The Telegraph 2024-03-06 16:30:41

Live Hunt signals the end of National Insurance – live updates

Jeremy Hunt today signalled a future Tory government could look to abolish National Insurance entirely. 

The Chancellor said during his Budget address that “the way we tax people’s income is particularly unfair”.

“If you get your income from having a job, you pay two types of tax – National Insurance contributions and income tax – if you get it from other sources you pay only one,” he said.

“This double taxation of work is unfair. The result is a complicated system that penalises work instead of encouraging it.”

Mr Hunt confirmed that National Insurance will be cut by 2p from April in a move that will save the average worker £450. But he signalled he wanted to go further in the future to create a “simpler, fairer” tax system. 

He said: “Because Conservatives believe that making work pay is of the most fundamental importance, because we believe that the double taxation of work is unfair, our long-term ambition is to end this unfairness. 

“When it is responsible, when it can be achieved without increasing borrowing and when it can be delivered without compromising high quality public services, we will continue to cut National Insurance as we have done today so we truly make work pay.”

You can follow the latest business Budget updates here and join the conversation in the comments section here

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Live Nikki Haley channels Thatcher as she quits US presidential race

Nikki Haley invoked Margaret Thatcher and refused to endorse Donald Trump as she quit the presidential race.

After a bruising defeat in the Super Tuesday primaries, the former US Ambassador said she had “no regrets” as she suspended her campaign.

Ms Haley said she wished Donald Trump “well” in his bid for the White House but stopped short of throwing her support behind her former rival.

“I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee”, she said during her brief remarks in South Carolina.

“But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, “Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.’”

It was a fitting end to Ms Haley’s campaign, which she had kicked off with a tribute to the late British Prime Minister more than one year ago.

Ms Haley used one of Baroness Thatcher’s favourite poems in a video to set out her campaign for the 2024 US presidency.

Following Ms Haley’s remarks, Mr Trump sent a message to his supporters urging Republicans to unite behind him.

“It was a hard-fought race, but now it’s time for us to UNITE AS A PARTY AND DEFEAT JOE BIDEN!” he said.

Ms Haley’s decision to end her campaign effectively kicks off the general election between Mr Trump and President Joe Biden.

Follow below for the latest updates, and join the conversation in the comments below.

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Russian missile lands near cars carrying Zelensky to Greek PM

A convoy carrying Volodymyr Zelensky was nearly struck by a Russian missile in the southern city of Odesa on Wednesday, according to reports.

The strike landed a short distance from his motorcade, which was travelling to meet a Greek delegation that included the country’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, according to Greek news outlet Protothema.

“We saw this strike today,” said Mr Zelensky. 

“You see who we are dealing with, they do not care where they hit. I know there were casualties today, I don’t know all the details yet, but I know there are dead and wounded,” he added.

“We need to defend ourselves first and foremost. The best way to do that is with an air defense system.”

He was visiting the port of Odesa along with Mr Mitsotakis when the missile hit. 

“We heard the sound of sirens and explosions that took place near us. We did not have time to get to a shelter,” Mr Mitsotakis told reporters.

“There is no issue with the safety of the prime minister and the Greek delegation,” a Greek government source added.

Greek media reported the explosion shortly before Mr Mitsotakis was due to meet the Ukrainian president. 

The attack was said to have happened at around 11.43am local time. According to local media, the strike was either an Iskander or Onyx missile.

Mr Zelensky and Mr Mitsotakis held their discussions as planned, with their officials saying they will issue a joint statement.

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Factory next to Southampton football ground on fire

Emergency services are battling a major fire at a factory next to Southampton Football Club’s stadium.

Thick smoke and flames can be seen billowing into the sky as crews attempt to contain the blaze.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service said it had been called to reports of an incident at around 1pm on Wednesday.

A factory on Marine Parade, near St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, appears to be at the centre of the fire, which emergency services said has spread. 

A total of 18 fire engines are at the scene, with water cannon being blasted towards the building in an attempt to control the flames.

A Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Additional fire engines are now heading to the scene to make it up to 18. The fire is currently involves four industrial units.

“There is lots of smoke, and people in the area are reminded to keep doors and windows closed. Some roads local to the incident are closed and people are advised to avoid the area to allow movements of emergency vehicles.”

Southampton FC are set to play Preston North End in a Championship match at the stadium on Wednesday night, with fans speculating that the fixture may have to be cancelled.

Nikki Delaney, who witnessed the fire, told the Daily Echo: “The flames are high and it’s getting worse. The heat from the flames is a lot, and I’m not even close.”

Hampshire Constabulary has been contacted for comment. 

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Sir Michael Gambon’s girlfriend left out of will as estate goes to wife of 61 years

Sir Michael Gambon has bequeathed his £1.5 million estate to his wife but left nothing to his long-term girlfriend and mother of two of his sons.

Sir Michael, the award-winning actor latterly known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, shared his time between Lady Anne Gambon and Philippa Hart, a set designer, before his death at the age of 82 in September.

However, his will, written and signed in December 2016 and published on Tuesday, showed that nearly his entire fortune had passed to Lady Gambon, who is listed as an executor along with the couple’s 60-year-old son, Fergus.

Provision was made for the £1,465,882 estate to pass to Fergus, an Antiques Roadshow ceramics expert, if his mother had died before her husband.

Ms Hart, who lived openly with Sir Michael in west London and is 25 years his junior, will not get a penny.  However, her two children with the actor, Tom, aged 17, and William, 15, each received £10,000.

According to the three-page document, they have also both been given a silver heart Variety Club of Great Britain stage actor award, with Tom given one from 1987 and William a trophy from 2000.

The actor met Ms Hart while filming the Channel 4 series Longitude in 2000, and within a year he was introducing his girlfriend to fellow actors.

For two decades, the actor split his time between her and Lady Gambon, who was said to have initially been devastated by the news of his other relationship and moved out of the home they shared. 

However, she then came to terms with the arrangement and moved back.

Speaking from her £1.5 million four-bedroom Victorian terrace after the details of Sir Gambon’s will were released, Ms Hart told the Daily Mail: “It’s none of my business. I really don’t want to talk about this.”

Fergus and his mother declined to comment when approached by the Mail at their £5 million Grade II-listed home in Meopham, Kent.

Sir Michael, born in Dublin, trained as a toolmaker before moving to a career on stage, going on to play the lead in The Singing Detective in 1986 and the pipe-smoking French detective Maigret in the 1990s ITV adaptation before enjoying success in Hollywood.

His career spanned more than 60 years, with other films including Layer Cake, Dad’s Army and The King’s Speech.

Lady Gambon married Sir Michael in 1962 and is a retired mathematician who makes her own pottery and has a passion for bookbinding.

It is believed Sir Michael and Ms Hart had not been together for some time before his death.

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Union threatens strike over Birmingham council’s ‘devastating’ cuts

One of Britain’s biggest unions has threatened to strike over “devastating” cuts at England’s largest local authority.

The Unite union has said it will do “everything in its power” both “politically and industrially” to ensure that workers do not pay the price for the financial crisis facing Birmingham City Council.

The union represents hundreds of Birmingham workers, with the potential for strikes to disrupt key services such as bin collections and social care.

On Tuesday night, the Labour-run authority – which declared itself effectively bankrupt by issuing a Section 114 notice last year – voted to make £300 million of cuts over the next two years in an attempt to balance the books.

At the same time, council tax will rise by 10 per cent in April and 10 per cent the year after, adding £350 to average bills.

The vote came a day after Nottingham City Council, which also issued a Section 114 notice last year, voted through its own cost-cutting budget, including a rise in council tax and new charges for public toilets and garden bin collections.

Six local authorities have effectively declared bankruptcy since 2021, with research suggesting one in six council bosses expect theirs to do the same in the coming year.

Last year, a survey by the Local Government Association found some 17 per cent of council leaders and chief executives in England think their chief finance officers are likely to issue a Section 114 notice in 2024-25.

Local authorities in England face a £4 billion funding gap over the next two years just to keep services at a standstill, the organisation said, with urgent help needed from the Government to avoid “drastic cuts”.

Councils claim they have been squeezed dry by dramatic cuts to Government funding and rising demand for services, while the Tories blame poor financial management at a local level.

Birmingham issued a Section 114 notice in September, halting all new spending, after facing equal pay claims of up to £760 million and an £80 million overspend on an under-fire IT system.

Independent commissioners were brought in by Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, to help run the council, which owes almost £3 billion to lenders.

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Activists swap Union flag for Palestinian on UK Government building in Edinburgh

A Palestinian flag has been hoisted above a major UK Government building in Edinburgh by protesters claiming Britain is “complicit in genocide” in Gaza.

A Union flag was removed and hurled to the ground by activists who scaled Queen Elizabeth House (QEH) in the city on Wednesday morning.

The front of the building has also been doused in red paint as a Palestinian flag was flown in place of the Union Jack.

Four people from the Scottish This is Rigged campaign group, which also focuses on climate change issues, said they had taken part in the protest.

The group said three of the activists, Fred Spoliar, 31, Ruby Hamill, 19, and Daniel Knorr, 22, hurled water balloons filled with red paint at government signage.

Catriona Roberts, 21, sprayed the glass front of the building with a fire extinguisher full of red paint.

The group said the building, the UK Government’s most prominent base in Scotland, had been targeted “specifically due to the UK Government’s ongoing endorsement of this genocide”.

Ms Roberts, a history student from Perthshire, said: “As long as the UK Government refuses to call for a ceasefire, we will continue to call not in Scotland’s name.

“As Palestine is bombed, burned and starved, this Government is complicit. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of screaming out into the world that we will not abide genocide.”

It comes days after Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street speech in which he denounced extremist pro-Palestinian protesters who do not respect the rule of law.

He said police would be encouraged to take a harder line, though policing in Scotland is a devolved matter. Police Scotland said its officers were “in attendance” at the protest, which began at around 10.30am.

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “We are aware of the protests and the police are in attendance. All of the staff in QEH are safe and no one has entered the building.”

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