Learn English or lose benefits welfare recipients to be warned…

telegraphbenefits“Migrants whose English is judged to be so poor that they would struggle to find work in Britain could be denied benefits, Iain Duncan Smith has announced. The Work and Pensions Secretary said the Government was overhauling the test that enables migrants to claim benefits to prevent them from taking advantage of the welfare system.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “In order to pass the more rigorous test, they will have to answer up to 100 new individually-tailored questions, and submit more evidence before they will be allowed to make a claim. Mr Duncan Smith said a more robust system was being introduced in job centres across England, Scotland and Wales this week.” – Daily Mail
  • “Mr Duncan Smith said British people were “rightly concerned” that migrants should contribute to the economy and should not be “drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system”. “It is vitally important that we have strict rules in place to protect the integrity of our benefits system,” he said.” – BBC
  • “Some people, particularly the European Commission, don’t like this test — and even want to take us to court. I am adamant, however, that not only is it legal, it is also vital to ensure migrants will get benefits only if they are actively looking for work.” – Iain Duncan Smith The Times(£)

…but only a quarter of benefit cheats prosecuted

timescheats“Fewer than a quarter of benefit cheats were prosecuted for flouting the welfare system last year, official figures have revealed. The Department for Work and Pensions and the Crown Prosecution Service did not pursue legal proceedings against more than 35,000 people who were investigated by the fraud inquiry arm of the department and found to have received a “recoverable overpayment” during 2012-13.” – The Times(£)

Backing for HS2 from MPs

“The HS2 high-speed rail project is “essential” for the UK’s future and the potential gains “significantly outweigh” any risks, MPs have said. The Commons Transport Committee also said the estimated cost of up to £50bn had been exaggerated, leading opponents to think ministers were offering a ‘blank cheque’.” – BBC

  • “Countryside opponents of the high-speed railway line need to look at the “bigger picture” because of the economic benefits for the rest of the UK, David Cameron has said.” – Daily Telegraph

Osborne plans more welfare cuts

“A fresh attack on Britain’s welfare budget was announced by George Osborne as he told MPs he would prefer to cut benefits than slash the size of the state to its smallest since the 1940s. In a calculated challenge to Labour in the runup to the next election, the chancellor said many more billions would need to be shaved from welfare to avoid deeper cuts in spending by Whitehall departments.” – The Guardian

  • “The Chancellor suggested the hugely popular £26,000 a year cap on handouts for any one household could be slashed if the Tories win in 2015. And he may reduce it to £21,000 as a way of protecting spending on schools, hospitals and science.” – The Sun(£)
  • “George Osborne’s promise to axe “billions of pounds” more from welfare bill if the Conservatives are re-elected highlights growing differences with their Liberal Democrat partners.” – Financial Times
  • “If you and your family find yourselves at a loose end on Christmas Day, why not play a fun game that has become a favourite in Parliament. The game is called “Treasury Select Committee”. One player is “the Chancellor”, and the rest are “MPs”. The “MPs” have to ask “the Chancellor” questions he doesn’t like – while “the Chancellor” has to give replies that don’t answer them. The game lasts for two hours. There is no winner.” Michael Deacon Daily Telegraph
  • Work fitness tests “confrontational” – BBC

767 primary schools face takeover after missing targets for basic standards

“Some 767 primaries failed to reach basic targets for 11-year-olds in the three-Rs this summer – almost 50 per cent more than last year. These schools, which teach around 200,000 pupils in total, now face being closed down, taken over or turned into academies under government plans to combat ‘chronic under-performance’…According to the Department for Education, 834 schools would have fallen below the new standards last year if the three tests had been introduced then.” – Daily Mail

  • “Yesterday’s results show that some areas have clusters of underperforming primary schools. Norfolk is the local authority with the highest number, at 25, while Bradford has 22, Suffolk 21, East Sussex and Kirklees in West Yorkshire 13, and Bristol 11. The authority with the highest proportion of failing primaries is Poole in Dorset — five of its primary schools, 33 per cent of the total, had results below the threshold. Next is Derby with nine, or 17 per cent.” – The Times(£)
  • “Michael Gove and Nick Clegg are pressing for hundreds of millions of pounds to be added to the schools budget in the year of the general election. They have urged George Osborne to sanction a big rise in spending on schools in order to soften the blow as a radical change in how schools are funded is introduced.” – The Times(£)

Further hospital failings exposed

mailnhs“Three damning reports last night laid bare the crisis in NHS hospitals, maternity units and GP surgeries. One investigation revealed that a quarter of new mothers were abandoned by their midwives during labour, with some left to give birth on the floor or in corridors.The second found that mistakes deemed so serious they should never happen are being made in hospitals five times a week. And the third survey said thousands of patients have all but given up trying to secure appointments with their family doctor.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has lifted up stones in the murkiest parts of the NHS garden and shown us what goes on underneath. It’s a welcome change of strategy from that adopted by his Tory predecessor, Andrew Lansley, who saw himself as a cheerleader for the NHS.” – Fraser Nelson Daily Telegraph

De Klerk: Thatcher was right to resist sanctions

“Further sanctions would have substantially weakened those in favour of negotiations and would have strengthened conservatives who were grimly prepared to resist foreign pressure to the bitter end. It is a pity that the Conservative Party has subsequently apologised for Thatcher’s opposition to sanctions. The approach adopted by Margaret Thatcher and her friend President Reagan helped to buy essential time for South Africa.” – FW de Klerk The Times(£)

Downing Street adviser warned against “Help to Buy”

“George Osborne’s flagship scheme to kick-start Britain’s mortgage market risks “detonating a bomb both under the British economy and his own political career”, David Cameron’s new housing adviser has warned. Alex Morton, who will start work in Downing Street next week, is set to play a key role in forming the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledges on housing and the planning system.” – The Times(£)

Gove attacks university segregation

gove“Education Secretary Michael Gove accused university bosses yesterday of ‘pandering to extremism’ by endorsing the compulsory segregation of audiences for campus visits by hard-line Islamic speakers. He said it was ‘a disgrace’ for Universities UK to support the policy of separating men from women at lectures and debates.” – Daily Mail

>Today:ToryDiary: Segregated seating: Who should decide? Judges, who we don’t elect, or MPs who we do?

2015 General Election candidates to face pressure to reject pay rise

“Candidates at the 2015 general election will come under pressure not to take a proposed 11 per cent pay rise for MPs after an impasse between party leaders and the body responsible for fixing parliamentary salaries. Although many backbenchers want to accept the increase, which would raise their salaries from £66,396 to £74,000 after the election, they fear they will be pressured into refusing to take it if rival candidates say they will turn it down or give it to charity.” – The Independent

  • IPSA defends 11 per cent MP pay rise proposal – BBC
  • “It is unacceptable to public opinion for MPs to be awarded an inflation-busting rise at a time when most people are getting poorer. Neither has any need for MP salaries to have a one-off “catch-up” with comparable jobs been demonstrated since there are no comparable jobs.” – Leader Daily Express
  • “In the private sector if you have an above average wage increase any manager would be looking to cut the staff, so what should happen now is that the size of the House of Commons should be cut from 650 MPs’ to 600, that would save about £20 million.” – Lord Baker The Independent

>Today: Mark Field on Comment: It won’t make me popular to say so but MPs should get their pay rise

Poll shows only a quarter of voters think they would better off with Labour

“MORE than three out of five Brits think they would either be no wealthier or even WORSE off if Labour were in power today, a surprise poll has revealed. The findings in the exclusive YouGov survey for The Sun are a bitter blow for Ed Miliband on his cost of living offensive. A total of 32% said their family would be fairing worse financially now if his party won the last election. A further 31% said they would be “much the same as I am today”. And just one in four – 25% – thought they would be better off.” – The Sun(£)

  • “LABOUR seemed on to a winner with their “cost of living crisis”. It’s hard not to strike a chord with the public when you’re merely pointing out how pricey things are. The problem is that their thinking doesn’t go beyond that. And Britain is wise to it.” The Sun Says(£)
  • Labour lead down to four per cent- YouGov

Britain now exports more to China than Ireland

“In 2008, the UK exported £19.1bn worth of goods to Ireland, much more than twice our exports to China (including Hong Kong), which were worth a pathetic £8.7bn. Over the last five years, however, exports to China (again, including Hong Kong) have soared 120 per cent, while sales of goods to Ireland have stagnated. The result: in the last three months, exports to China and Hong Kong combined were – for the first time ever – slightly (£7m) greater than exports to Ireland, the Citigroup research reveals.” – Allister Heath City AM

Unite resists any reduction in block vote

“Britain’s biggest trade union has told Ed Miliband it “cannot accept” any move to dilute its voting strength at the Labour Party’s annual conference. Unite said its “collective voice” must be preserved, even if fewer of its members sign up to Labour in future.” – BBC

  • “The union will not allow the union strength at the Labour conference to fall below its current 50%. The Unite statement is silent on whether union affiliations payments to the party would be linked to the number of people opting into associate party status, or would instead continue to be a function of the number of political levy payers affiliated by the union headquarters.” – The Guardian

News in Brief

  • UK overtakes France in living standards league table – Daily Mail
  • Fewer people switching energy supplier – The Independent
  • Equality laws don’t help working class – Daily Telegraph
  • Electoral Commission blames Government for low turnout in police elections – BBC
  • Budget set for March 19th – BBC
  • Asda warns of higher food prices if UK broken up – Daily Telegraph
  • Lord Freud urges councils to back Food Banks – The Guardian
  • MPs investigate keeping primates as pets – BBC
  • Michael Meacher warns “policy vacuum” risks Labour defeat – Daily Telegraph

 And finally…Sam forgives gives Dave over selfie

“SAMANTHA Cameron has forgiven husband David for his selfie flirt with Denmark’s blonde PM — as he has ALREADY confessed to a crush on her. The Premier’s missus told pals the furore sparked by the infamous mobile photo at Nelson Mandela’s memorial didn’t upset her at all.
Revealing his soft spot, Mr Cameron often tells successful businesswoman Sam about seeing striking Helle Thorning-Schmidt during EU summits.” – The Sun(£)


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