Frack now to stop Putin, says Cameron

cameron-face‘David Cameron told opponents of fracking yesterday that it was their duty to embrace the new technique as part of efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies. President Putin’s annexation of Crimea was a “wake-up call” that should make exploiting different sources of energy a political priority, Mr Cameron said.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s Foreign Affairs column: Why Crimea brings war over Iran’s nuclear ambitions closer

Osborne sells £4 billion in Lloyds shares

‘The Chancellor launched the second big sell-off of Lloyds shares last night – raising hopes that British taxpayers could get their money back. The Treasury authorised the sale of a 7.5pc stake in the UK’s largest bank, in a move expected to raise more than £4billion. The sale of 5.4billion shares will reduce taxpayers’ stake in the giant lender from 32.7pc to around 25pc, and marks the biggest step towards re-privatisation taken so far.’ – Daily Mail

BBC licence fee decriminalisation on the way


‘MPs have backed plans to review the penalties for failure to pay the TV licence fee, paving the way for the possible decriminalisation of non-payment. Politicians from across the house voted in favour of an amendment to the deregulation bill, proposing a subsequent review of non-payment penalty options.’ – FT

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Commons vote backs decriminalisation of the BBC licence fee

Mark Field: Don’t try to out-UKIP Farage on immigration

‘In the General Elections of 2001 and 2005, William Hague and Michael Howard respectively made a crackdown on immigration the centrepiece of the Tory campaign.  At least then we cornered the market as the only Party taking a hard line on migrant numbers. That is not going to be the case when we go to the polls during the next year.  In short, we cannot out-UKIP UKIP on immigration.’ – Mark Field MP, The Independent

>Today: Sir Andrew Green on Comment: The deeply flawed prospectus of Conservatives for Managed Migration

NUT ‘intimidates’ teachers into striking

On strike‘The NUT is the only union to take part in industrial action, signalling a split with other unions – particularly the NASUWT which has claimed members have been intimidated during an “aggressive” campaign by the NUT. NASUWT announced last month that it would not be taking part in the strikes. A leaked internal email apparently sent out by Chris Keates, the general secretary of NASUWT, said “We should not tolerate any threats, insults or attempts to intimidate our members or activists by the NUT. Unfortunately, in some areas, this has been a hallmark of the activity to date.”’ – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Local Government: First free school for boarders gets ready to open

Authors attack prison ‘book ban’

‘Some of Britain’s best known authors, including Jeffrey Archer and Salman Rushdie, today join a chorus of calls for a U-turn on a controversial ban on prisoners receiving books in jail. In an extraordinary joint letter, an array of literary talent condemns Justice Secretary Chris Grayling for introducing restrictions on inmates being sent reading material by family and friends. Other signatories include Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Alan Bennett, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, David Hare, Irvine Welsh, Joanne Harris, Sarah Waters, Ian Rankin, Nick Hornby and Deborah Moggach.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Chris Grayling MP on Comment: We have not, repeat not, banned books from prison. What we have barred is unknown and unchecked parcels.

Unsteady Ed 1) Only one in five people can see Miliband as PM

MILIBAND Red Ed‘Only 19 per cent said that they could imagine Mr Miliband in Downing Street, unchanged from September 2012, when YouGov first asked the question. The figures show the Labour leader lagging significantly behind David Cameron when the Conservative leader was in Opposition, and suggest that Mr Miliband’s attacks on the energy companies and banks have failed to persuade voters he is ready to lead the country.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: Stephan Shakespeare’s Column: Don’t make too much of the post-Budget poll shift towards the Conservatives

>Yesterday: Stephen Tall’s The Other Side: How Balls & Miliband let Osborne & Clegg write their story for them

Unsteady Ed 2) Labour MPs set to rebel against welfare control

‘Ed Miliband will come under fresh pressure on Wednesday when as many as 20 backbench Labour MPs prepare to reject the leadership’s call to vote for a permanent cap on welfare spending. The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said that the party would vote for the cap, pointing out Labour had been the first to suggest this form of public spending control last year.’ – The Guardian

Mid Staffs whistleblower to help reform NHS training

nhs-cartoon‘A nurse who blew the whistle on one of the worst NHS scandals is to draw up compulsory training for all staff on how to raise the alarm on neglect, patient safety and high death rates. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will today announce that Helene Donnelly, who worked in A&E at the notorious Stafford Hospital, is to be brought in as a senior adviser to ensure NHS staff can bring any concerns to light. Mr Hunt will say that raising the alarm about poor care will be part of mandatory training.’ – Daily Mail

Hogan-Howe flounders over scandal of missing police corruption files

‘The head of Scotland Yard was accused yesterday of failing to get a grip on the ‘chaotic’ scandal of shredded police corruption files. In a stuttering performance before MPs, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe admitted he did not even know how many documents had been destroyed. His extraordinary confession comes nearly two months after his officers found that potentially thousands of files from an internal probe were missing.’ – Daily Mail

£600 billion underestimate in the cost of public sector pensions

tpalogo‘Future taxpayers could face a bill equivalent to the entire annual value of the British economy to pay for public sector pensions, it is claimed. Research suggests that the liability for the pensions of nurses, doctors, the Armed Forces and civil servants is now £1.7 trillion, £600 billion higher than the Government admits. Unlike the local government pension scheme, these plans are unfunded so are largely met by employer and employee contributions. However, the Treasury has to pick up any shortfall.’ – The Times (£)

  • CBI attacks Salmond’s lack of a deficit reduction plan –  The Times (£)

No charges against Peter Bone

‘A Conservative MP who was the subject of a year-long fraud inquiry linked to the sale of his mother-in-law’s home will not face criminal charges, it was announced today. In a statement, Mr Bone said the CPS decision was “a vindication of our stance all along”. He and his wife had been “proven innocent” and were “naturally delighted that this nightmare has now come to an end”. “What has been so frustrating about this whole episode is that it has been going on for over a year, without an opportunity for us to clear our names.”’ – The Times (£)

growth flag

Gatwick launches new push for expansion

‘Expanding Gatwick would regenerate a swath of the South East from London to the coast and create thousands of jobs, the airport argued on Tuesday as it stepped up its campaign to be allowed to build a second runway. “An extra runway at Gatwick and a new transformed airport here would provide for London – from the south, Croydon and going north – a bigger economic boost than the Olympics,” said Sir Terry Farrell.’ – FT

News in brief

  • Climate economist rebels against ‘apocalyptic’ UN report – Daily Mail
  • Facebook invests in virtual reality – FT
  • Lincolnshire councillor sparks sexism row – Daily Mail
  • A tour of the Navy’s biggest ever warship – The Sun (£)
  • India’s neglected role in World War One – FT
  • Schumacher was flown to ‘the wrong hospital’ – The Sun (£)