On the day of Maria Miller’s apology to the Commons, the Government rushes out two policy statements to MPs

Commons 1) Ellison prepares to ban branded cigarette packets

ELLISON Jane“Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “Smoking kills nearly 80,000 people each year in England alone and our cancer outcomes stubbornly lag behind much of Europe. Quite apart from the enormous pressure this creates on the NHS, it is a cruel waste of human potential. Yet we know that the vast majority of smokers want to quit and even more tragically we also know that two-thirds of smokers become addicted before they are 18.” – Daily Express

  • Halfon, Howarth, Nuttall criticise decision – Daily Mail
  • Alcohol abusers may get liver transplants to save their lives – The Guardian

> Yesterday: Nick de Bois MP on Comment – Plain packaging doesn’t work

Commons 2) The badger cull will not be extended nationally, Paterson announces

“The badger cull will not be extended nationally this year after an independent report found failures in the effectiveness and humaneness of trials last year. But the controversial culls, intended to combat tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, will continue in the pilot areas despite fierce opposition, Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has announced. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had planned to extend the cull to 10 new areas this year but on Thursday abandoned the plans in light of the report into the trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset.” – Daily Telegraph

Commons 3) Maria Miller apologies over expensesScreen shot 2014-04-04 at 07.46.11

“MPs overruled the demand of an independent watchdog that Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, pay back £45,000. Instead she agreed to repay £5,800, her own estimate of how much she had overcharged the taxpayer for interest on the mortgage of her five-bedroom London home, and was given “warm support” by David Cameron. In response to being told to say sorry for providing the “minimum necessary” help to a 15-month inquiry into her claims, Mrs Miller gave a 32-second apology in the Commons yesterday in which she thanked MPs for “bringing this matter to an end”.” – The Times (£)

  • Miller expenses report makes for a good day to bury Government’s bad news – Daily Telegraph
  • “Was it 32 seconds? Some thought so. The bloke from the Telegraph reckoned she had pushed it to 34 seconds. The Western Morning News thought 31.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “From start to finish, this unreserved apology – this outpouring of contrition, this wail of repentance, this distraught plea for clemency – lasted a grand total of 31 seconds.” – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph
  • Miller should say sorry to taxpayers – Daily Telegraph Editorial
  • Nigel Evans trial: Three deputy speakers of the Commons give testimonials – Wales Online

Cable warns of a housing bubble, criticises Housing Minister Kris Hopkins

“Amid growing tension between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over rising house prices, the Business Secretary told The Independent: “The fundamental problem is a chronic imbalance between supply and demand. A recovering mortgage market is just fuelling demand again.” Mr Cable warned: “A family on average income is nowhere near able to afford a house at the average price. Property has become much more unaffordable for people on middle incomes.” – The Independent

> Today: Columnist Iain Dale – Vince Cable – the worst Business Secretary since Stephen Byers

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Tory members are learning to love the Lib Dems again

Personalised tax and government spending statements to go out in October

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 05.46.03“The personalised statements will show that more than one pound in every five goes on welfare, more than any other area of spending. Chancellor George Osborne hopes by showing millions of people where their money goes, voters will be more willing to accept more years of austerity. The breakdown shows that around 23 per cent of all taxes go on welfare, 19 per cent on health and 15 per cent on pensions. Education accounts for 13 per cent.” – Daily Mail

  • Osborne facing new demand to cut 40p rate – The Times (£)
  • Chancellor criticises FCA’s ‘egregious error’ over insurance probe – Financial Times
  • Osborne’s admission proves immigration control failure – Sun Editorial (£)
  • UK’s debt burden is falling, but the crisis is merely postponed – Allister Heath, City AM

> Yesterday: Luke Springthorpe on Comment – Osborne is pushing against the financial regulator? Good – he needs to keep it up

Cameron says that keeping his aid pledge is his proudest achievement…

“When asked what his proudest achievement in office had been, during a question and answer session in Berkshire yesterday, Mr Cameron said: ‘I am proud of the fact that we have taken 0.7 of this year’s GDP and given it to the poorest countries in the world. ‘I think there are lots of countries, and lots of politicians as well, I could probably name them, who would have broken that promise.” – Daily Mail

  • DfID accused of failing to admit shortcomings, ineffective use of £1.2bn research budget and poor engagement with beneficiaries – The Guardian

…And pledges action on extremism in schools

cameron-face“The Department for Education is believed to be investigating 12 schools in the city after claims that non-Muslim members of staff were being isolated, male and female pupils segregated and assemblies used to promote the teachings of Al Qaeda. Yesterday the Prime Minister said: ‘We will not accept any school being run by extremists or promoting extremist views.” – Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

Fraser Nelson: The integration of Muslims can now be seen as one of the great success stories of modern Britain

“British Muslims don’t really feel a sense of otherness. In fact, polls show they’re much more likely to identify with Britishness than the general population. The Citizenship Survey found that most Muslims agree with two propositions: that Islam is the most important thing in their life, and that their primary loyalty lies with the British state. Most are baffled by the idea of a tension between the two.
Perhaps this is why Britain has proven consistently unable to get into a lather about the idea of a Muslim enemy within – it’s just not the British way, and never has been.” – Daily Telegraph

Interviewed by the Sun, Boris dodges the question of whether he will stand for the Commons at the next election

BORIS angel devil“Weeks later, in typically evasive style, Boris refuses to give the PM a straight answer about whether he will again become an MP. “I want Dave Cameron re-elected, I want Dave back in office and, compared to that, my own future is trivial,” he blusters, smashing his fist on a table in mock outrage. “I love playing soccer but I’m no good at all,” he adds, before saying that Cameron’s position on the pitch would be: “Midfield playmaker. He’s there, he’s distributing the ball, he’s… yeah.” – The Sun (£)

Isabel Hardman: At root, this row isn’t about books in prison. It’s Chris Grayling v the Justice Blob

“What this affair is really about is Chris Grayling’s reform of the prison system, which involves a toughening-up of conditions. He’s the Nasty Justice Secretary…This is a very effective device for the justice establishment, which is starting to behave in a similar way to the “blob” that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has spent the past few years struggling with over his reforms to the school system. The justice blob disagrees with the substance of Mr Grayling’s changes and needs a hook to get more attention. The books are the hook.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Justice Secretary issues new rules banning bailiffs from seizing ‘essential’ items including computers and mobiles – Daily Telegraph

Miliband may renationalise the railways

MILIBAND Red Ed“Mr Miliband is looking at allowing a state-backed body to compete alongside existing rail franchise owners such as Virgin and Stagecoach when contracts are put out to tender. However, he said that the plan had not yet been agreed because it had to be “affordable”. Mr Miliband is under pressure from across his party, including the Blairite Progress movement, to take back control of the railways. On Tuesday the plan was backed by Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, who said that it would be overwhelmingly popular.” – The Times (£)

  • Labour leader says party may repeal lobbying bill – The Independent
  • Balls says that the average British family is £974 worse off than in 2010 – The Guardian
  • Labour’s Lucy Powell attacks Cameron’s free parenting plan after three per cent take-up – The Sun (£)
  • Plan for OBR to audit opposition parties’ plans in jeopardy – The Independent

> Yesterday: Grant Shapps MP on Comment – The extraordinary things Labour are saying about Ed Miliband

Farage claims that the two main parties are running scared of debating with him

FARAGE big laugh“Ed Miliband last night demanded that Nigel Farage is barred from the leaders’ debates at next year’s  General Election. His call came the day after Ukip leader Mr Farage trounced Nick Clegg in a second debate on Europe. A senior Tory source indicated that the Conservatives would also seek to block Mr Farage – even though the anti-EU party has been ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls for months.” – Daily Mail

  • Clegg and Farage are extremists on Europe, says Cameron – The Times (£)
  • The challenge the UKIP leader faces next – Financial Times
  • Farage: a natural Tory on course to drive the Tories from power – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • “It’s Mr Farage who is addressing many of the issues ordinary people care about in a language they like and understand. If they are to reconnect with the voters, the Conservatives must do the same.” – Daily Mail Editorial
  • The Farage-Clegg debates were short on answers – Times Editorial (£)

> Today: Heresy of the Week on the Deep End – Nigel Farage, peacenik

Report reveals tax blow to SNP’s flagship childcare policy

“The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has said there are not enough Scottish mothers who want to go back to work to deliver the dramatic increase in revenue predicted in the Scottish Government’s white paper for independence. Generating a childcare revolution that would increase tax revenues by getting more mothers back to work was the key announcement when the blueprint for independence was launched last year.” – Scotsman

  • These Tory idiots must want Scotland to leave – Alex Massie, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Columnist Brian Monteith – Scotland’s No campaign must hold its nerve

News in Brief

  • NATO to help Ukraine as energy war speeds up – The Times (£)
  • UK chokes on toxic Saharan dust smog – Daily Mail
  • Google’s Nest Labs halts smoke alarm sales – Financial Times
  • Spending on foreign language court interpreters doubles – Daily Express
  • 13 footballers held in match-fixing scoop – The Sun (£)
  • Record breaking crowds enjoy feast of entertainment on opening day at Aintree – Liverpool Echo
  • An aquarium in the Republic of Ireland has welcomed what is believed to be one of the world’s only lesbian penguin couples – Belfast Telegraph
  • Noah: a big, muscular movie – The Guardian
  • Queen gives Pope a hamper full of produce from the royal estates including honey, shortbread, whisky, quince jelly, plum conserve, chutney, cider and apple juice.  Pope gives Queen a reproduction of a decree by Pope Innocent XI issued in 1679 which elevated Edward the Confessor into a saint for the Catholic Church – The Independent