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Seldom has a ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons been so eagerly anticipated by MPs.

During the Brexit wars of a couple of years ago, pro-Remain John Bercow could be relied upon to deliver rulings to cause maximum turmoil and embarrassment for the government.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is a much less partisan figure, however, and when he has to made a tricky or controversial ruling he relies on the advice of the Commons clerks and legal bods. Mr Bercow used to overrule them.

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PM avoids Tory rebellion over foreign aid

So when he had to rule on Tory MP Andrew Mitchell’s bid to use a piece of legislation on science research to reverse Boris Johnson’s overseas aid cut, cricket fan Sir Lindsay played a straight bat.

It wasn’t in order, he declared, to almost no-one’s surprise.

What was more surprising was Sir Lindsay’s angry attack on the government at the end of his ruling. From straight bat to bowling the prime minister a hostile bouncer.

First he encouraged Mr Mitchell and his supporters to apply for an emergency debate on the aid cut, which he duly did and now MPs will have three hours to attack the government. A free hit for the PM’s critics.

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Then he rounded off his statement with some furious finger pointing at the government frontbench as he bluntly ordered ministers to hold a vote on the aid cut without delay – or he’d connive with MPs to find a way to hold one.

“I wish and hope, very quickly, that this is taken on board,” the normally cheery Sir Lindsay warned, his lip curling with disdain for the government’s attempts to dodge a vote.

“I don’t want this to drag on,” he said. “If not, we will then look to find other ways in which we can move forward.”

Andrew Mitchell MP
MP Andrew Mitchell has been leading efforts to reverse the cut in overseas aid

Then when Sir Lindsay’s deputy, Nigel Evans, tested support for Mr Mitchell’s application for an emergency debate, no-one rose to their feet quicker than former prime minister Theresa May, who was seated just a few rows further forward.

She was one of around 30 Conservative MPs who had put their names to the Mitchell new clause to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill, a Dominic Cummings legacy, no less. What an ironic twist.

The Tory rebels included old bruisers like David Davis and Sir Edward Leigh, but cabinet ministers from the May years like Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green and MPs from both the Brexit and Remain wings of the party.

In his response to Sir Lindsay’s ruling and then in his bid for an emergency debate, Mr Mitchell claimed that had the vote gone ahead he would have won by nine or possibly 20 votes. He reminded MPs, of course, that he is a former chief whip.

Really? That assumes all the Conservative MPs who put their names to his new clause would have trooped into the Aye lobby with Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Would Mrs May – victim of dozens of bruising rebellions as PM – go that far?

She has form for voicing her objection to a Boris Johnson policy and then absenting herself from a vote, no doubt because of a pressing engagement elsewhere.

Former prime ministers tend not to rebel, with the exception of Ted Heath during the Thatcher years. Not for nothing was he known as “the incredible sulk”.

Talking of ex-prime ministers, the Tories’ 0.7% aid spending pledge is a legacy of David Cameron’s time as Tory leader.

It was even written into law in 2015, as Sir Lindsay reminded MPs. That’s presumably why Mr Cameron’s former bag-carrier Sir Desmond Swayne was among the rebels.

Not that they would accept that they’re rebels. Since 0.7% was a Tory manifesto pledge, they’ve claimed throughout this row that they’re the loyalists.

Not sure that’s how the current chief whip, the burly, ruddy-faced Nottinghamshire farmer Mark Spencer, would see it.

With Mr Mitchell’s new clause ruled out of order, the debate that followed was a dismal anti-climax.

But hostilities will resume in the emergency debate and if and when the government brings forward a proper vote on the aid cut.

Sir Lindsay will no doubt continue to play a straight bat. But his mood suggests he is growing tired of the prime minister dodging the umpire’s rulings.

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considering further public spending cut to boost tax giveaway in budget




Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considering further public spending cut to boost tax giveaway in budget

Jeremy Hunt is considering a last minute further cut to public spending to boost the tax giveaway in Wednesday’s budget.

The Politics At Jack And Sam’s podcast, out now, set out how Number 10 and 11 have spent recent days finding as many different ways of raising future revenue as possible to increase the size of Wednesday’s tax cuts.

National insurance could be cut by 2p again in the budget if the chancellor succeeds in finding the right mix of revenue raising measures and spending cuts.

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Currently spending is due to rise 1% above inflation after next year. However, if this was cut to 0.75% above inflation, that would raise £5-6bn.

The chancellor would hope to resist questions about where he would cut, saying he is doing an efficiency drive and decisions would be outlined at a future spending review post election.

The decision on whether to cut future spending was live in the Treasury as recently as Friday, and this morning the chancellor was arguing about the importance of finding efficiencies.

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What do people want in the budget?

This is likely to boost Labour’s charge that the government is “maxing out the credit card” to keep its own supporters on side.

However, most Tories in government believe this is a necessary trade-off to allow the party to go into the next election presenting themselves as the low-tax party.

Some senior Tories disagree, however, worrying that the public is more worried about the state of public services than tax cuts.

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Budget 2024 explained

The budget is likely to have cuts or the abolition of non-dom status, which could raise £2-3bn, plus other small loopholes closing generating a few hundred million in revenue.

The Politics At Jack And Sam’s Podcast also reveals how delaying Contaminated Blood compensation payouts has helped deliver tax cuts.

In January, the Treasury was worried those payments might reduce the amount the chancellor could spend before he reached the borrowing limits from his fiscal rules.

However, the inquiry will not report until later and the government is resisting calls for interim payouts.

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The Week… Of the budget




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Budget 2024: Unfunded tax cuts ‘deeply unconservative’, says Jeremy Hunt




Chancellor tempers tax cut expectations as £800m tech package to free up public service workers' time revealed

The chancellor has played down expectations of tax cuts in Wednesday’s budget, telling Sky News his spending plans will be “prudent and responsible”.

Speaking to Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, the cabinet minister it would be “deeply unconservative” to take decisions that were unfunded and increased borrowing.

Jeremy Hunt is under pressure to deliver tax cuts in what could be the last economic set piece from the Conservatives before the next general election, which is widely expected in the autumn.

Politics live: Chancellor tempers tax cut expectations as he says budget ‘will be affordable’

The tax burden is reaching record levels, with it expected to rise to its highest point since the Second World War before the end of this decade as the country looks to pay back heavy borrowing used to support people through the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy price spike in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Hunt said: “It’s going to be a prudent and responsible budget for long-term growth.

“And when it comes to tax cuts, I do believe that if you look around the world, countries with lower tax tend to grow faster like North America, Asia.

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“And so I do think in the long run, we want to move back to being a lower taxed, more lightly regulated economy.

“But it would be deeply unconservative to cut taxes in a way that increased borrowing…

“If I think of the great tax cutting budgets of the past – Nigel Lawson’s budget in 1988 – the reason that was so significant is because those cuts were permanent and people need to know that these are tax cuts you can really afford.

“So it will be responsible and everything I do will be affordable.”

Electoral Dysfunction
Electoral Dysfunction

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Mr Hunt described the 2p cut to national insurance at the autumn statement as a “turning point”.

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What to expect from this week’s budget – from tax cuts to vaping

He said: “All conservatives believe that the state has a moral duty to leave as much money in people’s pockets as possible because it belongs to the people who earn that money.

“But we all know that it is not conservative to cut taxes, for example, by increasing borrowing because then you are just passing on the bill to future generations.

“So what you saw in the autumn statement was a turning point, when we cut 2p off the national insurance rate.

“We will hope to make some progress on that journey but we are going to do so in a responsible way.”

Mr Hunt’s comments come after he announced an £800m package of technology reforms designed to free up time for frontline public service workers.

Under the move, police will use drones to assess incidents such as traffic collisions and artificial intelligence will be deployed to cut MRI scan times by a third.

The Treasury said the changes have the potential to deliver £1.8bn worth of benefits to public sector productivity by 2029.

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