Cameron to discuss defence cuts at the G7 summit

DEFENCE cuts“David Cameron will have to justify his controversial £500 million package of defence cuts when he meets Barack Obama today. … The Prime Minister is expected to be challenged over the issue by the US President when they meet at the G7 summit of world economic powers in Germany. … Mr Obama has already urged him not to reduce defence spending, claiming that such a move flies in the face of assurances that Britain will maintain its position as the United States’ strongest ally.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “The billions of pounds of British taxpayers money spent in developing countries is helping to ‘subsidise’ their defence budgets, MPs say.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “David Cameron and President Barack Obama have agreed to set up an international medical hit squad after the ebola epidemic raised fears of a modern version of the bubonic plague killing millions.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “At a time of global uncertainty, another £500 million is coming off the defence budget. Yet every year the Government happily hands out a sum approaching this to Pakistan, whose security forces assisted the Taliban militants who killed British soldiers, and whose politicians do not pay tax.” – Ian Birrell, Mail on Sunday
  • “As America retreats from the world, Britain fumbles for a compass.” – James Rubin, Sunday Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – A hard-headed approach to aid is overdue, and not hard-hearted

“There remains a great stain on this nation…” The Mail on Sunday reproduces Mercer’s maiden speech

MERCER Johnny“But there remains a great stain on this nation when it comes to conflict. In 2012, we reached a very unwelcome threshold when, tragically, more soldiers and veterans killed themselves than were killed on operational service in defence of the realm. … We gave the best years of our lives in defending the privileges, traditions and freedoms that this House and all Members enjoy. … It is therefore Parliament’s duty to look after them and, crucially, their families when they return.” – Johnny Mercer, Mail on Sunday

“Mr Mercer spoke to The Telegraph in the House of Commons where his new mission, apart from representing his constituents, is to transform the care and support offered to his former brothers-in-arms after they leave the services.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • “SAS officers on a gruelling Special Forces selection march in which three soldiers died made a desperate plea for the exercise to be scrapped but were overruled by top brass, a coroner will be told.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “Heartless council chiefs heaped new pain on murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby’s mum by refusing the hero a five-inch plaque on a park bench.” – Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “The Royal Navy flagship was taking part last night in international efforts to rescue more than 3,000 migrants stranded at sea 50 miles north of Libya.” – Sunday Times (£)

Europe 1) Eurosceptic Tory MPs form a new group that could campaign for Out…

EU Exit“More than 50 Conservative MPs are plotting to lead the campaign to leave the European Union, in a move that will electrify the battle for Britain’s future place in the world. … A new group, Conservatives for Britain (CfB), will formally support David Cameron’s efforts to negotiate better terms for Britain’s membership of the EU in talks with other European leaders. … But the MPs behind the initiative warn that unless the Prime Minister achieves truly radical changes, they will urge the British public to vote to withdraw from the EU in the referendum that is due to be held by 2017.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Conservatives will stand up for Britain if the EU lets us down.” – Steve Baker MP, Sunday Telegraph
  • “A new Tory eurosceptic group has been formed. We hope that they give full support to a Prime Minister trying to get the best possible deal on Europe.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial

> Today: ToryDiary – A warm welcome to Conservatives for Britain

Europe 2) …but fear that their cause will be damaged by infighting

“Leading Tories campaigning for Britain to leave the EU fear they may be doomed to defeat already, thanks to infighting between rival anti-Brussels factions. … The divisions emerged as Nigel Farage vowed to defy Tory plans to stop him taking centre-stage in the run-up to the EU vote, which could take place as soon as next May. … Many Eurosceptic Tories believe the Ukip leader is too outspoken and will deter middle-of-the-road voters from backing an EU exit.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Nigel Farage launched bizarre attacks on his party’s only MP, a donor and Tory eurosceptics yesterday as he tried to drum up support for Britain to quit the EU.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And comment:

  • “Let Sir James Dyson clean up the No vote.” – Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph

Europe 3) Anger at a rules change that allows the government to spend £millions on promoting Europe

UK notes and coins“David Cameron is facing a fresh revolt on Europe this week after lifting a ban on the government and the European Commission spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on pro-EU propaganda during the referendum campaign. … senior Conservatives are furious that Downing Street has torn up protections that were in place for the Scottish independence and AV referendums to stop the government interfering during the campaign.” – Sunday Times (£)

Europe 4) Poland wants Cameron to emphasise the costs of leaving the EU

“The British people must be told the brutal truth about the damaging consequences of leaving the European Union, and not be duped into believing that they can ‘keep all the goodies and forget about the costs’, the Polish minister in charge of EU policy says. … In an outspoken interview with the Observer, Rafał Trzaskowski, Poland’s secretary of state for European affairs, who met David Cameron 10 days ago in Warsaw, says that if political leaders do not tell the people of the UK the facts in advance of the planned in/out referendum, many will vote to leave, unaware of the devastating consequences.” – The Observer

Europe 5) The SNP consider how to use the situation to their advantage

snplogo“Scottish Nationalists plot to hijack the EU referendum by pledging a second independence vote if the UK quits Europe. … Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-Brussels party is split ’50/50′ on including a conditional pledge in their manifesto for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, a SNP source said. … It effectively puts the UK’s future on the ballot paper at the In-Out referendum set for 2017.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “The Scottish National Party is set to flex its newly-won Westminster muscles by demanding that two of its MPs are allowed on the influential Defence Select Committee.” – Independent on Sunday

And comment:

Is this Osborne’s plan for fuel duty?

Petrol pump“Top Tories want to stop him unveiling the assault on drivers in next month’s Budget after five years of freezes. … But now a whistle-blower has exposed a sinister plot to reinstate the hikes and claim they are a freeze “in real terms”. A senior Tory source said the stealth tax plan would raise duty in line with inflation, from 58p a litre now to 65p by 2019-20. That would put £5 on a tank of fuel and rake in £4billion a year for the Treasury.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “The MoT testing system for vehicles is to be toughened to include detailed measurements of deadly pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates as ministers seek ways to cut the air pollution blamed for up to 50,000 premature deaths a year.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Fines for speaking on a mobile phone or texting while driving are set to double in a crackdown on dangerous driving being prepared by the government.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Fed up passengers who suffer rail delays will soon be able to receive cash compensation instead of vouchers.” – Mail on Sunday

And comment:

  • “The whole of Britain should be a tax haven.” – Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph

> Today: Nick Faith on Comment – Osborne should announce this week that all taxpayers will gain RBS shares

> Yesterday: Alan Ward on Comment – The Budget should encourage private landlords to play their part in tackling the housing shortage

And his plans for cutting welfare payments?

“Housing benefit for the under-25s and child tax credits for those with more than two children are both facing the axe under plans to cut welfare payments by up to £12bn. … David Cameron has crushed Iain Duncan Smith’s hopes of paying child benefit only to the first two children, after pledging to protect the benefit during the general election. … Plans ‘under discussion’ across Whitehall would stop couples claiming child tax credits for more than two children. At the moment couples can claim up to £2,780 a child every year.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “The way Osborne and Hands are adjusting to their new, free, life is by being pretty tough with departments.” – Isable Hardman, Independent on Sunday

May’s former chief of staff: “It will take more than bluster to slash immigration”

Border“It is, of course, legitimate to argue that the advantages of EU free-movement rules as they exist now outweigh the disadvantages. It is possible to say that the benefits of large-scale student migration mean we should not seek to limit it at all. It is also reasonable to believe that annual net migration needs to come down to the tens of thousands. But it is not possible to hold all three of those positions. If the Government wants to meet its net migration target, it needs to deal with free movement and reform student visas.” – Nick Timothy, Sunday Telegraph

  • “The former chief inspector of immigration has warned that a shortage of experienced border staff is leaving Britain exposed to growing numbers of illegal migrants.” – Sunday Telegraph

Letwin, the third most powerful man in government?

“Oliver Letwin doesn’t even have a proper job title. He is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a relic of the Middle Ages, and he doesn’t have a department to run, but he is probably the most powerful person in the Government after the Prime Minister and Chancellor. … He is, says a civil servant who has worked with him, ‘truly an imponderable’.  … Yet his is ‘also a brain capable of solving the most difficult policy or delivery problems’. He is ‘fascinated by the data and evidence; he is terrible at politics; and he is one of the nicest people I know’.” – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

A “seven-day NHS” could save £400 million a year

NHS“Setting up a ‘seven-day NHS’ could save the health service £400m a year, a report on waste will reveal this week. … The hard-hitting study by Lord Carter of Coles will outline a package of measures to save £2bn a year to plough back into frontline care. … The paper, commissioned by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, says £400m could be saved if hospitals could increase staff efficiency by just 1%, by making sure rotas and shifts are properly planned.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “The former head of a health board in Wales that had denied patients access to cancer drugs has moved to London to receive the drugs for her own cancer treatment.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Fines for speaking on a mobile phone or texting while driving are set to double in a crackdown on dangerous driving being prepared by the government.” – Sunday Times (£)

Barker turns on the Big Six energy providers

“The architect of the Government’s much-criticised household energy efficiency scheme has blamed the Big Six electricity providers for its failure. … Greg Barker, the former Tory energy minister, launched the Green Deal at the start of 2013, saying he would be having ‘sleepless nights’ if 10,000 households hadn’t signed up for a loan for home energy-efficiency upgrades by the end of the year. … Two and a half years later, the number of households with Green Deal-financed measures in place has yet to reach 10,000, says the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).” – Independent on Sunday

  • “Spending on energy efficiency and the clean-up of Britain’s old nuclear reactors is set be significantly reduced as part of the Government’s austerity drive.” – Independent on Sunday

Boris provides reassurances for London’s garden bridge

boris-johnson“Boris Johnson has controversially guaranteed that the estimated £3m annual running costs of a garden bridge over the Thames would be met by public money if private funds were insufficient. … The London mayor had promised that no more public money would be used on the project, following a £30m injection of cash by Transport for London. But Johnson has decided that the capital’s taxpayers will guarantee the future maintenance of the bridge – a decision that could mean considerable extra funding in future years.” – The Observer

  • “The garden bridge will be an oasis of calm and beauty in the heart of London.” – Richard Rogers, The Observer

Dorries reveals that she was sexually abused as a child

“Now aged 58, Nadine says the attacks she suffered at the hands of her local Anglican vicar when she was a nine-year-old girl have had a profound effect on every aspect of her life, from her relationships with men to those with her three daughters. ‘It has taken me 49 years to talk about it,’ she says. ‘It has been slowly coming out and each time I say the words it gets a bit easier.’” – Mail on Sunday

Andrew Rawnsley: “As Labour tries to resolve its past, the Tories are mapping the future”

LABOUR dead rose“During the last parliament, welfare was squeezed in areas that did not affect the sort of voter likely to vote Tory. In this parliament, non-pensioner welfare will be targeted again. This assaults Labour at its electoral core. When fewer people are employed by government and fewer have a welfare relationship with the state, it is reasonable to suppose that there will be fewer natural supporters for Labour so long as it is mainly seen as the party of the state and the party of welfare. The Tories plan to make Labour’s task of reinventing itself and broadening its appeal that much harder.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer

The “Stop Burnham!” vote

“Labour modernisers are preparing to back firebrand Jeremy Corbyn for party leader to stop Andy Burnham. … They want to split the left wing vote and make it easier for a centrist to take over. … Candidates to replace Ed Miliband need 35 MPs’ signatures to get on the final ballot paper, after which the party’s membership votes. … One MP said: ‘Getting Jeremy on the ballot paper would reduce the number of votes Andy is likely to get, stopping us ending up with a disastrous leader like Ed.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Lord Falconer, Tony Blair’s former flatmate, has praised Andy Burnham as a strong leader who can connect with voters as the battle for Labour’s crown steps up this week.” – Sunday Times (£)

Kendall wants her party to get serious about devolving power

Liz Kendall Leader“Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has set out radical plans to devolve control over welfare, housing, health and transport to local government as she demands that her party breaks its longstanding habit of hoarding power at the centre. … Writing in the Observer, Kendall accuses the party under Ed Miliband of being too timid on devolution, and of allowing the Tories to steal Labour’s clothes by pushing ahead with plans for a ‘northern powerhouse’ and more local powers to run NHS services.” – The Observer

Read Kendall’s article for The Observer in full

  • “Labour did well among urban liberals, but there are more suburbanites and small-town voters.” – Gloria De Piero and Jon Ashworth, Independent on Sunday

Did the mansion tax help lose the election for Ed?

“Double the number of UK home owners voted Conservative than they did Labour, suggesting Ed Miliband’s controversial mansion tax deterred the public. … At last month’s general election, 47 per cent of people who own their homes outright voted for the Tories, compared to 23 per cent for Labour, according to a poll of 100,000 people by YouGov. … Voters with a mortgage – 42 per cent – backed the Tories, while just 29 per cent voted Labour.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Chris Leslie, the shadow Chancellor, is to conduct an inquest into why Labour lost the support of businesses in its heavy election defeat last month.” – Independent on Sunday

Well, Labour’s internal divisions can’t have helped

Miliband coffee“The simmering tensions between Miliband, Balls and Alexander, who fell out when they worked for Gordon Brown in the last Labour Government, came to a head in a showdown in Miliband’s Commons office last October. As the three of them argued in front of Labour officials, the patience of Beales, the party’s director of strategy, snapped. … ‘For God’s sake, we have got an Election to win and you are behaving like children. You are still trying to blame each other for what you all did in the Treasury with Gordon.'” – Mail on Sunday

  • “First there were his two kitchens. Now it has emerged that Ed Miliband took two holidays after resigning the Labour leadership following the election.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “…there has been an outbreak of genuine respect on the Tory benches for Miliband’s willingness to get back on his bike.” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday
  • “…let’s not cry crocodile tears over Ed Miliband’s defeat. … If you want my tribute to the ex-leader, it is: ‘Good riddance.'” – Louise Mensch, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “Westminster is awash with speculation that David Miliband could be planning a return to front-line politics after it was announced that he would give a major speech in London this autumn, just days after Labour’s party conference.” – Guido Fawkes, Sun on Sunday (£)

Vaz could face an inquiry for helping out an Indian tycoon

“The senior Labour MP Keith Vaz could face an inquiry by the parliamentary sleaze watchdog after intervening with the country’s most senior immigration official on behalf of a controversial Indian cricketing tycoon seeking British travel papers. … Vaz personally wrote to Sarah Rapson, the director- general of UK visas and immigration, in an effort to expedite the case of Lalit Modi, founder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.” – Sunday Times (£)

Will Hutton: Kennedy’s alcoholism disarmed Britain’s liberal left

Charles Kennedy“Had [Kennedy] led the Lib Dems into the 2010 election my hunch is that he would have won up to 20 more seats than Nick Clegg and the only coalition formed would have been with Labour. Even in Nick Clegg’s position, any support he would have offered the Tories would have fallen short of coalition. Kennedy would not have legitimised what he knew was a toxic brand, nor played second fiddle in a government whose pro-austerity, anti-welfare, Euro-sceptic trajectory he so distrusted. Put brutally, his alcoholism disarmed Britain’s liberal left of a key voice at a key time in our national fortunes.” – Will Hutton, The Observer

  • “Charles, the bottle and me.” – Alastair Campbell, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Kennedy was a victim of the loneliness of the long-distance MP.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Tony Blair has just joined the crew of reckless muzzlers.” – Nick Cohen, The Observer

Campbell backs Lamb

“Norman Lamb, the former Health minister, has won the support of Liberal Democrat grandee Sir Menzies Campbell in his effort to succeed Nick Clegg as party leader. … It is understood that Sir Menzies encouraged Mr Lamb to start thinking about a leadership tilt when the polls looked bad for the Lib Dems during the coalition years, but it was also thought unlikely that he would publicly declare his support.” – Independent on Sunday

A row over the House of Commons’ mail deliveries

“A row has erupted over a Commons decision to stop using Royal Mail to deliver letters to MPs from their constituents – and hand the contract to a private firm. … Until now, correspondence from MPs’ constituency offices has been sent to the Palace of Westminster via Royal Mail. … Last year the Commons received more than two million letters. But the job has been taken over by the DX Group, provoking a furious reaction from unions and Labour MPs.” – Mail on Sunday

An extra £7,000 for MPs? It could be £19,000 over the next four years…

Pay“Lucky MPs are set for a massive £19,000 pay rise over the next four years. … The super-generous deal links MPs’ annual pay award to wage rises across the country. … Based on Office for Budget Responsibility calculations, average earnings will go up 3.1 per cent in 2016, 3.7 per cent in 2017, four per cent in 2018 and 4.4 per cent in 2019. … That would take their salary from £67,060 to just under £86,000.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “MPs should earn more. We just need to give a few of them the boot.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Why MPs should get a pay rise.” – Euan McColm, Scotland on Sunday

…but they may have to be evacuated from Parliament in the meantime

“Crisis talks have been held on evacuating MPs from the Commons chamber after suspected asbestos was discovered in the air ventilation system. … Most MPs were kept in the dark as senior politicians and parliamentary officials discussed moving them to the House of Lords, forcing peers to relocate, in an emergency procedure last employed during the Second World War. .. The substance, found in ducts a fortnight ago, was initially believed to be the white and even more dangerous brown types of cancer-causing asbestos, according to one Westminster source.” – Sunday Times (£)

Charities and their money-raising techniques come in for further criticism

Telephone“Britain’s biggest charities including Oxfam, Cancer Research UK and the RSPCA are funding a money-raising call centre where staff are trained how to cynically squeeze cash from potential donors including 98-year-olds and cancer sufferers. … An undercover Mail on Sunday investigation reveals the high-pressure techniques drummed into telephone-fundraisers who are instructed that the poor, sick and elderly are fair game for donations.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Charity’s about kindness, not cold, hard cash.” – Mail on Sunday editorial

A new mentoring scheme to help girls into business

“The Girls’ Day School Trust conference on Wednesday will also see the launch of a plan to harness the mentoring skills of the 60,000 former pupils of the schools represented there. Among the women who will be sharing their knowledge with future generations of businesswomen are the co-founder Baroness Lane-Fox; Stella Rimington, the former MI5 director-general; the Labour MP Margaret Hodge; and the historian Bettany Hughes. The aim will be to help more women into executive posts.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “A*s in fear, misery and self-harm.” – Allison Pearson, Sunday Telegraph

News in brief

And finally: Biscuits with Labour? Non, merci.

Tea and biscuits“France’s controversial ambassador to the UK was embroiled in a new diplomatic row last night – this time over biscuits. … A group of French diplomats led by Sylvie-Agnes Bermann is said to have complained about being served tea and biscuits by Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Jubilant Tories, triumphant Scottish nationalists and despondent Labour politicians helped to consume more than £11,000 of alcohol during the first week back at Westminster after the general election.” – Sunday Times (£)