Today’s digest opens with outrage over excess profits at British gas after the energy supplier yesterday reported profits of £606 million, equivalent to making £50 out of each and every one of its customers. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "These profits will anger a growing number of families who are struggling to pay the bills. The price increases last November caused hardship for customers while British Gas bosses boosted their profits and their own bonuses in the process … it is time for the government to give the regulator more power to make sure energy companies behave fairly."
And from bills to banks and the Royal Bank of Scotland has reported its fifth year of losses since it was bailed out by the government in 2008, although it still plans to pay out bonuses of £607 million. The bank has been hit by fines and mis-selling charges, but Unite says ordinary workers must not bear the brunt of management failings. National officer Dominic Hook said: "RBS has slashed and burned the jobs of ordinary bank staff while the bosses turned a blind eye to price fixing and mis-selling. Stephen Hester is right to want to reward staff in line with their contribution. That should mean capping bonuses for top bankers who caused the crisis, but it should also mean addressing low pay at the bank where many staff have to claim benefits to get by."
And speaking of benefits prime minister’s questions also gets some coverage in the papers today. The Morning Star reports the Commons sat in silence as Labour MP Tom Clarke outlined the reality of the looming cut in housing benefits on one disabled constituent to the prime minister. Cameron responded that ‘the government always puts disabled people first’, perhaps he should have added in the queue for cuts.
Labour leader Ed Miliband branded David Cameron a ‘downgraded prime minister’ at PMQs and forced Cameron to vow that he will cut ‘further and faster’ although rather than the deficit – which is rising – this probably means more cuts to jobs, schools and our hospitals. As a few of the papers report that the country may be able to avoid a triple dip recession, more cuts could tip it back over the edge, it’s less than four weeks to chancellor George Osborne’s make or break budget.
And it’s also make or break for the coalition in terms of the Eastleigh byelection taking place today. The Lib Dems are pencilled in to win, but the question is will Ukip come second creating pressure for Cameron. Even with a win for the Lib Dems, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg remains embroiled in the Lord Grope row, and his ever changing story could hit his future standing. And from groping to bullying and another minister under pressure is education secretary Michael Gove who has been recalled back to the education select committee to explain whether he misled MPs over employment relations in his own department.
Also under fire is health secretary Jeremy Hunt after 140,000 signed a petition against putting every part of the NHS out to tender, Hunt sneaked out the proposals but the groundswell against privatisation by the back door means the government will need to think again, sadly the Con-Dems will probably look to find another way to implement wholesale privatisation, don’t let them get away with it, keep the pressure up and Save our NHS.
(no links all stories behind paywall)
- Clegg told peer to stop four years ago (p1/7)
- Tax abuse scheme shut down (p11)
- NHS chief under more pressure (p16)
- Third of households face council tax rise (p23)
- Carnage: One shop closes every hour on the high street (p37)
fly over higher energy bills (p38)
- Government spending keeps economy out of recession (p43)
- Combustible mix of gas and hot air (p44) – Len McCluskey cited
(no links all stories behind paywall)
- New banks to gain concession on capital (p1)
- Centrica fuels power cut fears (p1)
- Economic rebalance fails to arrive (p2)
- Tories face crisis if Ukip beats them in Eastleigh (p3)
- Companies stick to fixed retirement age (p4)
- Women’s hourly pay gap wider than EU average (p4)
- Barclays claws back £300 million in bonuses (p17)
- InBev warns over sales (p18)
- Fall in orders hits Weir (p23)
Edited by Mik Sabiers