Picture 8 6.30pm Parliament: Conservative MPs give their take on the Big Society in the first parliamentary debate on the matter

4.15pm Parliament: Tory MP calls for more combined police, fire and ambulance stations to save money

3.45pm Local government:

2.30pm Mats Persson: Today's European Court ruling combines virtually everything that is wrong with the EU's judicial system

12.15pm Melanchthon on Comment: We've officially rejected Christianity as our state religion – so now what?

11.15am LISTEN: Sir John Major expresses his fear of a "full scale civil war" in Libya as he discusses the West's options for intervention

10.15am Parliament: Tory MEPs blame Labour for opening the floodgates which led to today's ECJ insurance sex discrimination ruling

Osborne 470
ToryDiary: When will BBC journalists start asking Labour the tough economic questions?

David Cooper on Comment: The Government must not make employment tribunals more expensive for small businesses

Also in Comment: Alex Deane on The unreality of European "justice"

Seats and Candidates: New YouGov poll suggests Labour will win the Scottish Parliament election, with the Lib Dems faring especially badly


Local Government:

Gazette: The agenda for this weekend's Spring Forum has been published

WATCH: Michael Fallon backs the idea of making political donations eligible for Gift Aid in a BBC report on party funding

We'll use military force to free Libya, vows Cameron…

David Cameron serious outside No 10 "David Cameron threatened Colonel Gaddafi with military action last night, promising a no-fly zone and arms shipments to his enemies. The Prime Minister even suggested he could send British troops into Libya as a peacekeeping force to stop Gaddafi’s henchmen massacring democracy campaigners. At a National Security Council meeting yesterday morning, he ordered military chiefs to draw up plans for the no-fly zone. If Gaddafi turned his air force on the rebels, RAF warplanes would be able to intervene." – Daily Mail

"Mr Cameron said that another option to counter the regime was to arm rebel groups. He also indicated that he would send ground troops to Libya if necessary, although a Downing Street source said that this was not their preferred option." – The Times (£)

…as a defiant and delusional Gaddafi tells the BBC "all my people are with me"

"Colonel Gaddafi has accused Western leaders of betraying him as he responded to growing international calls to step aside. The Libyan leader told the BBC that he was loved by all his people and denied there had been protests against him on the streets." – BBC

  • Labour peer who was Blair's Middle East envoy forced to quit Libya role – Daily Mail
  • LSE investigates Gaddafi’s son over plagiarism after he donated £1.5m – The Times (£)

> Yesterday in Parliament: David Cameron updates the Commons on the progress of the evacuation of British nationals from Libya and moves against Gaddafi's regime

> WATCH: David Cameron tells the Commons: Gaddafi must go now

Ken Clarke reportedly intending to send fewer shoplifters to jail

Ken Clarke square "Shoplifters could escape prison by just paying for what they pinch and saying "sorry". Jail sentences and tough fines will be scrapped as the default punishment for nicking from stores under controversial plans soon to be unveiled by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke. Instead he wants thieves to make face-to-face apologies to victims and pay compensation… Tory MP Douglas Carswell fumed: "It's the latest trendy thinking by the Ministry of Justice, and it will look like justice on the cheap." – The Sun

Coalition abandons plans to allow ministers to scrap quangos

"In the latest political retreat by the Government, controversial parts of the so-called “bonfire of the quangos” bill have been dropped. The Public Bodies Bill has been proposed by the Coalition to allow ministers to abolish almost 200 public bodies including the Audit Commission and the Film Council. It would also give ministers extensive new legal powers to order changes to another 150 public bodies using secondary legislation, meaning they could be abolished without further parliamentary approval." – Daily Telegraph

Andrew Mitchell to promise that international aid will be better focused

"The government is to outline plans to stop direct development aid to 16 countries and freeze the level of assistance given to India. But some nations, such as Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan will get more money, which the coalition says will be "better focused" on the poorest people… International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will unveil the plans to MPs at 1530 GMT." – BBC

Tim Times "Britain cannot solve all of the world’s problems but it’s hardly extravagant to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income trying to help the hungriest and poorest. We aren’t spending this money just because it’s morally right. It’s also a lot cheaper to stop a poor country failing than to fix a state that has already become a source of asylum seekers, terrorism and piracy." – Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£)

New tax chaos hits millions

"Britons will hand over £13.5billion too much in tax because they cannot understand the UK’s “baffling tax system”. The huge figure, which is set to rise even further next year, means millions of confused taxpayers are missing out because of the complicated rules." – Daily Express

  • State pensions are so complex that even Government officials can’t work them out – Daily Telegraph
  • Treasury Minister David Gauke urges firms to be more open about how much tax they pay – Reuters

High speed rail will cost £1,000 for each family

Railway line "Every family in the country would be forced to pay more than a thousand pounds for the Government’s proposed high speed rail line linking London with the north of England and Scotland. A five month consultation into the scheme, which would eventually cost £32 billion, and would allow passengers to reach Manchester and Leeds in 75 minutes, was launched yesterday." – Daily Telegraph

  • High-speed is still the right track for Britain – The Independent
  • Legal challenge may derail Government’s high speed rail plan – The Times (£)

> Matthew Sinclair on Comment: Philip Hammond applauds Birmingham Council for waste which Eric Pickles condemned

Insurers set for sex discrimination ruling

"Young women could face big increases in the cost of car insurance, if insurers are told that they have to stop quoting different prices for men and women. The European Court of Justice will decide whether it is a form of sex discrimination which should be banned." – BBC

  • We'll all lose in the crazy EU equality drive – Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph

> Last night in ToryDiary: The European Court of Justice looks set to alienate half all the population

Fish discards could end under EU proposals

"The European Commission is to set out its ideas for ending fish discards. Currently, EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki proposes instead to regulate fleets through limits on fishing time and greater use of measures such as CCTV." – BBC

Labour lead reduced in new ComRes poll

"The survey gives Labour a four-point lead, down from the six-point advantage it enjoyed in the most recent ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday two weeks ago. Labour is on 39 per cent (down three points), the Tories on 35 per cent (down one point), the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent (up one point) and other parties on 14 per cent (up three points)." – The Independent

Rachel Sylvester: George Osborne knows that the politics of petrol is highly inflammable

Rachel Sylvester "As he prepares to deliver the Budget in three weeks’ time, George Osborne, the coalition’s master strategist as well as its economic brain, is all too aware of the political danger of rising petrol prices. The fuel protests of 2000, when petrol stations ran dry after blockades of oil refineries, are seared into his memory because they put William Hague, for whom he was then working, temporarily ahead of Tony Blair in the polls… The Chancellor, who prefers pizza to home-grown organic veg and has never been quite as convinced by greenery as the Prime Minister, is determined not to end up on the wrong side of an issue that unites white van man and Chelsea tractor woman, urban retailers and rural shoppers." – Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£)

Other Comment

  • Philip Booth: Fair trade is neither fair nor good for trade – Daily Telegraph
  • Polly Toynbee: Some SDP thinking might strengthen Labour's nerve – The Guardian

Voters failing to be engaged by this week's referendum on extending Welsh Assembly powers

Welsh flag "Stop busy shoppers in post-industrial Cardiff on the eve of St David's Day to ask what they know about this week's Welsh referendum and you soon learn that some voters are as indifferent as their English counterparts in Colchester or Crewe… Lack of sufficient information that would allow Wales's 2.2 million voters to make an informed choice on Thursday is a complaint made by both sides in this strikingly low-key contest where a recent ITV poll confirmed a 2-1 lead for the yes camp, but where no campaigners were hoping a low turnout – below 30% instead of 40% – would deliver victory for them." – The Guardian

High Court rules that there is "no place" in the law for Christianity

"There is no place in British law for Christian beliefs, despite this country’s long history of religious observance and the traditions of the established Church, two High Court judges said on Monday. Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson made the remarks when ruling on the case of a Christian couple who were told that they could not be foster carers because of their view that homosexuality is wrong." – Daily Telegraph

Miliband admits Labour got it wrong on immigration

Ed Miliband 2010 "Ed Miliband was blasted yesterday for shameless “hand-wringing” after claiming immigration from Eastern Europe was underestimated by the last Labour government. In a desperate bid to distance himself from Labour’s open door immigration policy, he admitted his party had been “wrong” about the number of migrants expected to arrive in Britain. The Labour leader said economic migration had hit the British people’s wage packets and allowed the gap between rich and the poor to grow wider." – Daily Express

£45m Strike Central: Red Ed's union backers fork out a fortune on futuristic new HQ – as thousands of their members face the sack

"A left-wing union which backed Ed Miliband for the Labour leadership has spent £45 million on luxury new headquarters even though thousands of its low-paid public-sector members face the sack from Government spending cuts. The futuristic nine-storey glass tower block will have TV studios, a media centre and house 340 Unison staff. They include the union’s hard-line general secretary Dave Prentis, who enjoys a £142,000-a-year pay and perks package and is a member of the so-called ‘Awkward Squad’ of union barons alongside the RMT’s Bob Crow and Unite’s Len McCluskey." – Daily Mail

Political news in brief

  • Ministers set for fight over fixed-term parliaments in the Lords –
  • Charitable status threat to schools that allow extremist views – The Guardian
  • Number of rough sleepers ‘underreported by Labour’ – The Times (£)
  • NHS record on cancer survival rates criticised by MPs – The Guardian

And finally… Cameron's new press chief arrives at Downing Street with trendy bag and hip-hop headphones

Picture 5
"The stride is purposeful, the gaze resolutely focused. If only he didn’t look like a man who was late for his Cycling Proficiency Test. This is Downing Street’s new spin-meister Craig Oliver on his first day at the office." – Daily Mail