Rates Row 1) Tory rebels threaten to block the Budget

HAMMOND Philip Marr‘Conservative MPs have dismissed ministers’ reassurances over business rates and warned that they will block the budget if the policy is not rethought. Government sources all but ruled out one of the key demands of Tory rebels, saying that emergency legislation would not be needed to limit the maximum rise in bills. Philip Hammond must now use his budget, on March 8, to head off a revolt over the policy, which will raise rates for more than one business in four. Senior figures said that the chancellor was having to clean up a “mess” left by Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, whose department oversees the policy and who was on holiday last week.’ – The Times (£)


>Yesterday: ToryDiary: How did Javid get into this fix?

Rates Row 2) “There is no pot of money under my desk,” warns Hammond

‘Philip Hammond has warned Tory colleagues demanding more cash for business rate relief, social care and schools in next month’s Budget, that any extra spending must be paid for through higher taxes or savings elsewhere. “There is no pot of money under my desk,” he has told MPs clamouring for extra funds. The chancellor says he is in “listening mode” and has indicated he could release some money to cushion the impact of a new business rate system and ease the growing crisis in the provision of social care for the elderly. But Mr Hammond is refusing to spend the £27bn “room for manoeuvre” etched into his fiscal plans last year for use at the end of this parliament because of the uncertainty posed by Brexit.’ – FT

  • A discount plan would cost £300 million – The Sun
  • Scotland caps business rates for two sectors – FT
  • Will May honour her pledge to fight off foreign takeovers? – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: Here’s a radical but workable plan for the Budget. Trade off simplified tax reliefs for lower marginal rates.

Article 50: Peers make pitch for a second referendum

EU Exit brexit‘A former head of the civil service has thrown his backing behind giving voters a say on the final Brexit deal. Lord Butler of Brockwell said during the second day of the Brexit Bill debate that the settlement negotiated for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU should be put to the country. He said that Article 50, the legal mechanism to begin the process of leaving, should be triggered immediately and divorce talks started “as soon as possible”. He also said that he accepted the logic of Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech that “to regain control over immigration, the EU rules require the UK to leave the single market”. However, the crossbench peer, a former cabinet secretary, added: “On a matter of this importance, has not the government a duty to be sure before our departure becomes final?”‘ – The Times (£)

  • Lamont: “Either you believe in democracy or you don’t” – Daily Mail
  • Institute of Directors urge politicians to end uncertainty by ruling out a second vote – The Sun
  • Unelected codgers and useless cronies have got to go – The Sun Says
  • Of course we should have another say – The Guardian Leader
  • New documentary looks inside the Upper Chamber – Daily Mail


Finkelstein: The idea that Brexit might not mean Brexit is utterly delusional

‘The Lords understands very well that it is not an elected house, knows its own limits, and will not (indeed ultimately cannot) impose its view on the Commons. However, before it backs down, it is quite likely to pass amendments that give parliament statutory power to reject any negotiated settlement. This will put pressure on the government to strengthen the less formal parliamentary review that it has already offered. The Commons — and Tories like Anna Soubry who are sympathetic to the Blair view — is likely to extract what further concessions it can. Yet the idea that after parliament has triggered Article 50, all options will remain open — that Brexit might not mean Brexit — is utterly delusional.’ – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)


It could take ‘years and years’ for British workers to replace EU migrants, says Davis

Border‘British workers will not be ready to fill the jobs done by European migrants for “years and years”, the Brexit secretary has admitted. As part of a diplomatic charm offensive across eastern Europe, David Davis declared that the UK would keep its doors open for low-skilled workers in hospitality, agriculture and social care. His comments could imply that Britons would be reluctant or unable to fill the manual jobs vacated by the EU citizens straight away. Mr Davis’s remarks — which were not included in the statement issued by the government following his visit — will make it harder for Theresa May to achieve her goal of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: Binita Mehta-Parmar on Comment: Citizenship ceremonies at the Cup Final – and a new migration model for Post-Brexit Britain.

‘JAMs’ banned – but civil servants replace it with OWFs (Ordinary Working Families)

‘Theresa May has banned officials from using the term JAMs to talk about struggling Brits – with OWFs now taking its place. Civil servants leaped on the phrase ‘just about managing’ from Mrs May’s speeches about her priorities and turned it into a joke acronym. But that infuriated the PM, as she believed it belittled the plight of poorer workers. Instead, Treasury officials working on next month’s Budget are now under strict instructions to refer to the target group as Ordinary Working Families. But that too has now been turned into the abbreviation ‘OWF’ by acronym-obsessed officials.’ – The Sun

Exports to the US are booming

American USA flag‘Britain has a huge trade surplus of almost £40billion with America, making the country by far our most important trading partner, a new study shows. Figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that the UK exports £37billion more in goods and services to America than we import from the US. The figures appear to justify the importance that Theresa May’s government has placed on securing a new trade deal with the US once Britain leaves the EU. At the same time, the figures show that Britain has a £61billion deficit with the European Union – meaning EU countries export more to this country than the UK does to them. It suggests that the Brussels bloc would be unwise to cut the UK off.’ – Daily Mail

  • How the figures shape up – The Times (£)
  • Music is one of our most successful products – Jason Iley, The Times (£)
  • Macron says Calais border controls will continue post-Brexit – Daily Mail
  • But he does want us to pay towards policing costs – The Times (£)
  • May slaps down his appeal for bankers to move to Paris – The Sun
  • London is the sixth-largest French city – The Times Leader (£)

Questions raised over Free School spending

‘The budget for free schools doubled in the first five years of the programme and almost £10 billion will be spent on them by 2021, a critical report has revealed. Tory MPs and head teachers suggested it was time for the scheme — established by Michael Gove — to be curbed so that schools could not be set up to cater solely for parental choice in areas where extra places were not needed. The report, by the National Audit Office, said the programme had been much larger in scale and cost than the Department for Education planned. Its publication comes at a time when many school buildings are crumbling and heads face real-terms cuts in budgets. In 2010 it was estimated that 315 schools would be open by 2015, at a cost of £900 million. In reality, 305 schools opened at a cost of £1.8 billion.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Technical education. Who’s right – Gove or Baker?

Bank of England: Our forecasting isn’t good enough to spot the next recession

growth flag‘The Bank of England is unlikely to predict either the next recession or a future financial crisis because its forecasts are so poor, a senior official admitted yesterday. The admission came from Gertjan Vlieghe, a member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, who said the public have ‘unrealistic expectations’ about its economics and forecasting models. Giving evidence to the Treasury Select committee yesterday he said: ‘It is always going to be the case … that there are going to be large forecast errors. We are probably not going to forecast the next financial crisis nor are we going to forecast the next recession,’ he said. ‘Models are just not that good.’’ – Daily Mail

  • Haldane says Brexit won’t affect short-term growth – The Times (£)
  • Uncertainty over the future of London ratings agencies – FT

Cameron was warned about the problems with St Helena airport

‘Ex-BA pilot Brian Heywood urged David Cameron not to blow taxpayers cash on the project in the remote island. But the PM passed the warnings from his constituent onto the Department for International Development – and was reassured everything would be fine. Ex-Aid Secretary Andrew Mitchell said all concerns raised by the pilot were being addressed…The letters were revealed by former Tory peer Lord Ashcroft. Mr Mitchell said: “Lord Ashcroft’s account is entirely correct.”‘ – The Sun

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Why were these wise warnings on St Helena’s airport ignored?

Government introduces Magnitsky-style powers against human rights abusers

Vladimir Putin‘Action would taken using civil recovery powers, using the Assets Recovery Agency, rather than the High Court imposing wide-ranging financial sanctions, as the MPs demanded. Nevertheless, the Home Office’s security minister Ben Wallace urged MPs to recognise the Government was acting after the “atrocious murder carried out in Russia against Mr Magnitsky”. It was a “clear statement that the UK will not stand by and allow those who have committed gross abuse or violations around the world to launder their money here,” he told the Commons. Allowing campaigners and other third parties to bring actions would “open up a whole can of worms for countries around the world”. Ministers agreed to act after the cross-party amendment was tabled by prominent Conservative MP Dominic Raab.’ – The Independent

  • Stamp duty revenues fall after Osborne’s changes – Daily Mail
  • The Chancellor should cut the top rate – Daily Mail Leader
  • Bryant alleges the Kremlin is interfering in British elections – Daily Mail

ISIS bomber got £1 million Guantanamo compensation from taxpayers

‘Tony Blair’s Labour government is facing serious questions after an ‘innocent’ Guantanamo prisoner who pocketed £1m in compensation was allowed to flee the UK before blowing himself up in Iraq. British Jamal Udeen al-Harith was photographed earlier this week moments before he detonated an explosive-laden car in an ISIS attack on an army base near Mosul. The Muslim convert – who changed his name from Ronald Fiddler in 1994 – had been sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after being caught by US forces in Afghanistan. He always denied being a terrorist and claimed to have been taken prisoner by the Taliban after visiting the Middle East as part of a ‘religious holiday’. Tony Blair’s government, led by then-Home Secretary David Blunkett, then campaigned for his release and the British citizen was freed two years later.’ – Daily Mail

  • Why did Blunkett and Chakrabarti believe his claim to be ‘on holiday’ in Afghanistan? – The Sun Says
  • Aid workers rescue animals of Mosul zoo – Daily Mail
  • Trump is exploring ways to reopen the prison camp – The Times (£)

Nuttall criticises ‘crass’ UKIP donor Banks

arron-banks‘Nuttall, who admitted on Liverpool’s Radio City Talk that he did not lose “close personal friends”, contrary to quotes in his name on his website, said the mistake “wasn’t crass, maybe Arron Banks was, but I made a genuine error”. “Of course I’ll apologise to the people of Liverpool, I’ll apologise to everyone for not checking what went up on my website. It’s my fault,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to him. Arron Banks isn’t a member of Ukip so I can’t kick him out of an organisation he isn’t a member of. But I have publicly condemned it. He’s not a member, he has given money in the past.”’ – The Guardian

  • The UKIP leader gives Hillsborough evidence to police – Daily Mail
  • Russian propaganda bots turn on Nuttall – Daily Mail
  • Concerns over nuclear testing as radioactive particles blow in from the East – Daily Mail
  • Trump’s new security adviser is a Russia hawk – The Times (£)

Labour blame it on the weatherman (and Corbyn) in Copeland

‘Labour strategists are increasingly fearful they will lose a historic by-election in Copeland on Thursday, blaming everything from media attacks on leader Jeremy Corbyn to the approach of “Storm Doris”. Defeat would mark the first time that a British party of government has taken a seat from a rival party at a by-election since 1982, when the Tories took Mitcham & Morden after its Labour MP quit and stood as an SDP candidate. “Copeland is probably lost,” said one senior figure, with bookmakers offering just 1/3 on a Conservative victory in the remote Cumbrian constituency. Labour MPs say there has been repeated criticism of Mr Corbyn on doorsteps, not least because of his past opposition to nuclear power.’ – FT

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

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