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Today’s headlines

11 February 2016

Government may pull back on cuts to short money

The government has indicated that it could be prepared to compromise on plans to cut opposition party funding, known as Short money, amid signs that Conservative MPs are willing to revolt. The chancellor George Osborne revealed in the autumn statement that the Government would cut Short money by 19% and freeze it over the remainder of the parliament. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP and chair of public administration and constitutional affairs committee, claimed the government had handled the policy in a “clumsy manner” and warned that the committee he chairs will probe the cuts amid concerns that the move was politically motivated. In response to an urgent question on the issue, in which Labour MPs attacked the proposed policy, John Penrose, a Cabinet Office minister, confirmed a new consultation about the move would start shortly. More info.

David Cameron to set out case for EU reform in Hamburg speech

David Cameron has flown to Hamburg to spell out the “wider agenda” for reforming the European Union, in his final major speech before next week’s EU summit where he hopes to secure agreement for the renegotiation of the UK’s membership. It comes at a delicate moment for the prime minister, after it emerged that more than 130 Tory Councillors have written to Cameron warning that he risks splitting the party unless he accepts that his renegotiation has failed and he campaigns for Britain to leave the EU. A No 10 spokesman said the speech would be about “setting out the case, talking through the proposals, talking about where we are, reminding people of some of the reasons why we are taking this course of action.” There has been speculation that a further emergency summit of EU leaders could be called if next week’s gathering fails to reach an agreement. But Mr Cameron is anxious to get a final deal in place in time for referendum on Britain’s continued membership in June. More info.

Numbers of MPs to be cut from 650 to 600

The Government will press ahead with plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, despite opponents arguing the move unduly strengthen the Conservative position. There are significant variations in size of Westminster constituencies, ranging from 21,769 voters in Na h-Eileanan an Iar to 108,804 in the Isle of Wight. The government claim that the reforms are necessary to remove this distortion. Studies have suggested that the changes could result in the Conservatives gaining up to 20 more seats in parliament, and Labour politicians have accused the government of pushing through the changes for party political gain. In a report published last March the political and constitutional committee argued that the changes should be carried out gradually, rather than slashing all 50 at once and that a 10 per cent deviation should be allowed from the mean number of constituents. The Cabinet Office has dismissed this recommendation, arguing that a 10% leeway would be “too large and would undermine the basic principle of equally sized constituencies”. More info.

Firms forced to reveal gender pay gap 

Companies with more than 250 employees will have to disclose how much they are paying in salaries and bonuses to their male and female staff, under plans by women and equalities minister Nicky Morgan. Figures released by the Office of National Statistics suggest that women in the UK still earn on average 20% less than men. The league table of around 8,000 firms, which the government hopes will draw attention to the worst offenders, will be published from 2018, giving firms some time to address the inequality before their data will appear on the list. Ms Morgan said that women and men must be given equal treatment in the workplace. “I’m calling on women across Britain to use their position as employees and consumers to demand more from businesses, ensuring their talents are given the recognition and reward they deserve,” she said. More info.

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