Report exposes ‘indescribably awful’ abuse in Oxfordshire

Police‘Failings by police and care professionals led to more than 370 young girls in Oxfordshire falling victim to “conveyor-belt” sex crimes over the past 15 years, a serious case review published yesterday concluded. It came after six young Oxford girls suffered years of abuse from multiple offenders, some of whom travelled the length of the country for sex in bedsits and guest houses. A review of agencies dealing with the victims identified an “undeniable” link between men of Pakistani heritage and “indescribably awful” crimes across England.’ – The Times (£)

Farage: We won’t promise arbitrary immigration targets – here’s a quango instead

‘Ukip wants to see a Migration Control Commission – with a remit to bring down net immigration, while assuring the right number of highly skilled workers from across the globe are able to enter…This body will be tasked with establishing and controlling the Australian-style points system. While politicians and the people they represent determine the direction of travel for this country, we will not, unlike the other parties, seek to set arbitrary targets which only result in broken promises.’ – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Andrew Gimson interviews Jesse Norman MP: “I don’t really believe in making political promises.”

>Yesterday: David Burrowes MP on Comment: Immigration detention should no longer be out of sight and out of mind

Recovery 1) Household incomes bounce back to 2007 levels

growth flag‘Household incomes are finally back to pre-recession levels – with the over-60s experiencing the greatest recovery, a report shows. Britons now receive £461 a week in wages, pensions and benefits after tax, which is £5 more than last year and almost back to 2007 levels of £463. News that the average UK income has bounced back could come as a timely pre-election boost for the Conservative party.’ – Daily Mail

  • IDS: welfare reform should offer hope, not ‘finger-wagging’ – Daily Mail
  • Labour mulls new tax on non-doms – The Times (£)
  • Boles apologises for ‘slip’ in criticising benefits sanctions – The Times (£)
  • Progress towards a UK space port – Daily Telegraph
  • Concern over Carney’s revolution – FT
  • In defence of fireside chats – FT Leader

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Osborne of the North

Recovery 2) Osborne set to cut beer duty again

‘In a major boost for pub-goers, George Osborne has signalled that he will repeat the cuts of the last two years to again bring down the price of a pint. One MP told The Sun he would be “amazed” if the Chancellor didn’t make it a hat-trick of reductions on March 18 following high-powered Treasury talks.’ – The Sun (£)

Recovery 3) Low interest rates cost savers £130 billion

MANIFESTO Savings‘Savers have missed out on £130billion of interest payments as a result of ultra-low rates – around £5,000 for every household in the UK – a report reveals today. The Bank of England slashed interest rates to a historic low of 0.5 per cent in March 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. Almost exactly six years on, figures lay bare the crippling impact low rates have had on prudent households.’ – Daily Mail

Recovery 4) Eurostar sale exceeds expectations

‘The Treasury has sold its 40 per cent stake in the Eurostar cross-Channel train service for £585m, almost twice the sum originally anticipated, in the last main privatisation before the election. The sale of the Eurostar stake to a Quebec pension fund and Hermes Infrastructure, an asset manager, was hailed by George Osborne, the chancellor, as a “fantastic deal for British taxpayers” and a sign that big investors were eager to buy national assets.’ – FT

Boris attacks ‘anachronistic’ TV licence

BORIS at rally‘Boris Johnson has called for the Licence Fee to be axed – because so many people don’t watch television any more. The London Mayor said “a tax on TVs that not everybody uses” was unsustainable in the digital age. Mr Johnson also attacked a Commons committee which last week said the Licence Fee should end, but not for another 10 years.’ – The Sun (£)

  • BBC must learn to ‘walk away’ when stars demand too much money – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Boris still heads our future leader poll. But watch the progress of Fox.

Defence 1) Cuts threaten British influence, report warns

‘A failure to spend at least 2 per cent of national income on defence will short-change the military by up to £6 billion a year, making it impossible for Britain to afford key equipment from fighter jets to frigates, according to a new analysis. Even if the next government protected the military from further cuts over the next parliament, there would still be insufficient funds to cover a “wish list” of kit, while more reductions in personnel would be inevitable, economists, military experts and former commanders said.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column: After Nemtsov’s murder, Putin’s banditry must be confronted

Defence 2) CND boasts that 75 per cent of Labour candidates oppose Trident

Miliband Labour Left‘Ed Miliband was last night forced to restate Labour’s support for Britain’s nuclear deterrent after a survey indicated that a majority of the party’s candidates opposed it. The online survey claimed that 75 per cent of Labour candidates were against renewing Trident.’ – The Times (£)

Defence 3) Former Royal Marine killed fighting for Kurds against ISIS

‘The first British national to be killed fighting ISIS in Syria was last night named as a former Royal Marine from Barnsley. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died while fighting with the Kurdistan People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Al-Hasakah province on Monday.’ – Daily Mail

Eleven babies and one mother died in Barrow hospital cover-up

NHS_Logo‘The independent Morecambe Bay investigation, chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup, published its explosive findings…yesterday…This included one maternal death, five stillbirths and six neonatal deaths. The report, looking at events between 2004 and 2012 found midwives at the unit denied there was a problem and even referred to themselves as “the Musketeers”. The report found significant missed opportunities to address systematic failings at the unit, and even “clear evidence of distortion of the truth.”’ – North West Evening Mail

Clegg and Branson call for decriminalisation of drugs

‘People caught with drugs should not be slapped with a criminal record, Nick Clegg will say today. Instead they should get NHS treatment, education or a civil fine to keep them out of the courts. Speaking at an event with businessman Richard Branson, the Deputy Prime Minister will promise to end criminal convictions for personal drug possession for all but the worst offenders – if his party is elected.’ – The Sun (£)

Tactical vote campaign launched to stop the SNP

Scottish flag‘Opponents of Scottish independence are launching a campaign group to make a positive case for the UK and help people vote tactically against resurgent nationalists in May’s general election. The creation of the group Scotland in Union reflects dismay at what opinion polls suggest could be significant gains by the Scottish National party in May despite voters’ 55-45 per cent rejection of independence in last year’s referendum.’ – FT

  • Sturgeon’s economic plan ignores new powers – Daily Telegraph
  • First Minister ditches corporation tax cut plan – The Scotsman
  • Welsh voters prefer Cameron to Miliband – BBC News

First council adopts monthly bin collections

‘Families face having to wait for four weeks for household rubbish, including food waste, to be collected. Labour-run Fife Council yesterday became the first local authority in the UK to announce a trial of monthly bin pick-ups…Scottish Tory environment spokesman Jamie McGrigor said: ‘People across Scotland have been deeply unhappy about bin collections being reduced to fortnightly. They will be even more furious at the prospect of this halving again.’ – Daily Mail

  • Labour used forged letter in council by-election – The Times (£)

Ross Clark: Gambaccini’s case shows the flaws in our legal system

Paul_gambaccini‘An innocent person has spent an entire year unable to work, unable to go out without attracting muttering from friends and strangers. The financial consequences may be dire. Why does our legal system allow for wealthy individuals to collect huge legal costs from loose-tongued people on Twitter but leaves Gambaccini unable to claim a penny of the £200,000 he estimates that he lost in legal fees and lost earnings in his year on bail?’ – Ross Clark, The Times (£)

  • Gambaccini: Limit pre-charge bail to 28 days – Daily Telegraph
  • Director of Public Prosecutions denies ‘witch hunt’ against journalists – Daily Mail

News in Brief