Department for Education caught adding tuition fees to school funding claims

From BBC News: If you’re a student paying tuition fees, you might be surprised to find that the cost of going to university is being included as “spending” in the government’s defence of its record on school funding.

But when ministers faced accusations of under-funding schools in England, a figure they quoted widely as evidence of high spending has been found to include billions of pounds of university fees being paid by students, rather than only government spending.

School leaders have described this discovery as “shocking and disturbing”.

Last week, more than a thousand head teachers marched on Downing Street, protesting about school funding shortages.

The Department for Education rejected their claims, saying not only were record amounts going into schools but the “OECD has recently confirmed that the UK is the third highest spender on education in the world”.

The claim for world-beating spending was used repeatedly by the DfE, it was published on the department’s website and the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, used the same argument on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in a debate over school budgets.

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Jo Swinson pairing row: Conservatives admit chief whip asked MPs to break arrangements

From The Guardian: The Conservatives have been forced to admit that their chief whip asked MPs to breach Commons voting conventions in knife-edge Brexit votes on Tuesday, as opposition parties demanded he quit and queried the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of events.

Party sources conceded on Thursday night that Julian Smith had asked several Tory MPs to break pairing arrangements but most had refused to do so. The only one who did obey the instruction was paired to a Liberal Democrat MP who was on maternity leave.

They admitted that Smith had wanted some MPs to break “short-term” pairing arrangements, where a Tory is asked to skip a vote because an opposition member is unable to attend for good reason, but had made an error in asking the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, to vote because he was paired with Jo Swinson – who only recently gave birth.

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Esther McVey misled MPs over Universal Credit, watchdog says

From The Guardian: Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has been forced to apologise to parliament after making misleading statements about the government’s faltering welfare changes.

The MP for Tatton’s statement followed the release of a damning letter from Sir Amyas Morse, who told the minister she had misinterpreted a report by the National Audit Office on Universal Credit to make it look as if the new welfare system was working well.

McVey should not have claimed universal credit was being rolled out too slowly when the NAO had said the DWP should ensure it was working properly before transferring any more people on to it from previous benefits, she was told.

She should not have said universal credit was working when the report said this was not proven, Morse said. She should not have claimed that the report had not taken into account recent improvements in welfare, when it was signed off days earlier by her department, he added.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tories ridiculed after shamelessly taking credit for new EU law to protect holidaymakers

From Evolve Politics: The Conservative Party have once again attempted to take the British public for fools after bigging themselves up for implementing a new law that they had nothing to do with.

Writing on Twitter, the Conservative Press Office proudly announced that: “We are introducing new rules to protect package holidaymakers and save customers tens of millions of pounds.”

However, almost immediately after posting their tweet, the Tory Press Office were inundated with numerous exasperated responses pointing out that, far from this being anything to do with the Conservative government, it was actually an EU Directive.

This is far from the first time this year that the Tory government have been caught out claiming credit for EU laws.

[Read full article on Evolve Politics…]

Amber Rudd was sent targets for migrant removal, leak reveals

From the Guardian: Amber Rudd’s insistence that she knew nothing of Home Office targets for immigration removals risks unravelling following the leak of a secret internal document prepared for her and other senior ministers.

The six-page memo, passed to the Guardian, says the department has set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18” and boasts that “we have exceeded our target of assisted returns”.

The document was prepared by Hugh Ind, the director general of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement agency, in June last year and copied to Rudd and Brandon Lewis, the then immigration minister, as well as several senior civil servants and special advisers.

The leak will raise questions about Rudd’s public position on what she knew about the setting of targets for the enforced removal of migrants.

The issue has become particularly toxic because of coverage of the Windrush generation – many of whom have been made destitute, homeless and denied benefits and healthcare because of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy towards those it deems to be lacking appropriate documentation to be in the UK.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Andrew Neil lays into Tory MP over “outrageous smear” against Corbyn

From LabourList: Today Andrew Neil used Tory MP Steve Baker’s spot on the BBC’s Daily Politics to slam the claims of Conservative MPs that Jeremy Corbyn “sold British secrets” and “betrayed his country”.

Following the Sun‘s “Commie Corbyn” story, which claimed the Labour leader met with a communist spy in the 1980s and suggested he briefed them on British politics and matters of state security, defence secretary Gavin Williamson said Corbyn “cannot be trusted” and accused him of “betrayal of this country”.

Neil repeatedly asked Steve Baker, “do you think he has betrayed his country?”. Steve Baker repeatedly refused to answer the question.

Tory vice-chair Ben Bradley was forced to delete his tweet stating “Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies” after the leader of the opposition threatened legal action. On Twitter security minister Ben Wallace compared Corbyn to Soviet spy Kim Philby.

“Your security minister has compared Mr Corbyn to Kim Philby. Kim Philby was a traitor – at the time if he’d been found guilty he would have been hanged! That’s an outrageous smear to say of the leader of the opposition,” said Neil.

He concluded: “The real scandal, Mr Baker, isn’t what Mr Corbyn has supposedly done or not done. It’s the outright lies and disinformation that your fellow Tories are spreading.”

[Read full article on LabourList…]

Damian Green sacked after ‘misleading statements’ on porn claims

From BBC News: Damian Green, one of Theresa May’s closest allies, has been sacked from the cabinet after an inquiry found he had breached the ministerial code.

He was “asked to quit” after he was found to have made “inaccurate and misleading” statements over what he knew about claims pornography was found on his office computer in 2008.

He also apologised for making writer Kate Maltby feel uncomfortable in 2015.

[Read full article on BBC News…]

Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt admits false claims over mental health

From Channel 4 News: The Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been forced to re-write parliamentary records after making a false claim about mental health.

Speaking on World Mental Health Day, he told MPs: “We’ve got 30,000 more people working in mental health today than we had when [Labour] left office.”

He repeated this again, saying: “We have 30,000 more professionals working in mental health than when my Government came into office.”

But when questioned by FactCheck, the Department for Health admitted that Mr Hunt’s figure includes all professionally qualified clinical NHS staff in England – not just those working in mental health.

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