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Energy costs 1) Now the Government wants an energy price freeze

Freeze“The Big Six energy firms have been asked to freeze prices by the Government until the middle of 2015, it was reported last night. … The Government is calling for energy firms to commit to an immediate freeze on prices as part of a deal that could cut bills for families across the country.” – Daily Telegraph

“Energy bills could be cut by £50 a year in next week’s autumn statement by watering down “green levies” and moving them on to general taxation, under plans being discussed by ministers.” – The Guardian

  • “Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to the chairman of the UK’s leading shale gas company. … The statement by Lord Browne, one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain, contradicts claims by David Cameron and George Osborne that shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Cutting the ‘green crap’ from energy bills is a damaging electoral sweetener – the signs are voters will not be fooled” – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

Energy costs 2) Miliband sets out a package of reforms

“Ed Miliband will pledge on Friday to ‘reset the broken energy market’, promising that all energy bills will be simplified and use the same method to explain the cost of energy per unit and the precise standing charges. … The idea is one of many laid out in a green paper on energy, including the implementation of its plan for a 20-month price freeze. Labour hopes its proposals will keep the pressure on the government over rising energy prices.” – The Guardian

Energy costs 3) Davey warns Scotland that independence could mean higher energy bills

Scottish flag“Scottish consumers face the risk of higher energy bills if they vote for independence in next year’s referendum because of having to shoulder a higher proportion of the UK’s renewable energy subsidies, Ed Davey has warned. … The Liberal Democrat UK energy secretary told MPs on Thursday that an independent Scotland might be forced to take on a higher proportion of green levies, which would drive up bills for those north of the border.” – Financial Times

  • “The case for the Union is still strong – so why does the Government not make it?” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

The Bank, with Osborne’s blessing, withdraws its support package for mortgages

OSBORNE WITH BLACKBERRY“In a surprise announcement, governor Mark Carney said a clampdown on the Funding for Lending Scheme was needed to cool the housing market. … His intervention – agreed with Chancellor George Osborne – prompted fears that mortgage rates could increase as early as next year … he and the Chancellor will stop the scheme from funding household loans and ‘refocus’ it on small business.” – Daily Mail

  • “Mark Carney is proving his independence on Help to Buy” – Independent editorial
  • “What is really needed to address the problems with the housing market is to stimulate supply rather than fuel demand” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “It’s right to make banks lend to small businesses” – Ian King, The Times (£)
  • “Promoting house-buying is a form of stimulus that does not overtly add to the fiscal deficit” – Samuel Brittan, Financial Times

> Today:

The Chancellor may have to face more debt, courtesy of Network Rail

“George Osborne is facing a £40 billion debt headache as the Office for National Statistics considers whether Network Rail should be brought back on to the government balance sheet. … The statistics watchdog will announce next month, possibly to coincide with the Autumn statement, whether the body that runs the railway tracks should continue to be treated as a not-for-profit private company.” – The Times (£)

  • “Britain could be back in the black within the next five years as the budget deficit is finally eliminated, a leading City think tank predicted last night.” – Daily Mail

Cameron clashes with EU officials, suggests that Britain’s powers to combat migration are limited…

CAMERON EU flag“David Cameron clashed angrily with Brussels last night as the Government admitted it can do little to reduce the ‘overwhelming incentive’ for people to migrate to Britain from poorer EU countries. … The Prime Minister, in Lithuania for talks with EU leaders, denounced an EU commissioner who said his plans to limit migrants’ rights to benefits risked making Britain the ‘nasty party of Europe’” – Daily Mail

  • “David Cameron must avoid ‘asking for the impossible’ as he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU, Sir John Major said last night.” – The Times (£)

…as the latest figures report a rise in net migration

“David Cameron’s efforts to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” before the next election have been jeopardised by an unexpected jump in the annual figure, largely because of an influx of workers from recession-hit EU countries. … Net migration rose by 9 per cent to 182,000 in the year ending June 2013 because of falling emigration and a rise in economic migrants from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, according to the Office for National Statistics.” – Financial Times

> Yesterday, by Sir Andrew Green on Comment: Europe hovers above the immigration debate

The Prime Minister’s overtures to China are questioned

“Britain has been accused of softening its stance on human rights in China to attract foreign investment, despite doubts over the credibility of some of the groups who have offered to fund big projects. … As David Cameron, prime minister, prepares for a long-awaited visit to Beijing, a Financial Times investigation has raised questions about a project with Chinese backing in northwest England.” – Financial Times

And he states his priorities for the future in a Q&A with readers of the i newspaper

i newspaper“I’m going to cheat and give you three, but they all relate to one thing: building a country our children can be proud of: 1. Get back in the black by dealing with our deficit. 2. Get our youth unemployment rate right down to the best in Europe. 3. Move up the international league tables for literacy, numeracy and science – that would be one of the best ways to  secure our future economic success.” – David Cameron, answering questions in the i newspaper

Hunt pushes the NHS to do more for dementia patients…

“More than half of those with dementia are not receiving medicine or support from the NHS, the Health Secretary reveals today. … Jeremy Hunt says hundreds of thousands of sufferers are condemned to a life of fear and anxiety because they are receiving no help. … Stigma is a ‘huge part of the problem’, with patients terrified to seek a diagnosis and too many GPs thinking there is no point in doing so.” – Daily Mail

  • “Thousands of cancer sufferers exposed to asbestos will get payouts. … Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning said: ‘This will end an injustice that left many victims high and dry.'” – The Sun (£)

…as the results from the “friends and family” test start emerging

“More than 80 per cent of patients on some hospital wards would not want their loved ones treated there, according to the Government’s own figures. … They show there are 19 wards across England where at least half of patients there last month would not recommend the care to their friends and family.” – Daily Mail

The Government has u-turned on cigarettes, but it’s keeping its course on alcohol

Smoke“Downing Street said it has no plans to revive alcohol minimum pricing despite its surprise decision to press ahead with plain cigarette packets. … Ministers appeared to have dropped the tobacco proposals earlier in the year but announced on Thursday that they would after all carry out a new study with a view to banning branded packets. The four-month evidence review will be led by Sir Cyril Chantler, an academic, doctor and NHS administrator.” – Financial Times

  • “The ‘row’ over whether or not the Prime Minister has done a U-turn on plain cigarette packaging is the sort of issue that makes voters contemptuous of politicians.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “Never mind government U-turns, the decision on plain packaging for cigarettes is the right one” – Independent editorial
  • “Why the assault on cigarette packets? They already look like props in a horror movie” – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • “The U-turning Tories are making their lack of conviction obvious” – Isabel Harman, Daily Telegraph
  • “In the shadow general election campaign that we are currently living through, the Tory-led coalition looks to be throwing its free market principles to the wind.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

May calls for vigilance against rising anti-semitism

MAY Theresa menacing“Britain must be ‘perpetually’ on guard against a resurgence of anti-Semitism, the Home Secretary said last night. … Theresa May said this was the case even in a country such as Britain with an historic record of tolerance and acceptance of Jewish practices and culture.” – The Times (£)

Miller warns about Christmas iPads

“Parents who buy their children tablet computers at Christmas should ensure anti-porn filters are applied, Culture Secretary Maria Miller says. … The top four internet service providers have agreed to ask all households whether they want to install a filter over the next year … But until that happens, Mrs Miller said parents had to take the initiative and install filters themselves.” – Daily Mail

  • “There is no link between porn and sex crime” – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

Clegg rails against the “Edwardian” system of parental leave – and has some new rules to fix it

angry clegg pram“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today unveil plans to allow new mothers and fathers to share leave – meaning men will be able to take almost a year off work. … Mr Clegg, who took an extended period of paternity leave when his first son was born,  said the current system, which means a father can only take a fortnight off after the birth of a child, was ‘Edwardian’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Women who want to have children lack the ambition to ‘go right to the top’, a Ukip MEP has suggested. … Stuart Agnew was branded ‘prehistoric’ by critics after claiming that their desire for a baby ‘gets in the way’.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “In the rarefied, politically-correct world of the posturing Nick Clegg, his top priority is to impose a hugely complex and burdensome new regime of shared parental leave on struggling employers.” – Daily Mail editorial

The Lib Dem leader also has some harsh words for Boris

“Boris Johnson was on Thursday accused of revealing his “unpleasant elitism” and insulting the low-paid of London after he controversially suggested some people will struggle to get on in life because of their low IQs. … The fiercest criticism came from Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, who attacked the senior Tory’s ‘unpleasant, careless elitism’ and accused him of talking about people as if they were dogs.” – The Guardian

  • “Nick Clegg: David Cameron did thrash me on the tennis court, but sometimes I let him win” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Boris Johnson’s Conservative vision is both bracing and pragmatic. Nick Clegg’s response was petty and blinkered” – Times editorial (£)
  • “The analytical problem with the percentages [Boris] bandied about is that they are not truly factual at all.” – Guardian editorial
  • “Boris Johnson’s philosophy isn’t just elitist – it’s sinister” – Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

> Today, by Iain Dale: Boris’s speech – a haranguing by the political equivalent of Dame Edna Everage

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Grammar schools offer Boris another Goldilocks moment

Miliband has more Falkirk revelations to deal with

MILIBAND Ed red background“The Unite union sent a letter about Labour Party membership fees to a witness at the centre of the Falkirk vote-rigging scandal, according to a statement provided under oath. … The revelation further undermines the claim by both the union and the Labour Party that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in Falkirk.” – The Times (£)

Savers walk away from the Co-op

“In a surprise statement to the stockmarket the bank admitted yesterday that there has been an increase in customers ditching their current accounts. … The lender could not put a figure on the number of customers that have deserted in recent weeks. … However, experts pointed out that there must have been significant desertions for a stock exchange announcement to have been necessary.” – Daily Mail

  • “Royal Mail shares could be worth more than £6 in a year, Goldman Sachs said yesterday – just weeks after the same bank told the Government they should only be  valued at £3.30.” – Daily Mail

Melissa Kite: Women MPs must map up

“If women are not to be driven out of politics altogether, the new generation of female MPs needs to stand firm. The problem is not that male politicians can be childish and offensive, but that today’s female politicians don’t seem to know how to handle them. … Ultimately, politics requires women with hides like rhinos, women who are sufficiently on fire with conviction to stand up and fight.” – Melissa Kite, The Guardian

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: A quarter of the Tories’ new women MPs could stand down in 2015

The Church of England gives the go-ahead for blessings for gay relationships

WELBY, Justin“Gay couples should be allowed to have their relationships blessed in church, the Church of England said yesterday. … Bishops should lift their official ban on ceremonies to mark civil partnerships and the relationships of gay and lesbian churchgoers, a long-awaited CofE report said.” – Daily Mail

  • “Wearing the Crucifix is now a fashion statement with no religious meaning, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.” – Daily Mail

It’s like East Germany, says a judge of the European Court of Human Rights

“The human rights judges in Strasbourg say they are democratic but in reality they dictate the law, just like the communist bosses did, said Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption. … In a sweeping attack on the way the court has been run, he said it was contributing to a ‘mundane and insidious’ decline of parliamentary powers and accused it of an Orwellian attempt to corrupt democracy.” – Daily Mail

News in brief

  • Cliff Dixon, Ukip’s chairman in Uxbridge, has admitted taking part in a march held by the English Defence League – Daily Telegraph
  • All-party groups must open books, says watchdog, amid lobbying fears – The Guardian
  • MPs urge Theresa May to reverse ban on the herbal stimulant qat – The Guardian

And finally 1)… Quentin Letts on plain packaging

Quentin Letts“Do they really think those kids will not try ciggies in future? I suspect that my teenagers have tried fags but happily neither of them has become an addict. My son would rather spend the money on top-shelf magazines. Perhaps Miss Ellison will ban them next.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

And finally 2)… Mike Freer MP’s “daft” email leak

“The Conservative MP in Margaret Thatcher’s former constituency has made damning comments about police officers who have been overseeing a week-long housing protest on the forecourt of his constituency office – in an email intended for a colleague but instead sent to the protesters. … The Finchley MP Mike Freer describes advice from the Metropolitan police about how to manage the protest as ‘daft’.” – The Guardian

35 comments for: Newslinks for Friday 29th November 2013

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