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Budget 1) Sunak hands NHS a blank cheque and increases sick pay for millions

“Rishi Sunak today unveiled a massive £30billion bonanza to stop coronavirus plunging Britain into Italy-style chaos – as he effectively reversed a decade of austerity. Delivering his crucial first Budget, the Chancellor admitted that people were ‘worried’ and the killer disease will inevitably have a major impact on the economy. But he insisted the government will do ‘everything it can’ to keep the country ‘healthy and financially secure’, saying Britain will ‘get through this’. The NHS and other public services will get a £5billion emergency response fund, with Mr Sunak vowing he ‘will go further if necessary’. In a huge £2billion bailout, ministers are footing the sick pay bill for up to two million small and medium sized businesses, covering the 14 days of a quarantine period.” – Daily Mail

  • High earners benefit from £2bn deal to fix NHS pensions crisis – The Times
  • Chancellor increases charges on immigrants using NHS to £624 to raise £1.5billion – The Sun
  • ‘Decision must be made’ on social care crisis as it is ignored by Budget – Daily Telegraph

>Today: John Glen MP in Comment: Budget 2) The challenges we face of the virus and of weak productivity can’t be met by the repetition of small state mantras

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The Chancellor’s three-point Budget plan to help tackle the Coronavirus

Budget 2) He unleashes ‘biggest spending spree’ since Lamont in 1992

“Rishi Sunak’s spending spree is the biggest loosening of the purse strings since Norman Lamont’s pre-election giveaway Budget of 1992, the Office for Budget Responsibility said. The new Chancellor will entirely unwind the spending restraint of the coalition era by ramping up spending over the next five years. Almost 500,000 extra workers will join the Government payroll under his plans with spending due to rise to more than £1 trillion pounds in 2022-23 for the first time ever. But instead of cutting taxes in the traditional Conservative manner, Mr Sunak is hiking spending, borrowing and – to a lesser extent – taxes with promises to ramp up investment in infrastructure and the health system.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK fiscal watchdog fires warning shot at Chancellor – FT
  • Government to impose digital sales tax despite risk of souring US trade talks – The Guardian
  • Red Wall voters reveal how much better off they are – The Sun
  • Sunak’s rise to Tory spending hero – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Budget 1) This was less a Conservative Budget than “the People’s Budget”. From a Vote Leave Government – not the usual Tory one.

Budget 3) ‘Green boost’ as £800m pledged for carbon capture projects

“The government is to spend at least £800m on carbon capture and storage projects, handing a big boost to the UK’s industrial and energy sector by granting one of its key lobbying demands. The new fund for carbon capture is part of several green initiatives in Wednesday’s Budget, which raises taxes on natural gas and on red diesel, and pledges to plant more trees. The Budget is the first to be delivered after the UK adopted a new climate target last year to reach net zero emissions by 2050… Caroline Lucas, a Green party MP, said the budget was “hugely disappointing” and spent “20 times as much on new roads as green transport”.” – FT

  • Businesses will face higher taxes on the gas they use – The Sun
  • Chancellor ‘fails to lead the way’ on climate change – The Times
  • Stonehenge tunnel scheme wins green light – FT

Budget 4) Tens of thousands of Civil Service jobs to be relocated

“The UK government will move 22,000 civil servants out of London over the next decade, Rishi Sunak has announced, including hundreds to a new base in the north of England. The chancellor said in the Budget that he intended to “change the whole mindset of government” by ensuring “economic decision-making reflects the economic geography of the country”. As well as rewriting spending rules, the so-called “green book”, to favour projects outside of South East England, he said the Treasury would spread new job openings around the country… Boris Johnson’s government ultimately aims to move 22,000 civil servants from central London to offices across the country.” – FT

>Yesterday:

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Sunak and Carney have shamed Europe and the world into emergency coronavirus action

“Britain’s institutions have delivered a combined monetary and fiscal stimulus of breathtaking panache, each reinforcing the other for maximum effect in a textbook display of timely coordination. The preemptive “shock and awe” package cannot prevent recession as Covid-19 shuts down swathes of economic activity, but it can prevent “sound” firms from spiraling into trouble as output hits a sudden stop and liquidity evaporates. It reduces the risk of a credit crunch that can in turn set off a negative feed-back loop through the lending system. The benefits should feed through later this year and ensure that the U-shaped recovery does not not stretch into an L-shaped slump.” – Daily Telegraph

  • A spending spree to get the job done – Martin Wolf, FT
  • Only extreme measures can defeat this coronavirus recession – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • Budget which invests public cash where it counts – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

More:

  • Sunak’s bulldozer budget for Johnson’s ‘red wall’ – Matthew Goodwin, Daily Mail
  • Tories have turned their backs on Thatcherism – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • A teetotal toast to preserve the union on UK budget day – Miranda Green, FT
  • Sunak’s big-spending budget may redraw the terms of British politics – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Cigarettes aside, his first Budget as Chancellor ticked all the right boxes – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • This wasn’t just a vast splurge, it was a historic shift for Toryism – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Let’s hope Sunak is the miracle worker he purports to be – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Chancellor makes a big bet on Britain – The Sun
  • A bold experiment – The Times

>Yesterday:

Covid-19: Johnson to sign off new ‘social distancing’ rules…

“Advice on how people should keep their distance from one another is to be issued by the government as the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. Boris Johnson will announce today that Britain is moving into the “delay” phase of fighting the virus as he chairs a Cobra emergency meeting to sign off “social-distancing” measures telling people how to stay away from others. Advice to stay at home if you have a cough and fever even if you have not travelled, ways of “cocooning” elderly people, and suggestions about standing farther apart will all be considered. Ministers are pledging “whatever it takes” to fight the virus.” – The Times

  • He will decide on rule on ‘shutting schools and banning football matches’ – Daily Mail
  • Total number of cases jumps to 460 – The Sun
  • Funding aimed at postponing the peak of the crisis until June – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS 111 will give people who are self-isolating a virtual sick note – Daily Mail
  • Public gatherings and offices face closure – Daily Express
  • Latest advice – HM Government

More:

  • Coronavirus: Small companies get a year’s rates holiday – The Times
  • UK’s antivirus measures disguise radicalisation of Brexit – FT

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The crucial decisions on the virus are not scientific. They are political.

…as unnamed Cabinet minister self-isolates, more MPs stay at home…

“A Cabinet minister was in self-isolation awaiting the results of a coronavirus test on Wednesday evening, as a total of six MPs quarantined themselves, The Daily Telegraph can reveal. The minister, who this newspaper has agreed not to name, chose to withdraw from their regular duties after coming into contact with Nadine Dorries, a health minister who tested positive on Tuesday evening. The Cabinet minister was tested for the virus on Wednesday and will receive the results of the test on Thursday morning, sources said. It came as Edward Argar, a second health minister, also stayed at home after dining with Ms Dorries over lunch in Parliament on Thursday last week. He was later seen coughing at the despatch box in the House of Commons on Tuesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Top minister tested as Hancock ‘vows parliament will stay open’ – The Times

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: The virus shows the decline of Western democratic culture. Rebuilding it will take hard work.

…and Trump bans travel from mainland Europe

“Donald Trump last night slapped a month-long American travel ban on “most foreign nationals” who have been to mainland Europe in the last fourteen days. Unveiling a “strong but necessary” package to stop the spread of coronavirus, the president said the “foreign virus” had been “seeded” in the US because the European Union had failed to ban flights from China. The ban, which excludes the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, applies from midnight on Friday for thirty days. It does not apply to US citizens, their immediate family members or permanent residents of the US. President Trump made the shock announcement in a live address from the Oval Office, only his second as president.” – The Times

  • Sunak plays down prospect of Britain copying Trump’s flight restriction – Daily Mail

More:

  • Brexit talks facing axe over fears they could help spread coronavirus – The Sun

Comment:

  • Johnson’s covert Brexit plan is self-isolation – Philip Stephens, FT

Housing Secretary ‘to launch planning revolution’

“Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will today launch a planning revolution to build homes quicker. Complicated red tape is holding builders back and failing to deliver the 300,000 new houses a year that the nation needs. The Cabinet minister will today “bring the planning system into the 21st century”, the Treasury said. Councils will be told to turbo-charge planning approvals. If they fail, the Government will step in. It is also thought that homeowners in detached houses will automatically be able to build upwards by two storeys without specific permission… The moves have been long planned, but were kept out of the Tory election manifesto amid fears they would upset well-off voters in traditional Tory seats.” – The Sun

  • Budget: Affordable homes scheme receives extra £9.5bn – FT

Tories angry at No 10 plan to give Grayling intelligence role

“Conservative MPs have angrily criticised Downing Street’s plan to appoint Chris Grayling as chairman of the powerful intelligence and security committee. The former transport secretary is expected to be nominated alongside Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland secretary, and John Hayes, a former security minister, for three vacant Conservative seats on the cross-party body of nine members. While it is technically for the committee to decide its own chairman, a source signalled that the other Conservative politicians offered seats have been instructed to vote for Mr Grayling. One Tory MP poured scorn on the move, saying last night that Mr Grayling had been “a calamity in everything he’s done”.” – The Times

Comment:

  • Johnson is trampling on the power of MPs – Margaret Hodge, The Times
  • Grayling poisons everything he touches, yet still he rises – Nell Frizzell, The Guardian

Shapps mulls ban on pavement parking

“Parking on pavements could be banned across England under plans to crackdown on nuisance drivers by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary. He is considering extending the current ban in London to the rest of England to end a blight which he said can cause “very real difficulties for many pedestrians.” Mr Shapps is also launching a consultation on a new offence of “obstructive pavement parking” which would enable councils and police to issue errant motorists with fines. This could be a short term solution before the introduction of a nationwide ban.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Dozens of smart motorways will give £27bn boost to busiest roads – The Times

Stormont braced for report into green energy scandal

“Northern Ireland’s recently restored executive is braced for severe criticism in an inquiry report into the spending scandal that toppled the region’s power-sharing government in 2017, ushering in three years of deadlock that ended only in January. Arlene Foster, first minister of the devolved administration, is the most prominent figure facing questions on Friday in a report that comes after a long investigation into a botched green energy scheme that left taxpayers with a potential £490m bill. Although the leader of the pro-UK Democratic Unionist party is likely to face severe criticism for her role in the “cash for ash” scandal, observers in Belfast said the report by Patrick Coughlin, a former appeal court judge, would not break the new consensus between Mrs Foster’s DUP and Sinn Féin at Stormont.” – FT

Salmond trial: politician claims to have been ‘felt up’ by ex-SNP leader

“An SNP politician has described to a jury “the surreally awful” experience of allegedly having her leg gripped by Alex Salmond in the back of his ministerial limousine while her husband was sitting in the front. The politician said that she had been “absolutely gobsmacked” when Mr Salmond put his hand on her leg “just above the knee” and left it there, on a journey between a Pizza Express near the Scottish parliament and Edinburgh’s Waverley station. “This was the first minister, someone I looked up to,” she told the High Court in Edinburgh. “I was embarrassed. I hoped it would go away and he would stop.” The politician, known as Woman C to protect her identity, was giving evidence on the third day of Mr Salmond’s trial for 14 alleged assaults against ten women.” – The Times

  • Two more witnesses tell of ‘disgust’ at alleged assaults – The Guardian
  • Complainant denies urging others to pursue accusations – FT

More:

  • SNP scolded for interrupting own MP with rowdy behaviour – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Wanted: a shared vision of Britain to sell to go-it-alone Scots – Sebastian Payne, FT

Americans and Briton killed in Iraq attack

“Two American troops and one from Britain were killed, and about a dozen people were wounded when 15 small rockets hit Iraq’s Taji military camp north of Baghdad on Wednesday, said U.S. officials. The number of U.S. troops injured has not been confirmed. The officials said it was too early to assign blame, but any indication that Iran-backed militia were responsible could ignite a new round of military escalation between the United States and Iran. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to quantify the number of troops and military contractors among the dead and wounded and noted that the information was just coming in and could change. Initial battlefield reports often contain inaccuracies.” – Daily Mail

  • Killing of US troops threatens to reignite tension with Iran – FT

Former BBC leaders ‘are urging changes to its licence fee funding model’

“Mr Dyke is not the only one who increasingly sees the licence as “an anachronism”. The BBC’s old guard are beginning to call time on the corporation’s oldest source of income, which evolved from a 10 shilling levy on wireless radios into a compulsory charge on devices of £154.50 today. The former leaders of the BBC who are now open to a new, more flexible funding system include Mark Thompson, New York Times chief executive and director-general from 2004-2012; Gavyn Davies, the former Goldman Sachs economist who in 1999 led an independent review of BBC funding before being appointed chair; and Rona Fairhead, chairwoman of the BBC Trust from 2014-2017 and former chief executive of the FT group.” – FT

>Yesterday: Rob Roberts MP in Comment: The BBC cannot be both a public service broadcaster and a commercial-style ratings chaser. It must choose.

News in Brief:

  • Coronavirus is the wolf on the loose – Matt Ridley, Rational Optimist
  • Poll reveals tensions in the new Tory coalition – Tim Bale, UnHerd
  • Sunak’s déjà vu Budget – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Oil wars are the real threat to the world economy – John R Bradley, The Spectator
  • The internet court of no appeal – David Scullion, The Critic

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