7.45pm WATCH: Daniel Hannan MEP blasts the European Union for using taxpayers' money in a "nakedly propagandist" way on manipulating the media

5.30pm ToryDiary: First Budget whispers suggest a merging of income tax and NI, tax breaks for "business angels" and a hike in airport tax…

4.45pm Local Government: Councils hammer scouts

Picture 154.45pm WATCH: William Hague updates MPs on the action being considered against Colonel Gaddafi, saying there are clear grounds for a new UN resolution

3.15pm Local Government: Review could end dependence on Whitehall grant

2pm Nick de Bois MP on Comment: We must show the British people that we are not resigned to accepting ludicrous decisions imposed by European institutions

12.45pm Parliament: Rob Wilson suggests that independent schools should offer some free places to local children on free school meals

12.15pm Local government: More councils join "Spotlight on Spend"

Noon Jeremy Hunt MP on Comment: Why local TV is vital in the context of our localist agenda

Plus Harry Phibbs on What Winston Churchill said on AV

10.45am Gazette: Portrait of The Queen unveiled at Scottish Parliament after campaign by Tory MSP

ToryDiary: Further evidence of UKIP's threat to the Conservatives

Picture 14 Ruth Porter on Comment: The family is a crucial – and oft-forgotten – element of the Big Society

Also on Comment, Alex Deane writes that David Davis's voice must be heard on defence cuts – he speaks for many in the Party, and beyond

Local Government: 2,295 council staff are earning over £100,000 a year

Parliament: Justine Greening and an array of Tory backbenchers expose Labour's hypocrisy on the cost of filling a car with petrol

LeftWatch: Labour frontbencher smears the Government as wanting to clear central London of black and ethnic minority women


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AmericaInTheWorld: "When freedom was at stake, the leader of the free world was nowhere to be seen."

WATCH: Ed Miliband and Caroline Flint put the case for and against adopting AV from a Labour perspective

George Osborne may seek to merge income tax and national insurance as part of an historic tax simplification…

George Osborne 2010 micced up "Income tax and national insurance could be merged as part of a drive to simplify the tax system by the Coalition Government. The move is expected to be signalled by George Osborne in his Budget next Wednesday. Although such a huge change would take years to implement, the Chancellor is determined to be seen as a reformer and not just as the axeman who cleared the budget deficit he inherited from Labour. The idea has been under discussion for years, but politicians have shied away from implementing it… One minister said yesterday: "It would be a radical reform and lasting legacy for the Government. We don't want to be remembered for cuts, cuts and more cuts." – The Independent

…and extend tax breaks for "business angels"

"Tax breaks for business angels investing in Britain’s small companies are set to be extended in George Osborne’s “Budget for growth” next week as part of the chancellor’s efforts to encourage the nation’s entrepreneurs. The current Enterprise Investment Scheme offers individual tax breaks, amounting to 20 per cent relief, for those investing up to £500,000 in companies which must have less than £7m in gross assets and fewer than 50 employees." – FT (£)

  • Ben Brogan: George Osborne’s stock is high, but this Budget is a dangerous moment – Daily Telegraph

Jo Johnson MP: Why a high-tax London is a disaster for Britain

Jo Johnson "George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has already outlined plans to give Britain the most competitive business tax regime of any major western economy. The coalition government has reversed planned increases in payroll taxes, lowered small business tax rates and is reducing corporation tax over four years to 24 per cent, its lowest ever rate. The UK tax regime was once seen as an asset. It can be again. A more competitive, simpler and more stable tax system will be better for everyone, rich and poor alike." – FT (£)

Osborne has got the cuts right, says OECD

"George Osborne's deficit-busting plans won a strong endorsement from leading international economists yesterday. But they also warned him he must address 'a range of obstacles' to growth. The influential Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development said the Chancellor's austerity package 'strikes the right balance' between cutting the deficit and supporting the recovery." – Daily Mail

  • OECD’s forecast for Britain’s economic growth downgraded – The Times (£)

> Yesterday in Comment: Dale Bassett looks at the OECD economic survey of the UK and notes its support for the cuts and its call for more education reform

Cameron fails to rule out further NHS concessions

David Cameron Despatch Box PM "David Cameron failed to rule out further changes to the planned NHS reform as it faces growing opposition from politicians and health professionals. The Prime Minister insisted the Government was “abolishing bureaucracy” in the health service and had ruled out price competition and the “cherry-picking” of services by private providers. But he failed to answer Ed Miliband’s questions in the Commons as to whether or not the controversial Health and Social Care Bill would be altered further after it was condemned by Liberal Democrat activists." – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory MPs accused of false election promises over NHS – The Guardian

> Yesterday's coverage on ConHome:

Cameron seeks outside legal advice to beat EU law on temporary workers

"David Cameron has gone over the head of his Attorney-General to try to flout a European law granting extra employment rights to 1.4 million temporary workers. The Prime Minister is unhappy with advice from Dominic Grieve, QC, and has approached independent lawyers for a second opinion, The Times has learnt. The move is the latest to expose tensions within the Government over Europe, and conflicting views over compliance with EU rulings or laws." – The Times (£)

University funding slashed by £940 million…

Traditional Teacher "Cuts of almost £1 billion to higher education budgets will mean virtually every English university sees its funding slashed next year. University budgets for the next academic year will be 12.6 per cent lower than those initially proposed for 2010-11, though this year’s grants were also cut by £190 million last month." – Daily Telegraph

  • Budgets for elite universities protected – FT (£)

…as MPs warn that the Government's student visa proposals could 'cripple' the sector

"A cross-party group of MPs has heavily criticised the government's proposals to reduce the number of international students entering the UK. The Home Affairs select committee strongly recommended the government abandon plans to raise the level of English required to gain a visa. The MPs also said there was evidence the plans were based on flawed data and risked crippling a thriving industry." – BBC

Reckless Mark "Because my amendment was rejected by the Labour and LibDem majority on the committee, our report published overnight would leave a gaping hole in our immigration controls for foreign students to stay on and work after graduation. This is unacceptable and I strongly urge Damian Green to ignore the recommendations backed by the LibDem and Labour members at paragraphs 58 and 59 of the report." – Home Affais Select Committee member and Tory MP Mark Reckless on his blog

Migrants paid £2,000 to go home… but can ask to come back in two years

"Illegal immigrants ‘bribed’ thousands of pounds to leave the country will be allowed to apply to return after just two years, it emerged last night. The amount of time before they can re-apply for entry is being reduced from the current five-year minimum. Critics said the combination of payouts and swift returns could amount to a ‘fare-paid holiday at taxpayers’ expense’. The new rules will apply to illegal immigrants who have entered the country without permission, failed asylum seekers and visa overstayers." – Daily Mail

Jobless total rises despite private sector revival

"The rate of job cuts in the public sector increased in the final quarter of last year, helping to push unemployment to a 17-year high. There were glimmers of hope, though, in the labour market data published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday. They showed that the worst of the public sector cuts were offset by a rise in the numbers of jobs created in the private sector. Public sector employment fell by 45,000 to 6.3 million in the final three months of last year, while private sector employment climbed by 77,000." – The Times (£)

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Employment minister Chris Grayling welcomes drop in those claiming Job Seeker's Allowance but admits "real concern" over new unemployment figures

More than 100 MPs defy Miliband on AV

Labour No2AV logo "Labour MPs have refused to back the stance of Ed Miliband on changing the voting system in a show of defiance towards the party leader. Given a free choice over the issue, 102 Labour MPs have come out for the “No to AV” campaign, with only 85 supporting reform ahead of the referendum on May 5." – FT (£)

  • Charles Kennedy gets permission from Nick Clegg share pro-AV platform with Miliband – The Guardian

> Yesterday in LeftWatch: More than 200 MPs and peers launch Labour No to AV

Anti-extremist think-tank is facing closure

"A last-minute offer of Home Office cash is unlikely to prevent Britain’s only counter-extremism think-tank from closing within days, it has warned. MPs from all parties are lobbying to try to keep Quilliam afloat after its funding was cut in December. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has offered £40,000 to cover Quilliam’s office costs and the salary of Maajid Nawaz, the director, for three months. However, Mr Nawaz said that he would be unable to pay the salaries and office overheads." – The Times (£)

> Yesterday in Parliament: MPs queue up to support Quilliam

Cameron "rift with Obama" over Libya

Barack Obama  David Cameron handshake "David Cameron called for the United Nations to “show some leadership” yesterday as his quest for a no-fly zone over Libya exposed deep divisions with President Obama. The Prime Minister let his frustration show as he conceded that there was “a wide range of views” among the 15 members of the UN Security Council. Downing Street officials insisted that Mr Cameron’s call for leadership, hours after Britain and France had targeted Colonel Muammar Gaddafi by tabling a UN resolution without American support, was not specifically aimed at Mr Obama." – The Times (£)

  • Britons urged to leave Bahrain – The Guardian
  • Hague says no sign of serious instability in Saudi Arabia – Reuters
  • Foreign Office tells Britons to leave Tokyo – Daily Mail 
  • Energy bills to rocket after Japanese nuclear catastrophe – Daily Express
  • British mercy mission to Japan blocked by Foreign Office red tape – Daily Mail

And finally… David Cameron marks St Patrick's Day

Picture 12 "The Queen’s historic visit to the Republic of Ireland means an “enormous amount” to her personally, the Prime Minister revealed at St Patrick’s Day celebrations held in Parliament. David Cameron also branded the impending Royal tour a symbol of the “strong partnership and friendship” between Britain and Ireland as he addressed the Belfast Telegraph-sponsored reception in the House of Lords. But that did not extend to sport as he joked that while Ireland may have won the cricket, “the rugby will be different”, referring to the weekend Six Nations final match against England in Dublin." – Belfast Telegraph