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Newslinks for Tuesday 19th February 2013

6.15pm WATCH: David Cameron on India, Hilary Mantel and the Smiths

4.45 Robert Buckland MP on Comment: In Europe, Britain is taking its place at the head of the table

4.15pm Nick Faith on Comment: Miliband faces a similar dilemma to that faced by Osborne in 2009

3pm ToryDiary: David Cameron attacks Hilary Mantel’s “attack” on Kate Middleton – and is rightly attacked himself

1pm WATCH: David Cameron and Bollywood star Aamir Khan are greeted by screaming crowds in Delhi

Weekly letter11.30am In the latest Letter From a Treasury Minister, Greg Clark MP explains how and why the Government is devolving power to cities: "Economic policy must also recognise the importance of place. After all, growth happens not in the abstract, but in particular places where employers expand their production or set up for the first time. It is essential that we do everything we can to make sure that Britain consists of places where growth can take root and flourish."

ToryDiary: 50 per cent of Conservatives support the legal regulation or decriminalisation of cannabis – now where’s that review?

MaldivesBenedict Rogers writes this week's Foreign Policy column: The Maldives have gone from Paradise to Hell

Iain Stewart MP on Comment: A minimum unit price for alcohol has few discernible benefits – and plenty of downsides

On Local Government, John Bald writes that the new history curriculum is anything but narrow-minded

The Deep End: Who cares what the ratings agencies think anyway?

WATCH: Food businesses must take steps to reassure consumers, says Owen Paterson

Cameron in India 1): A new cyber security deal

Cameron in India"David Cameron will today sign a landmark cyber security deal with India amid fears that the private data of millions of Britons is at risk of theft from criminal gangs. ... The deal will form the cornerstone of what the Prime Minister hopes will become a new ‘special relationship’  with India." - Daily Mail

  • "...Britain's importance to India is above all as a gateway to the European market. That is why we have a lot of Indian investment, and this is the trump card that Mr Cameron half took out of his hand last month with his Europe speech." - Guardian leader

Cameron in India 2): Tough words for tax avoiders

"David Cameron launched an attack on 'aggressive' tax avoidance today. ... The Prime Minister said the Government wanted to keep business taxes low so long as businesses paid their fair share. ... But he said it would be 'difficult' for new laws to force companies to pay their taxes." - Daily Mail

  • "Tax dodgers such as Jimmy Carr should be routinely ‘named and shamed’ by the Government, MPs said last night." - Daily Mail

Cameron in India 3): And tough words for RBS

RBS"David Cameron has increased the pressure on Royal Bank of Scotland's chief executive to 'accelerate' reforms at the state-controlled bank amid fresh speculation about a mass offering of its shares to the public. ... The UK prime minister, speaking on a three-day visit to India, said the idea of a 'Tell Sid" privatisation of RBS – echoing the Thatcherite privatisations of the 1980s – was one of a number of "interesting questions for the future'." - Financial Times (£) 

Cameron in India 4): We'll help India build a "mega-project"

"British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that India and the UK will build a new industrial corridor between Mumbai and Bangalore, in one of India’s most ambitious infrastructure projects." - Financial Times (£)

Cameron in India 5): Some time for relaxation

Cameron playing cricket"David Cameron has renewed speculation about his tendency to ‘chillax’ on the job as he broke off his trade trip to India to play cricket. ... The Prime Minister began his visit with the biggest business delegation in history by revealing that he stays sane by having a good night’s sleep and employing good staff to do the work for him." - Daily Mail

  • "Cameron at the crease: plenty of style – but lacking substance" - Matt Gatward, Independent

> Yesterday:

"David Cameron and the Conservatives should embrace 'masterly inactivity’ – it often yields better results" - George Bridges, Daily Telegraph

But in Europe... MEPs threaten to block Mr Cameron's budget deal

Ed Flag"The European Parliament last night threatened to veto a landmark deal on the next EU budget unless Britain and other member states agree to increase it by billions. ... During a stormy session, leading members of the Brussels Parliament lined up to criticise the deal struck by David Cameron earlier this month. ... Tory MP Mark Pritchard last night said it would be an ‘outrage’ if MEPs blocked a deal agreed by all EU leaders." - Daily Mail

> Yesterday, by Martin Callanan MEP: We’ve improved the Common Fisheries Policy and debated with Hollande – now it’s time to vote on the EU budget

Ministers seek "drastic improvements" in how the NHS cares for children...

"Thousands of children are dying because of failings in the health service, the Government admits today. ... Ministers want “drastic improvements” in the way young people are cared for as they pledge to reduce child mortality in Britain. ... About 1,600 children would be saved every year if the NHS delivered care in line with the best EU countries, Dan Poulter, the Health Minister, will say." - The Times (£)

...as Sir David Nichsolson comes under further pressure

DN"Hospital managers behind one of the worst health scandals in living memory won glowing praise from the head of the NHS. ... At the height of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Sir David Nicholson toured wards and in a follow-up letter said ‘well done’ for ‘progress in target areas’." - Daily Mail 

"A leading surgeon sacked after exposing poor care had written to the head of the NHS to warn patients were dying needlessly. ... Raj Mattu is the third whistleblower known to have raised his concerns with Sir David Nicholson. But no action was taken despite his hospital having the highest rate of avoidable deaths in the UK." - Daily Mail

  • "A starting point would be the resignation or sacking of NHS chief Sir David Nicholson for his role in the scandal." - Sun leader
  • Someone must take blame for the Mid Staffs scandal, says David Cameron - Daily Telegraph

Damian Green to announce "fast-track justice" reforms

DG"Damian Green will announce reforms for fast-track justice in cases for driving and shoplifting offences, which are usually tried in a magistrates’ court. ... He said the chronic inefficiencies in the justice system – with 44 per cent of criminal cases failing to go ahead on the scheduled day – would provoke a ‘national outcry’ in any other sector such as health." - Daily Mail

The Government is thinking of extending its nuclear contracts to make them more attractive

"The Guardian has learned that ministers, intent on keeping the guaranteed wholesale cost of each unit of energy below the politically crucial figure of £100 per megawatt hour, are proposing to extend contracts from the 20 years originally envisaged to at least 30 and possibly as long as 40 years." - Guardian

Owen Paterson's plans for testing food

Horse"Ready meals will not be tested for species other than horse, despite the fact that ministers have been advised they should to restore consumer confidence. ... Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who met with supermarket bosses and food suppliers yesterday, said he expected results from a batch of tests on minced beef products this week. ... But Downing Street said there were no plans for DNA tests – specific to each species – to be done for any other animals." - Daily Mail

  • Food industry playing for time on regulation, says obesity expert - Guardian
  • "Scientists say calorie labelling has for years ignored the energy content of fibre. ... This means that dieters have been ‘unknowingly’ eating more calories than they thought in their muesli or porridge." - Daily Mail

> Yesterday on the Deep End: Never mind the horsemeat, here’s the real danger on your dinner plate

William Hague has been outflanked on Syria, argues the Independent

"Britain's inability to persuade its fellow EU countries to have weapons supplied to non-Islamist groups in the Syrian opposition was a diplomatic failure waiting to happen. The result is that Britain is left wringing its hands on the sidelines, while Russia's efforts to guide future peace negotiations between the two sides seem increasingly assured and promising." - Independent leader

Will ministers block out the sun?

Sun"Under the current ‘right to light’, homeowners with windows that have received natural light for at least 20 years are entitled to maintain this level of illumination. ... But yesterday the Law Commission, a government advisory body, suggested such rights were acting as a barrier to development and should be reined in. ... If the proposals are accepted by ministers it would be a boon for developers putting up large city centre buildings, such as blocks of flats or offices, which cast a shadow across large areas." - Daily Mail

Maria Hutchings wasn't exactly an early supporter of the Coalition

"The Tory candidate in the Eastleigh by-election blasted David Cameron over his decision to go into coalition with the Lib Dems, The Sun has learned. ... Maria Hutchings said in an online rant after the 2010 general election the PM’s move was a 'sell-out'. ... The Tory hopeful also called it 'a pact with the devil'." The Sun

  • Tory nerves show as Eastleigh by-election lead slips - The Times (£)
  • Grant Shapps accuses Nick Clegg of running "misleading" Eastleigh by-election campaign - Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday on LeftWatchLabour should disown their candidate in Eastleigh

Boris attacks the Government's minimum alcohol price plans

"The Mayor of London said the flagship policy championed by the Prime Minister will hit poor people but fail to tackle the problem of excessive drinking. ... Even though Mr Cameron has publicly backed the policy, it is still possible that the price per unit could be revised downwards or scrapped entirely and replaced with voluntary agreements with industry." - Daily Telegraph

> Today, by Iain Stewart MP on Comment: A minimum unit price for alcohol has few discernible benefits – and plenty of downsides

Nadine Dorries versus IPSA

ND"The expenses watchdog IPSA has launched an inquiry over claims Miss Dorries does not use her taxpayer-funded London flat on a routine basis. ... [Writing on her blog yesterday, the] MP, who lost her party’s whip for appearing on I’m A Celebrity ... Get me Out of Here, says she is the subject of a ‘stitch-up’ because of her high profile." - Daily Mail

Another Lib Dem tax grab – this time it's on pensions

"Nick Clegg’s party is calling for the total amount that can be saved into a pension pot without incurring punitive taxes to be slashed by a third from £1.5million to £1million. ... Experts warned yesterday the latest tax grab will hurt many middle-class workers." - Daily Mail

  • "When will politicians realise that what Britain needs is not more taxes but fewer, and a genuine slashing of the still hideously bloated public sector?" - Daily Mail leader
  • "...the two parties of the left are engaged in a bidding war over who can tax the better-off the most. And they are signalling strongly that such taxation would be a central plank of any future coalition between them." - Times leader (£)
  • "All this talk of a mansion tax is just political posturing" - Dominic Lawson, Independent

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Raising the personal allowance: in cooperation or in competition with the Lib Dems?

Although Nick Clegg has distanced his party from other wealth tax ideas

Nick Clegg"The Deputy Prime Minister used a speech to City leaders at Mansion House to criticise Labour’s economic policy and accuse Ed Miliband of copying the Liberal Democrats’ mansion tax plan. But he also made it known that he strongly opposed plans drawn up by his own activists to extend the tax to second homes and even jewellery." - The Times (£)

  • "Twenty more areas are to win 'city deals; in an effort to help them boost economic growth, Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, has announced." - Financial Times (£)

And the Lib Dems also have proposals for boosting the number of women in politics

"Plans for MPs to job share in parliament are being developed by the Liberal Democrats in an effort to increase the number of women elected and break up the male 'presenteeism culture'that still dominates politics." - Guardian

  • "Does Cameron need his wife to tell him the value of female MPs?" - Emma Barnett, Daily Telegraph

Ed Miliband's Scandinavian adventure

Ed M"After his meeting with Ms Thorning-Schmidt, over Danish pastries in Copenhagen, Mr Miliband said Europe should be reformed 'now', rather than waiting for “years” under David Cameron’s timetable for a referendum in 2017." - Daily Telegraph

  • "Ed Miliband’s plan to tax rich and poor is wrong on both counts" - Andrew Lilico, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: 1% of Tim Montgomerie would like to see Ed Miliband's hands on the spending axe after the next election

Labour's press regulation plans come under fire

"Labour-inspired proposals on media law would curb the free Press in a way ‘never seen in any democratic country’, a senior peer warned last night. ... Eminent QC Lord Lester said controversial amendments to the Defamation Bill pushed through with Labour support this month would damage free speech and break European human rights laws if they were allowed to stand." - Daily Mail

A return to the Iraq War

Iraq"The BBC will revisit one of the greatest crises in its history when it broadcasts a controversial new Panorama investigation which promises to reveal fresh information about the intelligence deployed by the Blair Government to justify the invasion of Iraq." - Independent

  • "So you think you know why Blair went to war?" - Steve Richards, Independent

Paying with plastic: Mark Carney moots a change to our banknotes

"Plastic banknotes could be introduced within a few years, the incoming Governor of the Bank of England has suggested. ... Plastic notes are designed to be more durable, waterproof and harder to forge than paper money, which has been in use for 300 years." - Daily Mail

"The UK needs more innovation, infrastructure and skills" - Robert Skidelsky and Marcus Miller, Financial Times (£)

What do Romanians and Bulgarians stand to gain from migrating to Britain? MigrationWatch has done the maths...

RB"Romanian families migrating to Britain next year could be almost eight times better off here working for the minimum wage, a study revealed yesterday. ... Similar families from Bulgaria could increase their living standards nearly ninefold, according to the report." - Daily Mail

  • "The looming influx of Bulgarians and Romanians is an accident waiting to happen – so why is our political class in paralysis?" - James Slack, Daily Mail

Just one-in-seven want possession of drugs to be legal – but there's higher support for a fresh look at cannabis laws - Daily Mail 

  • Legalising drugs would be the perfect Tory policy - Ian Birrell, Guardian

> Today on ToryDiary: 50 per cent of Conservatives support the legal regulation or decriminalisation of cannabis – now where’s that review?

"Nearly 60p in every £1 spent in a British shop is going through the tills of one of the country’s supermarket giants" - Daily Mail

And finally 1)... Legal jargon

WP"A police force has produced a bizarre jargon-filled ‘mission statement’ – that doesn’t even mention crime. ... The internal document from Warwickshire Police says it aims to ‘protect people from harm’ with a range of ‘outcome focused’ functions that ‘are  professionally competent and understand the operational  policing context of their  services, ensuring that they are quality assured, effective and efficient’." - Daily Mail

And finally 2)... David Cameron takes on the civil service (for charity)

"The PM personally intervened to stop bureaucrats banning his cameo role in a video for One Direction’s Red Nose Day charity single, 'One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)'. ... A No10 source said: 'There were some civil servants who thought it would degrade the importance of Downing Street, but he was having none of that.'" - The Sun

And finally 3)... The geologists strike back

Geologist"Geologists have attacked Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that they are less ‘important’ than supermarket shelf stackers. ... Now the Geological Society of London has voiced its ‘surprise’ at the minister’s comments. ... Professor Alan Lord, the society’s secretary for foreign and external affairs, responded: ‘Without geologists, there would be no way to supply supermarkets with produce, no transport for customers or staff – no shelves, in fact.’" - Daily Mail

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