Business rates 1) Javid under fire from MPs over ‘distorted’ figures

tax‘The communities secretary was accused of misleading his own MPs yesterday to head off a backbench rebellion over business rate rises. Sajid Javid wrote to all Conservative MPs on Saturday claiming that the revolt was based on “distortions and half-truths”. He attached a list of planned rate changes affecting hundreds of thousands of businesses in Tory constituencies. It has now been revealed that the analysis underestimated the rises in each constituency by between 5 and 7 percentage points. Rather than business rates falling in 259 of the 326 areas, as Mr Javid claimed, rates are due to fall in only 135 areas and increase in 191. Tory MPs expressed frustration at what appeared to be a distortion of the figures. They accused Mr Javid of a sleight of hand “worthy of Sir Humphrey”. Officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) defended the figures.’ – The Times (£)

Business rates 2) The Chancellor hints at help for small shops

‘The Chancellor last night promised a tax clampdown on Amazon and other big online companies as he hinted at help for small shops hammered by business rates rises. Philip Hammond told restive Tory MPs that he was ‘open to listening’ to the hardest-hit firms in a bid to help their plight. But he disappointed backbenchers by declining to commit himself to action to alleviate the impact of the business rates revaluation in next month’s Budget. He did, however, pledge longer term reform to level the playing field between large online firms and small high street shops. He is said to be looking at reforms to the property tax system to ensure that online firms pay their fair share.’ – Daily Mail

  • Plans to help High Streets were ditched after the 2015 election – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Amazon steal our business and get a break’ – The Times (£)
  • Millions would lose out in company pension changes – The Times (£)
  • Help pensioners by cutting taxes on saving – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • The Government should block the Stock Exchange/Deutsche Borse merger – Bill Cash, The Times (£)

Brexit 1) May attends the Lords to apply pressure in Article 50 debate

May Lords‘Theresa May piled symbolic political pressure on peers yesterday as she crossed from the Commons to watch the House of Lords begin debating the government’s Article 50 bill. The prime minister gazed intently from the steps to the royal throne as Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, the Conservative leader in the Lords, told peers that they had a constitutional duty not to “frustrate the process” of Brexit. Others, however, lined up to criticise the government. The Bishop of Southwark said that to ignore the views of those who voted to remain risked creating “regional divide, generational resentment and a threat to the union”. It is highly unusual for a prime minister to watch peers debate legislation.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: Christopher Howarth’s Guide to Brexit: Relax – the Lords won’t block Article 50


Brexit 2) Germany sides with Britain against Barnier’s punitive negotiation plan

‘Germany is siding with Britain to stop the European Commission presenting a €60 billion “divorce” bill immediately after Theresa May begins the Brexit process. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, wants the opening phase of Brexit talks to focus on the size of the exit bill for existing funding commitments, pensions and other liabilities. He believes that discussions on the EU-UK free trade deal, which is the main focus of ministerial work in Britain, should be delayed until substantial progress is made on exit issues. In private Germany is understood to be critical of this approach, in what will be a boost for Downing Street. German ministers are sensitive to the argument from their UK counterparts that the public backlash in Britain over the concept and size of an “exit bill” could scupper talks before they begin.’ – The Times (£)


Brexit 3) Ganesh: Remainers can still win in the end

Britain Stronger In Europe logo‘The idea is to keep post-exit Britain so enmeshed in the EU as to cast doubt on the wisdom — on the point — of remaining outside. There is more chance of Britain leaving and then rejoining in stages than there is of Britain never leaving in the first place. The movement that Mr Blair is willing into existence will not do its best work over the next two years but in the decade after that. It cannot stop exit, or even soften it. The people voted for a proposition. They want to see that proposition tested. If it tests badly enough, they will change their minds. But there is no way to skip a stage in the sequence. Brexit is an idea whose only effective rebuttal is its own implementation. Once it happens, however, pro-Europeans can still salvage most of what they want. It is a matter of steering the evolution of British laws and institutions towards the EU norm, until the gap between membership and non-membership withers. This is not just possible, it is probable.’ – Janan Ganesh, FT


Bercow revolt in danger of sputtering out

‘Attempts to remove John Bercow as Speaker secured the public support of only five MPs, it emerged last night. An early day motion put down by James Duddridge, Tory MP for Rochford and Southend East, had been signed by only four of his colleagues yesterday afternoon, according to MPs involved in the revolt. Further signatures may emerge in the coming days. A source said, however: “People are very soft here. They are prepared to put their names forward if there is safety in numbers.” Dozens more MPs are understood to have promised to support Mr Duddridge if a vote were held. The revolt against the Speaker, however, does not appear to have gained momentum.’ – The Times (£)

Burns warns against banning Trump

donald-trump-09-10-16‘Banning Donald Trump would be against the national interest and only benefit Vladimir Putin because it would ‘divide the West’, MPs said yesterday. The warnings came during fierce clashes in a debate on whether the US President should be given a state visit to Britain. Sir Simon Burns said a ban would ‘isolate’ the UK and make it ‘less influential’. The ex-Tory minister and Hillary Clinton supporter added it was a ‘no brainer’ and Mr Trump’s ‘grotesque characteristics’ should not undermine UK-US relations.’ – Daily Mail

Johnson targets university essay cheats

‘Students who cheat using ‘essay mill’ websites face tough penalties under a government crackdown. Universities Minister Jo Johnson is launching nationwide guidance to tackle the plagiarism problem on university campuses. This could lead to growing numbers of undergraduates being expelled for serious offences in future. At least 100 websites provide custom written essays for students to submit as part of their degrees…Mr Johnson has now told higher education watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency, Universities UK, which represents vice chancellors, and the National Union of Students to draw up guidelines to clamp down on campus cheats.’ – Daily Mail

  • London schools’ fears over new funding formula – FT
  • There’s a teacher shortage – The Sun
  • Life-changing schools depend on excellent staff – Yorkshire Post Leader

>Today: Rachel Wolf on Comment: The need to boost our skills is urgent. Here are three ways of doing so.

Corbyn boasts of social media success as he privately mulls quitting

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo‘Jeremy Corbyn angered backbench Labour MPs last night by claiming that although the party lags behind in opinion polls it is winning on social media. It came amid reports that the Labour leader has commissioned a poll to find out whether he should step down. The Labour leader’s answer to questions from two MPs, Chris Leslie and Neil Coyle, about the Conservatives’ 18-point lead in an ICM poll was met with frustration, according to MPs at a meeting of the party in Westminster last night. It is understood that Mr Corbyn heaped blame on the media and insisted that the party’s strategy on social networks was proving more successful. One Labour MP told The Times: “It’s utter nonsense. It’s worth sod all when it comes to being a parliamentary party and being able to shape and improve people’s lives. Pat yourselves on the back because you’ve got ten new followers this week? It’s utter garbage.”’ – The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Will the Conservatives win in Stoke?

Intelligence agencies find evidence Russia was involved in Montenegro coup attempt

‘The British Government is “deeply disturbed” about Russian involvement in an assassination plot last year to overthrow a Balkan government and sabotage its plan to join Nato, sources said last night. The Foreign Office called for “a competent, transparent judicial process and trial” of coup plotters accused of scheming to attack the parliament in Montenegro and kill the prime minister to stop the nation joining Nato. A minister for Montenegro called for Britain to stand by the country as it tries to join the Western fold in the face of Russian opposition.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • British troops warned of Russian honeytrap risks – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Was Sir Edward Heath the real Jack the Ripper? – Craig Brown, Daily Mail
  • Steve Hewlett has died – The Times (£)
  • Tourists use 5,000-year-old Avebury stones as a toilet – Daily Mail
  • British ISIS terrorist launches suicide attack – The Times (£)
  • VW diesel claims anger MPs – FT