sections of Britain’s electricity network, have both saved more than £30m.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “British Gas rakes in £20m profit from overestimated bills, says whistleblower” – The Observer
  • 60 per cent of voters oppose new hikes to green taxes – Mail on Sunday

And lots of comment:

  • “…greater clarity would make it easier to decide the right level of [green] taxes.” – Independent on Sunday editorial
  • “Our politicians need to consider the whole climate change issue with a sceptical eye, instead of scrabbling for votes with cosmetic measures and temporary freezes.” – Mail on Sunday editorial
  • “There was no need to get involved in a populist bidding war over energy prices.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)
  • Cameron shouldn’t play on Miliband’s side of the pitch – Matthew d’Ancona, Sunday Telegraph
  • “‘Green Dave’ Cameron as much to blame as ‘Red Ed’ Miliband for energy crisis” – Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph
  • “Clegg starts to melt as Dave turns up the energy price heat” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday
  • “Cameron’s pledge to roll back green taxes has baffled his party and Lib Dem allies” – Isabel Oakeshott and Jack Grimston, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Miliband’s problem is that nobody beyond the Labour core seems to believe in his freeze, to the evident relief of Conservatives digesting the latest data from focus groups.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “David Cameron has picked a fight that Nick Clegg can’t win.” – Louise Mensch, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “If people feel that they have been getting better off for a year before the election, that is all that there is to it.” – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • “Do Britain’s energy firms serve the public interest?” – Will Hutton versus Philip Booth, The Observer
  • “Only full-scale reform of our energy market will prevent endless price rises” – Phillip Lee, The Observer

> Today on ToryDiary: Can leaning have meaning? The question behind the political battle for consumers’ hearts

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: What about some green tax cuts?

Shapps’ ultimatum for the Beeb: Rebuild trust or face licence fee cuts

Photography by Daniel Martin Martin and Jones Limited 0800 634 9272“Grant Shapps, the chairman of the Conservative Party, challenged the corporation to undertake dramatic changes in the wake of a series of scandals and accusations of bias. … In a major intervention understood to have been made with the knowledge of Downing Street, he said that the Government would consider whether the BBC can keep receiving all the proceeds of the licence fee – £145.50 each year from every household with a television – after 2016, when its Royal Charter expires.” – Sunday Telegraph

Read the Sunday Telegraph’s interview with Grant Shapps in full

  • “High-handed Auntie’s culture of arrogance” – Sunday Telegraph editorial
  • “Grant Shapps has made five more enemies by naming and shaming Conservative Cabinet Ministers who have defied the PM’s order to tour the country wooing voters.” – the Mail on Sunday’s Black Dog column

Cameron to unveil new scheme to help troops

“”Our forces heroes are in line to save cash — thanks to Britain’s biggest high street brands. … Dozens of household names have signed up to the flagship scheme — dubbed the Corporate Covenant — which will help serving soldiers, veterans and their families. … Prime Minister David Cameron will unveil his backers at a Downing Street reception for old soldiers and forces charities this week.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “The corporate covenant we exclusively reveal today brings some substance.” – Sun on Sunday editorial (£)

Hunt attacked over cuts to day care centres for elderly people

“Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of ‘hypocrisy’ for saying British people don’t care enough for the elderly – when Coalition cuts mean nearly 33,000 older people have lost access to day care centres. … The Mail on Sunday can reveal the dramatic cuts amount to a 37 per cent loss since 2010 in the number of places at the centres, described as a ‘lifeline against isolation’ for many.” – Mail on Sunday

Bercow attacked over a plan for classrooms in Parliament

John Bercow“Speaker John Bercow came under fire last night over a £7million plan for classrooms in Parliament. … He is backing plans for a new education centre dubbed ‘Bercow’s Folly’ to encourage thousands more schoolchildren to visit the Commons. … some MPs say the scheme cannot be justified while taxpayers are still tightening their belts.” – Mail on Sunday

Disability benefit changes postponed

“Ministers have delayed controversial welfare reforms for disability benefits with immediate effect in what Labour has described as the ‘latest example of chaos’ at the Department for Work and Pensions. …Mike Penning, one of the department’s new ministers, revealed the changes in a written statement to parliament after officials found ‘that the end-to-end claiming process is taking longer than expected’.” – The Observer

Home Office accused of fixing asylum figures

“[Lawyers] with clients at the appeal stage say that it has become common Home Office practice to withdraw powerful cases at the last minute to protect the 60% target, described internally as the ‘win rate’. They say the alleged tactic is adding to a backlog of half a million unresolved cases and causing suffering to those who have a right to be here but who are stranded in limbo, sometimes for years.” – The Observer

Could a police officer involved in the Mitchell row be put “on trial” before Parliament?

Police helmet“A powerful Commons committee is considering putting Detective Sergeant Stuart  Hinton ‘on trial’ after he was accused of falsely denying having called Home Secretary Theresa May ‘that woman’. … MPs are deciding whether to summon Det Sgt Hinton to ‘the  bar of the Commons’ – a  punishment not used for more than half a century.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “A decision on whether charges will be brought in the ‘Plebgate- affair are due as early as this week, The Telegraph understands.” – Sunday Telegraph

Andrew Percy vents his anger about the EU flag flying above our US embassy

“A furious MP has fired off an official complaint after finding the EU flag flying over our embassy in Washington. … Tory Andrew Percy branded it a ‘slap in the face to the UK public’ in a letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague. … He also complained Dutch beer and French wine were served at an embassy reception.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Clegg considers all-women shortlists

“Nick Clegg is planning to introduce all-women shortlists for the Liberal Democrats if not enough female candidates are selected in winnable seats in 2015. … The radical policy change, which will upset many activists who believe it would go against the party’s constitution, would be introduced in the next Parliament as many candidates have already been selected for the election in 18 months’ time.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “…under [Clegg’s] attempts to give his party definition from the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are, paradoxically, less defined. Are they natural partners with Labour or the Conservatives? Are they small-state liberals with social consciences or pragmatist centrists?” – Jane Merrick, Independent on Sunday

Miliband interviewed in the Mail on Sunday: he’s after “Major’s millions”

MILIBAND Ed red background“Now Mr Miliband plans to turn the tables on Mr Cameron and use Sir John as his own weapon. ‘The Tories want to rerun the 1992 Election, but now they can’t. What John Major was saying is that Cameron has lost touch with millions of the people who voted Tory in 1992 whom I call “Major’s millions”. And we are the people who are talking about issues that really matter.’” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Ed Miliband plans to make private companies that work for the taxpayer obey public sector transparency rules. The move risks angering chief executives who fear they will have to reveal commercial secrets.” – Sunday Times (£)

But the Labour leader is wrapped up in another union plot

“Ed Miliband is facing a crisis this weekend as a cache of bombshell emails exposes a concerted union plot involving threats, intimidation and dirty tricks to thwart his inquiry into alleged electoral corruption. … More than 1,000 emails reveal how Unite chiefs subverted an inquiry ordered by the Labour leader into allegations that the union had rigged votes in Falkirk to get its nominee selected as the party’s parliamentary candidate.” – Sunday Times (£)

After Cameron stands up for HS2, Balls compares it to the Millenium Dome

“The controversial HS2 rail link took a fresh blow last night after Labour compared it with the Millennium Dome. … Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls made clear that Labour, if elected, would not repeat the ‘mistake’ of the Dome and waste public money on unnecessary schemes inherited from a previous Tory government.” – Mail on Sunday

“Labour could abandon its support for the HS2 rail project before the next local and European elections in May — a move that would in effect torpedo the £50bn scheme.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “[Cameron] would gain some credit by admitting frankly that he was mistaken rather than seeking, as he seems to be doing, to blame the Labour Party for killing off this 225mph white elephant.” – Mail on Sunday editorial

Labour split on US spying revelations

Caroline Flint“Caroline Flint, the Shadow Energy Secretary, said the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was right to be aggrieved over reports that her phone had been monitored by US intelligence. However, aides to Ed Miliband refused to condemn the monitoring, saying the Labour leader ‘deplored’ the release of any material which damages the national interest.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “Er, Ms Merkel, your guys do it too” – Toby Harnden and Bojan Pancevski, Sunday Times (£)

Labour accuse the Tories of misleading Parliament over free schools

“The row over the government’s flagship free schools project intensified last night as Labour accused ministers of misleading parliament by claiming that they were performing better than other schools in the state sector. … The serious charge was made by shadow education minister Baroness Jones…” – The Observer

Doctors could go on strike

NHS“Doctors are threatening to strike over a money-saving target they say has led to desperately ill patients almost dying. … GPs say half the people turning up to hospital casualty units are being arbitrarily diverted to walk-in clinics rather than A&E wards.” – Mail on Sunday

More NHS-related news:

  • “The NHS is set to move to a seven-day operation and end the scandal of higher death rates at weekends after the British Medical Association (BMA) climbed down and backed the change.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “The NHS is ‘condescending’ towards bereaved relatives who allege neglect and conceals wrongdoing from them, a review into how it handles complaints is expected to find.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • NHS hospitals to be banned from fitting metal-on-metal hip replacements after high failure rate – Sunday Telegraph
  • Mid Staffs whistleblower Julie Bailey: “I don’t go out here on my own any more” – The Observer

And comment:

  • “The man who killed waiting lists returns. Wish him luck” – Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Western health care is stuck in the sickbay” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Dan Hodges writes on press regulation: “It’s in the interests of politicians”

“This week we are facing the end of more than 300 years of Press freedom. … For the first time since 1694, politicians could decide what you can and cannot read in your newspaper. … I used to work in politics. And I know precisely why the politicians are doing this. … They’re doing it because they don’t like what this newspaper, and the other newspapers, write about them.” – Dan Hodges, Sun on Sunday (£)

The Observer on Friday’s GDP figures: “What happened to the idea of a new economy?”

Observer O“The financial and services sectors are still driving what growth there is: manufacturing and construction remain well below pre-crisis levels. Personal debt is rising as inflation and slow wage growth erode people’s spending power. The housing bubble is expanding again, fuelled by government schemes to make credit cheaper. And the OBR has revised down its estimates of what investment and trade will contribute to growth every year.” – Observer editorial

  • “Ministers stood accused once more last night of fuelling economic division between north and south as it emerged that London and the south-east were benefiting far more than deprived regions of the north from a £700m grant scheme set up to boost activity in needy areas.” – The Observer

News in brief

  • “At least 85 abused children under the age of six have died in 2 years after a government inquiry had pledged to improve Britain’s scandal-hit child protection agencies.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • The head of Ipsa, which sets parliamentary pay, could quit if senior politicians keep attacking him over proposals to increase MPs’ pay – Sunday Times (£)
  • Strasbourg human rights court threatens key counter-terrorism powers – Sunday Telegraph
  • Blair accused of tying up a job for Alastair Campbell in Kazakhstan – Mail on Sunday
  • Politicians rebuke soldiers performing Nazi-style salute – Mail on Sunday
  • New £6m fund will help the young to volunteer – Independent on Sunday

And finally 1)… The team that moves the hands of Big Ben

“While millions of people welcomed the extra hour’s lie in this morning, the five-strong team set in motion a complex, five-hour process to move the most famous hands in Britain with millisecond precision. … the keepers faced the prospect of high winds, the famous four faces being plunged into darkness, and the potential uproar were anything to happen to the priceless chime.” – Mail on Sunday

And finally 2)… Howzat! Civil servants busted for tuning into the cricket

Cricket“Civil servants spent thousands of working hours visiting a cricket website over the summer when England’s Ashes battle with Australia was in full swing, new figures have revealed. … Mandarins at the Treasury, the Department of Health and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs face accusations of wasting time after they logged on to cricket website espncricinfo.com at least four million times from January to August this year.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Civil servants keep extra holidays despite mandarin’s pledge – Sunday Telegraph

And finally 3)… Fear a cure for ageing

“The discovery of a cure for ageing could threaten global stability in the next 30 years, a report by the Ministry of Defence has warned. … A scientific breakthrough to prevent or cure the effects of growing old is, according to military experts, a potential ‘strategic shock’ that would put huge pressure on the supply of food, pensions, healthcare and jobs.” – Sunday Times (£)

20 comments for: Newslinks for Sunday 27th October 2013

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