Monday, 9 March 2015

Defence cuts..

Once again defence cuts lead the news agenda. Our splash today is: "Army faces cut to just 50,000 troops". The story centres on a report from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), which says the military may face a 10 per cent budget cut during the next parliament. This would reduce the army's size to 50,000 soldiers – the lowest level since the 1770s when Britain lost its grip on its American colonies. 

The news is likely to rile Tory backbenchers. Many are concerned about Britain's credibility with allies in Washington, and Britain's standing on the world stage. They want Cameron to commit to spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence, as required by Nato. Many of them believe Britain's power is in decline. With Moscow having increased its defence budget by 50 per cent since 2007, it is no surprise, they argue, that Putin has no qualms about provoking the British.  

They are also concerned that spending on overseas aid is set to outgrow the defence budget within 15 years. As our leader points out today: "This suggests not only a very bizarre sense of priorities, it is also potentially dangerous given the tensions in eastern Europe and the Middle East." 

Yesterday on the Andrew Marr show, the foreign secretary Philip Hammond muddied the water further by saying the government remained wedded to the two per cent target. But he could not "prejudge" the outcome of the defence spending review later this year. 

On Thursday there will be a backbench motion committing the next government to the Nato target. Defence has increasingly become a taboo subject during this election campaign, with received wisdom suggesting there are no votes in defence. Our MPs, however, have a duty to think beyond May 7.


The Guardian splashes today with: "Juncker calls for an EU army to face up to Moscow threat". The president of the European commission claims the EU needs its own army to persuade Russia it is serious about defending its values in the face of aggression. His proposal, however, was immediately rejected by the British government, who said there was "no prospect" of the UK agreeing. Read More 


In a sign of how austerity is changing the shape of government, officials have privately discussed cutting 30,000 employees at the Department for Work and Pensions over the next five years. This would create a full-time workforce of approximately 83,000, if a Conservative-led coalition is in power after May. While the proposed Labour slash is 20,000 posts, according to senior civil servants. The FT leads with the story on its front page. "Pensions department braced for 30,000 job cuts after election" is its splashRead More


The Tories' latest campaign will heighten fears among English voters over a potential electoral pact between Labour and the SNP. The poster by M&C Saatchi depicts Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond's breast pocket. Tory election chief Lynton Crosby hopes to capitalise on the growing divisions within Labour over a possible SNP deal. The Times splashes the story on its front page with the headline: "Tories move to exploit Labour split in Scotland". Read More


At least 500 extra free schools will be built if the Conservatives win the election, David Cameron has said. His comments follow a new report from the think tank Policy Exchange, which found free schools improve local education standards. Read More


In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Danny Alexander claims the Liberal Democrats will block "potty" plans by George Osborne to provide a pre-election tax cut for higher earners. He described his coalition partner's plans for Britain as "utterly irresponsible". Read More


George Galloway and his solicitors have been accused of blackmail and fraud after demanding more than £6,000 from anyone who supposedly libelled him on Twitter. The Respect MP for Bradford West instructed lawyers to send legal threats to Twitter users who composed or retweeted posts alleging he was anti-Semitic. However, a lawyer acting for three people who received legal demands has filed a complaint on their behalf with West Yorkshire police and the solicitors' regulator. Read More


In a move that is likely to create tension with the Tories, the director general of the BBC has said he supports the Labour policy of lowering the voting age to 16. Lord Hall made the comments during a speech to school pupils in LondonRead More


A Labour parliamentary candidate has rejected a £1,000 donation from Tony Blair. Lesley Brennan, who is the party's candidate in Dundee East, contradicted her party's headquarters, which welcomed Blair's donations to the 106 battleground seats. Read More



@LesleyEastend: Received donation from Tony Blair. Instinct was to not accept. Discussed with team. Dundee East is not accepting the £1000. 


From The Telegraph

Alan Cochrane - Rumours of Scottish Labour's demise are premature 

The Telegraph - Our role in Libya's plight 

From elsewhere

Timothy Garton Ash - Europe is being torn apart – but the torture will be slow 

Damian McBride - Osborne can't afford a pre-election splurge  



0930 Bank of England's quarterly Inflation Attitudes Survey will be published

0930 Weekly figures on A&E attendances and admissions for hospitals in England will be released

Liverpool: Green party spring conference

Caernarfon: Plaid Cymru spring conference

Brussels: EU environment ministers convene




Main Chamber

Legislation: Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill [HL] - Report stage - Jonathan Evans

Legislation: House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill [HL] - Report stage (Day 2) - Sir George Young

Legislation: Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) Bill - Second reading - Mr Peter Bone

Legislation: Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) Bill - Second reading - Mr Peter Bone

Legislation: Recall of Elected Representatives Bill - Second reading - Zac Goldsmith

Legislation: Affordable Housing Contributions (Ten Unit Threshold) Bill - Second reading - Tim Farron

Legislation: Blood Donation (Equality) Bill - Second reading - Michael Fabricant

Legislation: National Health Service and Care Sector Workers (Credit Union and High Cost Credit) Bill - Second reading - Mr Gareth Thomas

Legislation: Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill - Second reading - Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Legislation: Planning Consent Applications (Contracts): Bill - Second reading - Mr Nigel Evans

Legislation: Apprenticeships (Child Benefit and Tax Credit Entitlement) (Research) Bill - Second reading - Jesse Norman

Legislation: General Practitioner Surgeries (Rural Areas) Bill - Second reading - Tim Farron

Legislation: Internet Communications (Regulation) Bill - Second reading - Sir Alan Duncan

Legislation: Mobile Phones and Other Devices Capable of Connection to the Internet (Distribution of Sexually Explicit Images and Manufacturers' Anti-Pornography Default Setting) Bill - Second reading - Geraint Davies

Legislation: Alcohol Labelling (Pregnancy): Bill - Second reading - Bill Esterson

Legislation: International Trade Agreements (Scrutiny) Bill - Second reading - Geraint Davies

Legislation: Carers Bedroom Entitlement (Social Housing Sector) Bill - Second reading - Barbara Keeley

Legislation: Dogs (Registration) Bill - Second reading - Julie Hilling

Legislation: Railways (Public Sector Operators) Bill - Second reading - Andy Sawford

Legislation: Employment Rights Bill - Second reading - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Local Government (Planning Permission and Referendums) Bill - Second reading - Martin Vickers

Legislation: Fixed-Term Parliaments (Repeal) Bill - Second reading - Sir Alan Duncan

Legislation: Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill - Second reading - Annette Brooke

Legislation: Under-occupancy Penalty (Exemptions) Bill - Second reading - Yvonne Fovargue

Legislation: Road Fuel Pricing (Equalisation) Bill - Second reading - Mark Garnier

Legislation: Political Party Policy Costings (Office for Budget Responsibility) Bill - Second reading - Alison McGovern

Legislation: Onshore Wind Turbine Subsidies (Abolition) Bill - Second reading - Nigel Adams

Legislation: Household Safety (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Andrew Bingham

Legislation: Women's Refuges (Provision and Eligibility) Bill - Second reading - Norman Baker

Legislation: Private Rented Sector (Decent Homes Standard) Bill - Second reading - Laura Sandys

Legislation: Right to Buy and Right to Acquire Schemes (Research) Bill - Second reading - Tim Farron

Legislation: Public Sector Efficiency (Employee Participation) Bill - Second reading - John Pugh

Legislation: Job Creation Powers (Scotland) Bill - Second reading - Ian Murray

Legislation: Fracking (Measurement and Regulation of Impacts) (Air, Water and Greenhouse Gas Emissions) Bill - Second reading - Geraint Davies

Legislation: Nature Bill - Second reading - Sir John Randall

Legislation: Medical Innovation Bill [HL] - Second reading - Michael Ellis

Legislation: Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Jobs Guarantee Scheme (Research) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Terms and Conditions (Migrant Workers) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (Betting Shops) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: High Cost Credit Services (Retail Premises) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (Repeal) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Firearm and Shotgun Licensing (Domestic Violence) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill - Second reading - Thomas Docherty

Legislation: Working Time Directive (Limitation) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Bat Habitats Regulation Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Convicted Prisoners Voting Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill - Second reading - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Road Traffic Regulation (Temporary Closure for Filming) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Iain Stewart

Legislation: Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill - Second reading - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill - Second reading - Mr Christopher Chope

Legislation: Wild Animals in Circuses Bill - Second reading - Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Adjournment: Housing association transfer ballots - Jim Fitzpatrick