Today’s Political Headlines – 8 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the nerve agent used to attack a former Russian spy, the Government’s new domestic abuse proposals, Labour’s fines for inaction on gender pay and the elderly care crippling councils

Nerve agent reportedly used to attack former Russian spy
The Times reports that ‘Whitehall sources’ say Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with a nerve agent, increasing the likelihood of Kremlin involvement. It adds that Conservative MP Nick Boles has called on the UK to break off diplomatic ties with Russia and that Home Secretary Amber Rudd will make an urgent statement on the investigation today.

Government unveils new domestic abuse proposals
The Guardian has details of a new consultation on domestic abuse being launched by the Government today. Under the proposals, a new civil protection order would be introduced, allowing perpetrators to be banned from contacting their victims, barred from drinking alcohol and electronically tagged.

Labour would introduce fines for inaction on gender pay gaps
Labour has also announced a new policy to mark International Women’s Day, The Guardian says. Under a Labour government, all companies with more than 250 employees would not only have to publish their gender pay gap, but would have to prove they were taking action or face a fine.

One in ten councils face going bust over cost of caring for the elderly
The Times reports that a study by the National Audit Office shows that one in ten councils will run out of money in the next three years as they struggle to pay for the rising cost of care for the elderly, with central government funding having been cut by almost 50% over the last eight years. This is despite major cuts to waste, food hygiene, and youth services.

May raises human rights with Saudi Arabia, but is accused of colluding in war crimes
The BBC says that Theresa May raised human rights concerns when she met the Saudi Arabian crown prince yesterday. Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of ‘colluding’ in war crimes by selling arms to the country and supporting it with military advisers.

Cost of Brexit to be outlined, as Hammond accused of bartering away fishing rights
The Financial Times says the impact of the Brexit Bill on public finances will be set out for the first time by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the spring statement next week. The paper also reports that in his speech yesterday, Philip Hammond warned the EU that if the UK’s access to European financial markets was cut, ‘significant additional costs’ would be borne by businesses and consumers. According to The Daily Telegraph, Hammond is being criticised for bartering away fishing rights in return for a better deal for the City, as the EU published its draft trade deal guidelines.

Labour secures vote on cuts to free school meals and childcare for children on Universal Credit
According to the Daily Mirror, the Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, has blocked attempts by the Government to cut free school meals and free childcare for children on Universal Credit without a vote in Parliament. A vote will now have to be held, which the paper expects the Government to lose because the DUP opposes the change.

‘Civil war’ in Labour Party as Corbyn ally criticises unions
The Sun alleges that a ‘major civil war’ is taking place in the Labour Party after Christine Shawcroft, an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, called on the party to cut its links to the unions. She is supporting Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, in his bid to become General Secretary of the party, against Jennie Formby of Unite. The paper also reports that Corbyn was a member of an anti-Semitic Facebook group.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 7 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include MI5 now investigating the Russian poisoning, the EU’s dismissal of Theresa May’s speech, Hammond’s Brexit speech and Junk food adverts to be curbed. 

MI5 treating poisoning as assassination attempt linked to Russia
The Times claims that it has been told by ‘Whitehall sources’ that the suspected poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter is being treated as an assassination attempt linked to Russia by MI5. If this is found to be the case, Boris Johnson has promised that the Government ‘will respond appropriately and responsibly’ and also suggested that British dignitaries might boycott the World Cup in protest.

EU dismisses Theresa May’s speech as ‘double cherry-picking’
In an exclusive, The Guardian publishes a leaked document in which the EU dismisses Theresa May’s Brexit speech as ‘a change in tone, but not in substance’. The analysis says that the trade model proposed by May is ‘double cherry-picking’ and is unworkable, and that the speech was aimed May’s ‘domestic audience’. The paper also says that carmakers are stepping up their warnings about the impact of Brexit, while the Daily Mail reports that Ryanair’s boss has threatened to ground planes in an attempt to force a rethink of Brexit.

Hammond to give speech on Brexit and financial services
Chancellor Philip Hammond will give a speech today, telling European leaders that it is in the mutual interest of both the UK and the EU to include financial services in a free trade agreement, The Daily Telegraph says. He will warn that prices for financial services will go up without a deal. However, the Financial Times reports that Brussels and Paris will publicly rebuff May’s proposals to secure the City’s access to the EU single market.

Junk food adverts to be curbed
According to The Times, Theresa May is planning a U-turn on her obesity policy. She had ruled out restrictions on advertising and promotions of junk food, but new plans are now being drawn up by 10 Downing Street following pressure from Jeremy Hunt. A second child obesity strategy is now planned to be published later this year.

Nicola Sturgeon attacks former Children’s Minister as he refuses to stand down
The Daily Telegraph says that Nicola Sturgeon has attacked her former Children’s Minister, Mark McDonald, for refusing to step down as an MSP. McDonald has quit the SNP after an internal inquiry found that he had sent ‘inappropriate and unwanted’ messages, caused distress through ‘unwanted attention’ and abused his position of power.

Saudi crown prince starts UK visit
As the BBC reports, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, begins a three-day visit to the UK today, during which he will hold talks with Theresa May and have lunch with the Queen. The BBC says he ‘is seen by some as a modernising force’ but that protests are planned against Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen.

Jeremy Corbyn backs call for Wollstonecraft statue
The Guardian reports that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy Tom Watson are among 40 men who have signed a letter calling for the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft to be commemorated by a statue. The letter has also been signed by Andrew Adonis and Sir Vince Cable. The paper says that Harriet Harman has welcomed the arrival of ‘Tory feminist’ MPs, claiming that this has the potential to boost the women’s rights movement.

Government calls for tighter security on smart devices
The Daily Telegraph reports the Government will announce that smart devices must have far better security features to prevent them from being used by criminals. New guidelines and a code of practice for manufacturers are to be announced today.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 6 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the former Russian spy crisis, EU adviser upsetting May’s free trade plans, the EU/USA trade wars and the country on a diet. 

Former Russian spy collapses in Salisbury following contact with unnamed substance
The BBC reports that Russia claims to have ‘no information’ about what could have caused Sergei Skripal and an unnamed woman to collapse in Salisbury yesterday, following contact with an unnamed substance. Skripal was a former Russian spy, who had been convicted of passing secrets to MI6 and was sent to the UK as part of a prisoner swap. The widow of Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in London in 2006, said the incident felt like ‘déjà vu’.

EU adviser strikes blow against May’s free trade deal plans
The Guardian says that Stefaan de Rynck, adviser to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, struck a blow against Theresa May’s ‘chances of securing a deep free-trade deal with the EU’ last night, criticising her proposed mutual recognition of standards. The paper also reports that the Irish Taoiseach has dismissed Theresa May’s suggestion that the US-Canada border could be a model for the UK-Ireland border after Brexit.

EU prepares for trade war with the USA and UK-USA air talks are cut short
The Times reports that the European Union is ‘gearing up’ for a trade war with the USA, following President Trump’s decision to impose high tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, and threats towards car imports. Products to be targeted by the EU in retaliation include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon whiskey and Levi jeans, with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, saying the EU should react ‘quickly’ and ‘in a proportionate manner’. Meanwhile, the Financial Times claims that talks between the UK and the USA over a post-Brexit ‘Open Skies’ agreement have been cut short after the UK was offered a worse deal.

Local authorities and developers deny responsibility for the housing crisis
Following Theresa May’s announcement of a shake-up of planning rules yesterday, the Financial Times reports that local authorities and developers have denied that they are to blame for the housing crisis. The Guardian adds that the Government has yet to enact its pledge in the autumn budget to give councils more powers to crack down on empty homes.

Public Health England recommends calorie cut for processed foods
The Financial Times reports that Public Health England has recommended the calorie content of processed foods is cut by 20% by 2024 and extended the remit of a campaign against childhood obesity beyond sugar. The body estimates that reaching the target will prevent 35,000 premature deaths and save £9bn in health and care costs over 25 years.

Jobs or services would have to be cut to fund public sector pay rise
New analysis by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) published in The Guardian, reveals that the Government cannot fund a 1% pay increase for public sector workers without cutting jobs or public services. The report, commissioned by the PCS union, casts doubt on the Government’s claim to have lifted the public sector pay cap.

Justice Secretary targets violence and gangs in jails
The BBC reports that Justice Secretary David Gauke is to unveil measures to clamp down on violence and smuggling drugs, phones and weapons in prisons. Gauke will promise to ‘remove the influence of gangs’, so that prisons can become ‘places of hope not despair’.

Safeguarding incidents reported to Charity Commission include claims of child sex abuse
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has said that 26 charities have come forward to report safeguarding cases, including claims of sexual abuse of children and rape, The Guardian reports. Seven groups reported incidents that occurred in the last financial year and reports of serious incidents across all charities have doubled in the last month.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 5 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include May’s speech on planning policy, May’s criticism of Trump over the steel tariff plans, higher tax for baby boomers and legal action over immigration data blocks. 

May to give speech on planning policy today
As the BBC reports, Theresa May is due to give a speech on housing today. She will warn firms that are slow to build new homes that they could be refused planning permission in the future and criticise bonuses ‘based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price’. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, May argues that ‘England needs more homes’ but promises ‘extra protection for Green Belt land’, environmental protections, and ‘a stronger emphasis on good design’.

May criticises Trump over steel tariff plans
In a phone call yesterday, Theresa May criticised President Trump for his plans for tariffs on steel and aluminium imports and after he threatened taxes on EU-made cars, The Times says. A spokesperson told the paper that the Prime Minister said that ‘multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties’ interests’.

Willetts to argue for higher taxes on baby boomers
David Willetts, the former Conservative minister and the Chair of the Resolution Foundation, will use a speech today to argue that the Government needs to target the wealth of baby boomers, through capital or property taxes, according to The Guardian. The paper also reports that the Institute for Public Policy Research has said that income tax bands could be scrapped without costing the Government and giving average earners as much as £1,100.

Legal action over Home Office plans to block access to immigration data
Two organisations are to challenge plans by the Home Office to deny millions of people access to the immigration data held on them in court, The Guardian says. The Open Rights Group (which campaigns on data privacy) and the3million (which represents EU citizens in the UK) argue that a clause in the Data Protection Bill breaches EU law.

EU to offer UK a Canada-style trade deal, as Tory customs union rebels back down
The Daily Telegraph claims the EU is to offer the UK a Canada-style trade deal this week, with only a short section on customs and services (and potentially no mention of financial services). The Sun says Conservative rebels are to back down on their threat to vote to keep the UK in a customs union, following Theresa May’s vow to keep the UK aligned in key industries. As the BBC reports, a Sinn Féin delegation is to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier today, with the DUP meeting him tomorrow.

Five-sixths of employers fail to submit gender pay gap data
Just one sixth of employers with 250 or more staff have submitted gender pay gap data to the Government, with just a month before the deadline, according to the Financial Times. The Government expects about 9,000 employers to be captured by the regulations, but the paper’s calculations suggest that 13,500 could be affected. Only 1,442 have reported.

Government did not pursue opportunity to retrieve £364m from Carillion
The Guardian reports that the Government was aware of a plan that could have retrieved more than £360m from Carillion, limiting the cost to taxpayers and sparing cuts to pensions, but it did not encourage the firm to pursue it. The plan, presented by EY in December, would have broken the firm up, selling the profitable parts and liquidating the rest.

Team Sky ‘crossed an ethical line’, committee finds
A report by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has concluded that Team Sky ‘crossed an ethical line’ by using drugs permitted by anti-doping rules to enhance performance, instead of just for medical purposes, the BBC reports. Team Sky says that it ‘strongly refutes’ the claims in the report.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 2 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include May’s five tests, the end of Leveson II, Gove’s warning and MI5 agents committing crimes. 

May to set out ‘five tests’ for Brexit deal in speech
Theresa May will give a speech today, in which she will set out five ‘tests’ for a deal between the UK and the EU, as the BBC reports. The Times adds that the Prime Minister has been forced to drop a pledge to make a ‘binding commitment’ to mirror EU rules in some sectors and will instead offer ‘strong commitments’. The pledge had been supported by Greg Clark and Philip Hammond, but opposed by David Davis, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Government cancels Leveson II
The Leveson inquiry was formally closed yesterday, after ministers decided not to proceed with the second part – read more here. The Government will also seek to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which would have imposed ‘draconian fines’ on publishers who didn’t join a state-recognised press regulator. Campaigners for reform of the press criticised the decision, saying that victims of phone-hacking had been let down.

Gove warns water industry over high pay and dividends
The Financial Times says that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove has continued his criticism of the water industry. In a speech to industry executives, he attacked high pay, dividends and tax avoidance and warned that unless companies take action, pressure for renationalisation would grow.

MI5 agents can commit crimes, May admits
According to the Daily Mail, Theresa May admitted for the first time that MI5 agents could commit crimes in the UK, saying that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner oversees ‘security service agents’ participation in criminality’. The commissioner, Lord Justice Fulford, welcomed the decision to ‘make public my oversight of this sensitive area of work.’

GDPR hotline faces criticism
A Government hotline set up to advise small businesses on GDPR, the new data protection rules coming into effect in May, is criticised in The Sun. Callers are having to wait for up to half an hour, and officials have urged businesses not to use the line. Instead, they have been advised to use the Information Commissioner’s Office’s website or speak to industry groups.

Conservative Vice-Chair for Women calls for debate on lowering abortion limit
Maria Caulfield, the Conservative Party’s Vice-Chair for Women, has called for a national debate on lowering the 24-week abortion limit according to The Daily Telegraph. She highlighted studies that show that 50% of babies born at 22 weeks survive and said ‘The 24-week limit was introduced at a time when babies were really not viable at 24 weeks. Now babies who are born premature grow up to live long, healthy lives like the rest of us.’

Just one conviction for ‘double voting’ in 2017
The BBC reports that despite there being hundreds of complaints about ‘double voting’ in the 2017 general election, just one conviction has resulted. The Electoral Commission received over 1,000 e-mails about ‘double voting’ and 60 letters from 47 MPs, but just five investigations took place.

Livingstone suspended from Labour and Lansman runs for General Secretary
The Daily Mirror reports that outgoing Labour General Secretary Iain McNicol has made use of a rare power to indefinitely suspend the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone from the Labour party for alleged anti-semitism. The paper also reports that Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, has confirmed that he will be running to succeed McNicol.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 1 March 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Davis ‘standing up’ to the EU, John Major’s speech, no deal harming the car industry and calls for more spending on the armed forces. 

Davis stands up to Brussels pressure over Northern Ireland
Brexit Secretary David Davis has said that the UK will not pay the Brexit divorce bill, unless the EU backs down on its attempts to keep Northern Ireland subject to its rules, The Times reports. The Guardian says that Theresa May is under pressure to explain how she will avoid a hard Irish border in her speech on Friday, but that she has conceded that EU citizens who move to the UK during the transition period will be able to stay permanently. In The Daily Telegraph, Ruth Davidson criticises Boris Johnson’s ‘casual disregard’ over the Irish border, but says that Theresa May will use her speech to make clear ‘what is achievable and what is fantasy’. The BBC adds that May is to meet European Council President Donald Tusk today.

John Major calls for MPs to have a free vote on the Brexit deal
As the BBC reports, Sir John Major said, in a speech to the Creative Industries Federation, that MPs should have a free vote on the Brexit deal with the option to hold a referendum. Eurosceptic backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said that Major was ‘getting it wrong again.’

No deal Brexit would harm car industry, report says
A report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee warns that failing to strike a deal on Brexit would put ‘hundreds of thousands’ of jobs at risk, the BBC says. If trade barriers are erected after Brexit, the sector could be cost £4.5bn in lost exports. However, Toyota has pledged to build the next-generation Auris in the UK despite Brexit, the Financial Times reports.

General says the UK needs to spend more on the armed forces
General Sir Gordon Messenger, vice-chief of the defence staff, has told The Times that the UK needs to spend more on the armed forces, or it would risk defeat to Russia or North Korea. He also stressed the importance of the information war and the use of data.

Boris Johnson could be investigated over garden bridge
The Guardian claims that Boris Johnson could be investigated for misconduct in public office according to a senior lawyer, if it is shown that pressure from him during his tenure as Mayor of London led to the loss of £40m on the abandoned garden bridge project. He will be questioned by a London Assembly committee today.

Osborne’s austerity target met, two years late
The Financial Times reveals that the UK has eliminated the deficit on its day-to-day budget, two years after the target set by George Osborne in 2010. Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies described the news as ‘quite an achievement’, but said that it had ‘come at the cost of an unprecedented squeeze in public spending’.

Libor grants under review
In an exclusive, The Sun says that the Treasury is reviewing all Libor charity cash grants, after ministers raided hundreds of millions for their own budgets. The review started last autumn, after concerns were raised by the National Audit Office. The Public Accounts Committee has promised to question officials over the revelations.

Liz Truss: Middle class professionals put up barriers to stop others joining them~
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, has accused middle class professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, of being a ‘blob’ which is ‘constantly lobbying to put barriers up to prevent new people joining them’, according to the Daily Mail. She suggested that ‘professional regulations can be a damaging restraint on trade’ and praised free schools where ‘teachers don’t have to have traditional training’.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 28 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include EU set to publish draft withdrawal agreement, the battle to become Labour General Secretary, the Labour Party’s sexual misconduct dossier and BoJo thinking the UK should welcome the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince.

EU set to publish draft withdrawal agreement
The EU is set to publish a legal draft of the EU withdrawal agreement today, the BBC reports. It will say that Northern Ireland will have to follow single market rules unless an alternative is found. The Times says that Theresa May is to reject the draft, as it would threaten the UK’s ‘constitutional integrity’. Sky News has published a leaked letter from Boris Johnson to the Prime Minister, in which he says ‘it is wrong to see the task as maintaining “no border”’.

Battle to become Labour General Secretary exposes party tensions
According to The Guardian, the battle to become the new General Secretary of the Labour Party ‘is set to expose a faultline which has been quietly widening on the left of the party’ between Momentum and the trade unions. Momentum founder Jon Lansman is considering challenging Unite’s Jennie Formby, who has the support of the leader’s office.

Sexual misconduct dossier submitted to Corbyn by Labour activists
The BBC reports that Labour activists have submitted a dossier to Jeremy Corbyn, detailing cases of harassment, intimidation and abuse at all levels of the party. The report by LabourToo recommends a number of changes to how the party functions.

UK should welcome Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Johnson argues
Writing in The Times, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson argues that the UK should welcome Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he visits next week, who he says has achieved ‘genuine reform’. Johnson also stresses the importance of co-operating with Saudi Arabia on security. The paper adds that ‘concerted protests remain likely’ despite Johnson’s intervention.

Mail discovers Mosley leaflet
The Daily Mail says that in 1961 Max Mosley published what it calls ‘arguably one of the most racist official leaflets ever published in a modern British parliamentary election’. In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mosley admitted that the pamphlet ‘probably was racist’ but asserted that it might not be ‘genuine’. As a result, the paper claims that Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is under pressure to return £540,000 donated to him by Mosley.

Cambridge Analytica denies working on EU referendum
Giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Chief Executive of the data marketing company Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, denied that his firm had worked on the EU referendum, despite claims to the contrary by Arron Banks of Leave.EU, The Guardian reports.

BBC aid charity didn’t tell Government about staff sacked for sexual misconduct
BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity, sacked six staff for sexual misconduct without telling the Government, The Daily Telegraph reveals. Between 2012 and 2017 the charity received £70m from the Government.

Hammond attacked over night on beach comments; Government fails to spend housing cash
According to The Daily Telegraph, Chancellor Philip Hammond is ‘under fire’ after telling the Cabinet about a night he had spent on a beach during a discussion about helping homeless people during the cold snap. Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports the Government failed to spend £72m allocated to affordable housing last year.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 27 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Liam Fox’s attack on the customs union, Toby Young’s appointment criticised, a call for children to be removed from extremists and the EU’s demands for the ECJ to play a continued role in the UK.

Fox to attack customs union in speech today
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is to argue in a speech today that a customs union between the UK and the EU after Brexit would be a ‘complete sell out’, the BBC reports. He will argue that the UK must have the freedom to exploit the ‘opportunities of the future’. The Guardian reports that in a speech this evening, Sir Martin Donnelly, the former Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Trade, will warn that leaving the single market will cause ‘significant damage’. The Financial Times adds that pro-European Conservative MPs are to join forces with Labour in a vote on the customs union.

Toby Young appointment process criticised
An investigation by the Commissioner for Public Appointments into the appointment of Toby Young to the board of the Office for Students has criticised the regulator and the Department for Education. The Guardian says that the report found that the process ‘was flawed and rife with political interference’.

Top counterterrorism officer calls for children to be removed from extremists
The Times reports that Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner for special operations at Scotland Yard, has called for courts to remove children from extremist families. He said that exposing children to extremism was ‘equally wicked’ as exposing them to sexual abuse. In his speech, Rowley also said that far-right extremism was flourishing.

EU demands continued role for the European Court of Justice
The Financial Times claims that the EU will demand the UK remains subject to European Court of Justice rulings for an indefinite period as part of the Brexit divorce deal, backed up by sanctions to cut off market access. The paper expects Theresa May to reject this proposal outright. Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph says that France and Germany have blocked British plans to continue ‘fudging’ the Irish border issue, in what the paper calls an ‘outrageous attempt to turn Northern Ireland into EU province.’

Sturgeon rejects latest Brexit devolution proposals
Nicola Sturgeon has rejected the Government’s latest proposals for devolution after Brexit, the BBC reports. She said it is ‘very likely’ the Scottish Parliament will not give its consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill and rejected the idea that common systems of regulation could be imposed by Westminster without agreement.

Gove to announce £150m cut in funding for wealthy landowners
The Financial Times reports that Michael Gove is to announce that £150m could be saved by cutting support for wealthy landowners, which could instead be used to help farmers focus on ‘environmental enhancement and other public goods’. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary is to launch a consultation on an ‘agricultural transition’ period today.

Train companies ‘pocketing’ millions
According to The Daily Telegraph, train companies are accused of benefiting from transport chaos by ‘pocketing millions of pounds in compensation’ when services are delayed or cancelled. The paper says that there is ‘mounting anger’ from Conservative MPs and campaigners over automatic compensation payments to rail firms from Network Rail.

Government announces £1.5m funding for blades for amputee children
The Daily Telegraph hails the success of a campaign run by Sarah Hope, wife of the paper’s correspondent Christopher Hope, after the Government announced another £1.5m in funding for running and swimming blades for amputee children.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 26 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include a Labour stance on Brexit, new powers for the Office for Students, Northern Ireland’s status post-Brexit and Lidington’s Brexit speech.

Labour would keep UK in a customs union with EU after Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn is to clarify that Labour would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU after Brexit in a speech today, The Guardian reports. However, he will warn that staying in the single market could stop the delivery of the party’s ‘ambitious economic platform’. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Brexit Secretary David Davis says that the plan ‘would necessitate two serious breaches of Labour’s manifesto’.

Watchdog given new powers over universities
The Times has seen documents detailing the powers to be given to the new Office for Students, which show that the watchdog will force universities to act on high pay, grade inflation and support for disadvantaged students. The regulatory framework is to be put before parliament on Wednesday, with the powers to be taken up in April.

EU’s draft Brexit agreement threatens to break truce over Northern Ireland
The Financial Times warns that the ‘truce’ over Northern Ireland’s status post-Brexit may be ‘shattered’ this week, when the EU publishes a draft withdrawal agreement which leaves out the compromise language secured by Theresa May. The draft omits the commitment to ‘no new regulatory barriers’ between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland, with the EU claiming that it was waiting for ‘workable UK proposals’.

Brexit bill changes will ‘strengthen and enhance’ devolution, Lidington to claim
Speaking at the Airbus plant in Flintshire, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington is to say that ‘very big changes’ to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will ‘strengthen and enhance’ devolution settlements, but the BBC says the Scottish and Welsh governments have described the current proposals as a ‘power grab’. Meanwhile, according to The Sun, Tory whips are planning an away-day ‘bonding session’ for all the party’s MPs.

Energy tariff cap legislation introduced
The BBC reports that legislation to cap expensive energy tariffs is to be introduced to Parliament today, which the Government claims will protect 11 million people. The bill will limit the cost of standard variable tariffs until 2020, with the cap then being extended on an annual basis until 2023. Energy UK said it was vital that the cap did not stifle competition.

New plans will spare domestic violence victims from facing abusers in court
The Times reports that proposals to be announced by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, today will spare victims of domestic violence from having to come face-to-face with their abusers in court. Instead, they will be automatically eligible to give evidence via video link or behind screens. Writing in the paper, Rudd outlines various proposals which will form part of consultation on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.

UK targets Indonesia as part of ‘Global Britain’ strategy
The Daily Telegraph says that the UK is targeting Indonesia, in what it claims is ‘one of the first tests of the UK’s post-Brexit “Global Britain” strategy.’ British firms could gain contracts to regenerate Indonesia’s road and rail networks, UK Export Finance is offering ‘increased support’ and there has been a ‘surge’ in bilateral meetings.

Momentum sees membership grow after press attacks on Corbyn
Data seen by The Guardian shows that Momentum, the Corbyn-supporting group, experiences surges in membership immediately after negative newspaper articles about the Labour leader. The organisation claimed that attacks on Corbyn were being seen as a ‘sign of approval’, with negative stories in the Daily Mail being an effective recruitment tool.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 23 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Brexiteers claiming victory after the policy meeting at Chequers, May plans for migration U-turn, Jeremy Corbyn to announce Labour’s support for staying in the customs union and Gove possibly banning plastic straws.

Brexiteers claim victory after Brexit policy meeting
The Daily Telegraph claims that ‘Brexiteers were claiming victory’ following yesterday’s meeting to decide Brexit policy. A source said Chancellor Philip Hammond was ‘shocked’ by the consensus in favour of divergence. The UK will remain close enough to the EU that trade ‘should be as frictionless as possible’, but the paper warns that the EU has ruled out May’s favoured ‘three baskets’ strategy. The Financial Times suggests that the meeting also pleased pro-Europeans, with one saying it was wrong that divergence had ‘prevailed’, while another source said ‘It seems like everyone thinks they got what they wanted.’

May plans for transition period migration U-turn
The Times says the Government is planning a U-turn on its policy that immigrants from the EU during the Brexit transition period should not be allowed to stay permanently. Instead, the Government is considering making a unilateral guarantee that EU citizens who arrive during the period can remain. Meanwhile, a ‘senior EU source’ tells The Guardian that the UK will lose its rebate from the end of 2020, if it extends the transition period beyond then.

Jeremy Corbyn to signal UK staying in customs union
The Guardian says that Jeremy Corbyn is expected to signal that Labour will support the UK staying in a customs union with the EU in a speech on Monday. The paper reports that Tory rebel Anna Soubry has tabled an amendment calling on the Government to remain in a customs union, and that if Labour decide to back it, May is facing a ‘highly damaging defeat.’

Gove says that plastic straws could be banned in Brexit Britain
Speaking on a Daily Telegraph podcast, Michael Gove, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, has said that plastic straws may be banned. He said that banning plastic straws would be easier after the UK leaves the EU, but also spoke of the need for a balanced approach. The paper says that the UK uses an estimated 8.5m billion plastic straws a year.

Hunt sets out plan to tackle medication mistakes
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written about medication mistakes for The Daily Telegraph. He warns that errors could be responsible for up to 22,000 deaths and sets out steps to tackle the problem, including improved data, electronic prescribing and working with the clinical community. The paper reports that the errors cost the NHS £1.6bn a year.

Net migration from the EU falls to lowest level for five years
As the BBC reports, the number of EU citizens leaving the UK is at its highest level for a decade, according to figures produced by the Office for National Statistics. Net EU migration was at its lowest level for five years. Immigration minister Caroline Noakes said that the UK was still attracting the ‘brightest and best people’.

Government back organ donation ‘opt-out’ bill
The Mirror says that the Government is supporting a bill to change the law on organ donation, which is due to be voted on today. The bill will create an ‘opt-out’ organ donation system in England and at a reception organised by the paper last night, health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said the Government would give its backing to the bill.

Labour considering land value tax
According to The Guardian, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said that Labour is considering a land value tax to boost local government revenues. Speaking at an event organised by the Resolution Foundation, he said that cuts to local services mean ‘that people are now willing to consider more radical solutions than they have in the past.’

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Today’s Political Headlines – 22 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Cabinet disagreements over May’s transition strategy, Unilever choosing the Netherlands over the UK, Williamson warning of a Russian threat and Abbott causing controversy.

Cabinet did not agree May’s transition strategy
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Cabinet did not agree Theresa May’s strategy for the transition period before it was sent to the EU. The strategy prompted a backlash after raising the prospect of an open-ended transition period. The paper also reports that David Lidington has offered to transfer to Scotland all powers repatriated from the EU that involve devolved policy areas, in an attempt to break deadlock. As the BBC says, ministers are to gather at Chequers this afternoon to agree the Government’s approach to Brexit. The Times adds that Jeremy Corbyn is planning a major Brexit speech on Monday to set out his approach, while fears of defeat over the customs union have prompted the Government to delay the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill for up to two months.

Government braced for Unilever to pick Netherlands as its new HQ
According to the Financial Times, Theresa May is braced for the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever to announce that it has chosen the Netherlands rather than the UK for its unified headquarters following months of political pressure. The paper adds that the UK hasn’t lost all hope and believes it could still benefit from the reorganisation in other ways.

Williamson warns of Russian threat, announces new combat air strategy
Appearing before the Commons Defence Select Committee, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that ‘state-based threats’ are his department’s ‘top priority’, citing threats from Russia, China and North Korea. The Times says that this is a change from earlier policy, which put terrorism first. The Financial Times adds that Williamson promised a new combat air strategy in the summer and a review of national security capabilities by the end of March,

Abbott causes controversy by comparing UK attitudes to immigration to 1930s Germany
The Daily Telegraph claims that Diane Abbott has ‘sparked fury’ by comparing those with concerns about immigration to the UK to people who ‘scapegoated’ minority groups in pre-Nazi Germany. Abbott used Weimar Germany as an example in a speech on immigration policy, arguing that ‘economic collapse has always led to scapegoating the other’.

Domestic abusers to be given longer sentences
According to The Times, new guidance drawn up by the Sentencing Council will see domestic abusers given longer sentences than those who commit similar offences outside the home environment. The change has been made because such behaviour is rarely a ‘one-off’.

Tories set to lose at least three London boroughs
The Mirror reports that a poll shows the Conservatives are set to face a ‘humiliating’ defeat in at least three London boroughs this May. Across the capital, Labour has 54% of the vote and the Tories have 28%. If this result is replicated at the London council elections in May, Labour would have the highest share won by a party in the elections since 1968.

Gove asks Ofwat to investigate water companies’ behaviour
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, Michael Gove, has written to Ofwat asking it to investigate concerns over prices, leaks, executive pay and payments to shareholders by water companies, the BBC says. He is willing to give Ofwat new powers if it asks for them.

Sinn Fein says May has no plan to save powersharing
Sinn Fein has accused Theresa May of having no plan to save powersharing in Northern Ireland, and claim the Prime Minister is ‘facilitating’ the DUP in blocking the process, The Guardian reports. The party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald warned that a political vacuum would be ‘extremely dangerous’.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 21 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Tory MPs’ demands for a harder Brexit, Corbyn attacking the press, the continuing Oxfam scandal and Diane Abbott calling for fairer immigration for families.

Over 60 Tory MPs write to May demanding harder Brexit
The Times reports that over 60 Conservative MPs have written to Theresa May, telling her they will no longer support her Brexit plans if the Cabinet agrees to keep the UK too closely aligned to the EU. Their demands would make it impossible for the UK to stay in EU agencies, and reject the transition period unless a trade deal is agreed by next March, which the paper reports that ‘experts believe is all but impossible’. The Daily Telegraph claims that Boris Johnson has told German officials that the negotiations are ‘a mess.’

Corbyn attacks press over spy accusations
As the BBC reports, Jeremy Corbyn has warned the press that ‘change is coming’ and accused the media of publishing ‘lies and smears’ about his contact with a Czech spy in the 1980s. In a statement, The Sun said that it would ‘keep asking’ questions. According to The Guardian, intelligence experts who have seen Czechoslovakian files say that there is no evidence that Jeremy Corbyn was a spy or agent of influence.

Oxfam accused of being ‘quite possibly deliberately’ misleading by minister
The Times reports that International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt accused Oxfam of ‘quite possibly deliberately’ misleading governments, the police, and the public over sexual exploitation by its staff in Haiti in 2011. Meanwhile, Save the Children has apologised to three women who raised concerns about its former chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

Diane Abbott to call for fairer immigration for families
Diane Abbott will announce a pledge to end ‘family break-up through the immigration system’ in a speech today, The Guardian says. She will renew Labour’s commitment to scrap the Government’s migration target, allow parents or carers of admitted child refugees to come to the country, and end the practice of deporting children without entitlement to be in the UK once they turn 18 even if their parents are entitled to be here.

New FCA and Charity Commission chairs face criticism
Two public appointments came under scrutiny in the House of Commons yesterday. The Financial Times says that Charles Randell, incoming chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, was questioned over his use of a film partnership accused of being a tax-avoidance scheme. The Guardian reports that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has unanimously refused to endorse Baroness Stowell of Beeston as chair of the Charity Commission because she lacked ‘any real insight, knowledge or vision’.

Committee launches investigation into social media’s impact on children
According to the Daily Mail, the Commons Science and Technology Committee has opened an investigation into the effect of social networks on children. Norman Lamb, the committee’s chair, said ‘Social media and smartphones are increasingly being used by children and young people. It is vital that we understand the impact this is having on them – the benefits as well as the risks.’

Labour and Lib Dem peers should resign to cut size of Lords, says Prime Minister
Theresa May is calling on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to encourage their peers to retire in order to cut the size of the House of Lords, claiming that the Conservatives were better at ‘embracing retirement at the appropriate time’, the BBC reports.

Lib Dem spokesperson steps down over sex for favours accusation
In an exclusiveThe Sun says that Lord Lester has stood down as a Liberal Democrat spokesperson over a sex for favours scandal. A female campaigner has launched a complaint alleging that the peer tried to grope her when she approached him for help to pass legislation, and offered support in return for a sexual relationship. Lester denies the claims.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 20 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Brexit Britain NOT being a Mad Max-style world, Michael Gove paying farmers for looking after animals, Corbyn to rethink the financial sector and Academics planning to escalate strike action.

David Davis: Brexit Britain will not be a ‘Mad Max-style world’
David Davis is to tell business leaders in Austria that fears that Brexit will turn the UK into a ‘Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction’, are unfounded The Guardian reports. He will say that the UK will continue to uphold high standards and say ‘fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing’. The Financial Times says that Theresa May will keep cabinet ministers at a meeting at Chequers on Thursday until they have agreed a Brexit plan with a high level of alignment between EU and UK rules.

Michael Gove announces farmers will get paid more cash for looking after animals better
Michael Gove is to address the National Farming Union today, outlining his plans for agriculture after Brexit, according to The Daily Telegraph. He will say that farmers will be given larger subsidies for taking better care of livestock, as will landowners who encourage people to be more ‘connected’ to the countryside and increase understanding of farming.

Corbyn to call for ‘fundamental rethink’ of the financial sector
Jeremy Corbyn will call for a ‘fundamental rethink’ of the financial sector when he addresses the EEF manufacturers’ organisation today, the BBC reports. Corbyn will say that finance should be ‘the servant of industry, not the masters of us all’ and promise new powers for the Government to prevent hostile takeovers.

Academics announce plan to escalate strike action
Academics have announced plans to escalate strike action, The Times says, with as many as 42,000 staff walking out on Thursday and Friday in the first of 14 days of strikes, with further dates being planned. Separately, The Guardian reports that Theresa May admitted in her speech yesterday that the education system was failing to serve the ‘needs of every child’.

Oxfam executives to be questioned by MPs
Senior Oxfam executives are to be questioned by the Commons International Development Committee today, as the BBC reports. Those giving evidence include chief executive Mark Goldring and chair of trustees Caroline Thomson, as well as Kevin Watkins of Save the Children and Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Development. The Times reveals that Goldring is under investigation by Oxfam for his handling of a sexual assault case.

24 smart meters need to be installed every minute to reach target
The Times reports that analysis of official figures by Which? shows that energy companies would need to install 24 smart meters a minute to meet the deadline of installing one in every home by 2020. Which? says that this is ‘unlikely given the current pace of installation’.

Aid review warns of prioritising ‘short-term and immediate results’ over ‘lasting change’
A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact warns that foreign aid risks making countries dependent on handouts by prioritising ‘short-term and immediate results’ over ‘lasting change’, The Daily Telegraph reports. The Department for International Development was criticised for not measuring long-term transformative change and not reflecting its commitments on development effectiveness in its value for money approach.

Documents covering Corbyn spy accusations revealed
The Daily Mail has seen secret papers which show that Czech secret agent Jan Sarkozy told his bosses that Jeremy Corbyn had ‘an active supply of information on British intelligence services’. The Mirror reports that Conservative MP Ben Bradley has deleted a tweet making accusations against Jeremy Corbyn after Corbyn threatened to take legal action.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 19 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the Education review, the visa cap limit being repeatedly met, Labour not compensating PFI investors and the MPs’ report on Carillion.


Education review
Theresa May is to claim that too many people go to university and pay too much for their courses The Daily Telegraph says. She will announce a year-long review of tertiary education and university funding, with the paper suggesting that cuts to fees for arts and social science courses and improved vocational education are favoured. The Times warns that May’s plans have already come under attack, with Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, claiming that they risk damaging social mobility and Mark Leach, chief executive of the think tank Wonkhe saying that the proposals ‘simply don’t add up’.

Visa cap hit for unprecedented third month
The Guardian reports that the UK has hit its cap on visas for skilled non-European workers for an unprecedented third month and that this is deepening the staffing crisis in the NHS. Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said NHS organisations were ‘increasingly concerned at their inability to obtain permits for essential medical colleagues’.

Labour might not compensate PFI investors
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, has suggested that some investors in private finance initiatives might not receive compensation if Labour renationalised contracts, the Financial Times reports. Addressing a meeting of Labour activists, McDonnell said ‘Parliament will determine the value of every industry and sector that we nationalise’ and told the paper that ‘Some of the schemes we know could well be in perilous difficulty, so it’s almost like handing them back rather than us giving compensation’.

MPs publish report on Carillion
A joint report published today by the Commons Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees finds that Carillion’s annual reports were ‘worthless’, that investors were fleeing the firm and that one major investor had considered suing the company, the BBC reports.

Corbyn to disappoint Labour MPs by not committing to customs union
According to The Times, Jeremy Corbyn will disappoint Labour MPs today by not making a clearer commitment to remaining in a customs union with the EU following Brexit. The paper said that backbenchers had expected Corbyn to make the commitment following a meeting of the shadow cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee today.

May to resist pressure to abandon plan to reduce the number of MPs
The Times says that Theresa May is to resist calls to abandon plans to cut the number of MPs to 600 from the current 650. Today the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will call on the Prime Minister to accept that MPs are unlikely to vote for the change and put in place arrangements for a new boundary review. May is apparently confident that she will win the vote in September, as the DUP is no longer opposing it.

James Brokenshire returns to Parliament after lung surgery
James Brokenshire, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, has announced that he is to return to frontline politics, The Daily Telegraph says. He stepped down to have lung surgery, but says that he is ‘recovering strongly’ and will return to Westminster on Tuesday.

Labour MPs paid up to £10,000 to meet spies during Cold War
The Daily Mail reports comments by Jan Sarkocy, a former Czech spy, that Labour MPs were paid up to £10,000 to meet Eastern Bloc agents during the Cold War. Jeremy Corbyn has denied Sarkocy’s claim that he was a paid informant of the Czech secret police.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 16 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include three billboards outside Grenfell Tower, Theresa May meeting Angela Merkel, Sinn Féin proving a power sharing deal could have been reached and the end(?) of UKIP.

Grenfell Tower billboards
Three billboards confronted Londoners with a reminder of the fire at Grenfell Tower yesterday, the Huffington Post has the story of the billboards that read ’71 dead and still no arrests, how come?’. The billboards were driven around with the intention of highlighting the lack of progress that has been made eight months since the fire. The billboards recreated a scene from the film ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. The campaign appeared at Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral and the tower itself.

Theresa May to meet Angela Merkel
The BBC reports that Theresa May will travel to Berlin to hold talks with Angela Merkel. Merkel will be a key player in the UK’s attempt to agree the transition that will be in place once the UK leaves the EU. This meeting comes ahead of May making a speech at the Munich Security Conference where it is expected she will signal her intention to maintain the security partnership with the EU.

Sinn Féin provide papers that prove a power sharing deal could have been reached
The Guardian reports on claims made by Sinn Féin that they have documents that prove an agreement was in place for power-sharing in Northern Ireland to resume, only for the DUP to prevent this moving forward. The DUP denies the claims saying that an offer of an Irish language act was never on the table, Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald said that she tried to persuade the DUP leadership to close the deal before any opposition to it was voiced.

The end of UKIP?
Nigel Farage has admitted that UKIP may be on the verge of collapse, the Express runs the story as members of UKIP will vote on whether Henry Bolton should continue as leader this weekend. Farage conceded that the problems the party faces could be worse than the press realised due to branches closing and UKIP councillors choosing to run as independents in upcoming elections. UKIP also faces large legal bills from a libel case involving one of its MEPs.

EU Punishment clause removed
The Sun reports on the EU removing a punishment clause from the draft Brexit transition agreement which could have led to the UK being fined if it broke the EU’s rules. The EU27 agreed that the clause should be replaced with language that was less ‘tough-sounding’, this change comes ahead of the UK and EU beginning negotiations on the terms of the transition next month.

Liverpool prison the worst inspectors have ever seen
The Independent reports on an ‘abject failure’ to improve the prison two years after a warning that it was not safe. A report by the Justice select committee has revealed the Government is not acting on prison inspections and a deterioration in conditions is continuing. MPs on the committee want the prison inspectorate to be given additional resources so they can follow up on the recommendations they make.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 15 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include calls to end rough sleeping, Boris Johnson’s speech on Brexit, and the breakdown of talks to restore a Northern Ireland Executive. 


Calls for Government action following the death of a rough sleeper outside Parliament

The Guardian have reported that MPs have expressed sadness after learning that a man believed to have been sleeping rough had died outside the Houses of Parliament. Numerous Labour MPs have responded on twitter, drawing attention to the man’s death and criticise policies they said had contributed to a sharp rise in the number of rough sleepers in the UK.

Boris Johnson’s Policy Exchange speech called for “hope not fear” in the UKs departure from the EU

The BBC reports that the Foreign Secretary has told his fellow Brexiteers they should not “gloat” about the UK’s departure from the EU, which he said was a cause for “hope not fear”. He has urged people to “unite about what we all believe in”, an “outward-looking, confident” UK, and that leaving the EU was not a “great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover”. The Guardian reports that Johnson’s speech struggled to woo remainers, and used his speech to try to simultaneously reach out to remainers while doubling down on his arguments in favour of a hard break from the EU.

Jean-Claude Juncker denies claims by Boris Johnson that he wants to create a European “superstate”

The Independent reports that President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has said that claims he wants to create a European “superstate” are “total nonsense”. He said that the President of the European Commission should be directly elected by the voters of Europe.

Talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein broken down in attempts to strike a Northern Ireland deal

Sky News are reporting that talks between the leaders of Northern Ireland’s two biggest political parties to re-establish a government in Stormont have broken down. DUP leader Arlene Foster said there was “no prospect” of negotiations leading to a new power sharing agreement with Sinn Fein. The Telegraph have reported on comments made by former Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, saying that Westminster being forced to set Northern Ireland’s budget is “increasingly inevitable”.

British Steel pensions scheme is a victim to a major mis-selling scandal

The Financial Times have reported that British Steel pension savers were “shamelessly” exploited by “dubious financial advisers” after a restructuring of the scheme last year, drawing upon a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee that sharply criticised the Pensions Regulator and Financial Conduct Authority. The Times have reported that more than 50,000 British workers may be being cheated out of part of their pension each year.

Tories blame the SNP for Scotland’s productivity falling to its lowest level in eight years

The Times have run a story explaining how Scotland’s productivity has fallen to its lowest level in eight years, with opposition politicians have claimed showed that the SNP administration was damaging the economy. The report, published by the Scottish Government, suggested that the financial crisis of 2008 had taken a long time to work its way through and the effects were still being felt within the Scottish economy.

Reports suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn met a communist spy at the height of the Cold War

The Sun have run a story which found that Jeremy Corbyn met a Communist spy during the Cold War and warned the Soviet-backed spies of a clampdown by British intelligence during the height of the war. The Daily Mail have also run a similar story, claiming that  Corbyn met the Czech agent at least three times after being vetted in 1986, with two meetings taking place in the House of Commons.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 14 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include Boris Johnson’s Brexit speech, Labour’s animal welfare plan, McVey’s call for McDonnell to apologise and the Oxfam crisis. 

Boris Johnson to reach out to voters alienated over Brexit in speech today
Boris Johnson is to give a speech on Brexit today, with the BBC reporting that he will try to reach out to voters alienated by Brexit, claiming ‘that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope’. The Daily Telegraph reports that Johnson will argue that ‘It is only by taking back control of our laws that UK firms and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to innovate’ and that stopping Brexit ‘would be a disastrous mistake’.

Labour to unveil animal welfare plan today
Labour is to unveil a new 50-point animal welfare plan today. The Guardian reports that the party would introduce bans on foie gras and badger culling, further curbs on hunting with dogs, mandatory CCTV at abattoirs, and a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter. Other measures include expanding healthcare for pets with owners on low-incomes and greater rights for tenants to own pets.

McVey calls for McDonnell to apologise over ‘lynching’ comments
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has called on John McDonnell to apologise for making comments at a comedy night about people in her constituency who wanted her to be lynched. She said that his refusal to apologise had given people ‘permission’ to bully her online.

Oxfam chief executive ‘should go’, says committee member
Nigel Evans, a Conservative member of the International Development Committee, has said that Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, ‘should go’, The Times reports. The paper adds that both Lord Hague and Jeremy Corbyn have called for ministers not to cut the aid budget as a result of the scandal surrounding the charity. 

Times tables tests to be introduced
According to The Daily Telegraph, the new Education Secretary Damian Hinds will announce today that children as young as eight will be forced to take times tables tests for the first time in 75 years. Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the paper that this was part of the Government’s drive to make the UK a world leader in mathematics.

Committees criticise delays to immigration plan and disability assessment firms
A report by the Home Affairs Committee finds that delays to the Government’s white paper on the post-Brexit immigration system are causing anxiety for EU citizens and uncertainty for businesses, The Guardian says. Meanwhile, The Sun has details of a report by the Work and Pensions Committee criticising firms which assess disability benefits, whose staff are ‘at best lacking in competence and at worst actively deceitful’.

UK fails to hit defence spending target, report claims
The Financial Times has details of a report by the Institute for Strategic Studies that concludes the UK has missed its target of spending 2% of GDP on defence for the second year in a row. Instead, it calculates the figure as 1.98%. The report is released as Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson meets fellow NATO members in Brussels.

DUP leader says no to a free-standing Irish Language Act
The BBC reports that Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, has said there will not be a free-standing Irish Language Act. Sinn Fein has said that such an act is ‘essential’ to restoring power sharing at Stormont. Foster refused to comment on reports that a package with three acts on Irish, Ulster Scots and other cultural matters was under discussion.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 13 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the continuing Oxfam fallout, Philip Hammond’s Brexit charm offensive, Boris Johnson’s call for regulatory divergence and UK and US in dispute over ISIS ‘Beatles’. 

Oxfam fallout continues, with threats to funding
The response to Oxfam’s handling of a sex scandal in Haiti in 2011 has continued, as the BBC reports. Penny Lawrence (the charity’s deputy chief executive) has quit, Helen Evans (the charity’s former global head of safeguarding) has made further allegations, and the Charity Commission is to launch an investigation. International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has given Oxfam until the end of the week to explain how it will handle any future allegations or it will lose funding from the Government.

Philip Hammond starts Brexit charm offensive
The Daily Telegraph says that Philip Hammond is today embarking on a Brexit charm offensive, amid concerns that France is deliberately stalling negotiations. He is scheduled to visit Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, while David Davis will visit other European allies. The Sun reports that the UK is set to concede that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020.

Boris Johnson to call for regulatory divergence from EU
The Guardian reports that Boris Johnson is to use his speech on Brexit tomorrow to set out a ‘liberal vision’ for Brexit. He will call on leave and remain voters to unite and use Brexit for economic advantage by diverging on regulations from the EU. The paper warns that this ‘could raise fears about plans for deregulation after Brexit’.

UK and US in dispute over ISIS ‘Beatles’
According to The Times, the US and the UK are in a diplomatic row over the fate of two captured ISIS members suspected of being members of ‘The Beatles’, suspected of involvement in the beheading of over 27 people. The United States has ruled out detaining the men at Guantanamo Bay, but Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, does not want the men, who have been stripped of their British citizenship, to stand trial in the UK.

New tool to block extremist content
The BBC says that the Government has unveiled a tool that can accurately detect jihadist content and prevent it from being viewed. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that she would not rule out forcing technology companies to use it by law.

May calls for ‘one final push’ in Northern Ireland
According to The Daily Telegraph, Theresa May has called on the leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties to make ‘one final push’ to restore power sharing at Stormont. The Prime Minister said there was the ‘basis of an agreement’ and that the executive could be ‘up and running very soon’.

Committee calls for energy price cap to be introduced urgently
A report by the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee concludes that the Government’s proposed cap on energy bills should be introduced urgently, the BBC reports. According to the committee, the legislation should be passed by the summer recess, allowing it to come into force before the end of the year.

Nursing bursary cuts discourage students, Government report says
An article in The Mirror reveals that a Government impact assessment published yesterday admits that cutting more nursing bursaries risks discouraging women and mature students. The paper reports that this follows the Government’s decision on Friday to cut further bursaries.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 12 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the immigration systems post-Brexit, allegations against Oxfam, Boris’ Brexit speech outgunned and George Soros pledging a further £100,000 to anti-Brexit campaign. 

Home Office may not have new systems ready for Brexit and whistleblowers reveal the asylum ‘lottery’
According to The Times, Theresa May has overruled the Home Office to insist that EU citizens who arrive during the Brexit transition period will not have the automatic right to remain in the UK, despite warnings from senior officials that they would struggle to create separate systems to register existing EU citizens and new arrivals in time. Separately, Home Office whistleblowers have told The Guardian that the asylum process is a ‘lottery’, with interviews ‘rushed, biased and resolved by “cut and paste” decisions by overworked Home Office staff’.

Oxfam to meet International Development Secretary over abuse allegations
The BBC reports that senior managers at Oxfam are to meet International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt later today to tell her more about allegations that the charity’s staff used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011. Mordaunt’s predecessor, Priti Patel, tells The Sun that officials ‘at the highest levels’ knew about abuse claims but tried to keep them hushed up.

Cabinet ministers to ‘outgun’ Boris Johnson’s Brexit speech
The Times says that Boris Johnson’s Cabinet colleagues are planning to ‘outgun’ his speech on Brexit this week, by following it up with five further speeches. These include two from the Prime Minister on security and the future partnership, one from David Davis on business, one from Liam Fox on global deals, and one from David Lidington on the devolved nations. May will say that the UK wishes to keep the European arrest warrant and stay in Europol.

George Soros pledges extra £100,000 to anti-Brexit campaign
George Soros’ Open Society Foundation is to pledge an extra £100,000 to the pro-EU group Best for Britain, The Guardian says. He linked the increased donation to the campaign against him in the right-wing press, saying ‘I am happy to take the fight to those who have tried to use a smear campaign, not arguments, to prop up their failing case’.

Theresa May flies to Northern Ireland amid hopes of power-sharing deal
The Guardian reports that Theresa May is to fly to Belfast today, amid hopes that Northern Ireland’s main political parties are close to reaching a deal to restore power-sharing in the executive. She will be joined by Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, who has cancelled a meeting with the Welsh First Minister.

Diesel trains to be scrapped by 2040
Rail Minister Jo Johnson, is to announce today that every diesel train in the country should be scrapped by 2040, The Daily Telegraph says. This forms part of plans to cut pollution on the rail network, but the Government has not specified how this will be paid for.

DWP spends over £100m on disability benefit appeals over two years
According to The Guardian, the Department for Work and Pensions spent over £100m on administering reviews and appeals against disability benefits in just over two years. The Ministry of Justice also spends tens of millions on the reviews. Neil Heslop, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire, described the amounts as ‘staggering’.

Transport for London’s operational deficit expected to reach £1bn
The Financial Times reports that Transport for London is expecting an operational deficit of nearly £1bn next year. This has been caused by the Government removing a revenue grant, Sadiq Khan’s decision to freeze fares, and falling passenger numbers, attributed to increased working from home, use of ride-hailing apps, and safety concerns.

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Today’s Political Headlines – 9 February 2018

Today’s Political Headlines include the crackdown on unpaid internships, Barnier’s Labour memo, a riled David Davis and donors paying to meet ministers at the Conservative Black and White Ball.   

Crackdown on unpaid internships launched
In an exclusive, The Guardian reveals that the Government has launched a crackdown on unpaid internships. Companies have been sent more than 550 warning letters, and enforcement teams have been created to tackle repeat offenders. HMRC is expected to target sectors with a track record of using unpaid interns, including the media, performing arts, law and accountancy.

Barnier memo raises questions about Labour’s Brexit policy
The Daily Telegraph reports that a memo circulated by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier after meeting Jeremy Corbyn raises questions about Labour’s Brexit policy. According to the memo, Corbyn said that he was open to remaining in the customs union and said that he would run negotiations ‘very differently’. Labour, however, claim Corbyn instead said ‘a customs union was a viable end point’. Separately, The Guardian says that 30 pro-EU MPs and campaigners have written to the party’s national executive committee calling for a membership consultation on the party’s Brexit policy.

EU being ‘discourteous’ says David Davis
The Times says that Brexit Secretary David Davis has criticised the EU for being ‘discourteous’, with a source close to him telling the paper that the draft legal text of the transition period published by the EU was ‘deliberately inflammatory and designed to provoke a reaction’. The source also described this week’s talks as frustrating. The Sun claims that the UK is to reject the EU’s demand that Brussels sets fishing quotas during the transition period.

Donors pay to meet ministers at Conservative Black and White Ball
The Mirror reports on the Conservative Party’s Black and White Ball, which was held on Tuesday. It says that the Prime Minister told guests that she wanted to ‘defeat socialism’. For the last two years there has been a ban on auctioning access to cabinet ministers, but that was lifted this year and The Times reveals that a donor paid £55,000 to spend a day with Theresa May.

Gina Miller accuses group she founded of being ‘undemocratic’
The Daily Telegraph has spoken to the founder of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, Gina Miller, who accuses it of being ‘undemocratic’. Miller said the public had the ‘right to know’ who was backing the organisation and that it should not aim to bring down the Government.

Draft EU agreement would see Northern Ireland effectively stay in single market and customs union
According to The Guardian, EU negotiators have warned that the draft withdrawal agreement will see Northern Ireland effectively remain in the single market and customs union, in order to avoid a hard border. The paper suggests that this is likely to cause a ‘major row’.

Committee report proposes housing strategy for the elderly
A report by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee recommends that the Government develops a strategy to deal with older people’s housing needs. The BBC says that proposals include a handyman service, age-proofing new-build homes and a national helpline.

Tech firms questioned about fake news
As the Financial Times reports, MPs on the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee visited Washington yesterday to hear from firms including Google, Facebook and Twitter. The committee’s chair, Damian Collins, said that the firms had a level of ‘disconnect’ about their responsibility for combating fake news and disinformation.

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