Monthly Archives: November 2013

Last week, Ed Miliband was beaten by the prime minister after failing to build a clear narrative from his rather scattergun questions. This week he was more disciplined, and had a clear and coherent attack. For some reason however, it didn’t generate the response from Labour MPs you might expect.

The Labour leader decided to lead on the government’s decision to set a cap on the amount of interest payday lenders can charge. It might not have been an obvious attack, given Labour also supports the policy, but Miliband worked it cleverly to his advantage, asking why this sort of market intervention is a good thing, when capping energy energy prices constitutes “Marxism”:

How did he go from believing that intervening in the markets is living in a Marxist universe to believing it is the solemn duty of government?

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Are you concerned about pension charges? Want to know more about the government’s pension plans and auto-enrolment?

Steve Webb, the minister for pensions, will answer questions in our live online Q&A on from 4pm GMT on Tuesday November 26.

Pensions reporter Josephine Cumbo will also take part in the online Q&A.

Email your questions to or tweet questions to #FTPensions

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Downing Street has rejected claims that David Cameron described environmental levies as “green crap” as the coalition explores ways to minimise the impact of green subsidies on household energy bills.

The prime minister is said to have used the dismissive language to describe the state subsidies which pay for renewables and help the poor cut their fuel use.

The Sun newspaper quoted an unnamed source saying: “The prime minister is going round Number 10 saying: ‘We have got to get rid of all this green crap’.”

Officials said they did not “recognise” the phrase but emphasised that the prime minister had repeatedly promised to roll back to green taxes with an announcement expected in next month’s autumn statement.

The fact that Mr Cameron did not directly deny having used the “crap” phrase underlines Read more

A rather strange and fractious PMQs today. Amid much gnashing of teeth about the allegations surrounding Paul Flowers, the former chair of the Co-Op bank, and his links to Labour, Ed Miliband set off in an unexpected direction at the beginning of his questions. He asked the prime minister about “his campaign against the closure of children’s centres in Chipping Norton”.

It was an intriguing opening and Cameron floundered for a bit talking about “difficult decisions” on children’s centres. Miliband followed up by saying:

He has even signed a petition to save the children’s centre in his own area. Is he taking it right to the top?

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Back in October, the FT revealed that Philip Hammond’s bold plan to part-privatise the MoD’s weapons-buying arm were in trouble, with one of the two potential bidders worried about various aspects of the bid.

At the time, the consortium, led by CH2M Hill, was worried about whether the terms on offer were commercially attractive. It was also worried about the status of one of its component companies, Serco, which is under threat of not being able to bid for government contracts in the future after allegations emerged it had overcharged taxpayers for tagging offenders.

Today, the CH2M Hill consortium dropped out altogether, leaving only one bid, led by Bechtel, the US engineering group. The company says the commercial terms on offer were simply not good enough to continue with the bid. Read more

We have written before, at great length, about how the lobbying bill is one of the worst piece of legislation put before the Houses of Parliament for many moons.

Even the recent concessions from ministers have failed to quell the dissent, with the FT recently opining: “The retreat is welcome. But it fails to resolve other flaws in a hastily drafted bill which, as it stands, should be rejected.” Read more

It’s no secret that economics is far from an exact science. Some would say it isn’t a science at all. Even the intelligentsia at the top of the Bank of England failed to see the financial crash coming, despite all their charts and graphs and post-graduate degrees.

Anyone who still maintains a religious attachment to economic charts should consider this one, published in the Bank of England’s inflation report yesterday. The yellow line you see is “newspaper citations of ‘economic uncertainty’”, based on mentions of the phrase in the FT, Independent and Times. Read more

By Roger Beale

When news broke that Serco was one of the companies under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the taxpayer for tagging criminals, the government began its own investigation into the company, during which it is banned from winning new Whitehall contracts.

Depending on the result of the government probe, the company faces the threat of not being able to win any contracts in the future at all: something, incidentally that would cripple government plans to outsource defence procurement.

But figures revealed by the FT this morning show that whatever happens, the company will remain an integral part of the defence machinery until well into the 2020s, doing everything from training RAF pilots to building nuclear weapons. Read more

The Conservatives have claimed they did not mean to delete David Cameron’s pre-election speeches from the internet in a move that prompted accusations of Orwellian interference.

At present the Tory website retains an archive of speeches only going back to January 2013. Meanwhile its own transcripts of historic orations by Mr Cameron cannot be found through engines such as Google – except on other websites such as newspapers.

There was speculation on Wednesday that Mr Cameron had authorised a deliberate drive to minimise the reminders of his pro-green, pro-localism speeches from the halcyon days of opposition.

The Tory leaders has struck a more hard-headed note since taking power against a backdrop of a bleak economy and a soaring national deficit.

Other speeches he might want to forget include the 2006 promise of no more top-down Read more

The Govan shipyard

The Govan shipyard

This morning, BAE confirmed what had been trailed heavily last night: the company is to shut down the shipbuilding yard at Portsmouth and focus instead on Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde. The company is consulting on cutting 1,775 jobs across the UK as it adjusts to future life without the massive contract to build the UK’s two aircraft carriers.

This could have been a difficult moment for the coalition. Large-scale job losses can cause devastation for local communities and economies, and the political consequences are even greater when the government is responsible for those jobs in the first place.

Ministers on the other hand, argue the job losses were inevitable – and they are right. Read more