6pm Local Government: Stirling and Three Rivers latest Council Tax cutters

5pm No. 10 pressing on with NHS reforms and William Hague's recognition of Syrian opposition lead our teatime newslinks

4.45pm Health Minister Simon Burns MP on Comment: The NHS is improving all the time. But to continue to improve, we must press on with reform.

2pm Local Government: Council Tax freeze agreed for Brighton & Hove

1.15pm Brandon Lewis MP on Comment: It's time to improve our railway stations

Noon ConHomeUSA: Polling shows a Romney-Santorum toss-up in Michigan

11am Local Government: Watch Boris's Age UK hustings speech

Screen shot 2012-02-24 at 10.17.2110am WATCH: Michael Gove – my own story as an adopted child

Q: "Do you ever want to trace your birth mother?"

A: "If I were to try to trace my birth mother I would in a way be suggesting to my mum that somehow the love that she's given me isn't complete."

ToryDiary: The Times reports Number 10 "negotiating" new community punishments with Clarke.  Could Cameron break up the Ministry of Justice?

Columnist Bruce Anderson: Which of these two budget speeches is Osborne more likely to deliver?

Mark Menzies MP on Comment: In defence of the Union – a cause for common concern

Local Government:

HAYES JOHNMPsETC: John Hayes displays his passion for apprenticeships in the House Magazine – while referring to St Augustine, Aquinas, Hegel, Burke…

WATCH: Ten years of Policy Exchange

Cameron's back to work tsar quits…

"Emma Harrison dramatically quit yesterday following a string of fraud allegations against her firm. She said she was stepping down immediately as the Prime Minister’s ‘family champion’ to avoid becoming a ‘distraction’. Her company A4e, which earns hundreds of millions of pounds from Government contracts, is at the centre of two police investigations." – Daily Mail

Expelled former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclair arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the European Parliament – Daily Mail

More Prime Minister news and comment:

  • Five Cameron summits in a fortnight, three this week, one yesterday (on Somalia) – Daily Mail
  • "David Cameron signalled his support for attacks [on Somalia] as part of an international effort against the fanatics. But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Western air strikes would "not be a good idea"." – The Sun
  • Business chiefs welcome Cameron speech – Financial Times (£)
  • "David Cameron yesterday gave a typically bold defence of profit-makers, but he missed an opportunity. He could have – should have – put the A4e scandal into perspective, and explained that this is part of the process. There will be scandals along the way, but that is the price of reform. If a thousand flowers bloom, a few weeds are certain to crop up as well.  Fraud is a grim fact of human life…The main difference is that the private sector is significantly better at uncovering it." – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: WATCH – Cameron gives upbeat assessment of Somalia's prospects at London conference

…And Downing Street officials step in.  Prime Minister pressing longer curfews and more tag plans on Ministry of Justice.

Cameron-and-police-officer"David Cameron is planning tough new community punishments under which criminals face draconian restrictions on their movements. Offenders would be sentenced to “virtual prison”, curfewed for 16 hours a day with the threat of being taken back to court if they break the terms of their house arrest. Judges and magistrates would also be given powers to confiscate criminals’ passports and driving licences as part of the sentence. No 10 officials set out the plans during negotiations with Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, over toughening up non-custodial sentences." – The Times (£)

More law and order news and comment:

  • All three heads of the main agencies charged with tackling white-collar crime will have left their posts by the end of the year – Financial Times (£)
  • Philip Davies MP discovers that Freed mentally-ill patients have committed 200 crimes – The Sun
  • May locks them up, Clarke lets them out (but she also lets them in) – The Times (£)

Net migration into Britain rose to 250,000 last year

Screen shot 2012-02-24 at 08.00.46
"Britain's population soared by a quarter of a million in just 12 months thanks to immigration, official figures revealed yesterday… The figure has shot up from 235,000 for the year to June 2010, just after the Coalition came to power. The data, which shatters the Government’s promise to slash immigration, comes as the UK’s population races towards 70 million. Fewer people are emigrating while increasing numbers continue to settle here." – Daily Express

  • "The PM must do whatever it takes to bring this figure down, tightening border controls and cracking down on non-EU visas." – Sun Editorial

Prime Minister's father-in-law plan to force through Lords reform

"Peers have threatened to repeatedly send reform legislation back to the Commons, and even block other legislation in protest. But Mr Cameron is considering preventing that by including a reform Bill in the Queen’s Speech, expected in May, passing it through the Commons and then suspending it when the Lords rejects it for the first time. The Government would announce at that stage that it intends to use the Parliament Act to force the proposals into law at the start of the next session in 2013." – Daily Mail

“There are too many ****ing Tories in here" – Joyce's words before he allegedly head-butted Stuart Andrew and punched a Labour Whip.  He faces three assault charges.

Screen shot 2012-02-24 at 04.29.14“There was blood spilled. It was like the Wild West in there,” one MP said. Mr Joyce was suspended from the Labour Party ­yesterday pending a police investigation into assault allegations. The 51-year-old backbencher, a former Scottish judo champion, was alleged to have head-butted and punched Tory MP Stuart Andrew in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar, which is subsidised by taxpayers…Witnesses said five Commons security officials struggled to restrain him and a glass door was smashed as they hauled him away." – Daily Express

Commons booze n' violence Fleet Street special:

  • Labour MP fisticuffs history: Paul Farrelly brawled with newspaper seller. Bob Marshall-Andrews and Jim Dowd had to be pulled apart – Daily Express
  • "In the old days, violence among MPs was almost as common as it is on Friday night in a British city centre. I recall an MP, still in the Commons, who decked a Scottish reporter after he didn't like something the chap had written. Tom Swain, a former miner and fairground boxer, once slugged Norman Tebbit – at the back of the chamber, in full view of everyone. A press reception held by Eric Pickles ended in a punch-up." – Simon Hoggart, The Guardian
  • The arrest of the MP Eric Joyce has shone a light on Parliament’s drinking culture – The Times Editorial (£)
  • Canning missed rival Castlereagh in Putney Heath pistol duel and was wounded in the thigh by the latter's third shot – Financial Times (£)

Hague joins local rally against NHS cuts

"William Hague is to join a mass protest against NHS cuts — despite publicly backing Andrew Lansley's health reforms.  The demo is in the Foreign Secretary's North Yorkshire constituency on May 5. Mr Hague opposes plans to cut kids' care and maternity services at Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. The Richmond MP will add-ress up to 5,000 protesters at a rally and march in the town." – The Sun

  • Lib Dem peers table package of amendments to health bill – The Guardian

I'll make it illegal to block mixed-race adoption, says Gove

Michael Gove pensive 2010"The law is to be changed to stop councils blocking mixed-race adoptions as part of radical reforms to ensure children are removed from unfit parents more quickly. Education Secretary Michael Gove said there was ‘horrifying’ evidence that youngsters were being left in dangerous homes for too long.  Mr Gove, who was adopted at four months, said he wants many more children to be adopted before the age of one." – Daily Mail

Chancellor "moves on wealthy who dodge paying homes taxes"

"George Osborne is set to disappoint Liberal Democrats who are pressing him to deliver a massive windfall in the Budget from tighter stamp duty rules. The Chancellor is poised to make it harder to move properties offshore and so dodge tax by transferring ownership into companies — but the sums recouped will fall far short of the near £1 billion a year that Nick Clegg’s team is looking for to help to fund tax cuts for low earners." – The Times (£)


Police called in over sex selection abortions. Nadine Dorries calls on NHS watchdog to act  – Daily Telegraph

The Commons agrees 5.2% increase in benefits as millions prepare for wage freezesDaily Mail

Former poet laureate warns that two thirds of rural England will be at the "mercy of developers"Daily Telegraph

Blue Labour guru Maurice Glasman drops plan to write Sun on Sunday column on the advice of Ed Miliband The Guardian

And finally…Samantha Cameron pounds the streets in black tracksuit bottoms, a black t-shirt and green hooded topDaily Mail


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