Budget 1) £2,000 in childcare tax breaks for working parents

OSBORNE red and blue‘Parents who both work are to be given tax breaks worth up to £2,000 a year for every child under 12 in a dramatically expanded state-backed childcare package in tomorrow’s Budget. Despite protests from Tory MPs that the scheme will unfairly disadvantage families where only one parent has a job, David Cameron and Nick Clegg agreed yesterday to ‘put rocket boosters’ under it.’ – Daily Mail


Budget 2) Only 13 per cent want Osborne to tackle the 40p threshold

‘The vast majority of Brits want George Osborne to REFUSE a tax cut for middle and higher earners, an exclusive poll has revealed. By an overwhelming five to one, voters believe the Chancellor should target the low paid instead in Wednesday’s Budget. The YouGov survey for The Sun found 66% want him to concentrate any spare cash on increasing the personal tax allowance again – which he is expected to raise to £10,500. And just 13% back an increase in the amount earned before paying the higher 40% rate of income tax, currently at £41,450.’ – The Sun (£)


Budget 3) Stamp duty costs homeowners millions in lost income

Homes For All Big‘Families selling their homes have lost around £260million over the last two years as a result of Britain’s stamp duty ‘dead zones’, a report revealed yesterday. The research, from the property website Zoopla, blames the stamp duty thresholds for forcing homeowners to sell their properties for less than they are actually worth.’ – Daily Mail

Russia laughs in the face of Western sanctions

‘The Kremlin laughed off Western sanctions over Ukraine yesterday as President Putin signed a decree recognising Crimea as a “sovereign and independent country”…The most senior government figure hit by the harshest American sanctions against his country since the Cold War did not sound immensely intimidated. Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy Prime Minister, tweeted sarcastically: “worldwide recognition ))) Thanks Washington Committee!”.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Labour MPs should not be allied with a Russian party which backs the seizure of Crimea

Northern stretches of HS2 to be accelerated

GROWTH Krieg‘The new head of HS2 has set out his vision for the £50bn high speed rail line, calling for faster construction and better connections to key northern cities to spread the project’s benefits over a much bigger area. Sir David Higgins, who took over as HS2 chairman in January, said the line “has the potential to transform the north”, provided east-west links between Liverpool and Hull were improved at the same time.’ – FT

  • Direct link to continent scrapped – Daily Mail
  • Build, build, build – Hugo Rifkind, The Times (£)
  • Infrastructure schemes opened to foreign investors – FT
  • How is the Coalition doing on big projects? – FT

Ken Clarke: Seeking EU treaty reform is “foolish”

‘David Cameron’s attempt to secure a looser relationship with the EU in a new treaty could be a “nightmare” and take years to complete, a Cabinet minister has warned…He said it should be done without the huge difficulties that come with an intergovernmental conference (IGC) — the process used to change EU treaties. “The idea that you start off by saying we have got to find something that requires an IGC and a treaty change is not where we are and would be a somewhat foolish way of going about it, particularly as IGCs are usually quite a nightmare to handle,” he said.’ – The Times (£)

  • No, he should be even tougher – The Sun Says (£)
  • Fewer than 20 MPs attended the launch of ‘European Mainstream’ – FT
  • Backbenchers warn Cameron immigration reforms don’t go far enough – The Sun (£)
  • Paris and Berlin fight over banking union – FT
  • Scotland arguments could be used to sink EU out campaign – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph
  • Dorries: It’s too late to make a pact with UKIP – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Jeremy Lefroy MP on Comment: Evidence suggests that our Government, not the EU, controls public spending in Britain

Hunt wants to allow more Welsh patients to use services across the border

NHS‘Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has raised the prospect of allowing more Welsh patients to use health services in England. He has asked officials to examine the effect of increased demand on English healthcare from residents in the borders and instructed them to consider the possibility of allowing other patients to attend English hospitals. The move is the latest salvo in a battle over the state of devolved public services run by the Labour administration in Wales.’ – The Times (£)

  • More NHS patients than ever being moved around at night  – Daily Mail
  • Fresh row over huge redundancy payments – FT

>Today: Adrian Hilton on Comment: The looming manpower crisis in GP-land

McLoughlin thought alleged Evans assault was “a misunderstanding”

‘Giving evidence for the prosecution, McLoughlin said the complainant began the meeting by demanding that Evans stand down and not contest his seat at the 2010 general election. The transport secretary said he considered that a “big ask”. “He was asking him to give up his entire parliamentary career on the basis of what, as far as I could see, was a misunderstanding,” McLoughlin told the jury, saying later that he told the alleged victim that asking Evans not to contest the next election was a “huge demand”.’ – The Guardian

Warsi helpfully provides more headlines about Etonians

WARSI Sayeeda‘Incredibly, she appeared with a mocked up newspaper front page she apparently designed herself bearing the headline ‘Number 10 Takes Eton Mess off the Table’. It featured a picture of David Cameron and the faces of other old Etonians in Number Ten – chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, bumbling Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin and policy chief Jo Johnson – in a pudding bowl. Lady Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairman, told ITV’s The Agenda: ‘Michael [Gove] was making an incredibly serious point that it can’t be right that the seven per cent of kids who go to independent school end up at the top tables, not just of politics, but banking and law and every other profession.’’ – Daily Mail

Change the rules so non-MPs can be leader…says Boris’s dad

‘Boris Johnson must be allowed to stand in a Conservative leadership contest even if he is not an MP, his father demanded yesterday. Former Tory MEP Stanley Johnson said it would be unreasonable if his son was not able to make a pitch for the Tory party’s top job if David Cameron steps down…Mr Johnson senior called on the party to change the rules so his son could stand.’ – Daily Mail

Labour to support Scottish tax devolution

Scottish flag‘Labour is set to accept Gordon Brown’s compromise deal and back the partial devolution of income tax to the Scottish Parliament, it emerged last night. Scottish Labour leaders are preparing to accept the former Prime Minister’s proposal that the Scottish Parliament be given responsibility for 15p in the pound on the basic rate of income tax.’ – The Times (£)

  • Uh-oh, Eddie Izzard joins the Better Together campaign – The Sun (£)

£10,000 incentive to join the Army

‘The Army will try to recruit hundreds of regular soldiers into the reserves when they quit or face redundancy by doubling a cash incentive to £10,000, The Times understands. A cash incentive of £300 will also be given to any civilian who goes through the process of enlisting to join the Army Reserve.’ – The Times (£)

News in brief