Judith Evans

Are you worried about the woes of “generation rent”? Perplexed by measures to dampen the buy-to-let market? Eager to buy a Starter Home? Seeking answers on the housing bill, Right to Buy or Help to Buy?

On Wednesday April 20 2016 between 11am and midday (GMT), Brandon Lewis, housing minister, will answer readers' questions on housing and home ownership in a live webchat.

Moderated by Judith Evans, property correspondent

 

Judith Evans

The housing crisis has reached the top of the political agenda, with even the prime minister, David Cameron, saying he worries about his children being able to afford their own homes.

Brandon Lewis, housing minister, will appear here on the Westminster blog at 11am on Wednesday April 20 to answer your questions on housing and home ownership in a live webchat. Read more

Pollsters should be more transparent about their methodology and more quizzical about people’s intention to vote, a wide-ranging review of last year’s election polling disaster has recommended – as well as suggesting that Britain needs fewer, but better, political polls.

Polling companies were left embarrassed last year by the surprise Conservative election win, which none of them had accurately predicted. Polls showed Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck in the run-up to the vote last May, but on the night the Tories won an outright majority with a lead of 7 percentage points in the popular vote. Read more

Experts pinpoint why online polls and those made by phone show wide discrepancy Read more

George Osborne’s eighth Budget comes at a time of slowing growth and with the government split over Europe. The chancellor needs to show he still has a grip on the public finances, while keeping Conservative backbenchers happy.

Key developments:

  • Economic outlook – growth forecast cut this year from 2.4 per cent to 2 per cent.

  • Public finances – debt to GDP forecast revised up from 81.7 per cent to 82.3 per cent for 2016-17.

  • Government spending – new annual cuts of £3.5bn by 2020.

  • Corporation tax – to fall from 20 per cent at the start of this parliament to 17 per cent by 2020.

  • Sugar tax – new levy on sugary drinks to tackle childhood obesity.

  • Capital gains tax – cut from 28 per cent to 20 per cent.

  • ISAs – limit to rise from £15,000 to £20,000.

  • Tax-free persons tax allowance – raised to £11,500, effecting 31m people

  • Higher rate tax threshold – raised to £45,000

 

Emily Cadman

What does the Bank of England think about the risks – or opportunities – of a vote to leave the European Union? On Tuesday, its top officials will face a grilling from MPs on the Treasury Select Committee on the topic.

BoE officials have spent months trying not to be drawn into the issue but in nearly three hours of questions ahead, govenor Mark Carney was repeatedly put on the spot. The Treasury Select Committee is also sharply divided between committed outers and inners who were all keen for material to support their campaign. Appearing are BoE governor Mark Carney and deputy governor for financial stability Jon Cunliffe.

Key points

  • Mr Carney says the BoE will not be making a recommendation as to which way to vote: “We will not be making, and nothing we say should be interpreted as making, any recommendation with respect to that decision.”
  • But in its written submission the BoE says that the settlement reached by David Cameron “addresses the issues the Bank identified as being important”.
  • He also categorizes Brexit as the “biggest domestic risk to financial stability”
  • BoE is not forecasting the impact of Brexit on either jobs or prices, Mr Carney says
  • There would “without question” be a loss of business in the City of London if the was to leave and can not negotiate mutual recognition to replace the current EU bank passport
  • Mr Carney refutes any suggestion he has been leaned on by the government to give a pro-EU view. “My signature is on the letter, these are my views”.
  • In a sharp exchange, Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg accuses Mr Carney of pushing pro-EU arguments. Mr Carney says he will not let that stand.

By Chris Giles, Economics Editor and Emily Cadman, Economics Reporter

 

Why is one measure of EU immigration to Britain nearly three times as high as the other?

That is the question Westminster’s Brexiteers are asking this week. The answer could shape the arguments both for and against Britain leaving the EU. Read more

In the next four months Britain will be inundated with opinion polls. As the Leave and Remain camps gear up for Britain’s first referendum on its relationship with Europe for four decades, the stakes are high.

But this time last year the nation also pored over an array of polls during the general election campaign, and yet those polls proved unreliableRead more

David Cameron is facing MPs for the first time since securing a package of reforms in Brussels to present his case for the UK remaining in the European Union. The prime minister’s appearance in the House of Commons follows a tumultuous weekend after his return from talks with European leaders on Friday, which has seen six of his cabinet ministers and Boris Johnson, the London mayor, back the “out” campaign.

Key points

  • Cameron presents what he calls a “new settlement” for Britain after almost two days of talks in Brussels

  • The reforms cover migration, protections for the City of London and an exemption for Britain from “ever closer union”

  • A quarter of the cabinet is at odds with the PM over Europe, including his close friend Michael Gove, the justice secretary.

  • The Conservatives are facing a damaging split with as many as 150 MPs, almost half the parliamentary party, expected to back Brexit

  • The opposition Labour Party is backing the campaign to remain in the EU, along with business leaders and trade unions

By Mark Odell and Jim Pickard

 

Kate Allen

Campaign website 38 Degrees has become the bane of many MPs’ lives for the vast tide of correspondence its 3m members generate. But its founder David Babbs hopes it will come to be seen as a benefit to British democracy. Here he discusses with FT political correspondent Kate Allen how the site came about, its greatest victories to date – and how he’s now turning his members’ fire on the corporate world …

  Read more

Kate Allen

More than 26,000 British farmers have not yet received annual European subsidy payments and many are facing financial difficulties as a result, a committee of MPs has been told.

Britain is facing £180m fines a year over the failure by the Rural Payments Agency to distribute the cash because of overruns on a big IT project. Read more

Sebastian Payne

Ed Miliband delivers a speech on the economy.

Today has been something of a post-mortem into the 2015 general election. First, the inquiry into what went wrong with the opinion polls has released its initial conclusions — sampling too many Labour voters was primarily to blame. Second, former deputy Labour leader Margaret Beckett has released a report on why her party lost the election. The four reasons are: Read more

Sebastian Payne

Can the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign keep its promise to not run another “Project Fear”? The lead group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU has promised not to repeat what Better Together did during the Scottish referendum, but the signs so far suggest fear will be a core component of its message after all.

Take Stronger In’s new mail shot for example. This leaflet entitled “Europe & You” will be sent out to 10m households this week: Read more

Sebastian Payne

Junior doctors on the picket line outside the Royal London Hospital in east London, as a doctors go on strike for 24 hours in a dispute with the government over new contracts. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Today’s junior doctor’s strike differs from other industrial disputes for a simple reason: people like doctors. In recent times, the government has managed to paint Tube drivers as dinosaurs who are standing in the way of technological progress. But it’s much harder to do that with doctors, so the public is firmly behind the strikers. Read more

Sebastian Payne

British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on 'the future of the European Union and Britain's role within it', in central London, on January 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL

When will Eurosceptic ministers be allowed to speak their minds? Not for a while, according to a letter David Cameron has sent to his Cabinet today. The Prime Minister has set out four rules for ministers who plan to campaign for Brexit — some of which have caused concern among Eurosceptics in his party. Read more

Sebastian Payne

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband (left) with MP Stephen Doughty, who quit the Labour front bench in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn's reshuffle

One of the highlights from Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle this week was the resignation of Stephen Doughty. The former shadow foreign affairs minister decided he’d had enough after the sacking of his colleague Pat McFadden and quit live on the BBC’s Daily Politics. It was a principled position and a straightforward scoop — but not apparently in the era of the so-called “New Politics”. Read more

The House of Commons has voted to extend air strikes against Isis from Iraq into Syria following a debate that lasted more than 10 hours. Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn opposed the motion, but more than 60 of his MPs sided with the government given it a majority of 174. The RAF has been conducting airstrikes over Iraq for over a year, as part of a broad US-led coalition.

Key points

  • 397 MPs backed the motion authorising the UK to launch air strikes in Syria; 223 voted against:

  • The amendment to block air strikes was defeated by a majority of 179; 211 For vs 390 Against

  • Air strikes by the RAF in Syria could follow within hours; extra jets will be dispatched to the British base in Cyprus

  • More than 60 MPs look to have defied party leadership to back motion in a free vote

  • Hilary Benn, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary delivers impassioned speech in favour of air strikes

Read more:

By Mark Odell, Josh Noble and John Murray Brown

 

UK Chancellor George Osborne has delivered his Autumn statement to the House of Commons.

Key points:

  • Tax credits: Controversial changes ditched altogether. Extra borrowing will make up the shortfall in the first few years of the parliament

  • Housing: Stamp duty increased 3% for buy-to-let and second home buyers; 400,000 new affordable homes in England by 2020; new Help to Buy scheme just for London

  • Police: no cuts to budget

  • New tax to pay for social care, to be levied by local authorities as a 2% council tax precept

  • Departmental spending cuts: Transport -37%, Business -17%, Defra -15%, Energy -22%, Culture, Media and Sport -22% (but free museum entry will stay)

  • Budget surplus: target of £10bn by 2020 maintained

  • Local governments will be allowed to keep all cash generated from asset sales

  • Apprenticeship levy set at 0.5% of payroll, with £15,000 allowance to exempt small businesses

  • OBR forecasts: UK growth outlook remains broadly unchanged from July

  • Small business rate relief extended for 12 months to April 2017

  • Science funding protected in real terms for rest of Parliament

    By Ferdinando Giugliano, Jonathan Eley and Mark Odell

 

Jim Pickard

Recent appointments by Jeremy Corbyn have shown a Labour leader in no mood to compromise with his internal critics: they include John McDonnell, Seumas Milne and Andrew Fisher.

The latest possible name in the frame to join the leader’s office is equally controversial: Karie Murphy. Read more

Chancellor George Osborne has been freed from the shackles of coalition government to deliver his seventh Budget but the first purely Conservative Budget in almost two decades.

Although dark clouds are gathering in the eurozone, Britain’s economic recovery continues at a steady pace and the public finances are slowly improving, giving him the opportunity to shape the economy, public finances and tax system for the next five years.

Mark Odell, Elizabeth Paton, Jonathan Eley and Ferdinando Giugliano