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Hancock proposes stricter age rules to protect young from social media addiction

“Teenagers face being cut off from social media sites after a few hours’ browsing under proposals being drawn up to tame the “wild west” of the internet. Ministers are looking at imposing a limit on time spent by children on social media platforms amid concern that overuse damages mental health. Matt Hancock, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, told The Times that he wanted varying time cut-offs for different ages on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.” – The Times

  • “Social media is broken — I want to fix it before my children go online” – Interview with Matt Hancock, The Times
  • Tough on Tech – Leader, The Times

Westminster to have “temporary” power over some devolved matters after Brexit

“The UK government has named 24 devolved areas where it wants to temporarily retain power following Brexit. Ministers in the Scottish and Welsh governments want subjects such as food labelling and animal welfare to come under their control. However, UK ministers are bidding to oversee those areas, and others on the list, when the UK leaves the EU. The Scottish government has accused the UK government of a power grab and has introduced its own Brexit legislation. Ministers at Westminster insist that “the vast majority of powers returning from Brussels will start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast”. Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who is conducting talks with the devolved governments, said: “There is a much smaller group of powers where the devolved governments will be required to follow current EU laws for a little bit longer while we work out a new UK approach.” – BBC

>Today: Suella Fernandes on Comment: Brexit. I am more excited than ever about what the future holds.

>Yesterday: Columnist Iain Dale: Davis’s message to the EU should be: we’re not Greece – and won’t be treated like Greece

May to announce sanctions on Russia

“Theresa May is expected to announce sanctions against Russia as soon as Monday as pressure mounted on her to take “meaningful” action against Vladimir Putin over the Salisbury poisoning case. The Prime Minister is expecting to receive confirmation from the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down laboratory over the weekend that Russia was, beyond reasonable doubt, the source of the nerve agent used in the attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee on Saturday, the first time it will have met on a Saturday since last year’s Manchester suicide bombing.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK may seek World Cup boycott – The Times
  • Putin is a gangster worth £20 billion who thinks he has a licence to commit atrocities, it’s time to take him on – Max Hastings, Daily Telegraph
  • Pull the plug on RT – The Sun Says
  • Cyber war threatened – Daily Express
  • The vengeance of Putin – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express

Patel rejects “insulting” BME label

“Former cabinet minister Priti Patel says she has warned Conservative colleagues not to “label me as BME”. She told BBC Radio Kent she found the commonly used abbreviation for Black and Minority Ethnic “patronising” and “insulting”. The former international development secretary and leading Brexiteer did not rule out a bid for the Conservative leadership at some point. She quit the cabinet last November after a row over unauthorised meetings.” – BBC

Fox seeks UK exemption from US steel tariffs

“The UK will seek an exemption from President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to the US, according to Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Mr Fox says he will travel to Washington next week when he will discuss the new duties. He said: “We will, of course, be looking to see how we can maximise the UK’s case for exemption under these particular circumstances.” Steel imports will carry a 25% tariff while aluminium will have a 10% duty.” – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary:Trump’s economic nationalism could be his undoing

Hinds pledges a period of calm for teachers

“There will be no new tests or exams, changes to the national curriculum or further reforms to GCSEs and A levels for at least four years, the new education secretary will promise today. Damian Hinds’s first speech in the post will reassure teachers that the years of turbulence, and steady flow of new initiatives from the Department for Education, are over for the time being. It is part of a broader attempt to make teachers’ jobs more manageable, cut workloads and reverse the staff shortages afflicting thousands of schools.” – The Times

Hammond plans tax on single use plastic cups…

“Plans to tax disposable plastics – including coffee cups – are being drawn up by the Chancellor, the Mail reveals today. In his spring statement next week, Philip Hammond will publish a detailed consultation document outlining possible charges on ‘single-use’ items. The aim is to stem the tide of plastic junk poisoning the seas and littering our streets and countryside. Among disposable items that could attract a levy are plastic plates, stirrers, cutlery and takeaway boxes, as well as packaging such as polystyrene and bubble wrap.” – Daily Mail

…as small firms warn against change in VAT rules

“Britain’s army of small firms and White Van Men could be hit under a plan by the Chancellor to change VAT rules. Philip Hammond is considering reducing the sales threshold at which the tax is paid from its current figure of £85,000 a year to as low as £25,000. Firms and tradesmen with sales below £85,000 a year are spared the tax — escaping a mountain of paperwork and higher prices for their products. But Mr Hammond fears too many firms “bunch” just below that figure, shunning further growth to avoid the hassle of having to register for VAT.” – The Sun

Javid wants to ensure migrants learn to speak English

“A cabinet row has exploded over a Treasury bid to water down radical plans to force swathes of Britain’s isolated migrant communities to learn and improve their English, The Sun can reveal. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wants to target poor English language skills in four sectors with high numbers of ethnic minority workers. But sources said Chancellor Philip Hammond tried to prevent him from fully financing extra English classes. The row has delayed the Government’s long-awaited Integration Strategy…Dame Louise Casey’s hard-hitting report named English language problems as one of the biggest causes of alienation and extremism in Britain.” – The Sun

Downing Street calls for investigation into Bercow bullying claims

“Downing Street has said reports that Commons staff were bullied by MPs are “concerning” and any complaints should be “thoroughly investigated”. “Everybody should be free to work in an environment that is safe and respectful,” the PM’s spokesman said. BBC Newsnight has been investigating complaints that MPs bullied, harassed and intimidated House of Commons staff. Speaker John Bercow denied allegations about his behaviour “either eight years ago, or at any other time”.” – BBC

  • Corbyn also backs investigation – The Guardian
  • Bercow claims to be the saviour of Parliament. In truth he is everything wrong with it – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Harassment continues – Kate Maltby, The Guardian
  • Speaker’s position “untenable” says Duddridge – Daily Telegraph

Gove spoke at DUP dinner

“Prominent Conservative MPs including Michael Gove and Priti Patel have attended DUP dinners or fundraisers in recent months, The Times can reveal. Tory MPs expressed surprise at the visits by colleagues because the DUP competes for votes with the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, despite the “confidence and supply” arrangement that keeps Theresa May in office. The Tories have their own active operation in Northern Ireland, with candidates standing in general elections and a sitting councillor. They produced a separate Northern Ireland manifesto in last year’s election.” – The Times

  • Foster furious at claims Brexit will threaten peace process – Daily Express

Singham to leave Legatum for the IEA

“The Legatum Institute has parted ways with a high-profile advocate of a “hard” Brexit, whose access to cabinet ministers such as Boris Johnson and Liam Fox led to a wave of negative publicity for the think-tank. Shanker Singham, a former US trade adviser, has become a key adviser to members of Theresa May’s government and met representatives of David Davis’s Brexit department six times in the year to August 2017..Mr Singham and three members of his team will this month move from Legatum to the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right wing think-tank in Westminster.” – Financial Times

Halfon attacks councils pushing up parking charges

“Motorists face steep hikes in parking charges to plug holes in council budgets. Car park spaces and residents’ permits will cost up to 45 per cent more. Some town halls are bringing in fees on Sundays to catch shoppers and churchgoers. Householders are already facing an above-inflation rise in council tax next month, with bills expected to go up by as much as £100 for the average property. A number of local authorities are in extreme financial difficulties with much of the pressure coming from the rising cost of social care. Campaigners said car owners were seen as ‘easy targets’ to help balance the books. ‘The war on motorists has got to stop,’ said Tory MP Robert Halfon.” – Daily Mail

Sale of jets to Saudis agreed

“BAE Systems has agreed a provisional sale of 48 Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia – a deal which would secure thousands of jobs at the defence giant and its suppliers well into the next decade. Company chiefs, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and officials from the Gulf state have revealed a memorandum of intent as part of an inter-government deal for the £10bn-plus arrangement to supply the multi-role aircraft at the end of a controversial trade mission by Saudi Arabia to the UK. The agreement – the final terms of which will now be negotiated – is a long-awaited follow-on order for Typhoons after BAE sold 72 of the jets to the Saudi air force in 2007.” – Daily Telegraph

Foges: Keep the cap on faith school admissions

“What makes the Catholic lobby particularly powerful is that the government is relying on it to open more free schools. But if May’s administration also cares about the “one nation” agenda it bangs on about, it must keep the 50 per cent cap and put the Catholic church in its place, perhaps politely reminding it of Jesus’s words in Luke 18:16, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not”. Unless the Lord whispered the caveat “apart from little children of different faiths”, it is difficult to square this benevolence with the church’s stance. It matters deeply that we resist more segregation in schools. Parts of this country are woefully divided.” – Clare Foges, The Times

Elliot: The Labour Left is at war

“Formerly high-profile Labour MPs who have been beached by the Jeremy Corbyn wave generally mooch about the House of Commons with little to do and a face like a wet Wednesday afternoon. It was surprising, then, to see one old lag of the right beaming last week. “The revolution is eating its children,” he declared gleefully. For the first time since Corbyn became leader in 2015 there is open conflict between the twin pillars of the left on which his victory was secured, defended and entrenched.” – Francis Elliott, The Times

  • Communist toffs join the Labour party – Guy Adams, Daily Mail
  • Corbyn comrade David Hopper bought secret portfolio of properties in Cuba – The Times
  • Labour wants a tax on self-service checkouts – The Sun
  • Splits and gaffes at Scottish Labour Conference – The Herald

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Yet again, the best Labour can say in Corbyn’s defence is that he is Britain’s least observant person

Forsyth: Williamson is on manoeuvres

“Tory eyebrows are once again being raised at the energy with which Gavin Williamson is working the party. Amid the snow last Friday, he could be found addressing the dinner of the Conservative Local Government conference. I am told that Williamson went down very well and that he assiduously worked the room afterwards; no hand went unshaken. The councillors there will, obviously, play a crucial role in the next Tory leadership contest.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

Moore: Men can also be victims in the sex war

“Fairness drops out too. The “gender pay gap” is treated as an indisputable fact, yet the assumption on which its computations are based – find out the average pay difference and you can measure the injustice – is highly contestable. In the debates about the economic wrongs done to women, the situation of men is less heard. Among couples,the man is still, in the majority of cases, the breadwinner. Women may suffer from the social expectation that they should be paid less. Men may suffer from the expectation that they should work more.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Oborne: What May should learn from Trump

“I’m not suggesting in any way that Mrs May copies Trump, but there are lessons from his leadership style. Generally, the consensus has been that the Prime Minister’s calm and self-effacing approach has been the right one for a Government with a wafer-thin majority to handle historic negotiations. Nevertheless, it’s time to ask whether in her dealings over the EU, Mrs May ought to take a leaf or two out of The Trump Book Of International Diplomacy. To date, she’s behaved in the opposite way to Trump.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: North Korea. Trump goes where the sainted Obama could never have gone.

News in brief

  • Remain bosses targeting EU Withdrawal Bill with FT letter – Brexit Central
  • Trump is right to meet Kim, but an effective deal looks unlikely – Dominic Green, CapX
  • Will Philip Hammond drop the Eeyore act in his Spring Statement? – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • If Obama, not Trump, met Kim, Obama would be hailed as Gandhi Mark II – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • A ‘below the radar’ agreement could deliver a victory for Labour and save the Lib Dems from extinction – Andrew Grice, Independent

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