Budget Day 1) Higher growth won’t soften Hammond’s tax rises

GROWTH Krieg‘Philip Hammond has warned Britons to prepare for tax rises by declaring that he will not shirk difficult decisions in today’s budget. The chancellor will say that he needs to protect the economy by dealing with the deficit, meaning that he will spend additional money only on projects that help future generations. This suggests that spending cuts will not be eased and that pledges made today will be funded with tax rises or spending cuts. Mr Hammond will also present a sharp increase in economic growth, coupled with an improvement in the public finance figures. The Office for Budget Responsibility could all but erase the short-term downgrade to the borrowing figures delivered in last November’s autumn statement after the Brexit result. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development expects Britain to grow by 1.6 per cent this year, above its estimate of 1.2 per cent last November.’ – The Times (£)

  • The key points to watch – Daily Telegraph
  • Expect action on social care and business rates – Daily Telegraph
  • He will help pubs – The Sun
  • The Chancellor intends to bolster his Brexit defences – FT
  • How he could pay for any giveaways – FT
  • Labour launches petition addressed to Chancellor Osborne – Daily Telegraph


>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our survey. Over half Tory member respondents back Hammond’s deficit reduction timetable. Almost one in three want it speeded up.

Budget Day 2) ‘Stealth taxes’ could hit strivers

‘Hikes in stealth taxes will be used to pay for helping smaller firms hit by new business rates as well as more than £1billion to bail out Britain’s social care system. Families will be hit by “hidden” taxes such as the insurance premium tax and higher green levies on energy bills. And there are fears that Mr Hammond could also target white van men by hiking National Insurance contributions on self-employed workers by 3p in the pound. The proposal – revealed by The Sun last week – is among a number of measures being considered as part of a wider review of how to plug a £4.5billion black hole caused by Britain’s growing army of self-employed workers. Raising National Insurance on the self-employed from nine to 12 per cent would raise more than £1billion a year – enough to pay for the spending boost for social care.’ – The Sun


>Today: Sally-Ann Hart on Local Government: Business Rates punish shopkeepers who improve their premises

Budget Day 3) Surrey County Council leader told colleagues of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on tax

JAVID Sajid Marr‘The Conservative leader of Surrey Council council told colleagues he had secured a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Government over funding for social care, a secret recording appears to show. David Hodge told other council members that he had a conversation with communities secretary Sajid Javid in a car outside Downing Street. According to a tape obtained by the BBC, Mr Hodge told colleagues at a meeting on 7 February that Mr Javid then spoke to the Chancellor about Surrey’s call for extra money in a bid to prevent the council from holding a referendum to hike local tax rates. The communities secretary then reported back from the meeting with Philip Hammond “some things which they could say, and some things which they couldn’t say”.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • The Opposition demands full disclosure – The Sun

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: The lack of a serious Opposition has dulled the Government’s edge

Brexit 1) Heseltine sacked for rebelling

‘Lord Heseltine was sacked from his role as a Government adviser on Tuesday evening after rebelling over Brexit. The Government suffered a second Parliamentary defeat on Brexit in the space of a week earlier on Tuesday. The former Conservative deputy prime minister had backed demands for a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal and led the fight for the amendment. He stated that quitting the European Union was the “most momentous peacetime decision of our time”.’ – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Thatcher didn’t dare sack Heseltine. But now May has done so.

>Yesterday: WATCH: Heseltine’s response to his sacking

Brexit 2) Lords defeat the Government over giving Parliament a ‘meaningful’ vote on the deal

LORDS logo‘Theresa May was handed another blow to her plan to trigger Article 50 tonight after peers inflicted a second defeat on the Government’s Brexit bill. The House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment requiring Parliament to be given a “meaningful vote” on the Prime Minister’s final EU agreement. The Government suffered a heavy loss on the Labour-led proposal, which was tabled with Lib Dem and crossbench support, with the opposition winning by a majority of 98. A total of 366 peers voted in favour of the change to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) bill – including 13 Tories – with 268 against in the largest Lords vote since 1831…In response Mr Davis said in a statement: “It is disappointing that the House of Lords has chosen to make further changes to a bill that the Commons passed without amendment.’ – The Sun

  • We’ve already had a ‘meaningful vote’ – it was called the referendum – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • This is not the peers versus the people – The Guardian Leader
  • Farron’s demand for a second referendum is rejected – The Sun
  • The Lib Dems should learn to respect democracy – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • Lord Forsyth came out swinging – The Times (£)
  • If the Commons rejects the amendment, the Lords shouldn’t insist – The Times Leader (£)
  • Former trade minister attacks ’embarrassing’ plans for Commonwealth trade – The Times (£)


Ministers call for a snap election

‘Two senior ministers told The Times that Mrs May should seize the opportunity to crush Labour and strengthen her hand in exit negotiations. “She needs to go sooner rather than later,” one said. “We may never get this sort of chance again and we don’t know what’s coming round the corner.” Another cabinet source said that the former Tory leader Lord Hague of Richmond had “performed a service” by giving a public voice to the private clamour for an early election. It has been growing since the Tories won the Copeland by-election last month. “The bottom line is that Labour are in a bad way now and we should look at going to the country,” the source said.’ – The Times (£)

Parents could be allowed to set up their own selective schools

School‘Parents could get the right to set up their own ‘selective schools’ in future as Theresa May prepares to unveil an overhaul of the education system. The Prime Minister confirmed today that her upcoming Schools White Paper will contain plans to reverse the ban on grammar schools, and will allow parents to set up new “selective” institutions of their own…she confirmed that she would open 140 more free schools – some of which could be selective. Philip Hammond will announce extra funding for 70,000 school places in the Budget. The government will also pick up the tab for longer journeys to existing grammars for kids whose parents can’t afford expensive homes nearby. She is set to reveal her shake up to schools within weeks – which will include the criteria for schools to convert into grammars or selective schools.’ – The Sun

>Today: Andy Cook: Why our culture must change if today’s Budget changes for technical education are to work

>Yesterday: Syed Kamall: Grammars? Academies? Call them what you like, modern selective schools are a winning formula

Dubs rebellion defeated

‘Attempts to reopen the child refugee scheme failed last night after the Government saw off a Tory rebellion. Thirty Conservative MPs had been expected to back plans to force councils in England to declare how many unaccompanied minors they could take. But in the end, just three – including former education secretary Nicky Morgan and Twickenham MP Tania Mathias – backed the rebel amendment put forward by Tory backbencher Heidi Allen. Theresa May personally intervened to plead with Tory MPs not to vote in favour of the amendment. The Government faced criticism after closing the programme, which was named after Labour peer Lord Dubs, after just 350 unaccompanied minors were resettled in the UK. Ministers had argued that councils could not afford to take the thousands of child refugees campaigners had called for.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Interview: David Burrowes, occasional rebel, constant Christian – and a backbench force to be reckoned with

>Yesterday: Heidi Allen and David Burrowes: The Dubs scheme must not end prematurely

Secrets of CIA cyberweapons leaked

Spying‘British spies joined forces with the United States to develop cyberweapons for hacking mobile phones, smart TVs and personal computers, WikiLeaks claimed yesterday as it posted nearly 9,000 classified CIA files online. The document dump — the worst security breach for western intelligence since the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013 — reveals how the CIA has built up a 5,000-strong cyberforce over the past four years. Some 8,761 documents, said to represent a portion of a bigger archive to be released in stages by WikiLeaks, also show close British involvement with CIA programmes and include references to GCHQ and MI5…A former British official with links to the intelligence services said that the leaked documents appeared authentic and amounted to a “how-to manual for the aspiring cyberterrorist” and a trove of material that would be “a boost to all hackers”.’ – The Times (£)

Muslim Brotherhood creating ‘parallel social structure’ in Sweden

The Muslim Brotherhood is creating a ‘parallel social structure’ in Sweden with the help of ‘political elites’ who foster a culture of silence, a damning government report has found. The document claims that the Brotherhood is building a ‘parallel society’ within the Scandinavian country, which can help the Islamist group to achieve its ends. Founded in 1826, the Muslim Brotherhood aims to organise Muslims politically in order to create a global, Sunni Islamic Caliphate… The research focused on Muslim Brotherhood members both in Egypt and in Europe. Publication of the damning document about the group has sparked a row in Sweden, with critics labelling the report ‘conspiratorial’ and claiming it misrepresents Islam.’ – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Why are there fewer female quizzers? – The Times (£)
  • Le Carre is bringing Smiley out of retirement – Daily Mail
  • Labour peer’s family has taken in a Syrian refugee – Daily Telegraph
  • BBC cowards betrayed Jenni Murray – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail
  • MoD’s last minute attempt to invite bereaved families to memorial opening – The Times (£)
  • Japan and Germany could hold the answer to our social care problems – FT
  • Man charged with threats to Gina Miller – Daily Mail