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Autumn Statement 1: The growth numbers look good for Osborne…but not too good

OSBORNE red and blue“George Osborne will be able to announce the largest upgrade to growth forecasts since the millennium on Thursday, when he presents his Autumn Statement against a much improved economic backdrop. But economists warn that faster growth and better public finances will not give the chancellor scope to ease austerity and some measures of the public finances are likely to be little better than they were in March. Aides to the chancellor say they will be happy if the independent Office for Budget Responsibility delivers this sting in the tail, since caution on the deficit reduction programme chimes with Mr Osborne’s repeated statements that he is “far from feeling the job is done”.” – Financial Times

  • Chancellor under pressure to deliver coalition infrastructure pledges – Financial Times
  • Osborne set to agree £1billion extra aid increase – Daily Mail
  • Treasury to back £1.5bn expansion plan for A14 – Financial Times

Autumn Statement 2: Kwarteng, Tyrie, & Patel of the Free Enterprise Group call for action on business rates…

“Some 37 influential Conservative MPs are publishing a report today calling on the Chancellor to permanently grant small firms exemption from business rates. And last night Tory sources said Mr Osborne will heed their advice in his Autumn Statement on Thursday. The MPs’ report says firms are still suffering from excessive regulation. Last night, a Tory source said: ‘I understand there will be some action on this.’ ” – Daily Mail

  • Drop cigarette pack ban: another call from the Free Enterprise Group – Daily Mail
  • UK factory growth is fastest in Europe – Daily Mail
  • Workers pay has fallen: ONS – The Independent
  • Workers’ pay has not fallen: Osborne – The Guardian
  • Savings drop to lowest level in 40 years – Daily Telegraph
  • Pensioners have become better off in recession – The Times (£)
  • Taxes and pension contributions are squeezing workers’ pay – Allister Heath, City AM
  • Millions hit by crash of banks’ debit card system – The Times (£)

Autumn Statement 3: By how much will the energy companies now cut their bills?

Gas ring“The Big Six energy suppliers said today they would pass on savings to households following a shake-up of green levies that could cut bills by up to £50. George Osborne, the Chancellor, confirmed that the costs of some energy efficiency schemes would be rolled back in his Autumn statement on Thursday. All of the major energy suppliers have said that they will pass the benefits to their customers but the reduction in individual household bills would depend on each company, the Government said.” – The Times (£)

  • Will your energy supplier cut your bill? – Daily Telegraph
  • Lobby group ‘influenced wind farm noise report’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Yeo warns of danger of Government having ‘opened the door’ to cutting environmental programme – The Guardian
  • The amount of electricity we use is a luxury, says energy boss – Daily Mail
  • When is a price cut not a price cut? Answer: when it’s from the energy giants – Sun Editorial
  • The tricky politics of cutting our fuel bills – Peter Kellner, The Guardian
  • Mobile companies forced to tell customers of price-hikes – The Sun

The Telegraph: Next winter, the lights could go out

“Labour and Lib Dem MPs are tomorrow expected to support a Lords amendment to the Energy Bill that will force coal stations to close earlier than planned. Furthermore, in the medium term, there are doubts over the nuclear power programme planned at Hinkley Point, with questions in Brussels over the payments of subsidies to French and Chinese companies. Future supply, then, is the big issue: voters may be pleased to see their bills go up less than planned (even if they are paying for it in taxes). But they will be appalled if the lights go out.” – Daily Telegraph Editorial

Never mind tax cuts. Osborne must focus on the hard grind of deficit reduction – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

> Today:

> Yesterday:

Cameron in China: Chinese money could fund HS2

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 07.30.55“Britain’s controversial high speed rail link between London and the North could be partly funded or even built by China, it emerged today. The Chinese premier Li Keqiang made the surprise announcement after talks with David Cameron in Beijing. Li Keqiang said Britain and China had agreed to “push for breakthroughs” on high speed rail cooperation. Mr Cameron added that “no country in the world is more open to Chinese investment than the UK”.” – The Independent

  • Prime Minister protests to Chinese president after UK journalist barred – The Guardian
  • Cameron brushes aside Boris IQ comments – The Independent
  • There’s only so much this VIP visit can achieve – Sir Tom Hunter, Daily Telegraph

> Today in our Foreign Affairs Column: Michael Williams – China’s bullying has intimidated Cameron, but united the rest of Asia against Beijing.

(And he concedes that the Government may miss its immigration target)

“The Prime Minister insisted that meeting the key pledge by the next general election was not “impossible”. But he conceded a sharp fall in the number of people leaving the country each year was making the task much harder. Some Tory MPs will see his remarks as preparing the ground for diluting or even abandoning the target altogether. Official figures last week showed that net immigration hit 182,000 last year, up from 167,000 in the previous 12 months, though the trend has been down since the Coalition came to power, falling from a peak of 250,000 under Labour.” – Daily Express

  • Tory MPs cry foul over perceived attempt to prevent repeat of EU uprising – Financial Times

Rachel Sylvester: Cameron must show that he has a heart

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 07.34.40“According to YouGov, only 23 per cent of the electorate believe the Tories’ “heart is in the right place”. Half agree that the Conservative party “seems to appeal to one section of society rather than the whole country” and 86 per cent think the Tory tribe is “very close” or “fairly close” to the rich, compared with 23 per cent who believe it is “close to people like yourself”. These are truly devastating figures and none of them has shifted since the last election in 2010. The negatives will only have been reinforced by Boris Johnson’s claim that greed “spurs economic growth”.” – The Times (£)

> Today: Columnist Stephen Tall: The agony of the Tory modernisers

Children should use more textbooks, says Truss

“The Education Minister said rampant ideology in schools that teaching should be ‘unstructured and free-flow’ meant just one in ten ten-year-olds are issued with them now. Among 14-year-olds studying science the figure falls to an astonishing eight per cent – one in 12. The ‘anti-textbook orthodoxy’ is damaging children’s education as they are coming home with ‘dog-eared worksheets’ that give them no sense of the context of what they are learning.” – Daily Mail

  • Welsh Government must shoulder responsibility for poor Pisa scores, says Tory Shadow Welsh Education Minister Angela Burns AM – Wales Online

Badger cull hits only 40 per cent of target figure

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 07.40.08“Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the cull – to reduce tuberculosis in cattle – missed its quota in Gloucestershire, even after it was cut from 70 per cent to 58 per cent and marksmen were given an extra five weeks.  Labour environment spokesman Maria Eagle said Mr Paterson – who blamed earlier problems on ‘badgers moving the goalposts’ – had been humiliated.” – Daily Mail

Grieve: the EU is “losing touch with the people of Europe”

“In a surprise denunciation of interference from Brussels, Dominic Grieve, one of the most Europhile members of the Cabinet, said he would not hesitate to take legal action against European institutions overstepping the mark. The Attorney-General said that he had been “astonished” at how EU institutions had attempted “to reduce the freedom of action of sovereign member states”. He also accused the European Commission of “arrogance or aloofness” for pushing through significant pay rises for its officials.” – The Times (£)

Miliband backs off union reform plan

MILIBAND Red Ed“The Labour leader had previously vowed to overhaul party funding to give union members more rights to opt out of funding Labour through the political levy. He made the promise in the wake of the Falkirk candidate selection scandal, which laid bare Labour’s reliance on the union Unite. But it has now emerged that Mr Miliband only wants to give that option to new union members and to enact the changes over five years.” – Daily Mail

  • Bryant claims that lone parents will lose out on back to work cash – The Sun
  • Labour needs to reclaim ambition and aspiration from Tories, says Umunna – The Guardian
  • After-dinner star Alistair Darling makes £170,000 from private events – Daily Mail
  • Labour selects 18-year-old to stand as MP for Bath – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Clutha helicopter crash: Final victims named – Scotsman
  • Look of “pure evil” on the face of Lee Rigby’s killer – The Sun
  • Murder of prison officer: two held – Belfast Telegraph
  • Bob Dylan sued for alleged racism – The Guardian
  • Putin accuses militants of trying to overthrow Ukraine’s government – The Independent
  • French-born installation artist Laure Prouvost wins Turner Prize – Financial Times
  • Tom Daley is gay – Daily Telegraph
  • Explain why you snatched baby girl at birth: Judge’s order to social workers behind forced caesarean – Daily Mail
  • Arctic storm set to blast Britain with 90mph gales and crippling blizzards – Daily Express

And finally…Mrs Gove on her husband. Oh, hang on a minute

“Eyes like chocolate buttons, fur as soft as pussy willow, all wobbly and scared. Also, as I later found out, teeming with fleas and as malodorous as a goat. It was love at first sight.” Is the Mail columnist referring to her husband, Michael Gove? No: she’s – Sarah Vine describes her Osborne-style bichon, Daily Mail

30 comments for: Newslinks for Tuesday 3rd December 2013

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