From The Independent: Tory ministers have broken a promise to review the “pointlessly cruel” system for imposing sanctions on benefit claimants, a damning report by MPs warns.
From The Independent: Philip Hammond has scrapped a planned £150-a-year tax cut for self-employed people, marking the latest government U-turn on a Coalition pledge.
From the Guardian: Ministers have been accused of a “total and abject failure” to widen access to top universities for disadvantaged students, after analysis by the Labour party found the proportions attending Russell Group universities had increased by only one percentage point since 2010.
Separately, research by a group of Labour MPs suggests pupils from towns are less likely to attend university than those from London, with a nine percentage point gap between pupils from London and the rest of the country, and a 20-point gap between those from low-income families in the capital and in towns.
Labour said the Russell Group, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London and Imperial College, had failed to recruit students from neighbourhoods where few traditionally enter higher education.
The party’s analysis of the Higher Education Statistics Agency data found the proportion of students from those areas had increased by one percentage point across all Russell Group universities to 6%, less than half that at non-Russell Group institutions.
Labour said it was clear the Department for Education would not reach the target set in 2013 by the then prime minister, David Cameron, to double the proportion of university entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.
From The Independent: Theresa May’s flagship plan to cap energy bills has been cast into doubt after evidence emerged that Whitehall officials are laying ground for it to be shelved next year.
From The Guardian: Only two families who escaped Grenfell Tower have moved into permanent new homes, despite a firm commitment from Theresa May two days after the fire that everyone would be rehoused within three weeks. Approximately 150 households are still scattered across London in 36 hotels. The hotel bill (excluding meals) already stands at more than £5m.
From London Evening Standard: Tory plans to offer all primary school children in England a free breakfast have been officially dropped in what Labour branded a “humiliating U-turn”.
From The Guardian: Millions of people are unlikely to see their energy bills capped after Theresa May appeared to make a U-turn on one of her flagship election promises – to the delight of big energy companies.
The prime minister had pledged to cap bills for 17 million families on the worst-value energy tariffs, but the plan was missing from the Queen’s speech and No 10 would not confirm a cap would go ahead.
Instead, the government looks likely to extend an existing ceiling on bills for 4m households on prepayment meters to a further 2.6 million vulnerable customers.
That compromise would be exactly what the industry has been lobbying for, and a huge rowing back by the Conservatives after months of escalating rhetoric from May and ministers.
From The Guardian: The government has made a U-turn on its promise to exclude fracking from Britain’s most important nature sites, arguing that the shale gas industry would be held back if it was excluded from them.
Campaigners accused ministers of putting wildlife at risk and reneging on their pledge earlier this year to ban fracking in sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs), which cover about 8% of England and similar proportions of Wales and Scotland.
Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, told MPs in January: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks [and] sites of special scientific interest”.
But the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), which laid draft regulations in parliament on Thursday covering which areas fracking would be excluded from, has confirmed that exploration for shale gas will no longer be prevented in SSSIs.
The language, attributed to Cameron in the Sun newspaper by a senior Tory source, sparked a furious reaction from campaigners accusing the prime minister of abandoning his promise to run the greenest government ever.
Although Downing Street said it did not “recognise” the phrase as one used by the prime minister, Cameron’s team has not explicitly denied that he had ever referred to environmental policies as “green crap”.
The Sun quoted an unnamed source as saying: “The prime minister is going round Number 10 saying: ‘We have got to get rid of all this green crap’. He is totally focused on it. We used to say: ‘Vote blue, go green’, now it’s: ‘Vote blue, get real’.”