Autumn Statement 1) The end of business rates as we know them?

GROWTH Krieg“Business taxes that have existed since Tudor times could be scrapped. … Chancellor George Osborne will today put reform of despised business rates – and more cheap loans for small firms – at the centre of his plans to secure the recovery. … In an unashamedly pro-enterprise Autumn Statement, the Chancellor will reveal that the tax on commercial property in the UK is to be reviewed, paving the way for a fundamental overhaul.” – Daily Mail

  • “George Osborne will use his Autumn Statement on Wednesday to announce £900m of extra funding for small business lending schemes. … The chancellor is expected to add to existing schemes run by the state-backed British Business Bank, which was set up in 2013 to improve access to finance for small businesses that are struggling to agree credit with commercial banks.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “10 things George Osborne ought to announce today – but never will.” – Sean O’Grady, The Independent

Autumn Statement 2) It’s all part of Osborne’s transformation into White Van George…

Osborne worker“George Osborne will target the White Van Man in his mini budget – with new help on petrol prices, cash for small businesses and a tax cut for family holidays. … The Sun can reveal that the Chancellor will scrap the feared ‘Fair Fuel Stabiliser’ that would have slapped 1p a litre on fuel duty next March. … The mechanism was due to kick in to maintain Government revenue streams when international oil prices drop below $75 a barrel – which happened last week.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Families in the affluent South East are spending on average £160 a week more than those in the North East, official stats show.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “George Osborne the urban liberal knows the real battle is in his own party.” – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • “Two cheers for the sharp falls in oil prices.” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Autumn Statement 3) …although the Chancellor’s ratings are slipping

“George Osborne’s huge lead over Labour on the economy is slipping as pessimism over the economy returns, a poll has revealed. … The exclusive YouGov survey for The Sun shows the Chancellor’s personal ratings in the job have slipped five points in the last nine months. … After big improvements, he is now back down to a -8 approval rating, having posted -3 in March.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Yet this Chancellor is plainly a safer pair of hands than Ed Balls, the man who advised Gordon Brown. Voters at least know that.” – Sun editorial (£)

Autumn Statement 4) The Government could become more involved in house-building…

House icon“A quango will plan, build and sell tens of thousands of family homes across Britain, under radical plans being considered by the Treasury. … Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said ministers were examining the case for ‘direct government commissioning of housing’ to bypass the private sector. … Under the scheme – which is already being trialled in Cambridgeshire – taxpayers would fund the construction of tens of thousands of homes, which would then be put up for sale on the open market.” – Daily Mail

  • “Britain deserves better on infrastructure.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Councils need the power to raise money as well as spend it so their voters can decide their own priorities – rather than carrying the can for the chancellor’s.” – Guardian editorial
  • “We were handed a glossy brochure full of graphs and diagrams and snapshots of holes in the ground. Publicly-funded holes. Dug at private profit.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “What could be wrong with Garden Bridge over Thames?” – Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

> Today:

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – The roads announcement and the battle for ownership

Autumn Statement 5) …but will it reform stamp duty?

Tax Take“With an election only five months away, Mr Osborne is also expected to use his Autumn Statement to announce one big crowd pleaser, against the backdrop of speculation in Whitehall of a big reform to stamp duty on house purchases. … One option being considered by ministers this week was to make the tax on house sales more progressive, easing the bill for people at the bottom of the ladder but with much heavier charges on those buying expensive homes.” – Financial Times

Autumn Statement 6) More cash for Search and Rescue charities

“Search and Rescue and air ambulance charities are to get VAT refunds and more Government cash following lobbying from Prince William. … The Chancellor will announce in today’s autumn statement VAT breaks for the sector from next April, alongside £7.5 million extra support for air ambulances. The tax refunds will be worth £25 million over five years.” – Daily Mail

Autumn Statement 7) The financial sector is paying its way…

Banks Face 6 Billion Of Libor Litigation“…as today’s Autumn Statement is unveiled, with a gaping hole in income tax receipts, the Chancellor can be thankful that at least the financial sector is still paying its way, even if Starbucks, Google, Amazon et al are not. … A new study for the Corporation of London by PwC shows that as a producer of revenues for the exchequer the City is almost back to where it was before the Great Recession.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

Autumn Statement 8) …and will help, through fines for malpractice, to fund the Gurkhas

“Millions of pounds in fines from sinning bankers are to be spent helping Gurkha warriors who have fallen on hard times, The Sun can reveal. … A total of £5million will be made available from penalties imposed on bankers involved in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.” – The Sun (£)

Autumn Statement 9) Don’t forget, there’s always the deficit

OSBORNE scissors“The chancellor is expected to have to concede that net borrowing for the year will reach about £90bn – greater than the £86.5bn predicted at the time of the last budget – but in a statement shaped by the continued constraints on the public finances, Osborne will try to highlight plans to take urgent action to clamp down on tax loopholes exploited by technology firms such as Amazon and Google, even though the most effective action requires international agreement.” – The Guardian

  • “The law should be changed to put the ‘shameless’ £2billion tax avoidance industry out of business, the head of Parliament’s spending watchdog said. … Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said it was ‘unacceptable’ that accountancy firms and lawyers were making vast sums advising the wealthy on how to ‘rip off’ taxpayers.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The chancellor will not be able to hide the uncomfortable truth about the public finances in today’s autumn statement — nor should he try to.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “George Osborne must demonstrate his prudence.” – Daily Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday: Nida Broughton on Comment – The Autumn Statement. A target missed so far. And no clear plan to hit it.

NHS spending will have to be cut, warns Kwarteng

NHS“A rising star of the Conservative right has been secretly recorded suggesting David Cameron may have to renege on his pledge to protect NHS spending if the Tories win next May’s general election. … Kwasi Kwarteng, a senior figure in the Conservative Free Enterprise Group, was taped suggesting that a future Conservative government would have to consider cutting all areas of public spending – including health, schools and international aid, which are currently ring-fenced – to clear the deficit.” – The Independent

  • “Ministers have pledged an extra £150million to help kids with eating disorders – as hospital admissions soar.” – The Sun (£)
  • “National Health Service finances are deteriorating at an even faster rate than predicted, according to a survey of health service finance directors.” – Financial Times
  • “More than 600,000 patients a year are being forced to wait more than 24 hours in Accident & Emergency departments, suggests a new report which names the worst units in the country.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “People are putting their lives at risk by dismissing the warning signs of cancer, experts have warned.” – The Independent

Thousands of migrants could lose their benefits, under new measures…

Border“Up to 4,000 Europeans living here for a year or more will be assessed on whether they have the genuine prospect of finding work. … Those who fail will lose their right to Jobseeker’s Allowance. … The measures are in addition to David Cameron’s detailed plans to ban EU migrants from claiming benefits including lucrative tax credits until they have worked in this country for four years.” – Daily Mail

  • “Nearly 30 per cent of migrants taking advantage of free-movement rules inside the EU in 2012 travelled to Germany, compared with just 7 per cent of such migrants who moved to Britain, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said.” – The Independent
  • “People traffickers brought women to Britain on £10,000-a-year student aid packages before forcing them into prostitution, a court heard.” – Daily Mail

…as the Lib Dems accuse the Tories of betraying Thatcher’s European legacy

“Attacking immigration from European Union countries is betraying the record of Margaret Thatcher, nearly 100 Liberal Democrats, including the party president Tim Farron and Lord Ashdown, a former leader, have said. … In a letter to The Telegraph, they accuse Mr Cameron of forgetting her famous 1988 Bruges speech. … They say: ‘Margaret Thatcher said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the community.”‘” – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: Stephen Tall’s column – A spectre haunts the Lib Dems. Actually, scratch that. At least five spectres haunt the Lib Dems.

The A-Level reforms run into difficulty

School“The government’s A-level reforms ran into trouble on Tuesday when four subjects were suddenly scrapped, other courses delayed and some schools were left complaining about ‘last-minute, piecemeal’ changes. … ‘It’s chaotic,’ said one headteacher. ‘I wake up every morning and wonder what’s coming next.'” – The Guardian

  • “The headteacher of the first academy primary school in England has been suspended over allegations of gross misconduct.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “State schools will never compete? Rubbish.” – Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

> Today: Interview – Nicky Morgan: “As a Christian Secretary of State for Education, I will oppose secular, politically correct dogma”

The Government cracks down on whip-cracking

Whip“Spanking and caning are among acts banned from online porn videos filmed in the UK, the Government has said. … A list of sex acts, some featured in the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, are now on a list of ‘harmful’ content that has been prohibited. … A quiet change in legislation has ruled that paid-for online porn videos must now adhere to the same rules as content produced for sex shop-type videos.” – Daily Mail

  • “Claims for whiplash injuries must be backed in future by an accredited medical expert, Chris Grayling told insurers yesterday.” – The Times (£)

Warsi on women: They’re portrayed unfairly in Westminster

WARSI Sayeeda“Ex-Tory chairman Baroness Warsi has blasted the way women are portrayed in Westminster. … The peer – who quit over the conflict in Gaza – said it was time women hit back against the male-dominated world. … She said: ‘Men resign, women “flounce”. Men have an opinion, women are “bitchy”. Men are forceful, women are “awkward”. It’s time we started pushing back against that kind of language.'” – The Sun (£)

> Today: ToryDiary – Do women Conservative MPs get a raw deal?

Swinson on women: They face unrealistic expectations

“Women have ‘unrealistic expectations’ when it comes to believing that they can combine a successful career, motherhood and beauty according to new research due to be published later today. … Liberal Democrat minister for women Jo Swinson wrote the foreword for the report which she said  ‘shines a welcome light’ on the pressures that young women face.” – Daily Mail

  • “Hundreds of thousands of mothers-to-be should give birth at home or in midwife-led units rather than in hospital, the health watchdog says.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “…becoming a parent, while magical in a million different ways, is also a shock to the system. You never know quite how it’s going to affect you.” – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail

Daniel Finkelstein bids good riddance to Brown

Brown Hands UP“I like to be generous about people. It’s near the top of my short list of principles. And this is a moment for generosity. Gordon Brown is retiring from parliament after 32 years. Yet try as I might, I am having difficulty being generous. … The truth is that Gordon Brown’s behaviour during his years at the top was appalling. An outrage.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

  • “Brown had read every word and he was furious. He demanded that I be sacked. Purnell gently pointed out that as I was not his employee he would find it difficult to sack me.” – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

Miliband isn’t eager to deal with the West Lothian Question, admits Denham

Scottish flag“Ed Miliband is ‘reluctant’ to acknowledge letting Scottish MPs vote on English-only laws is unjust, a former cabinet minister and close adviser to the Labour leader has said. … John Denham suggested Labour has failed to accept the seriousness of the West Lothian Question and must prove it ‘trusts’ English people to take their own decisions. … The former Communities Secretary urged the party to show it is ‘comfortable’ with ensuring that ‘England lives under laws supported by the English people’ before the end of the year.” – Daily Telegraph

> Today: Henry Hill’s column – Scottish Tories lead resistance to SNP land grab

Meacher wants leniency for thieves who have lost their benefits

“Michael Meacher, an ex-environment minister, claimed that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms had left claimants ‘forced to steal to survive’. … In an inflammatory newspaper article, he said … it would be ‘perfectly reasonable’ for jurors to follow the example set by those in the 19th century, who refused to convict desperate food thieves to save them from being hanged.” – Daily Mail

Another fine mess for UKIP 1) Farage doesn’t know his party’s sex education policy

UKIP glass“Nigel Farage was humiliated after admitting no knowledge of a sex education policy announced by his deputy leader. … In a live web debate, the Ukip chief said he had ‘never advocated’ a ban on sex and relationship education for primary age school children. … But the policy was announced by Paul Nuttall, his deputy, at the Ukip conference in Doncaster in September.” – The Sun (£)

Another fine mess for UKIP 2) They don’t have enough money

“Ukip is ‘very, very short of money’ and has failed to build up a war chest for the general election yet has still granted Nigel Farage a £60,000 annual chauffeur allowance, The Times can reveal. … Stuart Wheeler, the spread-betting millionaire who has bankrolled the party for years and who served as treasurer until July this year, said Ukip ‘desperately needs more money’.” – The Times (£)

  • “Ukip’s challenge is to be less Ukippy without putting off Ukippers.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “Are the Tories winning back Ukippers in the seats that matter?” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Syed Kamall MEP’s column – How Juncker wriggled off the hook – thanks to UKIP and its allies

The GMB gets behind fracking – will it feel the wrath of McCluskey?

Fracking“One of Britain’s biggest unions is poised to throw its weight behind the Government’s fracking blitz – claiming opponents are ‘crazy’. … The Sun can reveal senior figures in the GMB are pressing the union to pledge its support in a huge boost to Ministers. … The move threatens a split with Unite and its chief, ‘Red Len’ McCluskey, who has urged Labour to ditch its support for the Tory-led shale gas revolution.” – The Sun (£)

Ireland accuses Britain of torture during the Troubles

“The British and Irish governments will clash in the European Court of Human Rights over one of the Troubles’ most harrowing torture cases involving the degrading treatment of Irish prisoners at the hands of the British Army. … Dublin has asked the ECHR to revisit its judgment in the ‘hooded men’ case of the 1970s, when 14 suspects were arrested in 1971 after Edward Heath introduced internment without trial in a bid to quell violence in Northern Ireland.” – The Independent

Iran is bombing Isis, claims Pentagon

Fighter jet“Iranian fighter jets have bombed Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq in recent days, the Pentagon has said, in a development that confirms Tehran’s determination to confront the jihadists. … The air raids mark an escalation in Iran’s role in a conflict where Tehran and Washington have no formal partnership but share a common enemy in the Isis group, which both governments view as a dangerous threat.” – The Guardian

  • “The Lebanese military has captured one of the wives of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader and self-proclaimed ‘caliph’ of Isis. The woman, who was identified as Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, was arrested nine days ago, along with a child.” – The Independent

News in brief

  • DNA analysis on Richard III’s remains raises questions over royal succession – The Independent
  • The 91 BBC executives who are paid more than the Prime Minister – Daily Mail
  • Twitter tightens anti-abuse measures – Financial Times
  • Russia abandons $50 billion gas pipeline – Financial Times
  • Artificial Intelligence could threaten humanity, warns Hawking – The Guardian
  • “He left a mark on our game.” The funeral of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes – The Times (£) 
  • YouTube star’s book breaking sales records – The Sun (£)

And finally: Russell Brand a hypocrite? Surely not!

Russell Brand“Gobby millionaire revolutionary Russell Brand is paying a tax-avoiding landlord £76,200 a year for a luxury home — while ranting against sky-high rents and tax dodgers. … A Sun investigation discovered the comic’s landlord is based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are virtually no tax laws.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Brand’s childlike grasp of the world and attraction to long-ago debunked conspiracy nonsense are worrying in a middle-aged man.” – Sun editorial (£)

> Yesterday: WATCH – Russell Brand dislikes being questioned about the value of the house he lives in

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