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The Government to unveil its Levelling Up White Paper

“The average adult will be able to enjoy five more years of healthy life under government plans to ‘level up’ Britain, Michael Gove said last night. Mr Gove will today unveil the long-awaited levelling up white paper, which aims to make a reality of the Prime Minister’s election-winning promise to improve life in left-behind areas of the North and Midlands. Boris Johnson yesterday pledged that the plan amounted to an eight-year ‘moral mission’ to spread opportunity across the country by 2030. The 400-page strategy covers almost every aspect of life from literacy levels and life expectancy to jobs, bus services and street cleaning, with detailed pledges and targets in each area.” – Daily Mail

  • Levelling-up blueprint devolves Whitehall powers to regions – FT

Rachel Wolf: Delivering levelling up is the only way to win the next election

“The Downing Street parties have unquestionably damaged this Conservative government’s reputation for competence and fairness. For the public, they do not follow the rules they require of others. The levelling up white paper is now the last chance to, at least, gain some reputation for delivery. Remarkable though Michael Gove and his team are, this is a tall order, particularly when money is tight (and to be fair will be needed in part to address the cost-of-living crisis) and the Treasury is firmly in the ascendency. I don’t mean the paper itself matters — Westminster will notice, no one else will — but the actions that flow from it really do. Making a success of this agenda will be central to any chance the Conservatives have of winning the next election in (presumably) 2024.” – The Times

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Sanctions will follow ‘one toecap’ in Ukraine, Johnson warns Russia

“Boris Johnson has warned Russia that it would face sanctions the moment the “first Russian toecap” stepped further into Ukrainian territory. Speaking on a visit to Kyiv where he held talks with President Zelensky of Ukraine, Johnson accused President Putin of trying to “redraw the security map of Europe”, adding that the continent was in a “critical” moment. In his first comments on the standoff with the West over Ukraine in more than a month, Putin said that the US was trying to goad Russia into war as an excuse to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow. The Russian president, who will speak to Johnson by phone tomorrow, claimed that Washington’s ultimate goal was to hinder his country’s development and that it was using Ukraine as an “instrument”.” – The Times

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Two more Tory MPs urge PM to resign over partygate…

“A senior Tory has urged Boris Johnson to find the “courage” to quit while another submitted a formal letter of no confidence in a sign that the prime minister has failed to stem anger over Downing Street parties in lockdown. Sir Charles Walker, a former acting joint chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said there was “a lot of grief and pain and anxiety” among the public about allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street, while Peter Aldous, the MP for Waveney, said he wanted a confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership. Asked on Channel 4 News whether Johnson should resign, Walker replied: “I think people are angry. I think there’s a lot of grief and pain and anxiety out in the country, which was natural after 20 months’ lockdown.” – The Times

  • Lynton Crosby denied that he has been brought back into No 10 to help the prime minister reset his faltering leadership – The Times
  • Top civil servant rejects new No 10 job and Downing Street is ‘facing challenges to fill the position’ – Daily Telegraph
  • PM promises to reveal any party fine from police – The Times
  • Johnson was in his Downing Street flat the night of party being investigated by police – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Prosecco-fuelled’ Downing Street party takes Johnson’s tally to six – The Times

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  • Sue Gray report: What happens next? – The Times

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  • I’ll reveal if I get Covid fine says Johnson but PM refuses to say if he’d resign if it’s found he broke rules – The Sun

…. as he prepares billions in loans to help families with soaring energy bills…

“Boris Johnson is set to announce billions of pounds in state-backed loans to ease the cost of spiralling energy bills on families. The Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, have agreed to a scheme in which taxpayers will underwrite loans to energy companies, sources told The Times. The firms will give this money back to families as a rebate. Energy companies would then see the money returned by consumers in later years as energy prices decline. The scheme is designed to limit the impact of the predicted energy price rise in April – expected to see the average household paying an extra £620 per year. Government sources told The Times the proposals had been approved by ministers and would likely be announced in the next few days.” – Daily Telegraph

… and scraps Brexit bonfire of EU red tape in favour of net zero rules

“Boris Johnson appears to have scrapped Lord Frost’s plan to free the UK from EU red tape in favour of net zero regulations, The Telegraph can disclose. The Government watered down plans for a post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels regulations  – often cited as a major benefit of leaving the EU – and opened fresh divides between the embattled Prime Minister and his backbenchers. A plan devised by Lord Frost, the UK’s former Brexit negotiator, to cut two retained EU regulations for every rule written was dropped. It was said not to fit in with Mr Johnson’s ambitions to cut Britain’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, which some backbenchers claim will stifle innovation and increase the cost of living.” – Daily Telegraph

Electric cars might not be as green as you think because of polluting particles they produce, Environment Secretary warns

“Electric cars may not be as green as we have been led to believe, the Environment Secretary warned yesterday. George Eustice said this is due to the polluting particles produced by the heavier battery-powered vehicles. This means the gains from switching to electric cars from petrol and diesel ones ‘may be less than some people hope’ because of particles they create which do not come out of the exhaust. Wear from brake linings and tyres on the roads may be greater than with petrol and diesel vehicles because of the weight of the battery in electric cars, he suggested, which in turn generates more polluting fine particles. Electric cars are typically about 20 to 30 per cent heavier than their petrol or diesel counterparts.” – Daily Mail

Ministers write off £10 billion on lost, unusable or overpriced PPE

“About £10 billion of spending on PPE has been written off by the government, as auditors rebuke the health department for its management of taxpayers’ cash during the pandemic. Hundreds of millions were wasted on unusable equipment and supplies that have passed their expiry date, while taxpayers had to pay billions over the odds in the scramble for masks and gowns at the start of the pandemic. Officials are also unsure of the location of a further £3.6 billion in supplies, the National Audit Office (NAO) said, offering only qualified approval to the Department of Health and Social Care accounts. Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said that Covid buying had significantly increased the risk of fraud and that officials have not provided “adequate assurance that the level of fraud losses are not material”.” – The Times

  • Covid pandemic cut poor pupils’ chances of passing GCSEs – The Times

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Afghan resettlement places filled by those already in UK

“More than 6,500 Afghans already in the UK are being diverted to a refugee scheme launched last month to resettle those fleeing the Taliban. After the militants’ takeover in August last year, Britain promised to resettle 20,000 refugees, with a commitment to bring 5,000 of them in the first year as part of the Afghanistan citizens resettlement scheme. Britain flew out 15,000 Afghans in the Operation Pitting evacuation under a separate programme, the Afghan relocations and assistance policy, for those in danger of Taliban reprisals because of their association with Britain’s military campaign. Victoria Atkins, minister for Afghan resettlement, has revealed that 6,500 of them have been transferred to the new scheme. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a Foreign Office minister, suggested in the Lords last week that the number was “nearer 7,000”.” – The Times

Create single body to tackle plague of fraud, MPs say

“Scammers are acting with “impunity” because law enforcement does not take fraud seriously, a committee of MPs has said. The Treasury select committee is calling for a single beefed-up anti-fraud body to replace a “bewildering” variety of government agencies with responsibility for fraud. Although incidents of fraud are rising fast, the government has not made progress in dealing with a problem that cost individuals and the taxpayer billions of pounds a year, according to the cross-party group. A crackdown on online scams is needed to make websites remove fraudulent advertising and regulate the sale of cryptoassets, the committee recommends in a report published today.” – The Times

  • Banks and tech firms should be made to refund victims of fraud on their websites – Daily Mail

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Khan threatens to shut the Tube for days on end as black hole hits £1.5bn

“Sadiq Khan is threatening to shut the Tube for days on end and close bridges and tunnels across the capital as a black hole in London’s transport budget balloons to £1.5bn. Introducing a road tax, increasing council tax and extending a congestion charging zone will not be enough to balance the books at Transport for London (TfL), board papers published on Tuesday reveal. Meanwhile, a programme to avoid road deaths will need to be put on hold, officials from the transport authority warned. TfL’s finances have been ravaged by sharp fall in fare revenue during the pandemic. Critics of the London mayor claim that his 2016 pledge to freeze fares contributed to the authority’s plight.” – Daily Telegraph

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