Seven Party Leaders to Take Part in Debate

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Later today seven party leaders will take part in a live two hour debate answering questions from the host and then later on also from members of the 200 strong audience.

David Cameron (Conservatives), Ed Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Natalie Bennett (Greens), Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) will feature in the debate taking place in Salford which is being organised by ITV News and presented by Julie Etchingham.

Government Confirms UK military attacks in Iraq

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Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, has confirmed that air operations have taken place to assist the Iraqi Government.

In a statement Fallon confirmed:

“Royal Air Force aircraft have conducted further successful strikes on terrorist targets in northern and western Iraq. Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri conducted an armed reconnaissance mission on Friday 27 March in the Mosul area, in the course of which they identified an excavator being used by ISIL to construct defensive positions against continuing Iraqi and Kurdish offensives to liberate the local population from oppression by the terrorists. A Brimstone missile made a direct hit on the vehicle, destroying it. Another Tornado patrol, on Sunday 29 March, provided close air support to Iraqi forces near Tikrit, and the accuracy of the Brimstone missile system allowed a successful attack to be conducted on a terrorist armoured personnel carrier positioned under a road bridge.

RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft have also continued their work to provide overwatch to Iraqi forces, and on Tuesday 31 March, a Reaper supported Iraqi army operations in Anbar province. As well as providing invaluable surveillance coverage, the aircraft was able to assist the Iraqi ground forces with a Hellfire missile strike on a terrorist position that was directing small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire onto an advancing army unit.

As well as providing air support to the Iraqi ground forces, the international coalition is also helping train and equip them. Having helped provide extensive infantry training to the Kurdish peshmerga, British military personnel are now leading the development of a specific coalition programme to improve the ability of the Iraqi and Kurdish troops to deal effectively with the significant threat posed by improvised explosive devices left behind by ISIL as they are forced onto the defensive by successful government offensives”.

Foreign Secretary Comments on Nigerian Elections

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Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has congratulated President Elect Buhari for his win in the Nigerian elections.

In a statement he said:

“I congratulate Muhammadu Buhari on his election victory as the next President of Nigeria and also President Goodluck Jonathan for the statesmanship he has shown in delivering free and fair elections and accepting the result.

It is now important for both parties to ensure the transition to a new government remains peaceful. Britain has a very deep relationship with Nigeria and we look forward to working with the new president, his government and the people of Nigeria in their aspirations for prosperity”.

100 Employers Warn Labour Threaten the Economic Recovery

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph 103 senior executives have warned that a Labour Government could threaten the economic recovery.

The letter read:

Dear Sirs,

We run some of the leading businesses in the UK. We believe this Conservative-led Government has been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation.

David Cameron and George Osborne’s flagship policy of progressively lowering Corporation Tax to 20% has been very important in showing the UK is open for business. It has been a key part of their economic plan.

The result is that Britain grew faster than any other major economy last year and businesses like ours have created over 1.85m new jobs.

We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk.

The signatories include five former Labour Party supporters, Surinder Arora, Duncan Bannatyne, Sir Charles Dunstone, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Moni Varma.

The Conservative Party welcomed the intervention and said in a statement:

“Their message is clear. A change of course will threaten jobs, deter investment and put the recovery at risk.”

Michael Ashcroft quits the House of Lords

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Michael Ashcroft, the former Treasurer of the Conservative Party, has confirmed that he is to stand down from the House of Lords. Ashcroft issued this statement:

“Earlier this year Baroness D’Souza, the Lord Speaker, said that any Member of the House of Lords who can “no longer contribute meaningfully” should retire. She added that since the House has close to 800 members, “retirement at the right time should be seen as a condition of membership of the House of Lords – a duty as well as a right”.

I agree with the Speaker, and have concluded that my other activities do not permit me to devote the time that membership of the Lords properly requires.

Accordingly, I have today written to the Clerk of the Parliaments giving notice of my resignation from the House of Lords with immediate effect, pursuant to Section 1(1) of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.

I will continue my involvement in politics through Lord Ashcroft Polls and my political publishing interests: Conservative Home, Biteback Publishing and Dods.”

Ashcroft has been a member of the House of Lords since 2000 and has sat on the Conservative benches.

 

Greenwich Council defies Government order over their newspaper

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Greenwich council has refused to limit publishing its Greenwich Time newspaper despite an order by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Kris Hopkins, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

“It is disappointing that Greenwich council has refused to comply with our direction to stop the weekly publication of its municipal newspaper. Consequently, the Secretary of State has initiated proceedings in the High Court against the council to enforce that direction”.

Denise Hyland, pictured above, is the leader of the council and rejected claims that local newspapers were suffering financially because of the council’s decision to publish Greenwich Times weekly. The order by Eric Pickles restricted the council to publishing the newspaper to four times a year. Hyland said in a statement:

“Our decision is driven by how we can best serve our residents and save money on their behalf, at a time when our budgets are severely threatened by cuts. We are being told by Government to find whatever savings we can then it directs us to spend the equivalent of £2.31 more per household in the borough – making it even harder for us to keep freezing council tax and protect essential services”.

Hyland added that the council is seeking a judicial review before complying with the order from the Secretary of State.

 

 

UK Inflation at 0% in February 2015

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HM Treasury has confirmed that inflation fell from 0.3% in January 2015 to 0.0% in February 2015. Suppressed oil prices and food costs are thought to have caused what is the lowest inflation figure on record.

The low level of inflation may have a short-term advantage of giving consumers more money to spend than they expected but there is the potential fear of deflation where consumers and businesses delay purchasing goods and services in anticipation of price cuts.

David Natzler appointed as Clerk of the House of Commons

David Natzler has been confirmed as the new Clerk of the House of Commons which was a post he had been holding on an acting basis.

Natzler said of his appointment:

“I am delighted, and very proud to have been asked to be the Clerk of the House of Commons and Head of the House of Commons Service. The 2015 Parliament will offer many challenges which I am confident that the House Service will meet with energy, comprising as it does so many talented and committed people”.

Previously Natzler had been Clerk to a number of Select Committees, Social Services 1981-1985, Procedure 1995-1997 and Trade and Industry 1997-2001. He was Principal Clerk of Committees 2001-2004, Secretary to the House of Commons Commission 2004-2006, Principal Clerk of the Table Office 2006-2008, Clerk of Legislation 2009-2011 and Clerk Assistant 2011-2014.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, had previously controversially proposed Carole Mills who was an Australian with no direct experience of the Houses of Parliament.

 

Afzal Amin resigns as Conservative candidate for Dudley North

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The Conservative Party have confirmed that Afzal Amin has resigned as the party’s candidate for the Dudley North constituency.

Senior figures in the party distanced themselves from Amin after it was alleged that he worked with the English Defence League to announce a meeting which he could take the credit for when cancelled.

Amin admitted that he did have meetings with the English Defence League but said that his actions were “normal conflict resolution, confidence building measures”. The Dudley North constituency for a target for the Conservatives with Ian Austin currently having a 649 majority for the Labour Party.