Budget 1) Strong backing for pensions change

timesvoters“Giving workers the freedom to spend their retirement savings as they choose is backed by two thirds of voters, a new poll shows in a big boost for George Osborne. The Chancellor’s dramatic announcement in Wednesday’s Budget is supported by 66 per cent in the YouGov survey published today in The Sun. The poll also shows strong backing for his other measures to support savers hit by low interest rates.” – The Times (£)

  • “George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday was a philosophically coherent speech which exposed a fault line that runs through all the main parties: whether to trust people or not.” – The Times Leader (£)
  • “The Chancellor unveiled a Budget that was every bit as radical as he claimed – and for reasons that Westminster has yet fully to comprehend. The pensions revolution he announced effectively signals the end of the social contract that has underpinned the welfare state since its creation.” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour lead at five – YouGov
  • Voters don’t trust Red Ed – Daily Mail
  • 36 per cent say Osborne best Chancellor, 22 per cent back Balls – The Sun (£)

> Yesterday:

Budget 2) Pensions Minister says “it’s their choice” if people blow pension pot on a Lamborghini

“The government has defended a minister who said pensioners would be free to spend their savings on a Lamborghini following a rule change in the Budget. Pensions minister Steve Webb said it was people’s “choice” whether to buy Italian Lamborghini sports cars. No 10 said people were free to spend money in their own way.” – BBC

  • Labour would be mad to oppose pensions liberation – Allister Heath City AM
  • Miliband “under pressure” over Budget response – The Sun (£)

Budget 3) Two million more paying 40p tax under Osborne

Tax Take“More than two million additional middle-income earners will have been dragged into the 40p rate of income tax under the Coalition, independent economists have said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested that higher-rate taxpayers will be £546 a year worse off after Mr Osborne ignored calls to raise the 40p threshold in his Budget. It currently stands at £41,450.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Inheritance Tax to hit twice as many – The Times (£)
  • IFS says budget relies on uncertain savings forecasts – Guardian

Budget 4) “Patronising” advert could cost Shapps his job

“Tory chairman Grant Shapps came under fire from his own party last night over a ‘patronising’ advert highlighting Budget cuts to bingo and beer duty. Mr Shapps suffered a ferocious backlash on Twitter after posting the advert in an apparent bid to woo working-class voters.” – Daily Mail

  • The final nail in working class Toryism – Owen Jones, The Guardian
  • Labour’s fury: “Stop patronising the working class, Grant Shapps. That’s our job.” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

Budget 5) Rush to escape annuity pension schemes

“Up to a quarter of a million savers began a desperate stampede yesterday to escape being locked into poor value pensions. Retirees poised to turn their pension pot into an income for life using an annuity deluged providers with panicked calls fearing they would be trapped in shoddy deals. It follows the Chancellor’s Budget announcement that from next year no one will be forced to take an annuity when they retire.” – Daily Mail

Tony Benn

Tributes to Benn

“He loved this place,” Hilary Benn told MPs. “He loved the people who built it, those who help us in our work, he loved the debate and the argument. “But he did not idealise Parliament. He saw it as the means to an end, to be a voice for the movements outside these walls who seek to change the world for the better, as well as being a voice for the people who send us here. That was the essence of his character.” – BBC

Cameron interviewed for The Sun

“Sun guest editor James Corden this week gave Prime Minister the toughest verbal grilling he has ever had in No10. David Cameron agreed to the ordeal to help raise money for Sport Relief. And he was forced by the cheeky TV funnyman to confess secrets about Boris Johnson, Euro 2020, England’s aborted World Cup bid, and even the SAS.” – The Sun (£)

> Today:ToryDiary: Cameron adds to chorus urging Boris to stand for the Commons in 2015

Lewis defends apostrophe

brandon“A minister leapt to the defence of the apostrophe on Thursday, insisting that if humanity can put a man on the Moon and split the atom it can build a satnav that understands punctuation. Brandon Lewis, a communities minister, said if the apostrophe is “good enough for Her Majesty’s Government, so should it be for local councils”. He was replying to a parliamentary question on the guidance Government has issued to councils about the use of the apostrophe on street signs.” – Daily Telegraph

Government “increased prejudice” by failing to provide immigration estimate

“The government “increased anti-immigrant prejudice” by not getting an estimate of the number of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK ahead of restrictions ending, MPs have said. Both nationalities gained full rights to work in the UK on 1 January. The Commons Home Affairs Committee said a lack of data would allow tensions to be inflamed, although numbers coming seemed a “trickle rather than a flood”. The Home Office said it “totally” rejected the MPs’ claims.” – BBC

Tebbit attacks food banks

Norman Tebbit“People use food banks to get basic items free and spend their remaining cash on junk food, Lord Tebbit claimed yesterday. The former Cabinet minister said there was a ‘near infinite demand’ for anything free.” – Daily Mail

  • Axe Cameron before next election says Tebbit – The Sun (£)

IDS backs Child Benefit limit

“Limiting child benefit to two children per family is “enormously popular” and could be included in Conservative plans, Iain Duncan Smith has said. The former party leader also confirmed that pensioner perks such as free TV licences and the winter fuel allowance would be included in the Government’s new welfare cap, meaning they will be considered for cuts after the election.” – The Times (£)

UKIP glass

Labour to launch attack on UKIP

“Labour is to target the UK Independence Party for the first time after growing complaints from MPs, candidates and activists that it is not taking the threat from Nigel Farage’s party seriously enough. In a recognition that Britain is now in an era of four-party politics, a team of officials at Labour’s national HQ in Westminster will monitor the anti-EU party. A leaflet attacking Ukip will be issued by Labour shortly.” – The Independent

Miliband says Tories and Scot Nats in “race to the bottom”

“Scottish independence and a Tory win at the next UK election would force the country into a “race to the bottom”, Labour leader Ed Miliband will say. Mr Miliband will argue such an outcome would leave Scotland and the rest of the UK having to compete on cutting taxes and wages to compete globally.” – BBC

Lib Dems “alarmed” by house price rise

CLEGG Bird“Liberal Democrat concerns over the impact of the Help to Buy scheme have been intensified by new figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility showing house price inflation is continuing to soar. The increase is likely to peak in the third quarter of this year at an annualised rate of 9.2%, the official forecaster said. That figure is substantially higher than the OBR was forecasting only four months ago, and means house prices are on course to reach pre-crash levels.” – The Guardian

Visa auction would be a disaster, say MPs

“Allowing super wealthy migrants to buy their way in to the UK in a visa auction would be a “recipe for disaster”, MPs have warned. Proposals to offer “gilts for citizenship” were alarming and risked allowing the rich to sidestep immigration controls, a report by the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee said.” – Daily Telegraph

Hunt to approve new vaccine against meningitis B

NHS_Logo“A new vaccine against meningitis B – one of the most feared diseases, which can quickly kill children or leave them needing limb amputations – is to be made available free on the NHS, The Independent has learnt.” – The Independent

Salmond refuses to disclose hotel cost

“Alex Salmond has argued that disclosing how much he spent at a five-star hotel in Chicago during his trip to the Ryder Cup would jeopardise his safety. The First Minister’s made the extraordinary claim in the latest stage of his battle with the Telegraph to keep secret the cost to the taxpayer of his September 2012 stay. In a submission to Scotland’s Freedom of Information (FOI) commissioner, who is deciding whether the cost should be released to this newspaper, his civil servants cited security concerns and said he “does not wish to increase the level of risk by divulging hotel names”.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Council staff offered one per cent pay rise – BBC
  • Atos “misled Ministers” over disability benefits contract – The Independent
  • BAE could quit independent Scotland – Daily Mail
  • 16 shops closed every day in 2013 – Daily Telegraph
  • War criminals living in UK – BBC
  • Fall in breast cancer deaths – Daily Mail
  • Socialist leads race to be Mayor of Paris – The Guardian