Hammond claims major immigration reductions required to assuage public opinion

EU FLag“Britain is ‘wide open to abuse’ by EU migrants looking to ‘freeload’ on our welfare system, the Foreign Secretary warned last night. Philip Hammond told MPs that a major reduction in EU immigration was needed to ‘satisfy British public opinion’ ahead of a planned in/out referendum on Europe. Mr Hammond said Britain had already tightened welfare rules in order to discourage migrants, and would take further domestic measures. But he warned that changes would also be needed at EU level.” – Daily Mail

  • Britain talks tough on migrant ‘freeloading’ – The Times (£)
  • Increasing number of voters want to talk less about immigration – Daily Mail
  • Expats claim more jobless benefits – The Times (£)
  • Major claims the British grow more European with each generation – Daily Mail
  • May poll set to provide a national identity test – Financial Times
  • 80 per cent of Britons want to leave the EU – Daily Express

>Today: Tom Pursglove on Comment: The biggest vote on Europe in 40 years delivers a huge majority for leaving

Chilcot writes to Cameron to explain delays in report publication

“The long-delayed official report into the Iraq war will not be published before the General Election. Despite complaints that the six-year wait for the Chilcot Report has turned into a ‘national scandal’, senior Whitehall sources said its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, would write today to the Prime Minister explaining his reasons for a further postponement.” – Daily Mail

‘Hard-line’ May accused of jeopardising Iranian relations with migration stance…

MAY Warhol“Senior government sources said that the home secretary risked undermining delicate negotiations to rebuild relations with the hardline state, where the embassy closed after it was attacked by a student mob in 2011. Plans for it to be reopened were announced by William Hague last year as an “important step forward” in the two nations’ relationship, but have since stalled. Mrs May is said to be holding things up by refusing to reopen a visa office at the embassy – a key demand by Tehran – until 4,000 Iranians are sent home from Britain.” – The Times (£)

…as papers train their sights on her RIPA reforms

“In future, said Justice Minister Simon Hughes, officers would need a judge’s authorisation to access the phone records of journalists, who would have the right to be informed of any such application. Last night, as the consultation on Home Secretary Theresa May’s RIPA reforms ended, there was no sign whatever that Mr Hughes’s pledges will be fulfilled.” – Daily Mail editorial

  • The Government is mishandling a chance to reform “snoopergate” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: The Deep End: The surveillance state is dying, long live the surveillance society

NHS 1) Hunt warns health unions that strike could cost lives

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“A mass walkout by NHS staff including some paramedics and emergency workers next week could cost lives, the Health Secretary warned last night. In a blunt warning to the unions, Jeremy Hunt said the planned 12-hour strike next Thursday ‘has the potential to affect patient safety to an unacceptable level, especially at a time of intense winter pressures’.” – Daily Mail

  • Paramedics told: your strike over pay could kill patients – Daily Telegraph

NHS 2) Probe into health service whistleblowers swamped by 18,000 replies

“Officials investigating the victimisation of NHS whistleblowers have been deluged by comments from thousands of concerned staff. They were meant to publish their findings two months ago but have repeatedly had to push back the date because so many people have got in touch. The review is being overseen by the leading barrister Sir Robert Francis QC, who produced two reports into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal.” – Daily Mail

NHS 3) Meanwhile, UKIP in chaos as it turns on Farage over insurance remarks

Nigel Farage“Ukip’s general election campaign descended into chaos this morning after internal party rows over policy spilled out into the open. The party’s health spokesman Louise Bours publicly slapped down party leader Nigel Farage after he suggested the NHS may need to be privatised to cope with the growing pressure on the health budget caused by a rapidly-ageing population. It came after the Ukip MEP in charge of writing the party’s 2015 manifesto was replaced – after not coming up with any policies.” – Daily Mail

  • Party health spokeswoman rejects Farage’s comments – The Guardian
  • Reform remarks see tensions flare within UKIP – The Independent
  • The NHS is in critical condition but we can’t say so – Stephen Pollard, The Times (£)

>Today: UKIPWatch: Farage’s team – a guide to the people who run UKIP

Douglas Carswell: UKIP’s NHS policy is clear – why do we need to keep repeating it?

“Dissatisfaction with the political cartel in Westminster is not simply aimed at MPs and established parties. I have started to notice growing distrust of the corporate media. I wonder why? Ukip policy is very clear: The NHS is and will remain funded through general taxation and free at the point of delivery. How many times over the next fifteen weeks will pundits suggest that it is not?” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: Stop complaining about the NHS. You’re getting what you asked for.

Jobs revival in spotlight as most who lose benefits fail to find work

Building shield“Coalition claims that it has presided over a jobs revival have come under fresh scrutiny with research showing that as few as a fifth of the 2 million jobless people whose benefit has been taken away are known to have found work. The research, due to be presented at a Commons select committee inquiry into welfare sanctions on Wednesday, suggests that hundreds of thousands are leaving jobseeker’s allowance because of benefit sanctions without finding employment, though the report’s authors decline to provide an exact figure.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Watch: Cameron pledges full employment

Ex-minister claims officials are secretly planning to slash troop numbers

“A Whitehall row has erupted after a former defence minister said officials were secretly looking at dramatically cutting the British Army to as few as 60,000 soldiers. Sir Nick Harvey said the radical reduction was being examined by the Ministry of Defence because the department faces an impending “financial crunch” after the election.” – Daily Telegraph

Osborne claims SNP-dependent Labour government could not secure fair devolution…

UNION FLAG torn“The party which takes power at Westminster after the general election will have to steer the proposals on more powers for Scotland, which came out of the Smith commission, on to the statute book. Yesterday, the chancellor suggested that a Labour government which relied on the SNP to pass its budgets could not be trusted with the task because it would be compromised.” – The Times (£)

>Today: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Nationalists harden their anti-nuclear stance as they gear up for 2015

…and that the Tories would exclude Scottish MPs from certain budget votes…

“Mr Osborne spoke out as ministers prepare to unveil their plans to transfer more powers to the Scottish Parliament. They will include the right to set income tax rates and bands for the first time. Mr Osborne said it would then be wrong if Scottish MPs had a say on how much English voters give to the taxman. He said: “Matters that affect English voters but are devolved to Scotland are not going to be decided on by Scottish MPs, that wouldn’t be fair. It would be particularly unfair, of course, if Scottish MPs held the balance of power on these decisions.”” – The Sun (£)

…as Labour criticise belated intervention to help North Sea oil

cut taxes“Speaking on a visit to Aberdeen, Mr Balls and Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, also demanded instance tax breaks and warned: “If George Osborne fails to act then a Labour government will.” The Shadow Chancellor added: “This is all about what’s best for maximising the potential of one of the country’s key industries. But postponing this until the Budget in two months’ time is too late.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Osborne to introduce tax cuts for oil and gas industry in budget – The Guardian

Is the Chancellor killing Boris’ leadership hopes with kindness?

“The biggest loser is Mr Johnson. His appeal to the Conservative Party, and the electorate as a whole, is that he is an outsider, the hand-crafted opposite of soulless factory-built politicians from the party machine. “It’s hard to think of something that could do Boris more harm than being seen to be George’s puppet,” says one Conservative MP. “It makes you wonder who’s behind all this.” – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph >Today: ToryDiary: Boris for Chairman?

Balls hits back at Mandelson but refuses to reveal cost of Mansion Tax…

BALLS "Couldn't give a toss"“Ed Balls today hit back at former Cabinet colleague Peter Mandelson over claims Labour wanted to ‘clobber’ the rich with new mansion taxes – but refused to say exactly how much people can expect to pay under the levy. The shadow chancellor said he ‘promised’ the tax on homes worth more than £2million would not be implemented in a ‘crude’ way and would raise £1.2billion a year for the NHS.” – Daily Mail

  • Shadow Chancellor says Labour is not out to ‘clobber’ people with new tax – The Guardian

…as critics fear backlash against ‘provocative’ measure

“As voices from the left and right of Labour raised concerns about the plan, a former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown suggested that it had been a mistake to call the policy a “mansion tax”. Patrick Diamond said the name “has been seen as provocative — as deliberately hitting the rich”. He added: “Some in Labour fear the party will suffer electorally if it is perceived as deliberately attacking the wealthier sections of society.”” – The Times (£)

Blunt accuses Bryant of shooting him with ‘a bow and arrow’

labour-rose“James Blunt has accused “classist gimp” Chris Bryant of shooting at him with “a bow and arrow”, following the pair’s explosive row about private education. Mr Bryant used his Twitter account to re-post snide comments about the popstar after one user branded the MP a “taffy t***” as the jibes continued for a second day. Following the almighty public set-to earlier this week, Harrow-educated Blunt tweeted: “To help people at the bottom of the tree join those near the top, give them a ladder, not a bow and arrow”.” – The Sun (£)

Former Labour advisor claims Miliband is driven by defying his brother

“While he is mocked for the way he sounds, the way he looks and the way he eats a sandwich (rightly so – just chew it, Ed), what really underlines these problems is a lack of direction and leadership. Leadership is a skill that relatively few possess and sadly for Ed Miliband, he’s in the majority. Probably the only majority he’ll enjoy this year.” – Matt Forde, The Sun (£)

Green surge pushes Labour poll share to five-year low

Green Party poster“A dramatic surge by the Greens has pushed Labour to their lowest level of support since the last General Election, it has emerged. On another day of misery for Ed Miliband, support for his ailing party slumped to just 30 per cent in a YouGov poll for The Sun. The last time they scored so badly was on May 5, 2010. In a sign that Labour are haemorrhaging Left-wing votes, the poll put the Greens on a record-breaking 10 per cent.” – The Sun (£)

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Will Cameron’s Green gambit hit Labour where it hurts – the marginals?

Austin Mitchell MP: Today’s Commons is a third-rate affair

“Public relations has replaced policy and we’ve ended up with fewer serious thinkers but more political obsessives, all of them with less experience of the real world of work. We’ve also lost the role of providing the national forum of debate to the media, who’ve stolen our job of holding the executive account.” – Daily Mail

Alexander predicts further slump in petrol prices…

Alexander Danny Jan 12“Petrol will drop below £1 a litre across the country within weeks, ministers predict as they increased demands on oil companies to pass on falling prices. Treasury minister Danny Alexander told MailOnline latest falls in the global oil price should see average prices hit the £1 mark at the pumps. And he called on drivers to use their buying power to put pressure on fuel firms refusing to respond.” – Daily Mail

…as he splits Coalition over casino advertising

“As research suggests children as young as four are exposed to gambling adverts more than 200 times a year, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander warns of an ‘explosion of aggressive advertising’ during sporting events televised before the 9pm watershed. In a letter to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, Mr Alexander complains that a review of gambling advertising being conducted for ministers ‘has still not reported’.” – Daily Mail

Cable denounces EU referendum as ‘dangerous’ and ‘utterly unrealistic’

EU Exit“David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on a new deal for Britain in Europe is “dangerous” and “utterly unrealistic”, Vince Cable said today. The Conservatives accused the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary of being “anti-democratic” after he said: “I think the approach of the Conservatives is actually quite dangerous. It is assuming that the other 27 countries will magically agree to British requests.” – The Independent

Swinson calls for ban on bikini snaps

“A SENIOR Lib Dem has called for a media ban on pictures of women in bikinis. Women and Equalities minister Jo Swinson said images of females parading in swimwear misrepresented their “contribution to society”. The comments come just days after Ms Swinson said boys should play with Barbie dolls to encourage them into a career in the adult care sector.” – The Sun (£)

UKIP manifesto ‘just a series of bullet points’…

UKIP glass“Less than four months before the general election, the UK Independence party’s manifesto is “just a series of bullet points”, according to one official, prompting the party to appoint a new head of policy. The delay matters because Ukip support has surged and polls suggest the party may enter the next parliament with several MPs, prompting greater than usual interest in its election promises.” – Financial Times

…as it plans a tilt to the left

“Tensions are growing in the UK Independence party’s ranks as it prepares to announce populist policies that target Labour voters but move the party further away from its libertarian roots. Ukip insiders have told the Financial Times that the policies will be unveiled in the coming weeks to combat the party’s reputation as “more Tory than the Tories”. They include ringfencing the National Health Service budget, raising the income tax threshold for lower earners and opposing a new runway at Heathrow.” – Financial Times

SNP Health Minister criticised for ignoring Scottish Parliament

snplogo“The SNP’s Health Minister has received a severe dressing down for displaying “gross discourtesy” to the Scottish Parliament after unveiling details of £100 million of extra spending to the media instead. Tricia Marwick, Holyrood’s presiding officer, said Shona Robison should have told MSPs first about the Scottish Government’s plans to cut the number of people whose discharge from hospital is unnecessarily delayed.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Snowden leaks threw a ‘huge rock’ at security services claims ex-MI6 chief – Daily Mail
  • Jihadist faked his death to return to UK – The Times (£)
  • Young women less sympathetic than men towards unemployed – Daily Telegraph
  • Page 3 move reveals The Sun’s online challenge – Financial Times
  • Cleared British troops could face fresh ICC charges – Daily Mail