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5.30pm WATCH: Cameron: The EU now supports military action in Libya

3.15pm Local Government:

2.30pm Bill Cash MP on Comment: Why does Robert Peston think that the British contribution to the potential Portuguese bailout will be “close to zero”?

12.45pm Gazette: Neil Murray, the husband of Sheryll Murray MP, dies in a fishing accident

11.45am: Local Government: Sefton Labour councillor paid £54,000 a year to chair Transport board

11.30am Gazette: Conservative Christian Fellowship appoints new Director to replace Lady Berridge

9.30am Local Government: Pothole repair funding level for each council

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ToryDiary: As each new Euro crisis breaks, it's becoming harder for Cameron to claim business as usual

Comment: Francis Hoar: We must stop treating children like adults

Local Government:

Parliament: Budget debate, day two

Gazette: Memorial to Ian Gow unveiled in the House of Commons

WATCH: ‪Japan's nuclear fears start to fade‬ 

The critics make their voices heard the day after the budget – especially on the NHS…

Andrew Lansley 2010 "George Osborne's deficit-cutting strategy is at risk of being blown off course by rising prices and slower growth, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned, threatening the coalition's pledge to raise NHS spending every year.  In its analysis of the budget, the independent thinktank also estimated that the average household would lose £750 this year as a result of higher taxes and benefit cuts implemented by the chancellor since coming to power." – The Guardian

"David Cameron was accused yesterday of breaching his flagship promise to raise spending on the NHS as critics seized on the small print of Wednesday's Budget.  George Osborne was forced on to the defensive over several measures in his package as Labour claimed it was unravelling. Although he won some favourable headlines by announcing plans to halt spiralling fuel prices, he suffered a bout of "Day 2 Budget blues" yesterday as analysts, pressure groups and the Opposition pored over his Budget documents." – The Independent

"Gemma Tetlow, senior research economist at the IFS, said that the worsening economic outlook meant that the health service appeared to be heading for a real-terms spending freeze over the next four years, representing the tightest settlement since the 1950s.  “They perhaps look on course to meet the pledge but they are sailing extremely close to the wind,” she said..Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, yesterday reiterated the Government’s promise to protect the budget.” – The Times (£)

"Scottish politicians accused George Osborne of using North Sea resources to “fuel his Budget”, saying the chancellor had given too little in return for his unexpected £2bn tax raid on the oil and gas industry.  “With record North Sea revenues of £13.4bn this coming [fiscal] year – over £4bn more than expected and double last year’s figure – it is abundantly clear that Scottish resources are bankrolling the chancellor’s Budget and the UK Treasury,” said John Swinney, Scotland’s finance secretary." – Financial Times (£)

Greedy fuels – The Sun 

…But a poll gives the Conservatives a post-budget bounce

Screen shot 2011-03-25 at 06.46.36 "A YouGov poll for The Sun found 38 per cent of voters now trust the Coalition on the economy, compared to 36 per cent before George Osborne's speech.  Labour's rating has slumped from 29 to 24 per cent.  The gap between the two main parties has also narrowed to just four points, with Labour on 41 and the Tories on 37.  The Chancellor's personal rating went up too – 34 per cent now say he's doing a good job, compared to 27 per cent before the Budget." – The Sun 

…and WPP is to return to Britain

"WPP the marketing group, has signalled that it will move its tax base back to the UK in a high-profile endorsement of George Osborne’s corporate tax reforms, although other companies that have emigrated from Britain are still considering their options or have decided to stay put.  Mr Osborne on Wednesday unveiled an “ultra-competitive” 5.75 per cent rate on overseas financing income as part of reforms aimed at making Britain “the place international businesses go to, not the place they leave”. – Financial Times (£) 

Osborne examines scrapping the 50p rate in two years time

"George Osborne is looking at scrapping the 50p top rate of tax in his 2013 Budget, as evidence mounted on Thursday that individuals are going to great lengths to avoid the levy, undermining revenues for the exchequer.  The Office for Budget Responsibility said it had assumed £2bn of tax revenues for the 2009-10 tax year would not be collected in 2010-11 because of evidence that companies had paid bonuses just before the 50p rate was introduced and business owners paid themselves large dividends to avoid the tax." – Financial Times (£)

Post-budget comment –

The Bank of England is therefore confronted by a fearsome dilemma…But the longer we delay tackling inflation, the more it will weaken our longer-term prospects and undermine the Chancellor's deficit reduction strategy. Just as pertinently, the MPC cannot ignore its remit indefinitely or its credibility will be badly compromised. It must start the painful process of restoring sound money soon." – Daily Telegraph Editorial

  • Osborne's budget speech was like a Brown tribute album – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Not the devil's Budget, but a necessary evil – Jeff Randall, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday –

ToryDiary:

Local Government: A good Budget for Boris

Parliament:

WATCH: George Osborne: WPP's post-budget announcement is a great sign

Nick agrees with Dave

"Nick Clegg has accidentally revealed how George Osborne’s second Budget has had a remarkably unifying effect on the coalition, while Labour has stepped up attacks on the chancellor for sticking doggedly to his Plan A.  Mr Clegg, deputy prime minister, was captured on microphone admitting that if he and David Cameron continued to agree so wholeheartedly “we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates”." – Financial Times (£)

>Yesterday WATCH: Clegg overheard to Cameron: "If we keep doing this we won't find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate"

Cameron caught by Portugal bailout crisis

Screen shot 2011-03-25 at 07.47.08 "David Cameron was urged by furious Conservative MPs yesterday to refuse to give any British money towards a bailout of Portugal after forecasts that it could cost €4.5 billion (£3.96 billion).  Downing Street conceded that the Government was committed to the European Union’s current rescue mechanism and argued that it was powerless to prevent the huge call on Treasury funds…“We are stuck with it,” said a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister." – The Times (£)

"And yet on the very day that George Osborne was making clear in the Budget how difficult things are for us it was starting to look inevitable that the European Union will force us to hand over billions of pounds to Portugal.  So while one hand is cutting billions of pounds to try to balance the books the other is preparing to hand over up to £6billion to bail out the Portuguese economy. That is not just daft it is an outrage." – Daily Express Editorial

"If we still had a veto, we could have insisted on drastically shrinking Portugal’s profligate public sector, and reviewing its disastrous membership of the euro. But at least we can take comfort in the knowledge that because we have taken our spending medicine at home, and we never joined the single currency, Britain now enjoys the same interest rates as Germany despite having larger debts than Spain, Portugal or Greece." – Daily Mail Editorial

Screen shot 2011-03-25 at 09.46.27 "The scary truth is that the scale of the problem facing the eurozone has been gravely underestimated by British commentators. The reasons are shaming. One significant factor is the financial and economic illiteracy of political journalists and foreign correspondents. Too many are ill-equipped to look behind the bland statements made by European chancellors or to interpret the deliberately misleading balance sheets of major European banks." – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

  • Britain's share of the Portuguese bail-out could wipe out half of all the government's spending cuts – Daniel Hannan's Blog, Daily Telegraph
  • Portugal, bail outs and the Euro – John Redwood's Blog

>Yesterday –

NATO to take command of Libya operation

"During a teleconference with Hillary Clinton and the French and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday afternoon, William Hague reminded Nato allies why military operations had been launched against Libya.  "The case for this action remains utterly compelling, appalling violence against Libyan citizens continues to take place exposing the regime's claims to have ordered a ceasefire to be an utter sham," he said." – Daily Telegraph

350 British special forces already deep inside Libya – Daily Mail

RIFKIND NEW "The new resolution expressly says that all necessary measures can be used, "notwithstanding" the arms embargo referred to in the original. That must mean that arms supplies can be provided to the insurgents if necessary to protect "civilian populated areas".  I know that we cannot be certain of the political respectability of all those who might be armed…But the overriding need is for Gaddafi to go and this will not happen without the insurgents having the kinds of tanks, artillery and missiles that are being used against them by Gaddafi." – Sir Malcolm Rifkind, The Daily Telegraph

Hague warns British nationals to flee the Yemen

"British nationals in Yemen have been urged to leave "without delay". William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that their safety could no longer be guaranteed and said plans for a military evacuation had been prepared. His announcement came as opposition leaders in Yemen rejected an offer from the embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down at the end of the year, insisting he leaves office immediately." – The Independent

Other Coalition and Political news

  • NAO sees risks in Maude’s efficiency drive – Financial Times (£)
  • Gove recruits head of Blair's Policy Unit – John Rentoul's blog, The Independent
  • First interview with Jeremy Heywood, Permanent Secretary at Downing Street – BBC
  • Last ditch plea for Kelly inquest – Press Association
  • Dover votes to take over port – Politics Home

IPSA relaxes MP expenses rules

"In a major victory for politicians, the parliamentary standards watchdog last night unveiled a swathe of concessions to the stricter regime imposed after the 2009 expenses scandal.  The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will allow 31 more MPs with seats outside London to claim for second homes, following claims from some that they were being forced to sleep in their offices if they missed the last train home." – Daily Mail

"MPs will be given an extra £5,500 towards the cost of running their offices each year as part of a series of concessions by the watchdog overseeing the new expenses system.  The bill could rise by more than £3 million, with extra money also provided for some accommodation and travel costs, under a loosening of the rules by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).  Ipsa has even floated the possibility of a return to the controversial system of “allowances”, under which MPs would be handed a lump sum." – The Times (£)

Disgraced Conservative MEP faces criminal charges – Daily Telegraph

Miliband prepares to front "fight the cuts" rally

Screen shot 2010-09-30 at 08.47.01 "Labour MPs will come out in force for Saturday’s anti-cuts rally with most of the shadow cabinet, including leader Ed Miliband, joining the union-led event.  Mr Miliband will be the keynote speaker on Saturday morning at the “March for the Alternative: Jobs, Growth, Justice” event in central London, which is expected to be the biggest protest in the capital since the anti-war rally of 2003.  Most of his front bench will attend, as well as scores of backbench Labour MPs." – Financial Times (£)

  • No to the cuts! Yes to pointless posturing! – Philip Collins, The Times (£)
  • Is public anger finally going to erupt? – Mary Dejevsky, The Independent
  • Britain has long been a poor venue for protest: Saturday won't change this – Simon Jenkins, The GuardianC

And finally…MPs to tweet from Commons Chamber

"MPs have been given the green light to take iPads and Blackberrys into the Commons chamber to 'tweet' comments during debates.  An official standards committee said today that MPs would no longer be barred from updating the micro-blogging site 'Twitter' while they are supposed to be listening to speeches in Parliament.  They have been told they will be allowed to use smartphones in the Chamber – so long as they are on silent, and as long as they do so 'with decorum and regard for others'." – Daily Mail

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