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The Times
#1
Interest Groups React to Budget

Reaction from interest groups has been coming in all day, here at the Times we have collected some of the best and worst from across the country:

  • The Alliance of British Drivers condemned the double increase in Road Taxes in line with inflation saying that as inflation begins to outstrip earnings this risks forcing people out of using cars and risks making people unable to get to work
  • The CBI and FSB both welcomed cuts to National Insurance contributions for businesses but lamented the lack of VAT and Corporation Tax cuts saying that this prevented them from passing much larger savings onto customers
  • The Taxpayers' Alliance welcomed the "modest" cut to Income Tax but condemned the stealth tax on earners who receive the higher threshold of National Insurance saying Labour was playing politics with job creators
  • The British Beer and Pub Association condemned above-earnings increases in alcohol duties warning that the British Pub as an institution is under threat and the Government should do more to help it rather than hinder
  • The National Association of Local Councils welcomed budgetary measures to increase funding in Regional Development Agencies as well as infrastructure investments in areas outside of London
  • The CBI welcomed the increase in apprenticeship provision and funding but said more could be done to ensure that people aren't railroaded into educational provision that suited the Government rather than the individual in reference to the Government's new policy on school leavers
  • Various Justice Pressure Groups reacted well to the Government's plans for additional police and more prison space
  • Lawyers' groups welcomed the increase in Legal Aid but said more needed to be done to ensure that everyone had access to justice
  • The Government moved one step closer to fulfilling their waiting list commitments with the BMA welcoming moves to hire more doctors, build more hospitals, and invest more in public health and Commissioning Grants
  • The NUT welcomed more funding per student but raised concerns that similar funding increases had not been given to further education in light of the Government's law change on the topic of post-16 education
  • The increase in free childcare to 3hrs a day was welcomed my mothers' groups and by pre-schools
  • The Daily Express expressed outrage that at a time of heavy borrowing international aid had increased by more than inflation. IN a strongly worded editorial the paper called for the Government to stop borrowing money to give away and re-allocate that funding for the homeless in this country
  • The Green Party signed an open letter, with many other green groups, expressing disappointment at the Government's "lack of ambition on green subjects" pointing to a "paltry" increase in renewable funding, minimal investment in environmental protection, and next to no investment in decommissioning old nuclear plants in favour of green alternatives
  • The Taxpayers' Alliance and National Association of Local Councils both condemned the Government's policy on local government. That taxpayers' alliance were furious at the 5.2% increase average increase in Council Tax this year mandated by the Government if councils wanted to retain funding saying it "undid almost every national tax cut for individuals replacing it with this stealth tax" whilst the NALC urged caution on the issue of social homes arguing that local government must take the lead to prevent the destruction of local communities
  • The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, said it was unacceptable that public spending on Scotland should increase by less than the UK's national average accusing the Government of failing to take the legitimate concerns of Scotland seriously. UK average spending increased by 4.92% in this Budget whereas Scotland's increased by just under 4.25%, approximately 0.7% less than the average
  • The First Minister for Wales welcomed news that Wales would receive a higher percentage increase in funding than the national average saying that it was "welcome that a Government is committed to the people of Wales and to their finances". Wales received a 5.06% increase in funding this year, over 0.1% higher than the national average.
  • The First Minister of Northern Ireland made similar comments although noted that Wales got more and expressed his hope that that wasn't just because Wales has a Labour Government whilst Northern Ireland did not. Northern Ireland received a 5% increase in funding, 0.08% higher than the national average but 0.06% less than Wales received.
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#2
No Time to Die
A Guest Editorial by Foreign Secretary Harry Pearce


We don’t get to sit this one out.

I hardly need to remind anyone of the magnitude of events unfolding in the middle east. A nuclear bomb detonated in anger for the first time since 1945; a nation, a civilisation, on the brink of collapse; terrorists and warlords swooping to fill the void; and the most serious threat against liberty, against freedom and democracy, that our world has seen since 9/11.

Now is no time to sit back and watch chaos unfold, for the nuclear winds spurred in Pakistan may well become hurricanes across the rest of the region and indeed the wider world. This is no time for the west to play at armchair diplomats, to hark and crow and think and pray and do nothing. If we do not act now, we will never act: and if we will never act, already we have surrendered to our ultimate demise. This is no time for weakness: for the west, this is no time to die.

We are still counting the dead in Islamabad, humanitarian operations made nigh on impossible by the radioactive fallout of the 75-kiloton stolen nuclear device detonated by the Taliban a week ago. There will be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Britons amongst the dead and seriously wounded. There will be millions of casualties. This bomb was five times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the second world war, and in terms of its impact on world peace it may yet be five times more deadly.

The ultimate nightmare of a rogue spear plunged by assailants into the heart of a people has become stark reality in the grim, biting daylight of a new nuclear winter. Already, the chaos on the ground is palpable: Pakistan, as it was, has disintegrated. Two quasi-states have formed from the ashes; another two vast regions remain ungovernable, war-torn wastelands, power wielded in large parts by the Taliban and in others by various undesirable gun-for-hire warlords. Military chains of command have been vaporised as readily as the human beings at the heart of the explosion; the world has looked on a little too long and allowed nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists. If such a critical dereliction of duty on the part of the freedom-loving people of the world should ever occur again, it may be the death of us all: and this century of unprecedented peace, of progress, of ever-better communication, of the ultimate demise of poverty and of the pacification of the all-powerful, this is no time for freedom to die.

In the immediate hours following this devastating attack, the United States took action to forcibly denuclearise what remained of Pakistan. Every known Pakistani nuclear weapon was seized and secured, with the support of the British special forces. Now, America and her allies are gearing up for war. In Britain, we will shortly be announcing funding for 26,000 new armed forces personnel. We will be boosting our investment in overseas operations to the tune of £1 billion. And we will be joining our NATO partners in proposing at the United Nations Security Council extraordinary measures to take the fight to the Taliban and eliminate them from the soil of the middle east. It is important for Britons to understand why we must commit so to do.

Because the events of 2008 will live in infamy, as they should, only if they are unique. The Taliban operates in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and its terrorist allies operate networks across the whole of the Asian subcontinent. There are cells of devoted supporters in Europe and America, and an epic black market of military hardware flushed with cash after the fall of the Soviet Union. If the Taliban is able to maintain and develop a sphere of influence in what I suppose we must now call the former Pakistan, that malign influence will only spread: into Kashmir, where already there are armed struggles; into Afghanistan, where already the western allies are struggling to contain it; into Iraq, where Sunni militiamen attend terrorist training camps to the south; and across the whole region and the wider world. This could happen again.

There is also a clear humanitarian mission in the region; not only to provide relief to nuclear-stricken civilians, but to eradicate the Taliban whose list of crimes against humanity forms a lengthy novel of depravity.

At the moment, the choice for Britain and her allies is to stand or die. And this is no time to die.
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