Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Westminster blog is taking a break over Christmas and the new year and will return the week of January 4.

Happy holidays.

Jim Pickard

Announcement today from the SEC:

Bear in mind that Michael Spencer, chief executive of ICAP, is treasurer of the Conservative party: Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s the big political question of the day. Would – as Labour argue – a fiscal tightening (to tackle the public deficit) put the economic recovery into doubt?

I can’t claim enough economic expertise to make either call. Read more

Jim Pickard

A Christmas card from Nick Brown, Labour chief whip, arrives through the post. No idea where he found this picture of a young Nick Clegg in fancy dress – but I thought I’d share it.

Jim Pickard

The Chris Bolt adjudication (I flagged it up yesterday) came through this morning, as my colleague Robert Wright reports. It is particularly bad news for the Tube Lines PPP consortium.

The PPP arbiter has told Tube Lines it will have to do the upgrade work on its three Underground lines for £4.4bn. That suggests a gap of £1.35bn between the figure of £5.75bn which Tube Lines insisted it needed to carry out the 7.5-year programme. Read more

Jim Pickard

What was bizarre about the Hutton inquiry was the disconnect between the often sensational evidence and the ultimate “whitewash” report.

Who knows how Sir John Chilcot will jump when it comes to ordering the evidence to his inquiry into some kind of published form? Read more

Jim Pickard

The mother of all rows is brewing at London Underground over the multi-billion pound cost of upgrade work to three lines in the coming years. Read more

Jim Pickard

I wrote this afternoon about concerns over the Tory amendment designed to force all peers and MPs to pay tax in the UK. Labour had spotted that the phrasing of the amendment – any UK legislator had to be “domiciled and ordinarily resident in the UK” – could be used as a loophole (something the Tories denied vehemently).

How come the wording stopped short of Philip Hammond’s claim yesterday that all legislators “would have to be resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled”? Read more

Today’s NAO report is yet another reminder of the dismal state of the defence equipment budget. The graph below sets out how bad the situation is until 2020. The best case scenario is a £6bn budget shortfall — and that is based on some quite rosy assumptions.

The MoD buys kit, which often takes a decade or more to deliver, on the basis that their cash budget will rise by 2.7 per cent a year. In good times that would be acceptable (although you have to wonder why they think the Bank of England will overshoot its inflation target by 0.2 per cent). But in these straightened times, that seems dangerously optimistic. If the budget is frozen (the blue line in the graph) the gap in the 10 year budget rises to an eye-watering £36bn. Read more

Jim Pickard

Stephen Carter, former chief executive of PR firm Brunswick, famously lasted just eight months in the bunker-like pressure cooker that is 10 Downing Street. Hired at the start of 2008 (as head of communications and strategy) he had gone before the year was out. Instead he was relocated to become, as Lord Carter, “communications minister” in the Lords. Read more

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown was meant to be going out to the Copenhagen talks for Thursday and Friday next week. Now I’m told he has changed his schedule to arrive at least a day earlier – perhaps even on the Tuesday. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Guardian has splashed this morning on a story that Darling wanted to impose a VAT rise above 17.5 per cent in the PBR but was prevented from doing so by the prime minister. Instead the Treasury agreed to increase National Insurance; in 2011.

The story has been cast as part of a wider dispute over how fast to cut the UK deficit. Read more