British Press and Social Media
What Could Be In the Autumn Statement?
The Autumn Statement has become a regular staple of the British political calendar ever since Geoffrey Howe stepped up to the dispatch box to deliver the first one in 1982. It has not been formalised like the actual Budget, which is held in the Spring. Howe used it more or less as just a report on economic forecasts and conditions combined with any changes in national insurance contributions and other policies that made up the Red Book. Ken Clarke as Chancellor combined the two into one November budget, with a new Summer Statement being focused on forecasts and treated them more as a debate on a motion rather than a serious forecast. Gordon Brown put the Budget back into the spring, which made the Autumn Statement a Pre-Budget Report, with ideas that would be debated and considered before placing them into the following fiscal year's budget. Because of the General Election in 2015, Sajid Javid was forced to give the Autumn Statement in December, and has further reformed it to be a Spending Review as led by statistics on government spending by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
This year's Statement is due November 10, and the question largely stands: what will be in the Spending Review? Here's our predictions on what will be in it:
1. The Government has spent more than intended, even with its cuts.
When Theresa May and the Democrats gained control of Number 10 from the SDP, they claimed that they found mounting government debts and out of control public spending. With diligent reforms, the UK Government has cut spending as a percentage of GDP from 49% to 41%, a giant savings of 7% in the 2016-2017 Budget. However, they had to do some climb downs on key reforms including the potential introduction of tuition fees at universities, and so it's most likely that government spending is marginally higher than 41%, perhaps 41.5%, which is still a valiant cut down. The streamlining of benefits into the Universal Credit Payment (known as Britcoin) to those making 60% or less of the median income (£25,419.30) has changed the welfare safety net burden into a sustainable one, and the superannuation changes will lead to even less spending over time, as well as the English devolution. It is possible that the next budget is reduced to a 40% GDP by the UK Government.
2. Income has risen 3% since the beginning of the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Any government would tout a success like this, and the facts show that British median income has increased 3% over the course of the 2016-2017 financial year so far, leading to more revenue for the Government and increased economic activity in the private sector. The Democrats have waited for news like this, and Theresa May in particular will be grinning, giving her more leeway in her control on her party (including over the social conservatives on the Democratic Right). More money in the pockets of voters is certainly going to be important heading into the 5 new regional elections in England (Midlands, Greater Manchester-Liverpool, Northern, Southern and Cornish; Greater London already had its election, resulting in an LPP mayor and Assembly). The Democrats will look to control at least the Southern and Cornish Assemblies, while they could make some significant gains in the Midlands and Greater Manchester.
3. Announcement of the per capita block grant formula from the UK Government.
While some tax powers were gifted to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the regional English assemblies, the UK Government retains the overwhelming amount of control over taxation and as a result the formula of grants given to each of the devolved institutions. While Scotland has argued for more tax powers, the block grants are expected to largely return about £3000 per person in each of the regional assembly areas. To be expected, London will receive the most of that £384 bn. Each of the devolved areas can raise additional income tax and corporation by up to 5% (however, they cannot cut to be below the UK rates) to create additional revenue for the devolved institutions. The English regional parliaments will receive 80% (£307.2 bn) of that funding, Scotland will receive 9.3% (£35.712 bn), Ireland 8% (£30.72 bn), and Wales 2.7% (£10.368 bn).
4. The NHS latest bargaining on behalf of the citizens of the United Kingdom.
The NHS in its latest bargaining with hospitals, doctors, specialists, care homes, and other important parts of the health system was able to bring down some costs while spending more on procedures with patients. The NHS has covered 100% of surgeries and emergency services, 95% of GP costs, and 80% of specialist and prescription costs. The result was £341.087 bn spent on health (18% of the budget) by the UK Government (NHS payments are not a devolved issue, while the regulation of health is).
5. Continuing the economic plan for jobs and stability.
The Democrats will argue that the SDP spent too much and risked the economic stability of the United Kingdom, and that is why they were voted out of office by the public. The Democrats had to form an official agreement with the LPP in the Senate to get key economic legislation through, but they did achieve it and did compromise on some social justice issues that are important to the LPP supporters like a look into UK-wide policing practices on race and nationality. Working with the Senate in this Parliament is going to be crucial for Theresa May and her Government's policies on the economy that she branded as "common sense reforms for a common sense Britain". These economic reforms like the restructuring of the welfare system were massive reforms to the system, and while she has more and has said that she will continue to find more of those, it's largely social issues in which her own party might not be totally sold let alone the Senate.
It's going to be an important Statement for the Chancellor, and we only hope Sajid Javid is ready for the occasion.
Julia Hartley-Brewer @RealHartBrew 2h ago
Good to see @Number10gov and @DUP getting the job done on the economy. #CommonSenseBritain #RealSolutions Marxist Book Club in ruins.
HRH Duchess of Kent, Renata @HRHRenataK 8h
Beautiful view from our vacation home on #BondiBeach in Sydney. Tomorrow, we'll have an official visit with @HillaryClintonPM #AusVisit
Guardian UK @GuardianUK 15h
From March 2016 to now, UK wage growth has increased by 3%, 1 pt. ahead of inflation.
greater assembly votes In Favour Of crossrail 3
City Hall --- The Greater London Government, chaired by the LPP's Caroline Pidgeon, has voted in favour of a third Crossrail line, with Crossrail 1 and 2 both fully operational since the beginning of this year. Crossrail 3 is scheduled to go from Ebbsfleet to the site of the potential Thames Estuary airport location (pending consultation and legislation from the UK Government on the Thames Estuary airport project). Crossrail 1 (Elizabeth Line) runs from Shenfield and Liverpool Street Station to Reading and Terminal IV at Heathrow with a stop at London City Airport along the route with connections to Milton Keynes, Gravesend, and Staines. Crossrail 2 goes from Shepperton or Hampton Court or Chessington South or Epsom to Broxborne or Hackney Central or New Southgate.
Crossrail 3 will go from Wimbledon or Twickenham to Rainham, and Mayor Pidgeon has stated that "this necessary link in our capital, coupled with the Croydon Tramlink will provide greater infrastructure options for London and continue to provide tourists, commuters and residents the best possible solutions to the problems that the current capacity and traffic has presented us".
The London commuter area contains 26 million residents, and 16 million in Greater London alone. The realised plans include the 2017 operational R25 orbital overground service, the 2018 inner orbital overground services, and the South Circular shown here.
The Evening Standard wants to hear YOUR voice! Leave comments below.
All this money Transport for London is spending, including Ripple capability on all aspects of TfL services, and we still can't get the bums off the trains.
Great idea to get the congestion off the streets and out of the main stations. London traffic is absolutely mental!
21 October 2016
Andrew Neil: Welcome to Daily Politics. There's a lot to get to on our show today. Australian presidential elections, the Clinton Government responding by pushing hard for a victory in the Australian Capital Territory, riding the high approval ratings so far down there. Duxburian election seems to be impending. Back home, we've got the Government partnering with Greater London to get Crossrail 3 and the London Thames Estuary Airport on the ground. Theresa May hosted the Sitanovan Prime Minister and Sovereign. Many things to cover. I'm joined by Jo Coburn, SDP's Shadow Foreign Secretary Hillary Benn and the Government's Business Secretary, Priti Patel. Welcome to you all. Let's start on Australia.
Jo Coburn: Really quite an interesting political system they've got now.
AN: Yes, and the first thing that they're doing nationally in that hybrid Westminster system with an elected President is electing their President. The biggest splash was made by Andrew Kligenberg, the independent candidate with support from the nationalist One Nation Party. He called Turkmen rapists and criminals! I mean, quite and extraordinary situation he landed himself in already.
Hillary Benn: Yes, but you also noted that he was supported by Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party, and that means he's got a bit of a legitimacy there and will be competitive in the rural areas of Australia, the bush they call it. Those blue collar, working class people are tired of metropolitan elites governing the country and they used to go to the Australian Conservatives but now....One Nation is moving in on that territory pretty hard. Queensland will be the swing state that you find all of the presidential candidates travelling to. New South Wales is the other one, as the largest state in Australia.
Priti Patel: But the point of the story is...we have to listen to our people. We can't just do whatever we want as a Government and expect the people to come along for the ride. The people hold the key, and the Australian people so far have given Andrew Kligenberg a bit of a reception. He's running third in the polls behind Stephen Conroy, the Progressive Alliance candidate, and incumbent President Julia Gillard of the Labour Party. I mean, he's ahead of Malcolm Turnbull! The very recently former Prime Minister of Australia. That's shocking, and it shows how much Turnbull, who was seen as a safe, centrist pick socially but an economic conservative, is out of step with his own base at this point.
AN: So do you think the Government runs that risk here?
PP: No, because we've been listening to the public. We've returned power to them through devolution strategies....we're doing what we said we would when elected. We've reformed the NHS into a sustainable, higher quality, faster service. We've reformed welfare to give people a help into work, taking 10 million people out of poverty and out of tax altogether. We have been a Government with moral authority, with credibility, and we will continue our progress.
HB: Yes, a Government that has taken £300 bn out of the budget. Money that should have been spent on working people and giving everyone a fair shot. This Government has been trying to undo our reforms, and that is exactly what Hillary Clinton and her Government in Australia will suffer if Turnbull or Kligenberg are elected. There will be gridlock in Australia the likes of which that country would have never seen before.
JC: I think, despite the abhorrent nature of his opening comments, that Kligenberg will be good for Australian politics. The Progressives, remember, were the third party but just 6 months ago. Now they're looking to be the dominant party on the left and here to stay long term. He will bring in people who have never voted before in an Australian election of any sort.
AN: But would the Australians want them to?
JC: Until the Keating Government, Australian elections were entirely compulsory and punishable by fine in terms of participation. They've since done away with the fine, and there is still high participation, but now a larger swathe of the country doesn't want to be involved because they don't trust people. If someone like a Kligenberg brings them back into the fold, it can only be a good thing going forward for the country. Participation in democratic institutions are vital for the health of a democracy, and having undergone such a massive change like Australia did means it's even more important. I honestly love their system. It's so dynamic, the Parliament is proportionally represented. Remember, before their joining together, the Progressive Alliance was a coalition government.
AN: Alright. Let's move on to talking about the UK Government and their position to expand London's air traffic capacity by adding a fourth major international airport. Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and now the London Thames Estuary Airport. The UK Government is going to give Greater London £5 bn towards the project in its final stages here, and upgrading rail links in the area where the airport will be made. The new airport will be fully operational by June of next year. Environmental groups, the Greens...they're all opposed to the idea on grounds that it will damage the environment in the area. Studies have shown, though, that having a fourth major international airport will improve air traffic safety and reduce holding patterns at both Heathrow and Gatwick, which will be better for the environment. Hillary Benn, you are not in favour of the proposal. Why?
HB: Well, I think that the project continues to focus all of our infrastructure development on London. It's much like the old Roman adage that 'all roads lead to Rome'. Well, in this country 'all roads lead to London'. I think London is a great city, it is a global city, it is the second biggest financial hub in the world behind Verington, and one of the most important European capitals. It is the cultural centre of our country, all of that good stuff. But what about the rest of the country? What about increasing capacity in Manchester and Edinburgh and Dublin?
AN: But the Government HAS done that. There are international flights from Edinburgh, Dublin, and Manchester daily.
HB: Not exactly though. It has done the deal with those airports that say that they can fly international flights out, but they have to pass through one of the London hubs. That's not expanding capacity regionally. The Government needs to invest in Edinburgh's airport, in Manchester's airport, and Dublin's airport.
PP: But the Scottish and Irish Governments have responsibility for Edinburgh and Scotland's airports, and we have done the work of expanding capacity in Manchester. May I point out, by the way, that the Socialists...excuse me, the SDP, had a chance to do all of this in their 20 years of being in government. We are the first Government in 20 years to put money into Manchester's airport and transportation infrastructure because we understand that to build the economy, you need sound infrastructure that can handle greater capacity. That's why we have sped up the London Gateway project, increased Manchester's capacity, upgraded our mainline rail services to be fully electric in order to get ready for High Speed 3, 4 and 5 next year. You will be able to take the same kind of high speed train like the Eurostar from Edinburgh to London and then go from London to Mertz in 4 hours. We've expanded Ripple capacity for British business. What has happened is that the SDP realised they should have been doing these things and now they're trying to accuse us of their policy.
HB: But you've cut the transportation budget in real terms just like you've cut the entirety of the UK budget. That's less investment in projects. London Gateway was slated to be finished in December 2015. It's almost a year of the Democrat Government, and what have we gotten from it? Promises that the London Gateway will be fully operational in December of this year, with reports saying that there may be only 30% capacity until November of 2017! That's your record on investment, and that's why people don't trust the DUP to get things done. All they're concerned about is privatising the national assets. They did it with energy. They've tried to do it with transportation before, only selling off BA. We can't afford this Government. We're a poorer nation because of it.
JC: But Priti Patel raised a good point. Why didn't the SDP invest in the north more in its two decades of rule?
HB: We were, Jo. We put in over £100 bn into Manchester, into Leeds over 10 years of the previous government. It delivered real results for people. Everyone up there had a job, everyone had security, and everyone had community pride. Under this Government, jobs are relocating to London because there isn't the infrastructure in education, the infrastructure in transport to support these new jobs.
PP: It's not the fault of businesses that they move to where skills are. What this Government is doing is looking at the north and seeing what we can do to help. Devolution will certainly play a vital role in building this Northern Powerhouse that we have campaigned on and we won. Building the already fantastic arts community of the north, the strong traditions of the north, and bringing the new economy to this area that so desperately needs it. I will be glad to compare our one year in government, a year that has seen private sector consumption increase our GDP by £600 bn and 3% wage growth in this calendar year to the economic stagnation of the SDP. I think it's clear that we are a Government that is getting the job done, unlocking the potential of our nation and helping everyone get equality of opportunity.
AN: Alright. We have to take a very short break. When we come back after the news break, we'll talk about the Sitanovan visit and what that means for the UK going forward.
Guardian UK @GuardianUK 2h
Recent IPSOS poll: DUP 37%, SDP 32%, LPP 12%, SNP 5%, UKIP 5%, Plaid 5%, Green 4%
Rachel Tucker @RachelTucker1 3h
Sad to finish last performance with @WickedUK, but excited to go reprise the role on Broadway. Look out Verington! Love to @kerryjanellis as she greens up.
Dame Maggie Smith @DameSmithOBE 15m
What does one do on a Saturday evening in? Hot cocoa and classic British films. #cosyliving
Government To Increase Mental Health Funding and Services
24 October 2016
After changing the NHS to be a large government insurance scheme in their first 100 days of Government, the Democrats have added some public services back, including paediatric services and now mental health services. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced that an increase of £3 billion into the health budget will be sought after over the course of the Parliament to provide public mental health clinics across the United Kingdom. This step was made after consultation from mental health professionals and the Chairman of the NHS, who said that while healthcare services have become more efficient and sustainable with the change beginning in April of this year, more services were needed to help those who needed preventative care and mental health care.
"The Government would be better served to return paediatric preventative care, mental health care, and adult preventative care like general practitioners back into public hands. The latter of those is not necessarily required for all GPs to come back into public sector, but have the option there for people more or less," said Simon Stevens. "This would ensure sustainability but allow those who cannot contribute anything to their care to have these key healthcare professionals to go to before getting seriously ill."
The tax rate of 5p levied as an NHS tax has provided the necessary funding required to the NHS, £273.3 billion, directly to the NHS, has enabled the government to negotiate costs as the largest insurance company in Britain. However, supplementary health insurance industry has begun to thrive as well as people pay for supplementary insurance to cover the remaining costs after the NHS covers many services including age care services. The Government was quick to use the words of the NHS chair, Simon Stevens, on the sustainability of this version of the NHS.
"The fact remains," Jeremy Hunt said in Parliament on Monday, "that the NHS is now more sustainable and safer in the hands of this Democratic Government than in the hands of the SDP. It just goes to show that we on this side of the House are on the side of all of the British people while those opposite only care about making this country poorer and unsustainable."
Government to Look at Universal Credit (Britcoin) in Autumn Statement
LONDON --- The Government will be looking at the threshold for Universal Credit during the Autumn Statement. The Treasury has indicated that one of the areas that the Chancellor was looking at in terms of potential changes in the Autumn Statement. Upon the introduction of Universal Credit in place of the many tiers of benefits, the Government has had a small issue with the threshold of those who needed the credit most. It has been a point of contention between the Government and the Opposition at Prime Minister's Questions, and the Government has been trying to keep its own reforms under wraps. A source from HM Treasury has told the Guardian that: "changes to the threshold will be in the Autumn Statement, as well as some regular check-ups like tax rates and a policy announcement regarding public services".
Mrs. May has been said to be a fan of privatising some government owned assets like the Royal Mail, but other potential national assets like the payment system for the National Health Service and others have popped up in recent days. The speculation may be overdone that the Government would announce such a policy at an Autumn Statement, and not at a Budget, which will take place in the Spring. The Chancellor, the Prime Minister, and other Government ministers were not made available to comment on the source's report to the Guardian.
Politics: PM to Reshuffle Cabinet After Autumn Statement
Rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle have popped up at the anniversary of the 2015 snap general election that saw the Democratic Unionist Party swept into power, ending the almost two decade rule of the Social Democrats under first Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, and then Ed Miliband and Barack Obama. Prime Minister Theresa May has enjoyed strong economic conditions buoying public opinion on the Government, and has taken the time to list the achievements of the Government ahead of the Autumn Statement:
"This is the year anniversary of this Democratic Government, and we have already begun to make positive change for Britain's future. We have reduced our budget by nearly 7% of GDP, an immense £800 billion saved for the taxpayer. We have spurred economic growth by simplifying the tax code and reducing taxes across the whole of the United Kingdom, also taking measures to ensure that people have quality public services that are sustainable. Our reform to the pension system have given savers the opportunity to amass enough savings over their lifetime that they could secure their retirement. We have reformed the NHS so that quality services can be delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while keeping healthcare costs down to the Government, giving us more leeway in health policy to bring about even more change for the better. There are more people in work than ever before, holding at 2.9%, the lowest in British history. We have delivered a political future for all parts of the United Kingdom to be the most devolved it has ever been. However, we still have work to be done and the Autumn Statement will point us in the direction that the Government will take in the future."
The Cabinet, on the other hand, will still be shuffled. The Great Offices of State will stay the same: Javid will stay on as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rudd as Home Secretary and Crabb as Home Secretary, as will Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. There are rumours, though, that some big positions like Health Secretary are under consideration by Mrs. May.
Times Politics (@timespolitics)
Gov't increases lead on SDP.
DUP 38, SDP 30, LPP 10, UKIP 7, SNP 6, GRN 4, PLD 3, GRN 2
Study shows voters move from minors to SDP, SDP to DUP
Politics: Social Democratic Party Rumblings; Calls for Challenge to Corbyn
As the Parliament draws to a close for 2016, the SDP have found that they have significant ground to cover in the polls against the Government. While there are signs that supporters of the Greens and some supporters of even smaller left-wing parties in the United Kingdom gravitated towards the SDP under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, more centrist leaders have begun to move towards the Government in recent polling. According to YouGov, the DUP Government has held firm at 39%, while the SDP has fallen by 2 points to 28%. An 11 point margin would deliver an electoral landslide for the Government at a future general election, which has raised questions over whether the Government would call for a snap general election if current trends hold further. While some people say that Theresa May would not pull that snap general election trigger just yet. It would allow the Prime Minister more latitude in the Senate, where she does have to negotiate a deal with UKIP and tricky crossbench support to get key support for legislation like the Infrastructure Plan, which the SDP, Greens and Scottish Nationalists have already decided to try and add more amendments to after the House of Commons held its first and second readings.
The blame, according to Andy Burnham, sits squarely on the shoulders of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the SDP since early 2016. The leader's lacklustre performances so far in PMQs, according to internal sources, have contributed to the parliamentary caucus of the SDP in the Commons and in the Senate looking for a new replacement. Senator Shami Chakrabarti expressed on Sky News this week that "Corbyn's performance as Leader has not broadened the base of the SDP, and has put them in a rough position with English regional elections in 2017". With the new regional legislatures coming to fruition in May 2017, it appears that the SDP will barely hold on to power in the West Midlands Assembly, while the Northeast and Northwest Assemblies remain the only solid SDP heartlands in England outside of London, with the SDP beaten into third place in the Southwest, and a distant second in the East Anglia Assembly and East Midlands Assembly.
The SDP have moved away from supporting working class people in England towards liberal metropolitan elites. The Daily Mail called out the SDP as "being the party of Islington, liberal Kensington, and essentially of London, where there is some displeasure across the United Kingdom directed since 2010". Some have called for Corbyn's head. Andy Burnham continued:
"Jeremy Corbyn hasn't done enough to broaden our base. We were taken out of power in 2015 because people felt the United Kingdom could not act of its own accord in foreign affairs but rather had devolved itself to being a lapdog of the Duxburian Union and Angleter, and they felt that the Government, our Government did not take the time to listen to concerns of people beyond the M25. To have a leader from London speak to issues that haven't resonated beyond the London and Manchester urban areas is dangerous. We cannot limit ourselves to being the party of Greater London and Greater Manchester only. We will never win power, and that is what being a political party is about. We must figure out a way to win power again".
The SDP's schism on Trident, on international affairs, on economic protectionism, on emissions and clilmate change economy, on state intervention and regulation (the list goes on), seems largely between the Corbyn supporters who also happen to come from a class of voter affectionately (or perhaps dis-affectionately) called champagne socialists and left-wingers, the caucus, and traditional, more socially moderate working class voters in middle and northern England. This three way split has got other parties like the Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Progressives, and even UKIP trying to snap up the varying voters. Could this be the death of the SDP? Senator Chakrabarti seems to think so if the party isn't careful.
"If we do not work to address this party, the large coalition of the left that a model SDP should be," Senator Chakrabarti said to Andrew Neil on Daily Politics, "we could see the SDP either have a long period of being in the wilderness, or completely dissolve altogether, which would be a shame that this proud party, the party of Attlee, of Wilson, and of the recent Blair-Brown and Miliband Governments could dissolve. We cannot assume that we have a right to exist, and we cannot make our message smaller and expect to win elections and retain power. Voters will respond".
Politics: Senate Review on Government NHS Policy to be Handed Down on Tuesday
LONDON -- The Government may see its key reforms heavily scrutinised by the Senate on Tuesday as the long awaited Annual Senate NHS Review headed by Senate Opposition Leader Angela Smith. She chaired the Senate Committee before broader Senate scrutiny was invited on the Governments transformation of the National Health Service in 2015-2016, set to start on January 1 of 2017. Senator Smith said that "this privatisation en masse of NHS services would inherently damage the NHS into an unrecognisable husk". While the Government withdrew its initial legislation, it passed through the House of Commons a second draft on the proposed single payer healthcare coverage (not provider) scheme. The legislation was blocked in the Senate 51-48, with all but the UKIP Senators backing the Government's proposal, but upon accepting one amendment from a Plaid Cymru Senator, the Liberal Progressive Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government in the Senate 56-43 to keep recommend the law receive the amendment written by Senator Liz Saville-Roberts but otherwise be cleared for Royal Assent.
At the time, Theresa May hailed the bipartisan effort of the Government in the Senate as a huge achievement for sustainability of public services, and said that the move "ensured the NHS would last for centuries to come". She may rue the day she decided to tackle the NHS. The Annual Senate NHS Review is set to air a list of grievances by the SDP, SNP, and LPP on some aspects of the impending implementation of the NHS on 1 January. The Prime Minister has indicated that even if the reforms are unpopular initially, they are needed for the future of both the budget and the services that the Government provides. The Senate Review will also outline achievements of the Government and list recommendations that both sides of the chamber had to agree to before publishing.
This all in the last week of sittings for the Parliament in 2016. With an infrastructure bill ready to go from the Secretary of State for Tertiary Education, Innovation and Skills Jo Johnson, the entire political year could be stolen away from the Government by a Senate with an axe to grind.
Canary Wharf, Oxford-Cambridge, Northern England Development Targets For Government
2017 may be the big year that the Government was hoping 2016 would be. After cautiously starting off 2016, the Government announced in its white paper an infrastructure and development plan, aimed at generating an extra 2% of economic activity in the United Kingdom by 2018. The new investment will include upgrading the existing Crossrail link to Canary Wharf in London, partnered with Transport for London, 4,000 new residences in Canary Wharf. Other big projects include the Oxford-Cambridge Tech Corridor and rail connections between Manchester-Leeds and Manchester-Blackpool upgrades and vital airport upgrades to Edinburgh, Manchester, and Dublin airports. Jo Johnson had this to say about the infrastructure projects and their potential for jobs and growth.
"Development in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor as well as upgrading the regional hub airports like Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester as well as the development of Canary Wharf to include residential areas and associated lifestyle industries will be absolutely essential in the new economy we want to create in Britain. Powering our economy with dynamic private sector investment and building on traditional strengths that have made Britain the fantastic country it has been in the past. We look to the future with these designs and make sure that we get Innovation Britain powered and ready to go," the Secretary said in a speech to the Canary Wharf Group luncheon on Sunday.
The "Veringtonisation" of London has been limited so far to the Wharf, but the City has also seen its share of high rises go up in the last 10 years, and will continue to see these investments pop up across the capital. The problem, says Nick Hurd, is delivering the economic growth to the rest of the United Kingdom.
"We are blessed to have a wonderful capital city," said the Secretary of State for Business and Energy. "Our goal is to get business investment to grow at a faster rate outside of London than in London so that the rest of the country can catch up. Dublin has led the way in the north as has the rest of Ireland, but there is more work left to do."
Some economists at the London School of Economics have touted that 2017 could be the year for Britain to really start to kick its growth into high gear with the infrastructure projects coming to fruition in that year like HS2 and 3 (which created the Birmingham to Manchester link and the Edinburgh-Leeds,London high speed connection), Crossrail in London and big retraining projects rolled out to help with the Government's tech policy boosted by the full roll-out of the fibre optic National Broadband Network (UKNBN). Check back again in December 2017.
Pravoslaviya Torpedoes Migrant Boat; Government Holds Emergency Cabinet Meeting
LONDON --- It may be time for a new year, but the Government has one more emergency piece of business on its agenda. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, called back her Cabinet Minister to London for an emergency meeting of the Cabinet in which they discussed the news from Pravoslaviya that a boat carrying migrants from besieged country of Dromund Kaas, now entering its 5th year of internal conflicts.
The boat, which was torpedoed in the earlier hours in the morning, was carrying up to 250 Kaasian migrants towards Pravoslaviya. According to the Denes Nad Pravoslaviya newspaper:
They confirmed that some remains have been recovered, but that it is too early to say how many bodies have been found and how many remain to be recovered. The migrants' belongings, recovered from the wreckage, confirmed that at least some of them were Kaasians of the Sithian sect.
Metodi Pravoslav has defended the policy, saying that "this is a tragedy, yes. However, we expect it will be an effective deterrent. Thousands of people have died in the Caspian in recent years because they've got on ships believing that they will get a better life in Pravoslaviya. Now it's clear. We will no longer tolerate these boats. They will not get to Pravoslaviya. So what we will see happen in the coming months is a reduction in the number of boats - hopefully to zero - and ultimately thousands of lives being saved.
The Prime Minister was left feeling "shocked and appalled at the atrocities committed by the new Pravoslaviyan government". She and other members of the Cabinet are taking careful steps in deciding what will come next for Pravoslaviya.
"The Government has to consider all options on the table for such conduct, especially against non-belligerents. We have been monitoring the extreme rhetoric that has come from Pravoslaviya, Tryumpov and Prime Minister Metodi Pravoslav, and as a nation built on democratic values and compassion, we will not stand by and let these actions go without consequence. We must also consider our role in the Dromund Kaas conflict, a conflict that our SDP predecessors put the United Kingdom in back in 2012 but quickly withdrew. Our allies in the Duxburian Union and Angleter have done a great deal to advance the cause of liberal democracy and freedom to the country slowly, and we must consider Britain's role in re-entering the conflict in a supporting role," the Prime Minister replied. "There have been many displaced people in Europe over the last two years, and the most have come from Dromund Kaas as they find a nation that has no government, insurgency runs rampant, and there is chaos everywhere. Europe should be ashamed of its lack of concern as the Coalition of the Willing continues to act on its own with no support from the regional government."
The Government has also been in touch with Australian Prime Minister Hillary Clinton and her Government.
"We have been in contact with our allies, including the Australian Government, who has been taking in Kaasian refugees for some time now. Mrs. Clinton has assured me that Australia will support the United Kingdom in its pursuit to dealing with the refugee crisis that has amounted from this 4 year struggle in Dromund Kaas," Mrs. May continued. "I hope that I can speak directly to Prime Minister Courtenay and the Angleteric Government and Steward Maxmillian in the Duxburian Union."
Parliament Recalled Early on Vote to Rejoin Coalition in Dromund Kaas
LONDON --- The Prime Minister announced that Parliament would begin a special sitting on Wednesday in regards to the recent issues in Pravoslaviya and Dromund Kaas. On the steps of Number 10, she spoke of the need to be on the side of people in need.
"The Government's foreign policy principles are based on strength: the strength of our resolve, the strength of our nation, and above all, the strength of our compassion. The events of the following week has rocked Europe and the United Kingdom into action. We believe that Britain's place is at the heart of the issues, working with our partners across the region to promote peace. That is why we have called Parliament back for a three day sitting starting on Wednesday, so that we may have debate in the House of Commons and in the Senate on what to do regarding the Pravoslaviyan actions in the deaths of nearly 250 refugees, further cooperation with Angleter and the Duxburian Union in Dromund Kaas, and the Government's policy on refugees.
"Though we are far away from Dromund Kaas, we do believe that it is in the interest of Europe and this country to do our part in a conflict in which Britain played a role back in 2012. At the time, I said it was silly for the former Prime Minister to withdraw British forces from Dromund Kaas, and that it would only be through a combined effort that the conflict would come to a swift resolution. He did not heed that warning, and now we are nearing the fifth year of such conflict. The time to re-enter has never been clearer. That is what the Government will put forward to Parliament, and that is what we will be debating.
"We will also debate the Government's target to take in 100,000 Kaasian children, and through a thorough vetting process, accompanying family members."
SDP leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the special sitting, stating that "the Government has ignored the cries for help made by the people in Dromund Kaas" and that the former SDP government was fixated on the Teutonic crisis, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of migrants closer to the United Kingdom.
Parliament Votes to Approve Dromund Kaas Re-entry; Senate Blocks Initial Migrant Proposal
LONDON --- The House of Commons and the Senate have both authorised the Government to re-enter the Dromund Kaas conflict, giving the Prime Minister authority to formally ask the King to declare war on Dromund Kaas. The British Armed Forces have been asked to be on their highest readiness alert, with deployment coming as early as next week into the conflict upon consultation with Angleter and the Duxburian Union on the crisis. The more disappointing aspect, however, may have been the Senate's rejection of the acceptance of 100,000 migrant children and their families to the United Kingdom.
In a move that stunned the Government, several Democrat and SDP Senators voted against the Government while others abstained, leaving the Senate short of the 51 majority it needed to get the issue passed through, enabling the Government to take action on the migrant issue. UKIP Senator Katie Hopkins echoed sentiments heard not just in Britain, but in Australia as well.
"There is no way to ensure that the people we are taking into Britain are in fact safe. We know that many in Dromund Kaas were brainwashed into the awful and deadly Sithian ideology. There could be sleeper agents for terrorist groups in there. There could be any number of dangers, as well as illegitimate migrants who simply want to move from a different country, pretending to be from DK, taking jobs from British workers. This huge spectrum of issues makes the Prime Minister's proposals absolutely dangerous."
Downing Street will continue to push Parliament to accept the migrants, and if the House of Commons approves the measure by 65%, the Senate's rejection will be overridden. Parliament's official sitting begins January 9, which means that the first week's agenda will be dominated by the Dromund Kaas issue as well as the issues of the day for the United Kingdom.
Snow Grounds Flights; Creates Travel Headache Across Southern England
LONDON --- A harsh winter storm system has hit the United Kingdom, and it has grounded more than 100 flights across southern England, including at London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Winter Storm Phaedra brought up to seven inches of snow in some parts of southern England, with four inches falling on London. High winds and sleet conditions have also created headaches across the motorway system in the southeast, creating long jams in London, Kent, and parts of Wales. Minister for Transport Chris Grayling has said that "the Department for Transport in conjunction with local and devolved areas have made resources available to deal with the snow. The Government will always consider the safety of our citizens when making decisions on roads, flights, and rail travel in snow conditions".
Highways England have continued to plough across the region, with snow and sleet conditions continuing as far north as Leeds as the unusually heavy snowfall continues across the south of the country. National Rail has issued a statement that all trains will be fitted with snow ploughs and rail travel should continue with trains moving cautiously across the United Kingdom. High speed rail travel has seen delays as trains have been forced to travel slowly through the country, with the hour and a half Eurostar from London to Mertz taking upwards of two and a half hours.
Winter Storm Phaedra is due to move on from the area by Tuesday.
Breaking: UK Government Puts Furukawa on NSTL
LONDON --- Theresa May will announce new measures on national security as a threat from the nation of Furukawa grows. The nation, capable of producing nuclear weapons, has not come to the ENAA for approval to build nuclear weapons. Nor has it developed any. Still, the Prime Minister announced that Furukawa will be on the National Security Threat List starting Monday as the number two threat to the United Kingdom. Speaking to an audience of foreign intelligence workers at MI5, Mrs. May said:
"The first priority of Government is to protect the citizens of the United Kingdom. Furukawa, as we have learned upon arrival in the European Union, is nuclear capable and is therefore a threat to Britain. Every nation in the European Union has the right to defend itself from what it considers threats, and in this situation, the UK Government has found this nation to be a threat. I encourage the Government of Furukawa to come to London so that we may find a solution to this threat."
A top intelligence and national security adviser to Number 10 said that "the policy to place nations on the National Security Threat List is fluid and ever growing. Placing a nation on this list means they're at the very top of the priority list in Europe in terms of security concerns".
Spotlight On: Diana Damrau
Fremetian-born British coloratura Diana Damrau has made her mark on the opera scene across Europe, performing in all of the famous opera houses for nearly a decade in the greatest coloratura roles from the Queen of the Night to Lucia di Lammermoor. Now she returns to Covent Garden to star in the latest production of Rossini's Le Comte Ory as Adele along side big names like Juan Diego Flores and Joyce DiDonato. The BBC caught up with Damrau in her Kensington home as she prepared to step back into Rossini's comic opera.
BBC: So glad to have you back at home, Diana!
Diana Damrau: It's nice to be back at home.
BBC: What was it like to be back and performing on London's brightest opera stage?
Damrau: Oh, it's wonderful. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad to be with my colleagues on what is my home stage.
BBC: Let's talk about Adele in Le Comte Ory. She is one half of the show's main plot, where the title character fights to win the love of Countess Adele. The story is set in Miraco, the year 1200, in Touraine. What is your favourite part about doing this opera?
Damrau: Oh, it's a wonderful opera that's somewhere in between a traditional opéra comique in the Miracois style and a full bludded, Fremetian bel canto opera. There's still the big structure of music put together with the help of recitative, but it's not the same as a opera seria, or even an opera buffa. It's a wonderful marriage of many different styles, unique unto itself. La Comtesse Adele, she is a wonderful role to play, full of wonderful arias and delicious musical lines from the masterful composer of bel canto, Rossini.
BBC: What is it like performing alongside Juan Diego Florez. The Derectan tenor seems to have such a huge following anywhere he goes.
Damrau: Yes, and rightly so, he has an incredible voice. He's a tremendous actor, he's everything you could ask for in an opera star and this is a great opera for the tenor. A lot of times the tenor can be added onto beautiful soprano writing and not really have a weighty part of its own, but the tenor really....Count Ory as the title character has some of the most exquisite tenor writing.
BBC: How long is the opera playing?
Damrau: We have two weekends of performances, which is rare for Covent Garden, but this is such a popular opera. I know on the Thursdays they will be showing Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci with some incredible British talent, and then Friday and Saturday will be the performances of Le Comte Ory. After that, there's talk of Turandot or Die Fledermaus for the gala in April with the exquisite diva Natalie Dessay making her return to Covent Garden, or perhaps even Renee Fleming from the Duxburian Union. That would be something!
BBC: Will you be at the Covent Garden Gala?
Damrau: Yes, but not in a performing capacity. I will have engagements at the Sydney Opera House giving a couple of recitals before diving into more work, returning to do the Queen of the Night in Melbourne before travelling to Angleter for a special performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann.
BBC: Very busy time for you!
Damrau: Yes, but it's always a treat to be busy, to be wanted on stage. It could be the exact opposite.
BBC: Thank you for talking to us today. Break a leg, diva!
Damrau: Thank you!
Budget: Dr. David Lidington (Secretary of State for International Trade) and Senator Shami Chakrabarti
Robert Peston: Budget week was, for the first time in a long time, partly uneventful. The Government put forward its case on the economy, touting higher wages, numbers that show that the UK economy grew by 2.2% over the course of 2017-2018 fiscal year. T-Levels, closing loopholes, cutting corporate tax, tech corridors, and innovation hubs litter the budget. Joining me in depth is the Secretary of State for International Trade and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Shami Chakrabarti of the SDP. As always, Allegra Stratton brings us reaction from social media....oh, and there she goes again.
Senator Shami Chakrabarti: Thank you for having me.
Dr. David Lidington: Yes, thank you Robert.
Peston: Dr. Lidington, I see you're wearing a tie, but you know ties are banned! We'll forgive you this time. Let's take a quick look at the budget details. No surprise that defence spending is still tops in there. 26.4% of the budget...£474.6 billion, and BAE must be absolutely giddy as well as the Duxburian aircraft contractors. That procurement budget alone of £47 billion is going to make them very happy. It's an extraordinarily large amount of money, even more if you convert it to the regional currency, euros. Is it right that we are spending this much on defence?
Lidington: Yes, of course. Even though we are in alliances, we have to be able to defend ourselves effectively. The at sea deterrent of the Trident submarine programme, the new Dreadnought-class which will be in service by 2020, having kept the details of the programme secret. We have to keep the country safe, as it is the number one priority of any government. This Government has done a particularly good job at restoring the serious credibility of the United Kingdom. We have in two years already paid off the procurement of the new vessels and we are looking to continue to increase our capacity, so there may be even more to the procurement budget in the future.
Chakrabarti: Yes, if you don't count the fact that we are going to be seen around the world as profiteering on war and violence. Look, we could be spending this insane amount of money on defence and putting the UK out there in a posturing way, or we could be focused on building greater infrastructure. We could be shoring up the NHS, which is constantly careening from funding crisis to funding crisis. I mean, it says a lot that Theresa May, Philip Dunne, and Anna Sobury have no idea what sorts of issues the Government has put us in.
Lidington: Oh come on....
Peston: Well, defend that, Shami. I mean, the SDP also spent quite a lot on defence. In fact, then Prime Minister Ed Miliband, spent just about the same amount of money on defence as the current Government. You could have spent more on social projects when you were in Government. I mean, you had 18 years to do something about it!
Chakrabarti: But we did spend on other things. We built High Speed 1,High Speed 2...we did loads of motorway projects....
Lidington: Yes, and we have build and delivered Stansted and Gatwick expansion, and an Estuary Airport for London, as well as breaking ground on High Speed 3, 4 and 5, all focused on delivering higher speed connection between northern cities like Manchester to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Dublin, and Leeds to Dublin.
Chakrabarti: We made sure that the NHS had its lowest waiting times, higher outcomes, and more money for research and development under our watch. It was not underfunded like it has been in 2015 and 2016. There is a serious crisis going on in the services the Government is providing in terms of funding, and the Government tries to hide behind the rhetoric of "encouraging greater productivity". I can tell you, you are more productive when you are sure you are making a living wage for the amount of work the people who work in these services are doing.
Peston: Alright, but we're on this Government, and let's keep dissecting the budget. Now, the biggest point of contention between the Unionists in Parliament and the SDP is the Britcome, that UK Income Supplement. The Opposition have been calling again and again for the Government to increase the scope of the programme. Well, looking at the budget, it looks like they have expanded the system to the lowest 30% of income earners in the country to get an extra £4,500 a year. How are the SDP going to justify being in opposition to a programme that is now giving 30 million working class people a leg up?
Chakrabarti: It's not a fair system. Why is the limit the Government is putting on it at 30% of the lowest income earners? If we're going to give people an income supplement, we believe that 70% of working people should get it. It would certainly help the JAMs that the Prime Minister talked about when she came to power in 2015.
Peston: But is that feasible?
Lidington: If I can answer that for you, no it is not feasible. Remember that this UKIS or Britcome payment is in exchange for the system of benefits that were so prone to abuse. The Housing Benefit, Child Benefit, etc. It was out of control and it was the SDP who wanted a welfare economy, low wage, high welfare society. We Unionists, believing in one nation conservatism and governing as such, are trying to give people a cheaper system, cutting out £10 billion in administrative costs from the budget and overlap in the Civil Service. We have given the people who receive these a choice to where it goes. Often times, it will go into either a down payment on a car, a down payment on technology upgrades, new clothes, better food, and it will go back into the economy. We have also put the payment on special cards that cannot be withdrawn from ATM's, which means people can't just blow it on more questionable activities that easily. People on benefit before could be taking that and not at all using that to pay bills or better their lives, but spend it all at the pub or on drugs. This system is much more tight and is a better use of taxpayer money.
Peston: We do see that, but is it right that only 30 million out of 93 million workers get this and the others don't?
Lidington: But we are also helping all workers save for their future in superannuation accounts that get matching contributions as a combination of Government funds, business contribution via payroll tax, and through the individual at work via the National Insurance Contribution. This three pronged contribution gives people up to £10,000 annually in their superannuation pension account that will accrue interest at 1.5% higher than the rate of inflation, which right now is 2%. With wage growth growing 2.1% ahead of inflation as well, people can contribute tax free up to £200,000 into their superannuation account. We are encouraging savings for the future, and since it compounds twice, the average worker who begins at age 22 and works until age 63 will earn over £950,000 in their state super accounts. From there, they can continue to leave their money in savings accounts and withdraw that money as needed, and it will still compound twice and collect interest. As such, people can also choose to deposit their tax returns into their super accounts.
Peston: But that's just retirement, how is that helping them now?
Lidington: That money is theirs, and while there is a small penalty fee of 2%, if they need that money if something happens where they need to withdraw it, people are allowed to take it and use it.
Chakrabarti: But how is that fair to the people who can't work?
Lidington: How is it fair to the people who do to subsidise people who don't? We want full employment across the United Kingdom, and we are still covering people with the Government contribution if they have recently lost their job for six months after that. Coupled with the Britcome payment, and it is not like we are leaving the unemployed or unable to be completely out of luck. Those who are proven unable to work can also petition the Government UKIS office to receive the average rate of contribution to their accounts.
Peston: Shami, that seems like quite solid logic....well, we have to take a break. When we come back, even more budget analysis! We'll look at that NHS budget and how the Government will make sure that each devolved area receives the right amount of money.