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The Prime Minister tells the Cabinet he wants to provide “more lethal” miliary aid to Ukraine

“Boris Johnson told the cabinet yesterday he wants to provide Ukraine with “more lethal” military aid as he warned that Vladimir Putin would try to “twist the knife”. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of defence staff, gave a briefing to ministers in which he said that the conflict has evolved into “more traditional warfare” as Ukraine has moved from attempting to repel the Russian forces to holding ground and retaking territory. He said the UK was moving to a “new phase” in its support for Ukraine and the government was looking at what military equipment it can provide. “The Ukrainian army is not only holding big cities, it is forcing the Russians to retreat. Our support needs to change with that,” a cabinet source said.” – The Times

  • The West remains doubtful of Putin’s intentions – The Times
  • The US insists sanctions are working, as the push for more fails – The Irish Times
  • World watches on as peace talks continue in Turkey – The Guardian
  • Defence cooperation will help make us “good Europeans” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
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Wallace warns against trusting Putin’s withdrawal from Kiev

“Vladimir Putin “must think we were born yesterday” if he thinks Britain believes his troops are pulling out of Kyiv, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace declared last night. The despot’s henchmen suggested he would “fundamentally cut back” military movements around the Ukrainian capital to “build trust” in peace talks. But experts think the discussions in Turkey are just an attempt to save face after his war machine was forced into a humiliating retreat… But defence sources last night warned lying Putin’s offer to pull back from the north of Ukraine might be a ploy to buy time for his battered forces. Analysts said there were no early signs of movement — and Russian forces that had retreated appeared to be digging into new defensive positions.” – The Sun

  • The Defence Secretary announces the deployment of nine new “submarine hunter” aircraft during a visit to Norway – Daily Express
  • Labour calls for an increase in defence spending – The Guardian
  • Zelensky warns that Russia’s words must match her actions, as bombing continues despite talk of removing troops – The Daily Mail
  • Russia ‘has failed’ in its attempt to encircle Kyiv, according to UK officials – The I
  • Putin sees 7th colonel killed and ‘loses 17,000 troops’ – The Sun
  • Medal awarded to Snake Island hero – The Guardian
  • Ukraine must be allowed to decide its own future – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • An end to the conflict is unlikely whilst the battle in Donbas continues – Editorial, The Times

Johnson “may not know for a week” whether he is to be fined over lockdown breaches…

“The Partygate probe descended further into farce last night as it emerged Boris Johnson may not know for a week whether he is among the first to be fined. The Met yesterday announced it was issuing 20 fixed penalty notices over breaches of Covid rules at gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall. But in a bizarre move, officers made the number of fines public before informing those involved – who may not learn their fate for up to a week. Police also said that further fines could be issued in the coming weeks and months as they plough their way through a ‘significant amount of investigative material’…No10 was yesterday unable to say whether the PM has been fined, with the police not even revealing whether the events which met the ‘evidential threshold’ included those which he attended.” – The Daily Mail

  • Downing Street insists the Prime Minister did not mislead MPs – The Scotsman
  • Vetting advice for Lebedev’s peerage to be published – The Financial Times
  • Gale calls on plotters not to remove the Prime Minister during the crisis in Ukraine – The Daily Mail
  • Cabinet ministers heckled as they arrive at a luxury hotel for a team-building dinner – The Huffington Post
  • Has some of the sting gone from Partygate? – Alistair Grant, The Scotsman
  • The probe is spinning out of control – Guy Adams, The Daily Mail
  • Partygate remains a perilous mess for the Prime Minister – Editorial, The Times
  • The Met’s probe is a shocking farce – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • The secrecy surrounding the investigation is wrong – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph

…as Number 10 mulls another delay to imposing checks on EU imports

“Downing Street is exploring yet another delay to post-Brexit border checks on goods entering Britain from the EU to prevent what industry has warned would be a supply chain disaster. Ministers are considering whether to push back for the fourth time the introduction of full checks on imports from the EU, which were supposed to come into effect on July 1, as part of a drive to tackle trade friction and the crisis in the cost of living, officials briefed on discussions said. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, argued at a private meeting this week that one advantage of leaving the EU would be to allow Britain to apply only loose checks on imports. Goods arriving from the EU are not subject to safety and security declarations, while food and plant products are not physically checked.” – The Financial Times

The Home Secretary plans daily crisis meetings to fix the ‘stalling’ system for Ukrainian refugees

“Senior ministers are to hold daily crisis meetings to get Britain’s beleaguered schemes for Ukrainian refugees back on track. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, will chair the sessions with senior officials running the widely criticised Homes for Ukraine programme. More than 200,000 kind-hearted British families have volunteered to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war, but many have been left angered and frustrated by swathes of red tape. Although the number of completed applications is thought to have topped 30,000, just 2,000 visas have been handed out to Ukrainians by the Home Office, latest figures show.” – The Daily Mail

  • The Home Secretary also plans to unveil a register for domestic abusers – The Times

Ministers 1) Clarke announces the ‘Covid spending party is over’

“Public services will not get any more money before the next election, the chief secretary to the Treasury has insisted. Simon Clarke told his cabinet colleagues that pet projects and staff pay rises would have to be funded from cuts elsewhere, as he insisted that the government had reached the “high-water mark” of spending. Promising a renewed focus on Whitehall cost-cutting, Clarke said that the Covid “era of exceptionalism” is over and fiscal discipline must return. An increase in the size of the civil service is “impossible to justify long term” and numbers must return to pre-pandemic levels by the next election, he said.” – The Times

  • The Chief Secretary to the Treasury seeks to ‘reverse’ civil service expansion, with total staffing up a quarter since 2015 – The Daily Mail
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Ministers 2) Raab announces new powers to block the parole of particularly heinous criminals

“Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Dominic Raab will announce today. The landmark reform comes after public outcry over the decision to release Black Cab rapist John Worboys and double child murderer Colin Pitchfork. It means the deputy PM could veto the release of up to 600 rapists, murders, terrorists and child torturers every year. Mr Raab MP said: “As Justice Secretary I have the responsibility to keep the public safe but to do this I need to be able to exercise authority when it comes to releasing dangerous criminals. “I’m not satisfied our current approach is as robust as it needs to be, which is why I am making changes to restore public confidence in the system.” – The Sun

Ministers 3) Kwarteng faces Cabinet resistance over plans to double onshore wind power

“Ministers are preparing for a backlash if the Government agrees on proposals to double onshore wind power by 2030. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is pushing to relax planning laws that have led to an effective moratorium on wind farms since 2015. But some Cabinet ministers have warned that Mr Kwarteng risks putting the Government on a collision course with backbenchers over the ‘unpopular’ plan. As well as increasing turbines, the minister has also proposed tripling the number of solar panels – but sources last night said no decisions had been made… Tory former energy minister Sir John Hayes said last night: ‘It would be deeply unpopular – and the Government would risk just such unpopularity – if it imposes onshore wind turbines.’” – The Daily Mail

  • The Chancellor remains reluctant to increase spending – The I
  • The Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy criticises the SNP for failing to back Westminster’s approach to energy security – Daily Express

Ministers 4) Coffey to continue with pension charges reform

“The UK is to push ahead with plans to dilute a cap on workplace pension charges that protect millions of savers in spite of a backlash against the proposals from consumer groups and leading asset managers. The Department for Work and Pensions unveiled plans in November to remove performance fees from a 0.75 per cent ceiling on annual administration and investment charges that can be levied on the defined contribution (DC) workplace retirement funds that most employees are enrolled in automatically. The move followed a call by Boris Johnson, prime minister, and Rishi Sunak, chancellor, last August for British pension funds to plough more retirement savers’ cash into UK assets to spark an “investment big bang” to support the economic recovery.” – The Financial Times

  • Three cheers for the return of the Triple Lock – Editorial, Daily Express

Ministers 5) Shapps to announce closure to employment law loopholes exposed by P&O sackings

“Grant Shapps, transport secretary, will on Wednesday set out plans to plug loopholes in UK employment law exposed by P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 workers without any formal consultation. Shapps will set out his plans in a House of Commons statement, including new laws to require any company operating out of British ports to pay the UK minimum wage, whose standard rate will rise to £9.50 on April 1. Meanwhile, the government has said it will produce a new statutory code on the practice of “fire and rehire”, with ministers admitting that the P&O scandal exposed the need for more clarity on the rules for worker consultations.” – The Financial Times

Public satisfaction with the NHS falls to a 25-year low

“Satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level since 1997, just weeks before the British public’s willingness to pay more tax to fund the health service is set to be tested by a controversial rise in national insurance contributions. The findings from the respected British Social Attitudes survey, carried out in England, Scotland and Wales in October and September last year, found more people are dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied. The research will alarm ministers aware they must demonstrate measurable improvements in the treatment people receive if they are to justify the imposition of the new health and social care levy at a time of rising inflation.” – The Financial Times

  • Javid axes free parking for NHS staff – The Daily Mail
  • Billions of taxpayers’ money still at risk from dodgy PPE contracts – The Financial Times
  • Goldsmith: Stop wearing masks due to their “catastrophic” environmental impact – The Daily Mail
  • GP Waiting times are disgraceful – Editorial, The Sun
  • NHS ‘obsession’ with asking men if they are pregnant puts patients at risk – Dr Max Pemberton, The Daily Mail
  • The Ockenden Review must urgently deliver real change in the NHS – Jeremy Hunt MP, The Daily Telegraph 

Philip Johnston: If Keir Starmer can’t define what a woman is, he isn’t fit to be Prime Minister

“Labour suffered at the polls in 2019 because it was led by someone who voters thought totally unsuitable to be prime minister. Traditional Labour seats fell like ninepins not necessarily because they had warmed to Boris but because Jeremy Corbyn was considered weak and unpatriotic. Sir Keir and his front-bench team are alienating voters once again with their absurd refusal to say what everyone knows to be true on the spurious grounds that it would be intolerant to do so. Yet the bigotry is coming from radical trans activists, not the other way round, by shutting down the very discussion that Sir Keir said he is so anxious to have but clearly isn’t. A politician who refuses to say whether a woman has a penis or a man a cervix is not fit to lead a government. If he carries on doing so he never will.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Rayner says it is “unacceptable” to ask a trans woman if she has a penis – The Daily Mail
  • Drakeford refuses to distribute book marking the Platinum Jubilee to all Welsh schools – The Daily Mail
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News is Brief:

  • Israel is facing a new wave of terror – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator 
  • We are all Teletubbies now – Mary Harrington, UnHerd 
  • NIMBYs go nuclear – how selfish homeowners will scupper Net Zero – Henry Hill, Cap X
  • Use your words, Mr Smith – Julie Bindel, The Critic
  • The monarchy is the opposite of anachronistic – Madeline Grant, The Daily Telegraph
  • First Tory MP comes out as trans – Guido Fawkes