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Budget 1) Money for a “new generation of grammars”

School“Theresa May will pave the way for a new generation of grammar schools on Wednesday, as her chancellor uses the budget to push ahead with a controversial policy that is seen as a key priority for the prime minister. Philip Hammond will plough £320m into expanding the government’s free school programme, creating 70,000 places in 140 schools, which will be free to offer selective education after the government passes legislation. May’s pledge to end the ban on grammars during this parliament means that many of the new schools, which are largely due to open after 2020, could opt to choose pupils based on academic merit. The chancellor will underline the government’s focus on selective education by also extending free public transport for the poorest children to grammar schools, covering those within two to 15 miles of their homes.”

Editorial:

Budget 2) May: “the biggest overhaul of post-16 education in seventy years”

“As we leave the European Union and begin a journey to a brighter future for our country, the mission of this government is not just to negotiate the right deal for Britain with Europe, but to deliver a better deal for ordinary working families at home. … Wednesday’s Spring Budget will not just maintain our economic stability and increase our economic resilience, as vital as those measures are, it will focus on giving our young people the skills they need to secure the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future, …To achieve this requires ambitious and far-reaching reform.” – Daily Telegraph

Budget 3) Workers’ tax reforms at heart of “tight fiscal package”

HAMMOND Philip Marr“A review of how different ways of working are taxed is expected to be announced in the Budget this week, which experts predict will result in the self-employed paying more. The number of people who are self-employed is rising rapidly, but this is taxed more lightly than traditional employer-employee relationships. The Treasury has already flagged its intention to ensure the tax system keeps pace with changing work patterns, amid concerns that changes in the labour market is costing it billions of pounds in tax.” – FT

  • Hammond criticised for potential “tax raid” on self-employed – Daily Mail
  • Tax system is “unbalanced” says Lamont – Daily Telegraph
  • The “host of hidden taxes” – The Sun

Comment:

  • The self-employed are “natural Tories”. There’s no sense in targeting them – Ian Birrel, The Times (£)

Budget 4) Janan Ganesh: Treasury should be providing an “intellectual check” on Government

“In a normal country in normal times, politics revolves around the size of the state, the extent of borrowing and the weight of the tax burden. In Britain, so much life has drained from these questions that if Philip Hammond failed to turn up for his first Budget as chancellor of the exchequer on Wednesday, it is not clear who would mind. … It is just that his point — the purpose of his office — has changed. Over the next few years, the Treasury should think of itself less as a finance ministry than as the nation’s principal slayer of bad ideas. It should be an intellectual check on the government to which it belongs.” – FT

  • Hammond will make it clear “radical reform” is needed – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)
  • The pressure groups are making their usual demands – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express

More Budget

  • The themes Hammond is “likely to touch on” – FT

Editorial:

  • The Chancellor is right to be cautious – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Over half Tory member respondents back Hammond’s deficit reduction timetable. Almost one in three want it speeded up

>Yesterday: Howard Flight’s column: Hammond must bite the bullet and cut protected spending

Brexit 1) Hague: An early general election would make sense

William Hague 14-01-16“When the Conservative negotiating team sat down to sort out a coalition on the day after the 2010 general election, our Liberal Democrat counterparts were quite clear about one thing they needed above all else: a fixed-term parliament. … Six years on, the circumstances are very different and it is time to question whether a fixed parliamentary term is in the interests of the country as we withdraw from the European Union – an even bigger event than forming a coalition government. Were the Fixed-term Parliaments Act not in force, the case for a general election this spring would be very strong indeed. We have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet facing the most complex challenges of modern times. … A bill to repeal the Act could be introduced this year and be law by late 2018, even if it became necessary to override opposition in the Lords. Then the Prime Minister, who faces formidable obstacles, would have her hand strengthened, particularly if the voters remain on her side.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Downing Street source says it’s “not going to happen” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 2) Over 135,000 EU nationals have applied for residency over past six months

“More than 135,000 EU nationals have applied to live in Britain permanently in just six months, it has been revealed – ahead of a Commons showdown next week. The Home Office is being inundated with bids for residency, as Theresa May continues to fight pressure to guarantee EU citizens can remain in the country after Brexit. Applicants are plunged into what has been called a “nightmare” bureaucratic process of filling in a 85-page form at a cost of £65. The guidance notes alone run to 18 pages.” – Independent

  • Immigration minister says Government “wants to guarantee” 3m nationals’ right to stay “as soon as possible” – Daily Express

Brexit 3) Rudd prioritises remaining in EU arrest-warrant scheme

Amber Rudd“Her remarks in the House of Commons seemed to go beyond her past statement that the Government wanted to secure a system that was “as effective” as the EAW in keeping people safe. Sources stressed the exact arrangement would depend on forthcoming Brexit talks about how Britain and the EU will cooperate in future on security and justice issues. Ms Rudd herself also appeared initially yesterday to indicate she was only backing the “principle” of the EAW rather than preserving membership on the same terms as now. But her comments raise fears the Government is not committed to freeing Britain from a system which critics say has seen Britons arrested abroad and extradited from the UK on the flimsiest evidence.” – Daily Express

  • And is also focusing on “challenge” of recruiting soldiers – Daily Mail

Brexit 4) New Vauxhall chief says hard Brexit offers “very good opportunity”

“A hard Brexit presents a “very good opportunity” for the car industry in Britain and could prompt even further investment in the UK, the new owner of Vauxhall said yesterday. Carlos Tavares, chief executive of PSA Peugeot Citroën, the French carmaker, reassured thousands of workers in Luton and Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, by welcoming Brexit regardless of the outcome. He suggested that there would be opportunities to invest in Britain if the UK left the EU without a deal, in stark contrast with the CBI and other leading business groups that have repeatedly warned about relying on World Trade Organisation tariffs for trade.” – The Times (£)

  • Clark “appeared evasive” answering questions – John Crace, Guardian
  • The situation is “disturbing” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

More Brexit 

  • Worries arise over plans for EU army – Daily Mail
  • May warns Lords against “incentivising” bad EU offer with demand for vote – FT
  • Peers call for more Parliamentary scrutiny – FT

>Today: Christopher Howarth’s column: Christopher Howarth’s Guide to Brexit: Lawfare – desperate Remainers’ last throw of the dice

Comment:

  • The “phony war” will soon be over – Chuka Umunna, Independent

May “faces backbench rebellion” over refugees refusal

Theresa May“Theresa May faces a major backbench revolt over her refusal to let in more child refugees to Britain later. The Government faces a potential Commons defeat if up to 31 Tories including ex Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, and former ministers Tim Loughton and Anna Soubry all rebel. MPs are due to vote on amendments to the Children and Social Work bill in the Commons today. Campaigning Tory MP Heidi Allen wants every local authority in England to let ministers know if they have space for resettling children. Home Secretary Amber Rudd faced a backlash over her decision to scrap the so-called “Dubs” scheme last month.” – The Sun

>Today: Heidi Allen in Comment: Heidi Allen and David Burrowes: The Dubs scheme must not end prematurely

Government defeated in Lords over higher-education reforms

“Last night the government was defeated on the matter of student voter registration, and perhaps more seriously for the overall reforms, the link between TEF and fees. .. What this means is that the Teaching Excellence Framework, as things currently stand, no longer has a bearing on the amount that higher education providers can charge. Not only has the link between fees been broken, this amendment would effectively make it illegal for the government to use the TEF as a way to differentiate universities’ ability to recruit international students – something that has been feared since the Home Secretary hinted at such a plan in the Autumn.” – Wonkhe

Johnson and Fallon speak of concerns about Russian cyber activity

Boris Johnson 30-01-17“Two of Britain’s most senior cabinet ministers yesterday accused Russia of orchestrating cyber-war in Europe. The warnings came amid increasing concern that armies of hackers linked to the Kremlin are seeking to influence elections across the continent. Boris Johnson, who is set to visit Moscow in the coming weeks, said: ‘Let’s be very clear, Russia is up to all sorts of no good.’ … He stressed there was no ‘appetite for a new Cold War’. Meanwhile, Fallon said there had been a ‘step-change’ in Russia’s behaviour and raised concerns that it is trying to influence the upcoming election in Germany. Speaking during a visit to Brussels with Mr Johnson, Fallon said he hoped an investigation in Montenegro would establish the facts, adding that the UK’s policy over Russia was to ‘engage but beware’.”

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Johnson – “Russia is up to all sorts of no good”

Corbyn blames Cabinet Office and media for his tax-return controversy

“Jeremy Corbyn has blamed the Cabinet Office and “media barons” for confusion over his tax return, 18 hours after questions were first raised about his income. The Labour leader released a furious statement branding media reports that he may have failed to declare part of his income “false”. His spokesman said: “We are disappointed the Cabinet Office did not clarify this and explain the figure used on the P60 yesterday in answer to media inquiries they received.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

More Parliament 

Last week’s election has caused new Brexit focus in Northern Ireland

BROKENSHIRE, James headshot“The DUP was the only one of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties to back Brexit. Eight months later, a majority of the assembly’s 90 members are Remain backers — whether from Sinn Fein or the centrists of the Alliance and Social Democratic and Labour party, and the rump of the Ulster Unionists. Nationalists are convinced that Brexit played a large part in the surge in the nationalist vote last week: the turnout was 10 percentage points higher than in the last election 10 months ago, and Sinn Fein’s vote alone rose by nearly 4 percentage points.High quality global journalism requires investment. Nationalist leaders believe the election has put Brexit centre stage in Northern Ireland in a way it has not been since the referendum.” –  FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Brokenshire can only do so much to keep Stormont on its feet

Sturgeon adviser questions Yes campaign dependence on oil money

“Andrew Wilson, the former MSP chairing the SNP’s growth commission, said oil revenues had been “baked into the numbers” supporting the nationalist case, contradicting claims North Sea income would simply be a “bonus” to an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government’s white paper on independence estimated that oil revenues would be between £6.8 billion and £7.9 billion by 2016/17. Since then, the oil price has dropped from over $100 a barrel to less than $60, and rising costs of extraction mean North Sea oil cost the Treasury £24 million last year, compared to a £2.15 billion surplus in 2014/15. Mr Wilson, who will deliver his report on the economy of an independent Scotland within weeks, suggested Yes campaigners were wrong to say “oil was a bonus and not the basis” of their case.” – Scotsman

Trump’s revised travel ban

Donald Trump Jan 2017“Donald Trump on Monday signed a revised executive order to reinstate a ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries and suspend the US refugee program. The new ban revokes a previous order issued on 27 January that prompted instant chaos at airports across America and was eventually blocked by federal judges following a series of constitutional challenges. The move marked a significant retreat for Trump and his administration’s vigorous defense of the original travel ban as being within the president’s legal authority. But activists said they were planning to challenge the new ban. The new order seeks to address prior complaints by removing language that granted priority to religious minorities for refugee resettlement, which had been viewed as targeting Muslims.” – Guardian

More Trump

  • He refuses to trust FBI refutation of Obama tapping – The Times (£)
  • But can’t say what kind of surveillance he suspects – Guardian

Comment:

  • “We must examine the lies” – Paul Mason, Guardian
  • Trump’s pivot to Obama wasn’t a smart move – David Usborne, Independent

News in Brief

  • Merkel asks for calm after Erdogan comments – Daily Telegraph
  • UK carbon emissions fall to Victorian levels – FT
  • Tensions escalate between North Korea and US – Daily Express
  • Armed police given “ok to shoot” – The Sun
  • Uber signs deal with NHS trust – The Times (£)
  • BBC warns Jenni Murray about impartiality over transgender comments – Daily Telegraph
  • Grayson Perry’s Brexit pots – Guardian
  • Cameron’s £100k Morgan Stanley speech – Daily Mail
  • People shocked by bus driver’s photos of drug use – Wales Online
  • Chess, drugs, and academia – The Times (£)

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