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Kiran Stacey


Jeremy Forrest, the teacher extradited from France last year

Jeremy Forrest, the teacher extradited from France last year

We revealed this morning that the first battle that Nick Clegg intends to pick in the coalition after his party’s victory in Eastleigh is over the European arrest warrant.

The EAW is one of a number of measures involved in the European crime and justice framework, which the Tories want to leave altogether. The prime minister has won plaudits among his own party for saying he would pull out of the 130 measures agreed among EU countries, but he needs the support of his coalition partners to do so, as it must go to a vote in the Commons.

Negotiations between the two parties are being led by Danny Alexander and Oliver Letwin, and according to sources close to the talks, have pretty much broken down altogether. Read more

Tom Burgis

George Osborne

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the Autumn Statement.

George Osborne has missed his fiscal targets and cut corporation tax.

We’ll bring you all the day’s developments live. By Tom Burgis and Ben Fenton.

15.45: We’re winding up the blog now, but you can follow events as they unfold through constantly updating stories on the front page of FT.com

15.31: A representation of the “flamethrower of uncertainty” can be found in the documentation of the OBR. It is also known as a “fan chart”. I doubt George Osborne is a fan of it, though.

15.24: Chote speaks of the “flamethrower of uncertainty”- a favourite phrase, unsettlingly enough, of the OBR, which is a chart showing forecasts in a wide range that makes the chart lines look like a firebreathing dragon.

15.18: Chote says that the variation in the possible range in the forecast of net debt figures for the UK is a large number, but is “dwarfed by the scale of uncertainties” on the issuance of debt. I think that’s the second time he has said that in his address.

15.12: The Spectator is running a rather scary chart showing the lost output of the current “seven-year slump” in the UK.

15.07: Robert Chote, director of the Office for Budget Responsibility, is live now, going through his department’s figures that underpinned the bad news Mr Osborne has just had to deliver.

15.05: Gavyn Davies has blogged for the FT with his view on the autumn statement while the FT’s Lucy Warwick-Ching has collated some very interesting instant reaction from personal finance experts.

14.49: Hannah Kuchler on the FT’s UK desk has been keeping an eye on business reaction to the autumn statement.

She says:

The CBI, the employer’s organisation, urged the government to stick to its guns on deficit reduction to retain international credibility, saying it was no surprise that austerity would last longer than expected.

John Cridland, director-general, welcomed investment in infrastructure and support for exports, but said the proof was in the delivery. He said:

“Businesses need to see the Chancellor’s words translated into building sites on the ground.”

But the British Chambers of Commerce was less positive, declaring the statement not good enough for a country meant to be in a state of “economic war”.
The government is just “tinkering around the edges”, John Longworth, the BCC’s director general said, adding: “The Budget next March must make truly radical and large-scale choices that support long-term growth and wealth creation. That means reconsidering the ‘sacred cows’ of the political class, including overseas aid and the gargantuan scale of the welfare state. Only a wholesale re-prioritisation of resources, to unlock private sector finance, investment and jobs, will be enough to win the ‘economic war’ we are facing. The danger is that our political class is sleepwalking with its eyes open.”

14.40: Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor, just passed by the live news desk so we asked him what he thought of the autumn statement.

The Chancellor is in a hole, but the good news is that he’s stopped digging. The FT supports the government’s fiscal stance, but is there more to be done on monetary policy to boost growth? That’s the question.

14.26 Who says the British don’t like doing things the French way? Might we surmise from this tweet from the BBC’s Robert Peston’s interview with Danny Alexander, Osborne’s Lib Dem No2, that the UK’s crediworthiness might be going to way of its Gallic cousins’?

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/Peston/statuses/276330461142327296"]

Others are more chipper:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/MJJHunter/statuses/276330252601524225"]

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

The FT, the Guardian, the Mail and the Independent all agreed this morning; the reshuffle was David Cameron’s turn to the right. In came Chris Grayling, out went Ken Clarke. In came Owen Paterson to Defra, in came Michael Fallon to the business department. One Number 10 official remarked yesterday described Grayling as “a good rightwing appointment”. I don’t think I have ever heard someone so close to Cameron saying anything like that before.

Our analysis on how important a moment this could be can be found here.

The problem is, Labour doesn’t seem to get it (to coin a phrase). Ed Miliband decided instead to attack the prime minister for carrying out a “no change” reshuffle: Read more

Helen Warrell

It is not often that political parties admit to having made mistakes, and this particular mea culpa has been a long time coming. But in an opinion piece for The Times today, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, says that the Labour government was wrong not to have recognised sooner that immigration needed to be controlled. She writes:

We should have brought the points-based system in earlier to restrict low-skilled migration. And we should have adopted transitional controls for Eastern Europe.

This is an important moment, since Labour figures have always privately acknowledged that they cannot really take the Home Office to task on its immigration reforms until they have publicly addressed their own historical mistakes in this area (although Jonathan Portes, an economist who worked as a civil servant in Downing St at the time, would argue that no such apology is necessary). Ed Miliband is due to announce a new policy approach on immigration tomorrow, and it seems that a certain amount of self-punishment is required in the run-up. Cooper says candidly in her article that this is not the “easiest subject” for Labour to discuss, and suggests that the party lost touch with the electorate’s anxieties about the effect that migration would have on jobs and communities: Read more

Kiran Stacey

David Cameron is fond of saying that u-turns are not a problem, they are actually a sign of strength and a government that listens to voters and is willing to change its mind.

He may be right: voters stuck with him through a spate of u-turns early in the government’s life – on selling off national forests, on GP commissioning, on sentencing. But today we have three in one day – will this now start to look like a government that doesn’t know what it’s doing?

Ken ClarkeThe key may lie in the way in which the u-turn is handled. When he announced he was abandoning plans to offer 50 per cent discounts on sentences for offenders who offer guilty pleas, Ken Clarke united the House in laughter by telling MPs:

I have done a few u-turns in my time, and they should be done with purpose and panache when you have to do them.

This is exactly the way Clarke has gone about his u-turn today on secret courtsRead more

Kiran Stacey

Nick Clegg has hit back at claims by David Cameron that he had signed up to plans to extend surveillance by the security services into social media messages and Skype calls.

The PM told hacks travelling on the plane with him to Japan:

You’ve got to remember that this was a national security council where sitting round the table was Chris Huhne, Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke – people from impeccable civil libertarian backgrounds.

 Read more

Helen Warrell

The two police chiefs who attracted so much controversy earlier this month with a plan to open up their forces to a £1.5bn private sector contract were summoned to the home affairs committee yesterday to explain their ideas to MPs. But anyone hoping this would help to clarify which elements of policing might be carried out by private staff and which would remain the remit of police officers and their civilian officials would have been sorely disappointed.

Confronting the committee, Chris Sims, chief constable of West Midlands police, and Lynne Owens, chief constable of Surrey, were keen to distance themselves from the idea that they were privatising the police force. Ms Owens said:

We will not give our crown jewels to a private sector company.

Mr Sims even denied that the procurement process was an outsourcing project – claiming that while Cleveland, Lincolnshire, Avon & Somerset, Cheshire and Northamptonshire police forces had all entered into contracts which effectively hand over services to a company, this was not the model West Midlands and Surrey would follow. Read more

Welcome to the Westminster blog’s live coverage of chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement. One of the most eagerly anticipated statements since the coalition government took power was expected to offer a gloomy prognosis on the economy. Michael Hunter and Gordon Smith from the FT main newsdesk covered the statement live from 12.30 with additional comment from FT colleagues.

14.10 Thanks for joining us. You can find much more, including the full text of the chancellor’s speech and comprehensive analysis, including video interviews, at www.ft.com/autumn2011Read more

Kiran Stacey

The justice secretary is at it again. As if he hadn’t done enough to upset his cabinet colleagues by calling into question the cat anecdote Theresa May used to attack the Human Rights Act, he’snow condemned her even more explicitly in an interview with the Nottingham Evening Post.

According to PA, Clarke told the paper:

It’s not only the judges that all get furious when the home secretary makes a parody of a court judgment, our commission who are helping us form our view on this are not going to be entertained by laughable child-like examples being given.

We have a policy and in my old-fashioned way when you serve in a government you express a collective policy of the government, you don’t go round telling everyone your personal opinion is different.

 Read more

Helen Warrell

There is a growing confusion over the government’s target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015 – at least, its chief adviser on immigration issues seems to think so.

As I reported last month, the 21 per cent increase in net migration over the past year, taking the total to 239,000 – more than twice the level the home office needs to reach in four years’ time – must have made uncomfortable reading for the department’s number crunchers.

However, speaking at London’s Global Immigration Conference yesterday, Professor David Metcalf, chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, suggested that the firm target of less than 100,000 was actually more of an “aspiration” for the government. He told the lawyers at the International Bar Association event:

There are certain tensions within the coalition about whether [the tens of thousands] is a firm target or an aspiration.

This is not the first time that such tension has been mooted. Read more

Helen Warrell

Tom McNally, the Lib Dem peer and justice minister, may face a less than positive reception when he returns to the Ministry of Justice after the party conference in Birmingham.

As the Guardian  reported today, Lord McNally has already weighed in against his Tory colleagues at repeated fringe events, suggesting that the decision to add the word “punishment” to the government’s legal aid and sentencing bill was the work of “little elves that work in No 10″ helping the prime minister to get the right-wing media on side.

These comments were followed by a remarkably frank discussion of the MoJ’s move to transform the justice system and reduce reoffending through payment by results, at a fringe meeting looking at who should profit from the penal system.

Asking rhetorically whether the introduction of private providers into the prison service was “a sin against the holy ghost [of public provision] or a sensible way of the government financing much-needed services and competition”, Lord McNally acknowledged that the PBR drive had ultimately pragmatic motives. Read more

Helen Warrell

David Cameron meets police officersGrumblings of discontent were heard along House of Lords corridors today as Labour and Lib Dem peers accused the coalition of rushing through legislation on the controversial police and crime commissioners with a cunning timetabling ploy.

Following the derailing of the bill by Lib Dem peers in May, the government has now provoked fresh displeasure by tabling the parliamentary ping pong – where the bill is batted back and forth between the two houses – for next Wednesday, the same day that the legislation on fixed term parliaments is also due to be debated.

Labour Lords in particular complained that it was extremely unusual for two such major bills to be scheduled so close together, and are accusing the coalition of what they have diagnosed as a “political stitch-up”. The idea, they say, is to get the contentious police reform package through parliament before Nick Clegg has to face any gip on the subject from Lib Dem party members at their conference, which starts the following Saturday. Read more

Elizabeth Rigby

MPs are currently debating whether charities who carry out abortions should also be allowed to offer patients counseling over whether to proceed with a termination.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries, together with Labour backbencher Frank Field, have tabled an amendment to the health bill saying that the likes of Marie Stopes should not be allowed to give advice on the basis that, as providers of abortions, they cannot be neutral.

It is a charge that has infuriated the pro-choice lobby, which is furious that womens’ health charities such as Marie Stopes have been tarnished as abortion peddlars – particularly since a significant proportion of women who do go for counselling in their clinics do not in the end have an abortion. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Ed MilibandToday is a difficult day for Ed Miliband and the Labour party. Which way do they tack on the issue of riots?

Ed’s instincts are to examine the social causes for the disorder, and tackle its root causes. But he knows the public might see that as excusing criminal behaviour, so he has to tread a fine line, especially if he wants to distance himself in part from the government.

His speech started in a moderate tone, welcoming the prime minister’s speech and thanking the Speaker for recalling parliament. This is a tactic he has used effectively in recent months, starting consensually before working himself to a rousing and more combative finish. Read more

Kiran Stacey

The number of police on London’s streets tonight will hit 16,000, with the Steve Kavanagh, a senior Met officer, warning of possible “mass disorder” to come.

I have just returned from a press conference with Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner, and Simon Foy, the man leading the criminal investigation. We are starting to get a clearer picture of what happened across London on Monday night, and have learned that a man shot in Croydon last night during the violence there has now died.

Kavanagh’s main message was that the Met had not failed, but had been “stretched to an unprecedented level”. He claimed the intensity and scale of the violence, coupled with the rioters’ speed of movement, had never been seen before in the UK, or even Europe. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Reeves furniture store in Croydon

A burnt out furniture store in South London

David Cameron clearly felt something extra was needed this morning to reassure Londoners and the British wider public that they would be safe in the wake of last night’s riots.

Having flown home early from holiday in Italy, the prime minister has just given a press conference outside Downing Street and did his best to sound tough and in charge, without actually giving us much of an idea what the police can do to stop a fourth consecutive night of violence.

The main tactic will be a major increase in the number of police on the streets, from around 6,000 to 16,000. That will help, but lots of those will come from outside London, so won’t know the cities as well as the locals they are facing. In addition, nobody quite knows in which boroughs violence is likely to flare next. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Until a few hours ago, Downing Street was insisting David Cameron would not return to London to help oversee the response to the riots. This is an era of modern communications, we were told – the PM can be in charge from Italy.

At about the same time, a friend of mine was in a taxi trying to get home via Bethnal Green Road in east London, where police were involved in a stand-off with crowds of (largely) young men. The driver told her: “David Cameron needs to come back – nobody is speaking to these people [referring to the rioters].”

Sure enough, just 20 minutes ago, we were told Cameron would be coming home tonight, ready to chair a meeting of Cobra, the cabinet emergency committee, on Tuesday morning. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. This one comes from Craig Murray, the outspoken former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who asks, “What’s in a name?”

Quite a lot, it would seem, as far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Parliament took centre stage today in the phone hacking scandal when Rebekah Brooks answered MPs’ questions about phone hacking. Earlier, Rupert and James Murdoch gave their testimonies.

19.30: Nearly five hours after we began, we have finally finished this afternoon’s testimony from Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs to the culture, media and sport select committee. Here’s what happened:

  • All three offered apologies for what happened at the NotW. Rupert Murdoch called it “The most humble day of my life.”
  • RM initially struggled under the questioning, failing to hear some of the questions and claiming not to have been in touch with his newspapers very much.
  • James Murdoch gave long and complex answers to many of the questions, but in essence, he said he knew nothing about how widespread phone hacking was. He defended the company’s payment to Gordon Taylor, an alleged hacking victim, saying it was based on legal advice that it would lose its civil case.
  • JM also admitted there had been internal discussions in News International about setting up a “Sun on Sunday”.
  • RM admitted to paying the legal expenses of Andy Coulson, Clive Goodman and even Glenn Mulcaire at various stages, including for the 2006 hacking trial and the Tommy Sheridan trial.
  • Both RM and JM emphasised the failings of their external lawyers, Harbottle & Lewis, who claimed there was no evidence of phone hacking happening any more widely than by Clive Goodman.
  • Most dramatically, the hearing was interrupted when a protester tried to push a custard pie into RM‘s face. He was repelled by police and Wendi Deng, RM‘s wife.
  • Rebekah Brooks said she knew nothing about Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked until she read it in the Guardian.
  • RB said she went to Number 10 more under Blair and Brown than under Cameron.
  • RB refuted the idea that she pushed Andy Coulson into his job as Tory communications director. She said the idea came from George Osborne.

So who won and who lost today?


James Murdoch He was smooth, he was corporate, he didn’t say anything he shouldn’t have. He was also evasive and often nonsensical, but he stuck well to his brief.

Rebekah Brooks Came across well: was softly spoken and humble, while also vigorously denying any knowledge of criminal activity.

Wendi Deng Repelled an attacker, and was praised by Tom Watson for her left hook.

Tom Watson Got the tone spot on. Calm but insistent, with specific and forensic questions. The best of the questioners.


Rupert Murdoch Looked all over the place. Struggled to hear some questions, didn’t seem to understand others. At times, however, he was refreshingly candid, such as when he admitted that Les Hinton might have authorised paying the legal costs of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. That might get him in trouble though.

Harbottle & Lewis The lawyers brought in by News International were named again and again as the organisation that failed to follow up on evidence of widespread hacking. The firm is under a duty of confidentiality however, and cannot respond.


 Read more

Kiran Stacey

George Osborne has just announced that, for the first time since 1760, the royal household will be paid not by a set grant from the government but through a proportion (15 per cent) of the net revenue of the crown estate.

It is a change Prince Charles has been campaigning for for years, and if the crown estate has a good year, could provide a bumper pay out for the royal family. Read more