David Cameron at the G20 in Los Cabos, June 18 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
David Cameron is taking a break from irritating the Germans. Instead, he has decided to piss off the French.
At the G20 summit, he generously allowed that it might be unfair to blame the entire euro-crisis on one leader, Angela Merkel, and acknowledged that the German chancellor had some difficult decisions to make. (She must still, ultimately, take his advice, however.) But,in separate remarks, Cameron also mocked President Hollande’s decision to increase the top marginal tax-rate in Franceto 75% – when Britain has just cut its top-rate back to 45%.
It will be a shame if bitter and partisan debate over whether Rupert Murdoch is “a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company” obscures the more important conclusion of the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport committee on phone-hacking: that he and his son James were wilfully blind to what was going on.
Whether BSkyB, controlled by the Murdoch-owned News Corp, is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence is a question for Ofcom, the regulator, which has now entered an “evidence-gathering” phase of its probe.
Welcome to our live coverage of the Leveson Inquiry into the standards and ethics of the UK press, on the day when Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp, is giving evidence.
By Esther Bintliff and Salamander Davoudi in London, with contributions from FT correspondents. All times London time.
NB: We refer to Rupert Murdoch as Rupert throughout for speed and to avoid confusion with his son James. Jay is Robert Jay QC, who is questioning Rupert.
16.40 We’re going to close the blog for now, but as ever we’ll have more news and analysis for you on FT.com.
And we’ll leave you with the latest development: officials at the FSA are interested in the News Corp emails that were published yesterday, and in particular an email sent by Fred Michel, News Corp’s director of public affairs, in which he described obtaining “absolutely illegal” information from Adam Smith, an adviser to Jeremy Hunt. Read the full story here.
16.15 So, today’s session was shorter than expected, and Rupert’s evidence did not really yield any explosive revelations of the level that James did yesterday. But it’s important to remember that in his questioning of Rupert, Robert Jay QC was largely focused on the decades in the run-up to the two most controversial issues for News Corp (i.e. the phonehacking scandal and the bid for BSkyB) rather than addressing those issues directly – he will presumably concentrate on phonehacking and BSkyB tomorrow.
Thus Jay spent a lot of time asking Rupert about key moments for the business during the 1980s and 1990s; his relationship with different political leaders; and his varying levels of editorial influence over the newspapers.
One could imagine that Jay’s strategy here was to lay the ground – very thoroughly – to then better understand Rupert’s/News Corp’s approach to the more recent issues, and to show whether there was any historical precedent for the behaviour that the company engaged in as it tried to get regulatory approval for its bid for the remaining shares in BSkyB. Read more
16.30 Members of the opposition Labour party are not being slow to voice their anger at the revelations today. Ivan Lewis, the former Labour culture spokesman – and Jeremy Hunt’s opposite number at a key time during the BSkyB bid - commented:
“Jeremy Hunt told me in parliament he was behaving in quasi judicial way. This cannot include off-record contact with any party.”
16.26 Labour MP Tom Watson – who has played a large role in investigating the phonehacking scandal, and is a vocal critic of the Murdochs and News Corp business practises – said in an interview with ITV news:
“I don’t think people knew the depths to which special advisors had been communicating with executives” at News International.
“I found Mr Kelner and I told him of my concerns, whether I used colourful language I will not dispute … I was particularly upset because Mr Kelner had been availing himself of the hospitality of my family for years.”
16.21 The prime minister’s spokesman said David Cameron has full confidence in Jeremy Hunt, reports Kiran Stacey from Westminster:
When asked if the PM had full confidence in Mr Hunt, a spokesman said he had. But he declined to say that Mr Cameron had full confidence in Mr Hunt’s handling of the BSkyB bid.
16.19 Jeremy Hunt has not tweeted today. However the first little bit of his update from yesterday – which coincided with the launch of the World Shakespeare festival – has a strange relevance today:
Welcome to the FT’s rolling coverage of the UK Budget.
By Kiran Stacey at Westminster and Gordon Smith, Michael Hunter, Darren Dodd, Tom Burgis and Ben Fenton on the FT news desk.
All times are GMT.
16.45 So, that is about it for the live blog. The main FT coverage can be found in the usual place.
We thought we would leave you with a small image of what life in the Financial Times London newsroom is like on Budget Day. Below, you can see Chris Giles, economics editor, briefing the rest of us on what it all means. This picture was taken less than two minutes after the Chancellor sat down at 13.29.
So, from the FT live news desk, enjoy digesting the ramifications of the 2012 Budget, whether you are an outraged pensioner, a relieved 1-percenter or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. FT Live Blogs will be back just as soon as something big enough breaks. Goodnight.
Chris Giles briefs the Budget team on what it all means. Chris is the figure in a light grey shirt immediately below the left-hand TV image of George Osborne.
16.25 John Authers and Martin Wolf parse the 2012 Budget
16.06 The top trending phrase on Twitter in the UK at present is #grannytax.
And one of the main users of Twitter, Lord Prescott, has his say on the Budget.
Cameron gives 14,000 millionaires (him & Osborne included) a £40k tax cut funded by grannies. Shameful #giveitbackdave#grannytax
15.57 This was a budget, opines the FT’s Philip Stephens
that was in part “about George Osborne’s ambitions to establish
himself as David Cameron’s heir apparent”.
The chancellor talked about a Budget to put Britain back to work, but
the measure most likely to stick in the public mind was the cut from
50 per cent to 45 per cent in the top rate of income tax. It marked a
tilt to the tax-cutting right that he hopes will build his support on
the Thatcherite wing of the Tory party.
15.52 Podcast time.
15.48 Our colleagues over at FT Alphaville have been going through the
Budget documents and have found the official issuance plans for the
Osborne super-long bond.
The question, it seems, is not how long the bond should be, but how
In David Cameron’s latest speech, the prime minister calls on the spirits of Brunel, Telford and Stephenson, to inspire new infrastructure investment in the UK, from nuclear energy to new towns. He accompanies nostalgia for the Victorian era with the inevitable negative comparison with other nations’ superior efforts: the French, Dutch and Swiss have cheaper, less crowded railways than the British; the South Koreans have faster broadband; the Indians have newer nuclear power stations; and the Chinese have bigger airports.
In his speech on Monday, Mr Cameron blamed a failure by governments to break down “vested interests and bureaucratic hurdles” to progress:
UPDATE: According to a British official, the UK has today been invited to participate in the treaty negotiations, a significant shift that will allow London to weigh in on some of the most sensitive issues to be discussed, including whether EU institutions will enforce the new pact.
Senior officials from European national finance ministries chatted last night in the first informal negotiations on the highly-touted new intergovernmental treaty to govern the region’s economic policy, though diplomats say little substance was discussed.
Ahead of the talks, however, Uwe Corsepius, the new secretary general of the European Council, sent out a four-page letter to negotiators in an attempt to set a roadmap for how the talks will proceed – and we at Brussels Blog got our mitts on it.
The Ministry of Defence has issued to the Guardian excerpts from Liam Fox’s diary from November last year up until last month showing a range of meetings with Adam Werrity, ranging from excursions in to the MoD and social get-togethers, to his attendance at conferences abroad and departures on holiday with the secretary of state.
Also coming out of Whitehall is the text of a letter setting out the interim findings of the permanent secretary Ursula Brennan’s inquiry into the defence secretary’s meetings with Mr Werritty. Read more
Coverage as it happened of Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions and the parliamentary debate on phone hacking at the News of the World. The debate followed shock allegations that the tabloid hacked into the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Read more
Apologies for the lack of the posts over the past few days, which has been due to a combination of holiday and overseas work assignments. Normal service will resume on Wednesday with coverage of PMQs and the emergency House of Commons debate on phone hacking. Read more
George Parker, political editor, tells the FT’s Daniel Garrahan that the referendum on the alternative vote has been dominated by party political bickering. And the cracks that have started to appear in the coalition will lead to a more business-like relationship between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Read more
Jim Pickard is the FT's chief political correspondent, having joined the lobby team in January 2008. He has been at the FT since 1999 as a regional correspondent, assistant UK news editor and property correspondent.
Kiran Stacey is an FT political correspondent, having joined the lobby in 2011. He started at the FT as a graduate trainee in 2008, working on desks including UK companies and US equity markets before taking over the FT's Energy Source blog.