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Picture 1 6pm WATCH: Caroline Spelman's dignified statement on forests to the Commons this afternoon

5.30pm Parliament update: Tory MPs welcome the U-turn on forests as they lambast Labour's record of hypocrisy on the issue

5pm Nadhim Zahawi MP on Comment: Regulation, Reward and Re-Skilling are the three Rs of growth for Ministers

4.30pm Latest on Comment:

4pm WATCH Two video clips of David Cameron's speech on welfare:

PATEL PRITI3pm Priti Patel MP on Comment: Why, as a Conservative, I support NO to AV – a response to Mohammed Amin

2.45pm Local government: West London Free School publishes reading list

1pm Parliament: Caroline Spelman formally cancels the forest sell-off consultation: "I am sorry. We got this one wrong."

12.15pm ToryDiary: Government unveils the most radical welfare shake-up for 60 years as David Cameron pledges to "make work pay"

11.15am Andrew Lilico on Comment: What is "fairness"?

10.15am Tom Perrin on Comment: Any reforms to the House of Lords should now be subject to a referendum

ToryDiary: What will a counter-extremism policy look like? The view from inside government

Field470
Mark Field MP in Comment: Social selection – instead of academic selection – of students will undermine our universities' excellence

Parliament: House of Lords finally concedes over 40% referendum threshold

LeftWatch: Conservatives find Ed Balls the most impressive Labour frontbencher (seven places ahead of Miliband)

Nigel Adams MP in Seats and Candidates: Labour have failed the people of Barnsley Central – both locally and nationally

Local Government: Households are not being hit with £400 extra charges

Reform horizon Andrew Haldenby in ThinkTankCentral: In a wide-ranging audit, Reform finds considerable inconsistencies in how government departments are reforming public services

Also in ThinkTankCentral: Bruges Group report says that Germany has benefitted most from the Euro

Forest farce: Cameron to axe sell-off policy

Picture 25 "The highly contentious plans for a £250m sale of England's forests will be abandoned because of the furious backlash that has hit the Government. David Cameron humiliated his Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman in the House yesterday, and shocked MPs, when he disowned the policy. The Prime Minister signalled the retreat when he admitted he was unhappy with the proposals under which woodlands owned and run by the Forestry Commission would be sold off over the next decade." – The Independent

"Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, will announce on Friday that a consultation on the sale of forests will be ended after a furious backlash that united Tory supporters with environmentalists and the Socialist Workers party. "The consultation is going to be terminated," a government source has said. A No 10 insider added: "It's a cock-up. We just did not think." – The Guardian

> Last Friday's ToryDiary: Lessons for the Government to learn from the forests fiasco

Government targets "sicknote culture" as welfare reform bill is published

"David Cameron will today call for an end to a “sicknote culture” in Britain, as he unveils a bill to dramatically reshape the benefits system around a single working-age credit. The prime minister is to launch a review – led by David Frost of the British Chambers of Commerce and Dame Carol Black, the government’s health and work tsar – aimed at stemming the flow of people from work to sickness benefit… Mr Cameron will say: “We have to get to grips with the sicknote culture that means a short spell of sickness absence can far too easily become a gradual slide to a life of long-term benefit dependency.” – FT (£)

"A new "universal credit", new sanctions for those turning down jobs and a cap on benefits paid to a single family will be among the changes outlined in a welfare reform bill today." – BBC

Iain Duncan Smith speaking "We have a system where people too often are rewarded for doing the wrong thing, and those who strive to do the best by their families are penalised. It is a system so out of control that it houses unemployed people in some of the most expensive accommodation in the land, while those who work hard on low incomes are forced to commute long distances because they can't afford properties near work… The publication of the Welfare Reform Bill is a huge step forward. It will put work, rather than hand-outs, at the heart of the welfare system. It will ensure that we continue to provide appropriate support for those genuinely unable to work. And it will provide a fair deal for the taxpayer." – Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith writing in the Daily Telegraph

Tories ready for a fight on human rights ‘interference’ from Europe

"David Cameron was heading for a confrontation with Europe yesterday as he prepared the way for the Tories to fight the next general election on pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights. A Conservative policy review will examine whether the party can back withdrawing from the court at the May 2015 election, as senior party figures admitted that they would not be able to pursue such a radical move while working in a coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats." – The Times (£)

"David Cameron declared war on unelected judges yesterday after they put the human rights of paedophiles and rapists before public safety. The Prime Minister said he was ‘appalled’ that Britain’s 50,000 sex offenders can appeal against being kept on a police register for life. In a highly-charged intervention, Mr Cameron called for an overhaul of the ‘completely offensive’ rulings from the European Court of Human Rights which have influenced our own judges." – Daily Mail

> Nick De Bois MP on Comment last week: Now it's time for a free vote on leaving the ECHR

Number Ten policy unit to be beefed up

DOWNING-STREET-10 "David Cameron is to recruit 10 high-powered policy advisers to keep a close check on his ministers in an attempt to put a stop to mistakes which have forced him into a series of embarrassing U-turns. Nine months into his premiership, Mr Cameron has decided to fine-tune the Downing Street machine. With hindsight, his aides admit, he has allowed ministers too much leeway to draw up and announce policies without No 10 knowing the full details." – The Independent

60 regulations that cost our firms £13bn (and keep bosses tied up for six weeks a year)

"Businesses are being bombarded by red tape which is ‘unnecessarily burdensome’ and costs around £13billion a year to administer, a damning report says today. The National Audit Office states that entrepreneurs have to cope with as many as 60 separate regulations, with updates issued at least once a week." – Daily Mail

Osborne eyes looser liquidity regime

"George Osborne is looking at ways in which Britain’s tough bank liquidity rules might be eased, potentially saving banks hundreds of millions of pounds and releasing funds for lending to businesses and homeowners. The chancellor is said to be looking sympathetically at claims by the banks that Britain’s regulators have gone too far in their efforts to avoid another Lehman Brothers-style crisis and have put the City at an international disadvantage." – FT (£)

Clegg and the Treasury are at odds over the green bank

Nick Clegg 2011 "The green investment bank has become a kind of philosopher's stone – designed to help turn the UK's currently very low number of billions of pounds for green energy into loans underwriting 100s of times that amount. The aim is to get up and running the kind of renewable energy providers the country is going to need in a generation." – The Guardian

Thousands more will have to sell homes for elderly care

"Thousands more elderly people will be forced to pay to stay in care homes as a result of unannounced cuts in funding. Ministers are effectively reducing the level of savings above which pensioners must meet their own fees, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. A Whitehall document shows that the reduction has been imposed to “raise additional revenue” and will have an “impact” on older people and their families." – Daily Telegraph

WIlliam Hague warns that AV would give extra votes to BNP supporters…

William Hague square serious "In an email to Tory members, Mr Hague said his party would be actively campaigning for a No vote. ‘Under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while people who vote for one of the mainstream candidates would only get their vote counted once. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared winner'." – Daily Mail

…as Ed Miliband explains why is backing AV

"I respect the views of my Labour colleagues who are for retaining first past the post. But I disagree with them. Why? Fundamentally, because AV offers an opportunity for political reform, ensuring the voice of the public is heard louder than it has been in the past. And given the standing of politics that is an opportunity we should take. It is a system that combines the direct representation of first-past-the-post with one that will make the votes of more people count." – Ed Miliband writing in The Guardian

Political news in brief

  • Treasury crackdown on wasteful PFI firms given 'gold-plated contracts' by Labour to run our hospitals – Daily Mail
  • Alcohol policy "in tatters as health experts revolt" – The Guardian
  • Osborne to name four to Bank of England Stability Committee – Bloomberg
  • Government to consult on legalising gay marriage – Reuters
  • Hague expresses fears over Zimbabwe violence – Press Association

And finally… Labour council chief’s pay soars to £168,000 as his authority faces spending cuts of 19%

"A Labour-run council jacked up the salary of its chief executive by 7 per cent yesterday in defiance of calls for pay cuts. Paul Walker’s inflation-busting rise takes his pay to £168,000. Last night, the decision was condemned by trade unions as ‘morally indefensible’ and the Tories as unjustifiable." – Daily Mail

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