Cameron orders review of sickness benefit

timesobesetwo“Obese people without jobs will be forced to diet or lose their benefits under plans to be set out by David Cameron today. Alcoholics and drug addicts will also face being stripped of their benefits, worth about £100 a week, if they refuse to accept a recommended treatment plan. The move is the first salvo in the Conservatives’ week focusing on welfare and is designed to capitalise on widespread public unhappiness at the scale of benefit claims.” – The Times(£)

  • “Prof Dame Carol Black will consider whether the welfare system fails to encourage them to get treatment. The PM said it was unfair for workers to fund those who refuse such help.” – BBC
  • “It could also bring the Conservatives into direct confrontation with the British Medical Association which in 2013 castigated as “draconia” calls by Tory-held Westminster Council to cut the benefits of overweight people who refused exercise regimes.” – The Independent

Party leaders make joint pledge on climate change

“The UK’s political leaders have pledged to work together to combat climate change, whatever the election result. In a joint statement, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg said climate change was one of the most serious threats facing the world. They said climate change threatens not just the environment but also security, prosperity and poverty eradication. They have promised to end coal burning for power generation in the UK – unless it uses new clean-up technology.” – BBC

Next Tory leader will be “babe unborn” says Boris

boris-johnson“Boris Johnson has rejected the idea that he could be the next Conservative party leader, saying the role would go to “some babe unborn”. Johnson, thought to be a leading candidate to replace David Cameron, said: “One day, in the dim distant future when David Cameron relinquishes the premiership, some babe unborn will take over, but I think that the vacancy is unlikely to arise for the foreseeable future.” Speaking to LBC radio, the London mayor, who hopes to return to parliament in May as MP for the west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said that he “would be delighted to serve in a Conservative government” and that he was sure his party would win the general election.” – The Guardian

Rich have paid more tax since the 50p rate was cut

Britain’s highest earners pay more than a quarter of the country’s entire income tax bill, more than when the Coalition came to power…They also suggest that the Coalition’s decision to cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p has increased revenues. ..The official figures show that the number of additional-rate taxpayers has risen from 273,000 to 313,000, with income tax revenues rising from £38billion to £46.5billion.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Labour are sworn to put it back up to 50p if they win power in May. So they and their left-wing supporters must ask themselves this: Do they want a tax system which maximises the amount raised to run the country?” – The Sun Says(£)

Maude says many civil servants back his efficiency drive

Maude Francis V Neck“Those providing public services on the ground are, he says, fully behind his reforms. “Many civil servants have felt very strongly that things needed to change . . . The further you get away from Whitehall the more they complain about bureaucracy in the system.” At the centre, though, some mandarins have been less than happy about the attacks on their departmental fiefdoms. Although Mr Maude insists that Whitehall is changing, being “less clubby and more diverse”, there are still too many grandees stuck in their traditional ways.” – Interview with Francis Maude in The Times(£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Fixing Whitehall: The growing consensus about what should happen next

Labour would turn Britain into France warns the Bank of America

“Labour will reduce Britain to an economic basket case like France if it wins the election, a leading investment bank warned last night. Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) said it would lead to lower growth, and seriously damage investor confidence in the UK. In a devastating assessment, the world’s fourth-largest investment bank told clients that under a weak Ed Miliband government, possibly propped up by the SNP and Greens, the UK would ‘look increasingly like France’, where growth is almost non-existent and unemployment is almost double the level in the UK.” – Daily Mail

Miliband says he “won’t back down” over tax avoidance..

Miliband Natural“Ed Miliband is to promise that regardless of how much he is attacked, he will not back down in his campaign against tax avoidance, saying that in government he will insist that the rich play by the same rules as the poor. In a speech to the Welsh Labour conference on Saturday, he will claim that the HSBC scandal is much more than a row that has shaken the world of finance and politics and argue that it has also crystallised a deep sense of injustice about how Britain is run and who it is run for.” – The Guardian

>Today: Mark Field MP on Comment: Could a Council Tax review be the antidote to Labour’s Mansion Tax?

…but he is challenged to publish “deed of variation” to show tax implications…

“Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said Mr Miliband’s family’s deed of variation was clearly designed to cut inheritance tax and condemned the Labour leader’s denial of this. He added: ‘Ed Miliband should now publish this deed of variation that he is currently hiding away and be as open about his own tax affairs as he demands others to be. The public can then judge for themselves.’ ” – Daily Mail

…and to condemn Mirror’s phone hacking

mirrorpic“Ed Miliband was condemned yesterday for refusing to speak out about phone hacking at the Daily Mirror after the newspaper’s owner published an open apology to victims confirming that the illegal practice took place at the group. In the apology printed on page 2 of yesterday’s Daily Mirror, Trinity Mirror admitted that there were “many cases” where information for stories was illegally obtained by accessing voicemail messages. It said: “We are taking this opportunity to give every victim a sincere and unreserved apology for what happened.” It said that such behaviour had “long since been banished”.” – The Times(£)

Tax evading tycoon not prosecuted

“Tax inspectors failed to prosecute a wealthy tax cheat who did not submit returns or pay any tax for 24 years, documents seen by BBC Panorama show. HM Revenue and Customs had concluded that Paul Bloomfield, a property investor involved in the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium, was a UK resident and liable for 20 years’ tax.” – BBC

Browne attacks “insipid” Clegg

Browne Jeremy headshot“Nick Clegg has been accused by one of his senior MPs of offering voters “insipid moderation” and retreating to the Liberal Democrats’ “comfort zone” by attacking their Conservative coalition partners. In an interview with The Independent, former minister Jeremy Browne warned that the Lib Dems face losses at the May election from which it would be “very difficult to recover”. He blamed their plight on Mr Clegg’s 2012 decision to end his “pro-coalition” stance and to “differentiate” from the Tories – partly to head off any attempt to oust him as party leader. As a result, he said, the Lib Dems are getting “no credit” for the economic recovery.” – The Independent

Welby apologises for bombing of Dresden…

archbishopdres“The Archbishop of Canterbury last night issued an extraordinary apology for the British bombing of Dresden during the Second World War. In what was immediately criticised as an insult to the young men who gave their lives to defeat the Nazis, the Most Rev Justin Welby told the German people of his ‘profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow’ over the attack. His comments at a ceremony in Dresden to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombings came amid a growing row about BBC coverage of the commemoration in which Britain was described as ‘worse than the Nazis’ over the raids that killed thousands at the end of the war.” – Daily Mail

  • Sir Gerald Howarth complains of one-sided BBC coverage – Daily Mail
  • Ruthless but it did help defeat a savagefoe  – Simon Heffer Daily Mail
  • What was the point of bombing Dreseden? – Dominic Selwood Daily Telegraph

…while Tories hit back at “Bishops manifesto”

“Conservative MPs are concerned that a document agreed by the House of Bishops may contain factual inaccuracies about the government’s record. The “manifesto” argues that unemployment has risen, a claim challenged by Tories who say it has fallen 596,000 since 2010. The Conservatives also dispute the assertion that the greatest burdens of austerity have not been borne “by those with the broadest shoulders”. The bishops are expected to call for a “re-examining” of Trident in the document. ” – The Times(£)

MPs to question former Rotherham Council leader

“A COUNCIL chief forced to quit over a child grooming scandal is to be hauled before MPs. Roger Stone stood down as leader of Rotherham Borough Council after a damning report last year revealed at least 1,400 youngsters were exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013. The report also hit out at the “macho, sexist and bullying” culture among those in charge.” – The Sun(£)

Parris: Clegg losing his seat would be bad for the Conservatives

PARRIS Mathhew“If his party must take a beating, so be it. But if Mr Clegg himself should be humiliated in the very personal way that ejection by one’s own constituents represents for an MP, then I cannot think that an ending like this would be something that Britain — including the Conservative party; and including Hallam — could look back on with pride.” Matthew Parris The Times(£)

News in brief

  • UKIP donor threatens to sue Iannucci – BBC
  • Cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown put at £47.3bn – Daily Mail
  • Labour would target academies cash reserves – The Guardian
  • Austrian leader protests to Cameron about nuclear energy – The Sun(£)
  • Tycoons for Miliband – The Guardian
  • Leaders nervous about role for Paxman in TV debates – The Times(£)
  • Savings boost as stock markets soar – Daily Express