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No.10’s plan to cap child benefits at two children

Number 10“Downing Street has drawn up controversial plans to slash up to £5 billion a year from the welfare bill by limiting child benefit to families’ first two children. … Under the proposal, revealed today, families would also lose their entitlement to child tax credit for any more than two children. … The initiative has been put forward by Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, recently appointed by David Cameron to the No 10 policy board to come up with vote-winning policies for the Conservative Election manifesto.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “…it’s the child element that now needs reform. … After all, people can’t control house prices or when they get sick, but they can decide when to have children. That’s why I am calling on the next Conservative Government to limit child-related welfare to the first two children.” – Nadhim Zahawi, Mail on Sunday
  • “Mr Zahawi’s proposal deserves a fair hearing and detailed consideration.” – Mail on Sunday editorial
  • “Marriage is on its deathbed. A tiny tax allowance won’t save it. Nor will benevolent old judges such as Sir Paul Coleridge  urging young couples to wed before starting a family.” – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

> Today on ToryDiary: With his welfare proposal, Zahawi gives us a peek inside Cameron’s little black book

May raises the prospect of a cap on EU immigration

EU FLag“The government has raised the prospect of a 75,000 cap on annual EU immigration as part of a radical change in Britain’s relationship with Europe. … A leaked government report on the effect on Britain of the EU’s “open borders” policy suggests net migration from EU countries could be slashed by 30,000 from the current 106,000 a year by means of a cap. … The Home Office paper on free movement of people highlights proposals suggesting professionals and high-skilled migrants from countries such as Germany, Holland or Austria could move here only if they had a job offer.” – Sunday Times

  • “The ‘increasingly toxic political debate’ on immigration and the possibility that the UK could leave the European Union is rapidly fuelling concern among Asian governments and businesses, and risks damaging the country’s economic recovery, Britain’s former ambassador to Japan has warned.” – The Independent on Sunday

Tory MPs want a national veto over all current and future EU laws, reports James Forsyth

“These Tory MPs want Cameron to get ahead of the game and set out his position come the renegotiations over EU membership. The letter, which will be sent to him before Christmas and which I have seen, urges the PM to push for a national veto over all current and future EU laws. … It argues that Parliament’s respected European Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Tory Eurosceptic Bill Cash, has shown how ‘this would transform the UK’s negotiating position in the EU’.” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

More trouble over MPs’ pay: Bercow rejects the IPSA chief’s bid for reappointment

Pay“The man who triggered public fury last week by demanding that MPs receive an 11 per cent pay rise is to be axed from his job as the Commons watchdog. … Now Sir Ian has had his bid to be reappointed as chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) rejected by Commons Speaker John Bercow.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “MPs will get £1million-worth of iPads on top of an 11 per cent pay hike. … Commons bosses have ruled the tablets, costing £600 each, will be standard issue after the next election.” – The Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “An MP refusing to give up an inflation-busting pay rise once charged the taxpayer a measly 10p for paperclips and 34p for a glue stick. … Tory Charles Walker — who already earns a generous £66,400 a year — also billed taxpayers 24p for file dividers.” – The Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “Paying politicians too much harms their work ethic, claims ground-breaking new research that could be used as an argument not to give British MPs a proposed 11% pay rise.” – The Observer
  • “MPs are to be given compulsory ‘honesty’ training to teach them how to behave in public office.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Many of today’s MPs have earned their place after spending ten years knocking on doors, day after day, with no pay. The same cannot be said for many of those at the top. We need to scrap Ipsa, which costs £8 million a year and scrap all expenses.” – Nadine Dorries, Mail on Sunday
  • “If the party leaders had any balance of trust to draw on, they could have stood together and told the public that Kennedy’s work, however unpopular, was a serious attempt to solve a long-standing problem and that it was worthy of support.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “It’s almost as if they’re taking the mickey.” – Sun on Sunday editorial (£)

Ministers are refusing to publish the Government risk-assessment of Help to Buy…

Help to Buy“Ministers have refused for months to say if any official risk assessment has taken place, insisting only that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility was responsible for housing forecasts. Yet in a Freedom of Information response to the Shadow Local Government Secretary, Hilary Benn, officials have revealed that the Government does indeed hold details of a risk assessment into Help to Buy, but that publication has been blocked by ministerial veto.” – The Independent on Sunday

  • “Welfare cuts have sparked a dramatic increase in the number of eviction notices issued by landlords, a new survey reveals.” – The Independent on Sunday
  • “Buy-to-let boomed in 2013 and experts say next year looks even rosier.” – Sunday Telegraph

…and they don’t want you to see this HS2 report, either

“A suppressed Cabinet Office report into the HS2 rail scheme raised ‘major concerns’ about its ‘risky’ construction timetable, poor management, insufficient work on costs and the capability of the people involved, The Telegraph can disclose. … Ministers are fighting to stop full publication of the report, seeking a rare emergency prime ministerial veto to prevent its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.” – Sunday Telegraph

“I’ve taken the money and run it better” – Greening, interviewed in the Sunday Times

Greening Justine Feb 2012“A year into the job, however, and Greening, 44, seems to have gone native. Not only does she love what she is doing; she now believes the Tories should renew their foreign aid spending commitment in the party’s 2015 general election manifesto. … ‘Yes, yes, I do,’ she says. ‘We’ve met our commitment and we need to maintain it. But we need to make sure it’s 100% in the national interest.'” – The Sunday Times (£)

Miller sets up a match-fixing hotline

“In the wake of our exposé, Culture Secretary Maria Miller held a summit with bosses from leading sports including football, cricket, tennis, rugby and horseracing, as well as the Gambling Commission. … They agreed to look at setting up a watchdog for stars to raise concerns ‘without fear of recrimination’.” – The Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “If fans aren’t able to trust what they see in front of them, sport will be permanently damaged.” – Maria Miller, The Sun on Sunday (£)

Report warns about Grayling’s probation reforms

“Plans to put private companies such as G4S in charge of supervising tens of thousands of criminals on licence in the community have a “very high chance” of putting the public at greater risk and will result in a poorer service for victims of crime, according to an internal assessment presented to the Ministry of Justice and seen by the Observer.” – The Observer

The US Government could block MoD sell-off plans

“The US could block plans by the British government to privatise the Ministry of Defence’s equipment repair and maintenance arm because of fears over the security of shared military technology, according to secret MoD papers seen by the Observer. … The documents also state that the British army is ‘understandably nervous’ about the sale to a private company” – The Observer

  • “Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been criticised for forcing through the appointment of Bernard Gray, a former journalist and publisher, to head a revamped agency without any public scrutiny.” – The Independent on Sunday

Davey’s plans could lead to more onshore wind farms

Wind turbine“Ed Davey, the energy secretary, told the Telegraph he was preparing to announce that onshore wind and solar farm developers would be forced to compete in reverse auctions to secure government subsidies. … The plans should drive down the cost to bill-payers of individual projects – but could see an increase in the number of onshore wind projects built as a result.” – Sunday Telegraph

Andrew Rawnsley: The Tories and Lib Dems are plotting their coalition endgames

“That the relationship between the two sides is turning more belligerent is not terribly surprising. There is now just under 18 months to go before they do battle with each other at the next election. Both sides are preparing for the time when they cease to be coalition partners and return to full-blooded competition for seats. The Tory election plan envisages a route to a parliamentary majority by decapitating 20 Lib Dem MPs. It will be critical to their survival as a significant force in parliament that the Lib Dems defeat that Tory strategy.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer

  • “I fear that austerity’s true purpose is to make tax cuts possible” – William Keegan, The Observer

Miliband wants a “self-build” revolution

“The Labour leader will point to France which, despite its troubled economy, builds nearly three times as many homes a year as Britain. … More than half of new French homes are constructed by their owners, who employ local builders to do the work or sometimes carry it out themselves. In Britain the figure is less than one in 10.” – Sunday Times (£)

John Rentoul: It was a mistake for Miliband to (almost) take on the trade union bosses

“Miliband tried, but the change he will secure next March is so small that he would have done better not to advertise that he is still the prisoner of the union faction bosses who lifted him to the Labour leadership in the first place.” – John Rentoul, The Independent on Sunday

  • “Political parties could receive as much as £40m in state funding under plans being considered by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.” – Sunday Times (£)

Labour urge clarity over Heathrow, too

Andrew Adonis“Contentious decisions on expanding airport capacity in the south-east of England cannot wait until after the 2015 general election, the man charged with devising Labour’s strategy on economic growth has declared. … The intervention by former transport secretary Lord Adonis, who is heading Labour’s economic growth review, comes amid suggestions that Tuesday’s interim report will downplay the urgency of capacity problems” – The Observer

  • “More runways is so last century” – Independent on Sunday editorial

> Yesterday:

Two peers expected to be suspended from the Lords after “cash for access” investigation

“Two members of the House of Lords are expected to be suspended this week following an investigation into allegations of ‘cash-for-access’. … Well-placed sources say Labour peer Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and former Ulster Unionist Lord Laird are likely to be barred for up to six months when the Commissioner for Standards releases his report on Tuesday.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “David Cameron’s key Muslim adviser is being investigated by police after an alleged House of Lords bust-up with a fellow Muslim whom he called a ‘f****** dog’ and threatened to beat up.” – Mail on Sunday

Ofsted chief joins the battle against grammar schools

School“The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has launched a scathing assault on England’s 164 state-funded grammar schools and their supporters for holding back poorer pupils from getting on in life. … Wilshaw hit out at the selective schools for being ‘stuffed full of middle-class kids’ and dismissed growing calls for more grammars in the wake of a damning international report on standards in schools.” – The Observer

  • “Headteachers are being ‘pushed about’ to act against the interest of their own pupils as a result of pressures from the Government and exam league tables, the boss of one of the biggest academy chains has warned.” – The Independent on Sunday
  • “Labour has accused the Conservatives of spreading propaganda in schools by distributing campaign material under the guise of an educational ‘citizenship and democracy pack’.” – The Independent on Sunday

And comment:

  • “The whole ridiculous thing cropped up again last week when Liz Truss was forced to defend the idea of ‘free schools’. What an absurd thing to have to defend: in a free country, what should schools be other than ‘free’?” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Baroness Butler-Sloss: We legalise “assisted dying” at our peril

“Laws, like nation states, are more secure when their boundaries rest on natural frontiers. The law that we have rests on just such a frontier. It rests on the principle that we do not involve ourselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of others. Once we start making exceptions based on arbitrary criteria like terminal illness, that frontier becomes just a line in the sand, easily crossed and hard to defend.” – Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Sunday Telegraph

  • “For years, dementia care has been overlooked – the ‘Cinderella service’ of the NHS, with patients hidden away in erratically managed decline” – Jenny McCartney, Sunday Telegraph

Camilla Cavendish: This sexual apartheid shames the universities that let Islamism thrive

Camilla Cavendish“The row over the obscure issue of gender segregation has finally drawn attention to how supine vice-chancellors have been about the growing radicalisation of some British campuses. The fact that guidance had to be issued at all is a sign of the growing pressures on universities from small groups of students who hold strong religious beliefs. The real issue is not what is legal. The real issue is what is right.” – Camille Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)

  • “‘Religious freedom’ cannot be allowed to trump equality” – Matthew d’Ancona, Sunday Telegraph
  • “How dare our unis back gender based apartheid” – Louise Mensch, The Sun on Sunday (£)

> Today, by Richard Kelly on Comment: From Burke to burkhas – why it’s time for Tory multiculturalism

Alleged British spy to be tried in Iran

“Britain is facing a new diplomatic row with Iran after claims that an agent working for MI6 has been arrested in the Islamic state and is to be put on trial for spying. … The man, who has not been named, is alleged to have confessed to working with the UK’s secret intelligence service in the south-eastern city of Kerman.” – Mail on Sunday

News in brief

And finally 1: Cameron is the 1,483rd most famous person in history…

“Jesus is the most important person history, according to a new internet search programme that ranks Napoleon second and Mohammed third. … The software, developed in the US, scours the internet for opinions expressed about famous people and uses a special algorithm to to predict how important they will remain 200 year after their death. … And it has thrown up some unusual and potentially embarrassing results with Prime Minister David Cameron all the way down in 1,483rd place.” – Mail on Sunday

And finally 2: …but at least more people would prefer to spend Christmas with him than with Miliband

“…whatever the reason, members of the public would rather spend Christmas with David Cameron than Ed Miliband, a poll for The Independent on Sunday has found. … Mr Cameron is also the favourite politician for voters to have on their quiz team and, perhaps more seriously for Mr Miliband, is also the preferred choice for running the country.” – The Independent on Sunday

And finally 3: The Prime Minister steps in to save *that* selfie

Cameron Obama selfie“When Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish prime minister, took a photograph of herself with Barack Obama and Cameron at the Nelson Mandela memorial service last week, many thought the move was in bad taste. … Thorning-Schmidt was so embarrassed by the furore that she secretly pledged to destroy the image. But Cameron has pleaded with her to auction it for charity.” – The Sunday Times (£)

And finally 4: The former Blair adviser’s harsh tongue

“It could have been a scenario straight from The Thick of It. Leaked emails have revealed the foul-mouthed rants and Machiavellian tactics deployed against political opponents by a former adviser to Tony Blair. … John McTernan repeatedly used X-rated language — including the c-word — in official communications to trash rivals and colleagues alike during his time as a spin doctor to Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • Tony Blair introduces prospective client Victor Ponta to Barack Obama – Sunday Telegraph

And finally 5: Maggie and the Queen

THATCHER resolute“Theirs was a difficult relationship that has become the stuff of West End drama – and today The Mail on Sunday can reveal one possible source of the tension between The Queen and Margaret Thatcher. … Official papers just made public show the Prime Minister repeatedly rescheduled and cancelled their weekly audiences, risking the irritation of Buckingham Palace.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Denis Oliver, Mrs Thatcher’s driver for 14 years, remembers his like-minded boss fondly” – The Observer
  • “The Save the Children charity came under fire last night over a ‘malevolent and tasteless’ joke suggesting Margaret Thatcher was to blame for the torrential rain at Mandela’s memorial service.” – Mail on Sunday

12 comments for: Newslinks for Sunday 15th December 2013

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