The Telegraph 2024-02-29 10:30:27

Jeremy Hunt could scrap non-dom status to fund tax cuts in Budget

Jeremy Hunt is considering scrapping non-dom status to fund tax cuts for millions of workers in the Budget next week, The Telegraph can reveal.

The move is on a list of revenue-raising options drawn up for the Chancellor and Rishi Sunak, after economic estimates left them with less money than expected for tax cuts or spending pledges.

If it is announced, the Conservatives would be poaching one of the Labour Party’s most prominent tax and spend policies.

It would also reignite the debate about whether scrapping the status would hinder rather than help the economy by driving wealthy foreigners to base themselves elsewhere.

Mr Hunt is understood to have told officials to make sure that Budget policies do not risk the competitiveness of the City of London.

It comes amid a growing row over the Ministry of Defence being denied more money in the Budget, as first revealed by The Telegraph. Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, said defending Britain was “our first duty” after talks with Mr Hunt on Wednesday.

The Treasury is also considering reducing future spending on public services after the general election, changing the assumption from a 1 per cent annual real terms increase to 0.75 per cent instead.

However, there was a boost for pensioners on Wednesday as it emerged the pensions triple lock is set to be included in the Conservative Party’s next election manifesto.

Non-domiciled status allows foreign nationals who live in the UK, but are officially domiciled overseas, to avoid paying UK tax on their overseas income or capital gains.

How much eradicating the status would generate in tax revenue is unclear. Academics last year estimated it could bring in £3.6 billion a year. Labour says its policy, which would instead bring in a tighter tax relief for foreigners temporarily in the UK, would give it £2 billion a year to spend.

No final decision has been taken on whether the measure will be in the Budget, with the final round of economic and fiscal forecasts that are due from the Office for Budget Responsibility later this week set to determine if it is needed.

But the fact the option is in consideration with less than a week to go shows how seriously the Treasury and No 10 are considering it.

Mr Hunt is determined to announce tax cuts in his March 6 Budget, with a reduction in the rate of National Insurance or income tax the leading options.

However, smaller than expected estimates for fiscal headroom – the amount of money left over after hitting the Government’s pledge to get government debt falling in five years – has left limited room for manoeuvre.

Scrapping the non-dom tax status could be politically complicated for Mr Hunt, who spoke out against the change in November 2022, when Labour was proposing it.

Mr Hunt said then he did not think it made sense to abolish the special tax status and insisted it would be the “wrong thing” to do.

He told BBC Radio Four: “These are foreigners who could live easily in Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain. They all have these schemes. All things being equal, I would rather they stayed here and spent their money here.”

However, there could be political benefits. Labour has already announced £2 billion a year of spending based on the savings from abolishing the non-dom status.

That includes £1.1 billion for two million more NHS operations, scans and appointments at evening and weekends; £171 million on new artificial intelligence health scanners; £111 million on helping deliver 700,000 more urgent dentistry appointments, and £365 million to fund breakfast clubs in all primary schools.

The rest would go on so-called “Barnett consequentials”, which is extra funding given to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the back of policy changes with funding implications.

Eradicating the revenue source for those policies would mean Labour would have to explain where the money would come from if it chose to also keep the new tax cuts announced.

Another complexity, however, is the move could put the spotlight back on to the tax status of Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, who it emerged in spring 2022 was using non-dom status.

Mrs Murty, whose father lives in India and is a billionaire, then gave up the tax status. Mr Sunak at the time criticised the attention on the issue, hitting back at “unpleasant smears”.

On Wednesday night, a Labour source indicated that could well become their line of attack, saying: “Let’s see if Jeremy Hunt can convince Rishi Sunak to steal another one of Labour’s policies.”

In the 2015 general election campaign, Ed Miliband, who was then Labour leader, surprised the Tories by vowing to abolish non-dom status.

Tory strategists later accepted the announcement had cut through with the public and that they had tried to change the national conversation afterwards with the acceptance it had had a political impact.

The non-dom status rules allow those in scope to avoid paying UK tax on overseas income or capital gains for up to 15 years, provided they do not bring the money back into the UK.

Why axing the non-dom status is no silver bullet

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However, costs do kick in at some point. People who have been living in the UK for seven of the nine previous tax years must pay £30,000 a year, for example.

HM Revenue & Customs figures show there were 68,300 non-doms in 2021. How many of those would stay if the status was abolished has been a long-debated point by economists.

Last summer, academics at Warwick University and the London School of Economics estimated that the Treasury would get an extra £3.6 billion a year from the move.

But some economists argue the flight of wealthy individuals to other nations would significantly limit the financial upside for the Government.

A Treasury spokesman declined to comment.

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Cate Blanchett ‘destroying Cornish holidays with noisy building work’

Cate Blanchett has been accused of “destroying” holidays and costing a neighbour £60,000 during the building of her home in Cornwall.

The Lord of the Rings star, 54, and her playwright husband Andrew Upton, 57, bought the £1.6 million cottage four years ago and are replacing the original structure with a five-bedroom home.

But neighbours have taken umbrage with the couple’s alleged “total disregard” for the noisy construction works.

Planning permission to build the home was granted by Cornwall council in September 2022, but an additional application from Situ8, acting on behalf of the owners, was submitted in November last year.

Mawgan Porth, on Cornwall’s wild northern coastline, four miles from Newquay, has been described by some as “Hollywood-on-Sea” for its unspoilt beach and multi-million pound homes hosting the actors Jason Statham and Stanley Tucci.

The row has flared over the Hollywood star’s new planning application for “ground works” to allow car parking on an existing green meadow near the house, which they purchased in 2021.

Karen Burgess, a local holiday let owner, claimed that the project had cost her £60,000 in lost revenue and demanded that officials “severely restrict” the days that any further works can take place.

“I am deeply concerned that there has already been a total disregard for the noise that has destroyed the family holidays of all my guests throughout 2023,” she said.

“The losses are more than £60,000 last year and still we are having to advertise as a property affected by building noise. We thought [Blanchett’s property] work was finally over and now there is a new application for ground works. This work should not be permitted during the holiday season.”

She said that locals in the bay had never witnessed “such a blatant disregard” for the tourists who visit the area for holidays and bring the many holiday lets and hotels vital business.

Helen John, another neighbour, told councillors: “This current application is a blatant attempt to erode an environmentally important piece of land by stealth and incorporate it.

“It is one thing to allow temporary access and quite another to allow this to become a permanent scar on the landscape. This application should be rejected, the importance of green spaces emphasised and the land restored to its original condition once building is complete.”

Noise ‘from another property’

But the architects behind the new house, Watershedd, have responded by claiming that residents are wrongly pinning blame on Blanchett when in fact the noise is coming from another property.

“She cannot be referring to our clients’ property where there were no noisy works during the peak holiday period last year,” the architects said. “Once again, our clients’ property has been mistaken for other works going on in Mawgan Porth.”

Situ8 has described the loss of green space as “minimal” and said its client intended to maintain around 86 per cent of the rest of the meadow.

The row comes after Blanchett was separately given the go-ahead recently to build 90 solar panels to power her £5 million mansion in East Sussex, the 13-acre Highwell House that she bought in 2015.

The latest application will be ruled on by Cornwall council at a later date.

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Ultra-processed foods linked to more than 30 illnesses

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are linked to 32 different health issues, a study suggests.

Fizzy drinks, ready meals and sugary cereal have become a staple of the British diet and make up more than half of some people’s daily calorie consumption.

The category is broad and includes anything that could not be made in a domestic kitchen with the definition being food made from “industrial formulations”.

A study of 45 different analyses including almost 10 million participants found that consumption of UPFs is linked to health issues including cancer risk, high blood pressure, anxiety, asthma and Type 2 diabetes.

The study found evidence that higher ultra-processed food intake was associated with about a 50 per cent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and about a 50 per cent higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders.

Data came from a range of sources including questionnaires and asking people what they ate in the last 24 hours.

Each link between UPFs and a health condition was graded and ranked, and the scientists from Deakin University in Australia, who conducted the study, have called for “urgent mechanistic research and public health actions” to cut down consumption of these foods by the general public.

Unconnected scientists from the University of São Paulo wrote in an accompanying editorial, also published in the BMJ, that labels on packaging, advertising limits and banning sales of UPFs near schools should be implemented.

The authors of the editorial also called on the United Nations to bring countries together and create a way for UPFs to be treated in a similar way to tobacco.

However, some scientists have criticised the paper and also doubted the assertion that UPFs are intrinsically bad.

Most of the links between the foods and health conditions in the study are of weak strength, with only diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer and all cause mortality having a “moderate” quality rating.

Reliably measuring UPF intake is difficult, as recollections of diet can be extremely flawed.

Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition and food science at Reading University, said that some of the claims in the study are confusing and exaggerated.

“My worry with the paper is that fairly weak evidence is pushed in a way to make it seem that urgent action is required, when in reality a large number of nutrition scientists (including the Government’s advisory panel) do not think that urgent action is required,” Prof Kuhnle said.

“There is a small group of scientists and publicists who push a narrative of extreme risk, which is not really supported by the evidence – and I don’t think they consider the consequences.

“When people [abandon] diet soft drinks for the “full fat” version because of what they heard about sweeteners, they are at much higher risk of obesity and diabetes.”

Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University, said the statistical methodology of the study leaves it open to flaws, and “the findings of this analysis might not represent what the real effect actually is”.

“The results reported in this paper could be a significant over- or underestimate of what the true associated link between ultra-processed foods and health might be.”

But Dr Daisy Coyle, a dietician at the George Institute for Global Health in London, said the study “highlights a troubling reality” about the risks of UPFs.

“The statistics are staggering – these foods may double your risk of dying from heart disease or from developing a mental health disorder,” she said.

Ultra-processed foods are harming our health – here’s everything you need to know

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West End play stages shows to all-black audience ‘free from the white gaze’

A West End theatre will stage shows for an all-black audience to ensure ticket holders will be free from the “white gaze”.

Slave Play, starring Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow in the Game of Thrones, opens at London’s Noel Coward Theatre in June for a three-month run and will offer two performances specifically for an “all black-identifying audience”.

The events, known as “Black Out nights”, are intended to create a racially homogeneous environment “free from the white gaze” in a move critics have branded “simplistic and racist”.

The play by Jeremy O Harris, the US playwright, is moving from a successful run on Broadway, which yielded 12 Tony nominations. The production portrays interracial couples undergoing sexual therapy requiring them to role-play as slaves and masters.

A petition in the US called for the production to be cancelled and branded it “anti-Black sentiment disguised as art” over its treatment of sexual relationships during slavery, particularly those forcefully endured by black women. The Noel Coward Theatre has an age advisory of 16 and over for the play.

It is understood that an “all-black” audience for the show would be achieved by distributing invitation-only tickets through black community groups, rather than by turning white people away, which would prove legally problematic.

The play’s official website explains: “Black Out nights are the purposeful creation of an environment in which an all-Black-identifying audience can experience and discuss an event in the performing arts, film, athletic, and cultural spaces – free from the white gaze.”

Racially specific audiences or “Black Out nights” were devised and trialled by Harris for performances of Slave Play in the US in 2019. 

The website explains how this was “legally accomplished”, saying that “we did not prevent or preclude anyone from attending the Black Out performances”. The “Black Out” performances on Broadway were organised as private, invitation-only events.

Tickets were taken off general sale and were only available for purchase using a special code. This code was sent to organisations, student groups and other organisations identified by a PR firm as being connected to the black community.

Plans to introduce this practice in the West End have been slammed as “racist” by Amy Gallagher, the mayoral candidate for London’s Social Democratic Party.

She said: “This is definitely racist. Excluding anyone on the basis of skin colour in this way is racist.

“They seem to be reverting to a critical race theory definition of racism whereby, according to Ibram X Kendi, we need present discrimination, against white people, to make up for past discrimination.”

She added: “They say they want to be free from the ‘white gaze’ which, of course, means white people, but they will not go as far to say white people as it would be illegal.

“This is an extremely simplistic and racist approach generally. We have a large Asian and mixed-race population. Would they be encouraged or discouraged to attend?”

Mr Harris explained his reasoning for black-identifying audiences on the BBC’s World at One, saying that the policy did not mean white people were “uninvited” and that “people have to be radically invited into a space to know that they belong there”.

He added that poor people and black people had been told they “do not belong in the theatre” and his initiative was an attempt to allow them to “feel safe with a lot of other black people”, as “black audiences and white audiences respond to things differently”.

The idea of a black-only performance has been tried before in London, when white people were urged not to attend a Theatre Royal Stratford East performance of the race satire Tambo & Bones.

The intention behind the one-off performance in 2023 was to create a “safe, private” space to allow an “all-black-identifying audience” to explore racial issues “free from the white gaze”.

It was criticised by MPs, including Damian Green, who called it “misguided” and “sinister”.

Slave Play’s producers said: “Two performances of Slave Play will be Black Out nights with further details about these performances and how to buy tickets being released in due course. No one will be prevented or precluded from attending any performance of Slave Play.”

The Noel Coward Theatre has been contacted for comment.

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British soldiers helping fire Ukrainian missiles, Olaf Scholz reveals

Germany was accused of a “flagrant abuse of intelligence” after revealing that British soldiers are supporting Ukrainian forces launching long-range Storm Shadow missiles.

Olaf Scholz said on Monday that he would not deliver the Taurus, Berlin’s equivalent of the Storm Shadow, as it would require soldiers assisting on the ground, citing the UK and French approach with their own systems. Mr Scholz argued that following the UK would make Germany a “participant in the war”.

The comments were seen as endangering British military and diplomatic personnel on the ground.

Tobias Ellwood, the former chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: “This is a flagrant abuse of intelligence deliberately designed to distract from Germany’s reluctance to arm Ukraine with its own long-range missile system. This will no doubt be used by Russia to racket up the escalator ladder.”

Mr Scholz was also criticised by German opposition MPs.

“The chancellor’s statement regarding France and Britain’s alleged involvement in operating long-range cruise missiles used in Ukraine is completely irresponsible,” Norbert Rottgen, a senior MP from Angela Merkel’s former ruling party, the CDU.

Mr Scholz is under mounting pressure to deliver the long-range missile to disrupt Russia’s supply lines and prevent Moscow taking further territory.

He said on Monday that German soldiers could not follow their British and French peers in “the way of target control and accompanying target control”. The Storm Shadow is co-produced by the UK and France.

“German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this system [the Taurus] reaches. Not even in Germany,” Mr Scholz said.

Britain is known to provide intelligence on Russian targets but it is unclear what level of support is given to Ukrainian troops firing its missiles on the ground.

On Tuesday, the UK Government announced it had a “small number” of soldiers deployed inside Ukraine, specifying only that some were involved in medical training.

Mr Scholz’s speculation on the role played by British troops in Ukraine has heightened concern for the safety of diplomats and other personnel stationed in the country, defence sources told The Telegraph.

It has also increased the threat of potential Russian overseas intelligence operations on British soil, the sources added.

In response to Mr Scholz, the Ministry of Defence simply referred queries to Kyiv on Tuesday.

“Ukraine’s use of Storm Shadow and its targeting processes are the business of the armed forces of Ukraine,” a spokesman told The Telegraph.

“The UK, along with other allies, is providing a range of equipment to Ukraine to help it counter Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression.”

Taurus missiles are capable of deeper strikes and contain more sophisticated bunker-busting technologies than the British Storm Shadow and French Scalp cruise missiles delivered last year.

The German missile, which has a range of 310 miles, could easily strike politically sensitive targets, such as Moscow or the Kerch bridge linking Russia with occupied Crimea.

Justin Crump, chief executive of Sibylline, an intelligence consultancy, said: “British support to Ukraine is hardly news to Moscow given repeated leaks, but this has previously been veiled in ambiguity – itself drawing on a trick from Russia’s own playbook.

“[Mr] Scholz though has more clearly pierced this veil. His assertion is a gift to Russian propagandists, already forming a key part of Russia’s effort to undermine Nato cohesion and support for Kyiv during this critical period ahead of US and UK elections.”

“More immediately, it will drive Russia to redouble efforts to target foreign forces present in Ukraine and make inflated claims of losses.”

Mr Scholz has a deep mistrust that Ukraine would ignore his orders not to strike those targets, analysts said.

“It has become very clear that the reason why he is not in favour of delivering Taurus is because he fundamentally does not trust the Ukrainians to use those missiles in a way that [does] not go against what he perceives as Germany’s interests,” Fabian Hoffman, a doctoral research fellow at the Oslo Nuclear Project, said.

“[Mr] Scholz is absolutely frightened that any of these Taurus missiles could be used in an attack against a politically sensitive target, either in Ukraine or Russia.

“Simply the theoretical ability to strike targets as far as Moscow with German weapons systems creates a blockage in the chancellor’s head… a massive fear of escalation potential and the consequences this could have for Germany.”

Experts say that Germany could overcome its fears of escalatory strikes by pre-programming donated Taurus missiles to prevent such attacks.

The US is known to have installed geo-blocking software on its Himars rocket launchers sent to Ukraine, preventing Kyiv’s forces from firing into Russian soil with the weapons system.

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Mel B: The reason I couldn’t be called Scary Spice today

Mel B wouldn’t be named Scary Spice today as someone would take offence to it, the singer has said.

Melanie Brown said in this “day and age” the name wouldn’t be as accepted as the world was “a bit too politically correct”.

But the 48-year-old said she loved the nickname and that despite some 30 years passing since the members of the Spice Girls were given their monikers, they are all “still the same”.

When they formed in 1994 and had their first hit with Wannabe two years later, she and Victoria Beckham, Geri Horner, Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisolm were given their corresponding Spice Girls nicknames of Scary, Posh, Ginger, Baby and Sporty during an interview with Top of the Pops magazine, which stuck.

When asked how she felt about being nicknamed Scary Spice, Brown told the How To Fail podcast: “I think now we’re a bit too politically correct.

“I calmed down in these last few years. Before, if you were to interview me I’d be like ‘Show me your questions’. I’d be the protector of the group that comes in there like ‘Hold on a minute’.

“That can be seen as maybe being a bit too Northern, or maybe being a bit too feisty, or scary, so that name was given – and I love it.”

Brown said her nickname derived from the “plain fact” that she was “a bit scary” with “larger than life hair”.

She added: “That’s just me.

“But, in this day and age, somebody would have taken offence by that. But I don’t take offence by it.

“Whether you’re black, white, mixed, there’s a bit of scary in all of us.”

She added: “And, I just want to be clear, when those names got given to us – it was by a lazy journalist from some teeny poppy magazine and he couldn’t be bothered to remember our full names.

“So he was like, well that one looks a bit scary because she has already snatched my notes and she’s got all this crazy hair and leopard print nails, so he just named us off the rack like that.

“We were all like, God, I quite like my name.”

She added: “It’s funny because to this day, Emma loves pink, and if she could have her way she’d put her hair in ponytails.

“Mel C, you can never get her out of a tracksuit, and she always has her hair in a ponytail.

“Victoria’s very slick and elegant. Geri she’s gone through a bit of a change, but she’s still that vivacious Union Jack girl underneath her being the lady of the manor.

“We’re all exactly the same, which is lovely considering we started when we were 17, 18, 19, and we’re now 48, 49, 50.”

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‘I’m a nice, very good-looking white boy from Chelsea,’ stabbing suspect tells court

The son of a wealthy art collector has appeared in court charged with attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a maid at his family’s £20 million London home.

Maximillian Bourne, 25, an IT consultant, is accused of stabbing Joselia Pereira Do Nascimento on Feb 25.

The alleged incident occurred at the five-bedroom house in Justice Walk, Chelsea, where Mr Bourne lives with his mother Sylvia, a celebrated art collector and philanthropist, and father Graham, a property developer.

After being arrested he was charged with attempted murder and appeared at Westminster magistrates’ court earlier this week, where he was remanded in custody until next month.

Appearing in the dock wearing a grey prison tracksuit, Mr Bourne, who is the great, great grandson of Epitácio Pessoa, the former Brazilian president, told the court: “I’m a nice, very good-looking white boy from Chelsea.”

He was not asked to enter or indicate a plea during the brief hearing and was remanded into custody until March 26 when he is next due to appear before a judge at the Old Bailey.

The alleged victim, who was described as a “live-in maid” at the property, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after suffering multiple injuries.

Kalsoom Shah, prosecuting, told the hearing: “The defendant faces a charge of attempted murder. The victim was critical, but her injuries are now not life-threatening.”

Ms Shah said the alleged victim was expected to spend at least a week in hospital being treated for her injuries that were mainly to her face and back.

The alleged incident occurred on Sunday evening at the 18th-century family home, known as The Courthouse, where prisoners were once tried for crimes including highway robbery.

The Bournes bought the property when it was near derelict for £2.8 million. It was valued 10 years ago at £14.5 million but is now thought to be worth in excess of £20 million.

Mr Bourne went to university in the United States.

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