General Election

The first salvos have been fired by the party leaders in the fight for votes in May.

The Telegraph reports on the clash of leaders over the NHS and the economy.

Ed Miliband would plunge Britain deep into the red and force the country to spend more than the annual police budget in interest payments on the national debt alone, David Cameron will warn.

In the first major clash of this year’s election campaign, the Prime Minister will highlight new analysis from the Treasury suggesting Labour’s spending plans would see debt interest payments rise by £13.5 billion over the next parliament.

He will argue that the only way to protect the NHS and other public services for the future will be to stop borrowing tens of billions of pounds a year and begin to run a budget surplus.

Mr Cameron’s intervention, to be made in a round of media appearances on Sunday, comes as the two main parties trade their first blows ahead of May’s general election, with public spending now at the centre of the campaign.

Mr Miliband will make a keynote speech in Manchester on Monday setting out “the major issues” for the next four months to polling day. He is expected to highlight the scale of impending “Tory cuts”.

Labour will seek to put the health service at the heart of its attack on the Conservatives, releasing a 27-page dossier claiming that another five years of Tory rule would destroy the NHS “as you know it”.

Sky News also reports on the clash.

After his controversial poster claiming the Government has halved Britain’s deficit, branded a fib by opponents, David Cameron is claiming Labour would increase the debt interest bill by £13.5bn in the next Parliament.

That is the equivalent of adding 3p to the basic rate of income tax, according to the Conservatives, who say the Treasury has costed Labour’s policies on people’s wealth.

But Labour has gone on the attack on health, claiming the NHS as we know it cannot survive five more years of David Cameron and publishing a 27-page dossier revealing the scale of his broken promises to protect the NHS.

On wealth, the Conservatives claim the Treasury has calculated that Labour’s debt interest bill would rise by £5.7bn alone in 2019-20 and this amount could pay for a 1p reduction in both the basic and higher rates of income tax.

A Number 10 source said: “Britain is on the road to recovery with 1.75 million more people in work, the fastest-growing major advanced economy in 2014 and income tax cut for 26 million people.

And the Mirror concentrates on the NHS.

Labour has warned that if David Cameron is re-elected in May, the NHS will be destroyed.

Election chief Douglas Alexander has declared the fate of the health service will be “on the ballot paper” in May’s General Election.

He has drawn up a hard-hitting dossier which reveals the Tories have already breached seven out of 15 key patients’ rights enshrined in the health service’s constitution.

Labour warns a second-term Tory government would mean longer waiting times, spending levels back to where they were in the 1930s and more privatisation.

It says patients’ rights that have been breached include those setting maximum waiting times – of four hours at A&E, 62 days for cancer treatment and six weeks for diagnostic tests.

As does the Independent.

Labour has kicked off its general election campaign with a damning dossier showing that the NHS has missed half of its patient waiting time pledges in the past year.

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, warned that the coalition faces its “day of reckoning” at the polls in May, after Labour compiled evidence showing that seven out of 15 patient rights in the NHS constitution have been breached over the past 12 months.

Failures include not getting enough ambulances to people within eight minutes; 74 consecutive weeks of missing the A&E waiting-time target; and more than 15 per cent of cancer patients not getting their first treatment within two months of diagnosis.

Labour wants to fight the election over the NHS, which it believes has become a one of the electorate’s top three priorities as the service has stumbled from crisis to crisis.

The Express claims the economic recovery would be put in jeopardy by a Labour win in May.

ED MILIBAND will put the country’s ­economic recovery at risk by increasing interest payments on Britain’s national debt by a whopping £13.5billion over the next five years, it was claimed last night.

This is more than the entire £8.1billion police and £12.7billion transport budget for next year and equal to adding three pence to the basic rate of income tax.

A formal costing of Labour’s fiscal ­policy by Treasury officials says the party would borrow £14.9billion more in 2016-17, £31.7billion more in 2017-18, £46.1billion more in 2018-19 and £41billion more in 2019-20.

According to the Office of Budgetary Responsibility’s ready-reckoner, this would increase debt interest spending by £13.5billion from 2016-17 to 2019-20, compared with Conservative plans. In 2019-20 alone, the debt interest bill would rise by £5.7billion.

Last night a Downing Street source said: “Britain is on the road to recovery with 1.75 million more people in work, the fastest-growing major advanced economy in 2014 and income tax cut for 26 million people.

“But there is more to do and Ed ­Miliband would put it all at risk with more spending, more borrowing and more taxes.

“Labour would never tackle our deficit and these new figures show that would cost hard-working taxpayers an extra ­£13.5billion in debt interest payments alone in the next Parliament.”

UKIP

The Mail reports the words of a senior Tory who claims the Conservatives can win May’s election only if UKIP is not around.

David Cameron can only hope to win the election if Ukip ‘implodes’, Tory grandee Lord Tebbit warned today.

As the Conservatives launched their first election poster of the campaign, the former party chairman said the Prime Minister will pay a heavy price for breaking a promise to tackle immigration.

He said that only a collapse in support for Ukip – which has made big gains in the past year – would allow the Tories to form an overall majority after May 7.

Before the last election Mr Cameron pledge ‘no ifs, no buts’ to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’.

But latest figures show 260,000 more people arrived in the UK than left in the last year, including a record 228,000 extra immigrants who arrived from elsewhere in the European Union.

Lord Tebbit told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: ‘Mr Cameron swore that he would get immigration, net, down to tens of thousands, so that’s a real problem,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

‘It makes it difficult for him to persuade people that he can control it without a radical change in our relationship with Europe, which Ukip would then point out would almost certainly mean leaving the European Union.’

‘I think it is going to be very difficult to win an overall majority unless, for some reason or another, Ukip should implode.’

Pensions

The Telegraph reports the pensions minister’s advice to cash in their pensions.

Millions of retired workers would be given the power sell their pensions, under major plans to relax annuity rules being drawn up by ministers.

Up to five million pensioners would stand to benefit from the proposals, if they would rather have money in their bank accounts than a guaranteed income every year.

Reforms announced in last year’s Budget will mean working people who retire in future will be able to cash-in their pension savings for a lump sum which they will be free to spend as they wish.

But an estimated five million pensioners who have already retired will miss out because they are locked into their contracts until they die.

Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, told The Telegraph he wanted to change the law to enable these pensioners to sell their annual lifetime incomes – known as “annuities” – to the highest bidder at any time after they have retired.

Pensioners may decide they would rather have cash than a guaranteed income stream to give money to children, to pay for home renovations or to invest.

The plan will be particularly appealing to those who have more than one pension as a result of working for several employers, and who would prefer to have money “up front” than to receive a small amount from a low-value pension each year.

‘Tax bomb’

The Sunday Times suggests Labour is planning a tax bombshell.

DAVID CAMERON will today accuse Labour of plotting a new tax bombshell as he fires the opening salvo of the general election campaign.

In a conscious echo of the 1992 contest, which returned John Major to Downing Street, the prime minister will accuse Ed Miliband of secretly plotting to raise both the 20p and 40p rates of income tax to service Britain’s debts if he wins power in May.

Last night Cameron told The Sunday Times that Labour would have to pay a “breathtaking” £13.5bn extra in debt interest payments over the lifetime of the next parliament, accusing the Labour leader of “pouring” public money “down the drain”.

Labour accused the Tories of peddling “dodgy claims” based on out-of-date figures.

Miliband will hit back tomorrow with a warning that “the NHS is on live support” and the health service “cannot survive five more years of David Cameron”.

The Guardian has a similar story

 David Cameron has warned that a Labour government would cost the taxpayer billions of pounds as the main political parties started the new year on an election footing.

The prime minister said that Labour’s failure to control the public finances would cost £13.5bn in extra interest payments if Ed Miliband gains power in the May general election.

“That is the difference between the two parties in what it would cost Britain if we went with Labour’s plans,” he told The Mail on Sunday.

“It’s like going on a spending binge with a credit card and having absolutely no idea how you are going to meet the interest. That is what Labour are about.

“They have learnt absolutely nothing in the past five years. It’s still more borrowing, more spending, more debt.”

But shadow chief treasury secretary Chris Leslie hit back, saying that Cameron’s figures on interest payments were based on “false assumptions and out-of-date economic forecasts”.

University fees

Labour’s business secretary claims ministers did not tell the truth in the House of Commons, claims the Independent.

Government ministers have been accused of misleading both the Commons and the Lords over supposed international praise for Britain’s university tuition fees system.

The Universities minister, Greg Clark, and the Conservative whip, Baroness Williams of Trafford, have separately cited a report published in September by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in recent Parliamentarydebates. They said that the OECD, at the publication of its annual Education at a Glance, highlighted the UK as being “one of the few” countries to have introduced a “sustainable” system of higher education financing.

However, the shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, said the report expressly stated that it was referring to the fee structure, introduced under the last Labour government, which was in place until 2011.

University fees were subsequently raised to £9,000 a year in 2012. The Higher Education Commission think-tank recently argued that the “future financial sustainability of the current funding model is far from guaranteed”. Other groups estimate that barely a quarter of post-2012 graduates will be able to repay their student debts in full.

“This government has created a black hole in the student finance system,” said Mr Umunna. “To make matters worse, the Government is now trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by citing the OECD’s praise for the previous system, which they scrapped. Given that it appears ministers have misled Parliament in relation to this claim, they should correct the record immediately.”

Troops

The Express claims an exclusive story on a potential link-up between UK and USA forces.

BRITISH and American troops could link up to form a permanent rapid reaction force under new proposals.

A total of 1,800 Paras would fight alongside the US 82 Airborne Division under overall American control.

The plan comes weeks after a British general was appointed deputy to a US commander in Iraq.

If approved it will herald the first permanent bilateral alliance with America in peacetime.

The force could be quickly deployed to trouble spots such as Yemen.

Senior Army sources suggested last night that the Air Assault Task Force would prepare Britain for war against the Islamic State in Iraq, though the Ministry of Defence rejected the idea of any British boots on the ground.

The concept is understood to be the brainchild of Brigadier Giles Hill, a Parachute Regiment officer serving as the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne.

He has received the full support of Lieutenant General John Lorimer, current Chief of Joint Operations and the head of the Parachute Regiment.

Euro

If you’re thinking of booking a holiday to Europe, there are some excellent deals about because of the weakness of the Euro, says the Telegraph.

British families can expect to save hundreds of pounds on trips across Europe due to a slide in the value of the euro which has created the cheapest holiday-booking season since the financial crisis, experts have said.

Holidaymakers can expect to save anything between five and 15 per cent on the cost of travel and accommodation booked this month and pay almost 20 cent less than last year on expenses such as eating out.

Experts said British travellers could expect the cheapest holiday prices since before the financial crisis of 2008. It comes as the travel industry prepares for the traditional January surge in bookings.

Despite volatility on the currency markets which saw the pound fall further against the dollar on Friday, sterling is trading more seven per cent higher against the euro in comparison with last spring and close to the highest level against the single currency for more than six years.

A euro is now worth just over 78 pence, compared with almost 84 pence in March.

 

 

 

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