One of Donald Trump's top tech policy advisers has a plan: Do away with the main agency that protects the rights of internet users and media consumers in America. You heard that right. Mark Jamison, who Trump chose to help oversee the tech-policy transition team, thinks that getting rid of the Federal Communications Commission would be a good thing for this country. "Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away," Jamison wrote last month, claiming that a heavily consolidated media marketplace would discipline itself to benefit ordinary people. He's dead wrong. Over the years, we at Free Press have had our beefs with the agency. But that's because the FCC was falling down on the job of protecting internet users and promoting media competition, diversity and localism. We've urged the agency to step up on behalf of the public interest to safeguard a free and open internet, to protect the privacy of internet users against prying service providers, and to promote market competition and affordability so more people can get online. When massive media companies have decided to become even more massive through acquisition, we've urged the agency to block the harmful mergers. And just as the FCC, under Chairman Tom Wheeler, has come closer to meeting these standards, we're facing a wholesale reversal from an incoming administration that seems more intent on doing the bidding of industry lobbyists and their surrogates. Jamison joins Jeffrey Eisenach on Trump's tech transition team. Both have deep financial ties to the telecom industry. They've spent time at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where so-called scholars do double-time as corporate lobbyists and consultants, rarely disclosing their conflicts of interest. For its part, AEI has received support from the AT&T Foundation -- the phone giant's charitable arm. Previous clients Eisenach has consulted for include Verizon, which had him on its payroll as he testified before Congress against issues like Net Neutrality. The New York Times made Eisenach the poster child for undue corporate influence over policymaking in a lengthy investigative piece that exposed his many conflicts. Jamison directs the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida where he's extolled the virtues of competition-crushing media mergers as innovative and good for consumers. The Center doesn't make public its full list of corporate sponsors, but its advocacy for every takeover involving AT&T is a good clue. Trump's tech-policy agenda is pretty much a blank slate -- meaning these two industry operatives will have free rein to set the terms. During the campaign, the Free Press Action Fund assessed Trump's positions on the few issues he did speak about, including Net Neutrality (he incorrectly thinks it's designed to "target conservative media") and encryption (he wants to break it), and found them harmful and misinformed. With the absence of clarity from Trump, Jamison and Eisenach are free to impose their agenda on the future of the FCC -- if it has a future at all. They've habitually opposed the communications rights of real people, prioritizing instead the monopoly-minded views of companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. They're willing to double deal, taking money from industry and its lobbyists on the one hand while declaring their independence on the other. And they see further consolidation of media giants as a boon for the big businesses that pay them, ignoring the many Americans who struggle to pay escalating costs to connect and communicate. If President-elect Trump were the least bit sincere about his claims to "drain the swamp" of lobbyists and special-interest operatives, he couldn't have done much worse than selecting these two. If he wants to make good on his pledge to block AT&T's $107 billion acquisition of Time Warner -- which he called "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few" -- he'll have to lock horns with these two big-media boosters. If we know anything about Trump it's that he's divisive, unpredictable and untrustworthy. The uncertainty surrounding his transition to power has created a void in Washington that seasoned lobbyists are scrambling to fill. Shaking up Washington is anathema to industry insiders like Jamison and Eisenach, who have been on the receiving end of the sort of big-money influence peddling that voters resoundingly rejected during the primaries and on Election Day. Business as usual is what a one-company town wants. But it's not what our democracy needs. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
How the Real Government is Playing All of Us Democracy is a puppet show set up to distract attention from the real governance. Decades ago, Operation Mockingbird exposed how the CIA controlled the narrative through the mainstream media. Now, the NSA is using the internet to coerce us into compliance under the guise of freedom of expression. Televisions Don't Kill Journalism NWO Journalists Do! Lies upon lies are churning out of mainstream media on a daily basis. Lies shuffled in with distractions and biased reporting. A propaganda machine run by the CIA since at the very least the 1950’s and owned by the big banks that have given a handful of consolidated media corporations a license to kill any truth in media. That is right. In 2013 while America slept, the Smith-Mundt Act, a decades old anti propaganda legislation, was quietly killed. And the absence of the bulwark bill is becoming increasingly apparent and dangerous, as a false narrative of reality is blended in with the growing criminal policies of the Obama Administration and his United Nations backed refugees agenda. This explains why Hillary Clinton can run a campaign ignoring a laundry list of potential indictments. This explains the accepted narrative deeming Donald Trump a racist because he dared bring the threat of radical Islam to the national stage. This is what the elite mafia controlling reality looks like. The lifespan of a major news story is equivalent to that of a common housefly. Any lingering questions are buried. And by now, civilization has become accustomed to it. By unleashing complete chaos and controlling the narrative. A full scale slow motion soft war has been waged funded and promoted by our own enslaved ignorance. Isis Plans to Attack Jewish Children in Turkey After devastating attacks murdered 70 people celebrating Easter Sunday in Pakistan, ISIS makes it clear that its not just the Christian faith under attack, but any faith not aligned with Islam. The United States has ordered Ambassadors, Diplomats and their families out of Turkey in the wake of credible terror threats. Kingdom Games: The Passion of Christian Entertainment Austin based video game company Kingdom Games is committed to producing content that "opens up a world to explore spiritual and moral truth and invite the player to find true heroism through self-sacrifice, concern for others and pursuing faith." Help us spread the word about the liberty movement, we're reaching millions help us reach millions more. Share the free live video feed link with your friends & family: http://www.infowars.com/show Follow Alex on TWITTER - https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones Like Alex on FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/AlexanderEmerickJones Infowars on G+ - https://plus.google.com/+infowars/ :Web: http://www.infowars.com/ http://www.prisonplanet.com/ http://www.infowars.net/ :Subscribe and share your login with 20 friends: http://www.prisonplanet.tv http://www.InfowarsNews.com Newsletter Sign up / Infowars Underground Insider : http://www.infowars.com/newsletter
Lies upon lies are churning out of mainstream media on a daily basis. Lies shuffled in with distractions and biased reporting. A propaganda machine run by the CIA since at the very least the 1950’s and owned by the big banks that have given a handful of consolidated media corporations a license to kill any truth in media. That is right. In 2013 while America slept, the Smith-Mundt Act, a decades old anti propaganda legislation, was quietly killed. And the absence of the bulwark bill is becoming increasingly apparent and dangerous, as a false narrative of reality is blended in with the growing criminal policies of the Obama Administration and his United Nations backed refugees agenda. This explains why can run a campaign ignoring a laundry list of potential indictments. This explains the accepted narrative deeming a racist because he dared bring the threat of radical Islam to the national stage. This is what the elite mafia controlling reality looks like. The lifespan of a major news story is equivalent to that of a common housefly. Any lingering questions are buried. And by now, civilization has become accustomed to it. By unleashing complete chaos and controlling the narrative. A full scale slow motion soft war has been waged funded and promoted by our own enslaved ignorance. Help us spread the word about the liberty movement, we're reaching millions help us reach millions more. Share the free live video feed link with your friends & family: http://www.infowars.com/show Follow Alex on TWITTER - https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones Like Alex on FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/AlexanderEme... Infowars on G+ - https://plus.google.com/+infowars/ :Web: http://www.infowars.com/ http://www.prisonplanet.com/ http://www.infowars.net/ :Subscribe and share your login with 20 friends: http://www.prisonplanet.tv http://www.InfowarsNews.com Visit http://www.InfowarsLife.com to get the products Alex Jones and his family trust, while supporting the growth of our expanding media operation. [http://bit.ly/1QYBNBv] Joint Formula™ [http://bit.ly/1nNuR3r] Anthroplex™ [http://bit.ly/1ljfWfJ] Living Defense™ [http://bit.ly/1Iobcj2] Deep Cleanse™ [http://bit.ly/1DsyQ6i] Knockout™ [http://bit.ly/1Kr1yfz] Brain Force™ [http://bit.ly/1R5gsqk] Liver Shield™ [http://bit.ly/1cOwQix] ProstaGuard™ [http://bit.ly/1mnchEz3] Child Ease™ [http://bit.ly/1xs9F6t] WinterSunD3™ [http://bit.ly/1L3gDSO] Ancient Defense™ [http://bit.ly/1EHbA6E] Secret-12™ [http://bit.ly/1txsOge] Oxy Powder™ [http://bit.ly/1s6cphV] Occu Power™ [http://bit.ly/1rGOLsG] DNA Force™ [http://bit.ly/1nIngBb] X2 Survival Shield™ [http://bit.ly/1kaXxKL] Super Female Vitality™ [http://bit.ly/1mhAKCO] Lung Cleanse™ [http://bit.ly/1mGbikx] Silver-Bullet - Colloidal Silver™ [http://bit.ly/1xcoUfo] Super Male Vitality™ [http://bit.ly/1z5BCP9] Survival Shield - Nascent Iodine™ [http://bit.ly/1o4sQtc] Patriot Blend 100% Organic Coffee™ [http://bit.ly/1iVL6HB] Immune Support 100% Organic Coffee™ All available at - http://www.infowarsshop.com/ INFOWARS HEALTH - START GETTING HEALTHY BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE - http://www.infowarshealth.com/ Newsletter Sign up / Infowars Underground Insider : http://www.infowars.com/newsletter
Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ), at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples conference recently held in Boston, highlighted its plans to offer healthier snacks and increase focus on e-Commerce to boost sales.
We issued an updated research report on Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ) on May 25, 2015.
We issued an updated research report on Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ) on May 25, 2015.
We issued an updated research report on Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ) on Apr 10, 2015.
The largest transnational media and communication infrastructure company has announced it will swallow up the second largest. What can you expect as a consumer from the company that has lower customer satisfaction than even the IRS? And who needs CISPA when the symbiotic relationship between government and Comcast makes it impossible to tell them apart. http://www.infowars.com/monopolizing-the-internet-comcast-gobbles-up-time-warner/print/ Follow Alex on TWITTER: https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones 'Like' Alex on FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/AlexanderEmerickJones http://www.infowars.com/ http://www.prisonplanet.com/ http://www.infowars.net/ http://www.prisonplanet.tv INFOWARS LIFE-MAKE A HEALTHY CHANGE TODAY! http://www.infowarsshop.com/ - Infowars...Fluoride Shield** NEW ITEMSuper Male Vitality** NEW ITEMSurvival Shield - Nascent Iodine** NEW ITEMPatriot Blend 100% Organic Coffee** NEW ITEMImmune Support Blend 100% Organic Coffee** NEW ITEM[[HERBAL SURVIVAL KIT]]** NEW ITEM contains herbal remedies for the most common survival ailments. http://www.infowarsshop.com/ [[INFOWARS MAGAZINE]] FEBRUARY ISSUE**http://www.infowarsshop.com/ [[INFOWARS HEALTH]]-START GETTING HEALTHY BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE http://infowarshealth.com/
Chinese milk powder makers, including Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co Ltd and China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd , are set to get 30 billion yuan in official funds to support sector consolidation, media ...
By: Chris Tell at capitalistexploits.at One technique to ensuring kids don't misbehave is to threaten them with a trampling from fully-grown elephants. It works better than chaining them up or locking them under the stairs. I highly recommend it. Last year while living in Northern Thailand my wife and I took our kids elephant riding in the jungle, which was where I tested the above theory and found the results satisfying...at least for a short time. Instead of being intimidated, or worse yet trampled by these enormous, powerful creatures, we found them to be extremely gentle and so utterly compliant to their masters that it was a bit unnerving. How do you get a fully-grown elephant bull weighing in at about 7,000kg to be a completely passive slave to its skinny, 25 year old Thai master? Well, from the time they are babies the "trainers" shackle the elephants with a chain around their ankle to a stake in the ground. They make ABSOLUTELY certain that no matter how hard the baby elephant struggles to free itself it cannot do so. That stake is in there good! Eventually the young elephant gives up trying to free itself. It realises the futility in its efforts and just stops struggling. This results in a fully-grown, enormous creature who in the prime of its life, and at its most powerful, just stands there with a loose piece of rope dangling around its ankle, attached to nothing but a wooden stake, now just barely pushed into the ground, totally and utterly compliant. Gratefully, "most" never attempt to free themselves and take vengeance on their captors. Of course if they chose to do so they would snap the rope in seconds and tear anyone in range limb from limb. In the mind of the elephant it truly believes it cannot escape. The mind has been conquered, and the physical body complies accordingly. This is an example of the power of psychological manipulation. Another one of my favourite examples of said manipulation comes from a research project I read about years ago. The white coat types put a bunch of fleas into a glass box. Fleas being what they are, they immediately jump straight out of the box. The researchers then place a glass lid on the box. The jumping fleas start banging their little flea heads on the lid, and within minutes they are no longer crashing into it, but instead are jumping to within millimetres of the lid. Apparently even a flea comprehends what's happening there. The interesting part is after having subjected the fleas to a period of time in the box with the lid on, the researchers then take the lid off the box. The jumping fleas remain inside the box, jumping only to the height of where the lid USED to be. They never again jump out of the box. Just like the elephants, they have now been trained. Numerous examples of the above phenomena exist, from monkeys to my fluffy little puppy, curled up at my feet as I write this. Sure is cute, but he too will be coerced and manipulated to do what I want him to do! We are consistently subjected to psychological manipulation by our fellow humans. We may not see physical shackles around our ankles or lids placed over us. The manipulation is more subtle, but no less powerful. There are masters and their are subservient fleas amongst every populace. The world has always worked this way and always will. Those who believe that they are trapped in a job, political system, country, social group...whatever, are often trapped not by any reality, but by what they perceive to be reality. A glass lid. Modern day slavery no longer requires "real" chains. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Stop Being a Slave! Keep your Private Information Private. Request a complimentary copy of our upcoming Special Report on Internet and Data Security... Claim your copy here Part 1 is finished and will be delivered September 17th, with part 2 to follow on September 19th! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In truth there is safety and comfort in accepting slavery, which is why it's been so successful throughout history. I am reminded of a great scene from The Shawshank Redemption, where "Red", played by Morgan Freeman, a veteran of the prison they find themselves incarcerated in, says to Tim Robbins character "Dunfane": "These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on 'em." With the bread (money printing) and circuses (let's bomb Iraq, or Libya, or Afghanistan or Syria...or) gaining momentum, many still have no idea they're enslaved, and fewer still will do anything about it. Everyone's got a cellphone that can make pancakes now, so nobody is worrying about anything! The world is incredibly dynamic, yet we're trained to think in a linear fashion. This makes no sense. The ability to break out of the box has always existed, it's the box that changes, and the means of breaking out also changes accordingly. I spoke about these issues a long time ago in a post entitled Predicting Prosperity. People that look beyond the glass lid and are willing to retest the shackles are routinely those we see changing the world. An example of breaking out of "serf" think Breaking out can be achieved by simply questioning existing beliefs, stress testing what is considered normal, acceptable or achievable...and seeing if the lid exists, or if it exists only in the mind. Question: What would you do if you had to raise millions of dollars virtually overnight? Mark and I were recently talking with some new friends of ours...friends who have made a decent amount of money. The story of their wealth, in highly consolidated form, answers the question above, at least in so far as how our friends dealt with the problem. Some years back these friends found a rather attractive real estate deal. In order to consummate the deal they needed substantially more money than they had at the time. As such, they entered a 50/50 JV with a "friend". They would do all the work, use whatever of their own capital they could, and their JV partner would contribute the remaining capital as a passive investor. In this part of the world once the purchaser completes their due diligence they go “unconditional” with the offer. Then a deposit is typically paid and there is no backing out for either the vendor or purchaser. Should the purchaser fail to close, they will lose their deposit and can be sued for the balance of the settlement funds. The JV partner/friend waited until the deal had gone unconditional, and in a move fresh out of a soap opera drama turned to our friends, his partners, and said, "I'm not settling unless you give me 75% instead of the 50% we agreed on." Since they absolutely had to settle or risk losing every penny they had committed to the deal, as well as risk being sued for the balance of funds, their "friend" knew he had them by the balls. Or so he thought. Being the kind of guys they are they promptly told their “friend” to get F*&^ed and proceeded to frantically scramble to raise the many millions of dollars required to keep them in the deal, and equally importantly to save themselves from potential financial ruin. Now, many people I know would have looked at this and said, "We're screwed, it's not possible to raise that much money in the time frame we have." They act like Shackled elephants. Or, "I don't know anyone who has that kind of money, and the banks won't lend it to me." They are like the trained fleas. Then there are those who would have said, "We will have to take the deal and let our JV partner (tosser, idiot, moron) take whatever he wants." These folks are acting like trained puppies. Most are slaves to their own imagination or lack thereof, servants to the system which is suggestive of how things "should be done". Many are slaves to their upbringing, slaves to their education, slaves to the media, and slaves to their social network who reinforce their misguided beliefs. In case you're curious how it ended, our friends raised the money and turned a modest deal into a fortune in under a decade. They didn't see the glass lid? It makes me wonder what I believe is true that just might not be! How about you? - Chris "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind" - William James US Pragmatist philosopher & psychologist (1842 - 1910)
A SmartKnowledgeU Exclusive Interview with World Bank Whistleblower Karen Hudes: "The World Will Reject Central Bankers"
Recently, courageous World Bank whistleblower Karen Hudes was gracious enough to grant SmartKnowledgeU a thought-provoking interview regarding her thoughts about where we stand and where we are heading in this global monetary crisis and currency war. As I’ve told people for nearly a decade now about the necessity of trading in paper currency for the real money of physical gold and physical silver, Ms. Hudes echoes my sentiments about massive global banking criminality and fraud when she states, “Don’t take us for our word. Look at the proof we are going to give you.” With my persistent exhortation to convert rapidly devaluing paper currency into physical gold and silver money for a decade corroborated by a 460% rise in gold and a 500% rise in silver against the USD during this period, as well as recent massive inflation, sometimes as much as 100%, in food staples such as bread in Argentina and onions in India, the necessity of trading in paper for gold and silver bullion should be self-evident. Add to this discourse the recent free-fall of emerging market currencies like the Rupee, and the recent 5 to 0 vote by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) against insuring overseas deposits held in US banks, and everyone should have the proof they need that conversion of paper currencies into physical gold and physical silver will be their savior during these continuing highly immoral Central Banker driven currency wars. In fact, we wrote about these emerging currency wars more than 3 years ago in our article, “In the REAL World Series of Poker, the Stakes are Default of Sovereign Debt”. Despite gold and silver’s recent price consolidation after a few weeks of very rapid price recovery and our recent warnings in our writings that gold would experience a short-term bout of weakness (and it did, right on cue), when this current consolidation period ends, gold and silver will resume their price trajectory upward again. Below are some of the key points of Part I of my interview with Ms. Hudes: Regarding the "revolving door" of banker criminality at the global level: “The banks are all interconnected…there’s one big conglomerate…These bankers have a group of board members that migrate from one bank to another.” Regarding why so many people still are unaware of the underlying criminal actions of banking conglomerates: “The bankers have bought up all the media to keep people ignorant of their agenda… These central banks are nothing but crooks. They have no right to buy up all the media and trick all the citizenry…we have documented this. It’s not just that we are saying this and you may or may not believe us. We have documented this…These private groups have seized power that they’re not entitled to and they did it secretly…Anybody inside the world bank that saw money going in the wrong direction, that saw the accounting was not adding up, was getting fired.” Regarding if Central Bankers are concerned that awareness of their nefarious crimes against humanity are coming to the forefront of global consciousness: “We have fired these Central Bankers. And there is going to be more and more accountability…A lot of these [bankers] understand that there will be a day of reckoning” for them because more and more of the world’s citizens are awakening to what bankers really are up to these days, and they are not happy with what they are discovering about the banking industry. On why more and more people will be increasingly turning away from paper currencies and towards the use of sound money to store their wealth: “Paper has no intrinsic value. It is only valuable if people agree that it has value. Fiat currencies are now under siege and we have a limited amount of time to set up alternative monies. If we have permanent gold backwardation, international trade will simply stop and we will have a world depression that will make what happened in the 1930s and 2008 look like nothing.” (Editor's note: Is it not ironic that even today people do not understand that Warren Buffet, who constantly claims gold has no intrinsic value, is a shill for the banking industry, as is his right hand man, Charlie Munger, who deliberately and deceptively stated a few years back that "gold is a great thing to sew onto your garments if you're a Jewish family in Vienna in 1939 but civilized people don't buy gold", thereby ensuring that all Berkeshire Hathaway minions would forever not buy a single ounce of physical gold as the bankers continued to precipitously devalue fiat currencies as a consequence of their currency wars.) Regarding how the US has maintained its hegemony over global banking organizations: “Through secrecy, through buying up the media. The American citizens are learning what is being done in their name [by US bankers], and they are not happy about it.” Furthermore, Ms. Hudes stated that the BRIC nations are moving further and further away from the Western banking system of control by setting up their own system where the net difference of imports over exports must be settled in gold and not in fiat currencies. She continues, “usually when there is a power transition between countries, the way they resolve this is through war…you can do this peacefully if you bring all the parties involved” together. If the Western Banking cartel tries to enforce their wealth destroying policies upon the rest of the world, this is when we are relegated to war. In conclusion, Ms. Hudes says that there are a lot of insiders at the World Bank disenchanted with the system that are helping her expose the misdeeds of the world’s top bankers and that as this misdeeds are being exposed, the world is beginning to reject Central Banking as a concept as they, for the first time, begin to fully understand the constant negative effect of Central Banking policies on their lives for the first time. Finally, here is the link to Karen Hudes's lodged complaints against global banking criminal activities. Stay tuned for more interesting topics in part 2 of this interview next week, when Ms. Hudes reveals that certain elements of the US military are now revolting against banker-driven wars and against the politicians that lobby for these unnecessary wars. Furthermore, in part 2, Ms. Hudes discusses what Germany has done to retaliate against the US for the Central Bankers' refusal to return Germany's 300 tonnes of gold. (Republishing rights: this article may be republished only if it is republished in its entirety with all links and the author attribution below intact. All violations of these republishing terms will be considered a copyright violation.) About the author: JS Kim is the founder and Managing Director of SmartKnowledgeU, a fiercely independent research & consulting firm with a focus on intelligent, dynamic investment strategies to avoid the wealth destruction of quantitative easing and Central Banks’ currency wars. Sign up for our free newsletter on our homepage to learn the best ways to buy gold and buy silver. Follow us on twitter @smartknowledgeu
PM criticises rival royal charter drawn up by some sections of press but also urges fellow party leaders to broker compromiseDavid Cameron has urged Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to broker a compromise with the press over a new regulatory body after expressing frustration over the impasse on a new royal charter.In an appearance before MPs, in which he wore reading glasses for the first time in public, the prime minister criticised a rival royal charter drawn up by some sections of the press but also urged his fellow political leaders to give some ground. Cameron made his remarks before the Commons liaison committee in which he also put a question mark over the introduction of Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit benefit reforms by 2017. Cameron said: "We shouldn't be religious about timings."Cameron appeared nervous as he wore reading glasses in public for the first time. He used them to read papers but quickly took them off when the cameras turned on him. He bought the glasses for £15 from Boots in June with advice from his wife Samantha.The prime minister indicated that he was uneasy about some of the key elements in a royal charter drawn up by Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF) which is chaired by the Telegraph executive Lord Black of Brentwood and whose members include the Associated Newspapers editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre. He indicated that this did not match the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry on an arbitration system, the prominence of apologies and the independence of appointments to the new press regulator.But the prime minister made clear that, while he remained signed up to the cross-party royal charter, he would personally like Clegg and Miliband to give ground.He told MPs: "The charter that my party was prepared to sign up to was probably somewhere between the two – the press charter and the cross-party [charter]. So I'm not really the problem here. But remember the cross-party charter is a cross-party charter so the leaders of all parties would have to agree to any amendments to it."The prime minister added: "To be clear I am committed to the cross-party charter. We all signed it, we agreed it. We should progress it but it would be good if we could find some way for everyone to see that it would be better if you ended up with a cross-party charter that the press seek recognition with. But it is a cross-party issue so this is something all party leaders have to address."Cameron used his appearance before the select committee to indicate that he may put the brakes on Duncan Smith's plans to consolidate six welfare payments into one by 2017.He told MPs: "The secretary of state was questioned very closely in the House of Commons. That is the department's position – they are shooting for 2017. But the key thing is getting the early part of the introduction right."The more you can test out and hold pathfinders and get people onto universal budget and then start to take existing benefit recipients onto universal credit – the more you can get that right in the early years – the more chance you have of hitting your target of total rollout."My view is this is a good reform that will make work pay, that is widely supported across politics and other sectors. So we need to get it right. But we shouldn't be religious about timings. We should be religious as it were about the overall concept of what we are trying to do."Press regulationNewspapers & magazinesDavid CameronNick CleggEd MilibandLeveson reportLeveson inquiryNicholas Watt theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Political parties could exacerbate riots in district, say police as tensions remain high and hundreds flee their homesPoliticians have been banned from entering a district in the north of India after political parties were blamed for fomenting a wave of sectarian rioting in which dozens of people have died.At least 31 people were killed in clashes between Hindus and Muslims around the town of Muzaffarnagar in the vast and poor Uttar Pradesh state. Many more remain missing and hundreds have been forced to leave their homes.Police arrested more than 90 people after violence spread to the further districts on Sunday night. Despite the deployment of troops, tensions have remained high on Monday.Shops and schools were closed and soldiers searched houses for weapons in Muzaffarnagar, which is about 78 miles (125km) north of Delhi.Uttar Pradesh has a long history of sectarian violence, and although tensions have eased in recent years, many are now nervous that rival political groups will seek to exploit communal tensions to build support in advance of general elections scheduled for next spring.Four local politicians from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and one from the ruling Congress party have been named in a police charge sheet for inciting the recent violence.Several others – including a national cabinet minister and a senior opposition leader – tried to reach Muzaffarnagar on Monday but were detained by police who said their presence could stir up more violence.The district magistrate in Muzaffarnagar has said no politicians will be allowed to visit areas of violence. Administrators in India have wide-ranging powers to impose curfews or take other measures they deem necessary to preserving calm.Professor Sudha Pai, an expert on Uttar Pradesh politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the communities in Muzaffarnagar involved in the weekend violence did not have a history of tension.Pai told Reuters: "On the whole, these communities have lived side by side. This has been fomented. There is no doubt about it."Voting in polls in India is often determined along caste or sectarian lines, with ideology playing, at best, a minor role.Analysts say the Samajwadi party (SP), in power in the state since 2012, may be hoping communal tensions will consolidate its own support, particularly among Uttar Pradesh's large Muslim population.The BJP, they suggest, is hoping to build popularity among Hindus in Uttar Pradesh, particularly from castes at "intermediate" levels in India's tenacious social hierarchy.The immediate cause of this weekend's violence appears to be the killings of three men following an incident involving the sexual harassment of a Hindu teenage girl. According to one account the brothers of the girl killed her persecutor but were then killed themselves by "members of his community".Sexual harassment of women is widespread in rural villages in Uttar Pradesh and often leads to feuds and violence.Rioting began in earnest on Saturday night after a meeting of thousands of Hindu farmers called for justice following the deaths. Officials said some of the farmers had given hate-filled speeches against Muslims at the meeting.Clashes with Muslims broke out after the meeting, with many people carrying guns, swords and knives, said a senior police officer, Arun Kumar.Other officials told local journalists that the violence had appeared well-planned with attackers using "guerilla tactics" and showing "deep local knowledge" as they took on security forces and threw petrol bombs into houses.Rumours spread by mobile phones, and social media fuelled the violence, mading it difficult for soldiers to restore calm, state police inspector Ashish Gupta said.Uttar Pradesh has a population of nearly 200 million and socioeconomic indicators worse than many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.The 1992 razing of a 16th-century mosque by a Hindu mob in the city of Ayodhya in the state sparked India's bloodiest sectarian clashes for decades.Sushilkumar Shinde, the Indian home minister, said that 451 incidents had been reported to date this year in Uttar Pradesh, compared with 410 throughout 2012.Shinde said that local authorities had been warned of heightened risk of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh as national elections drew nearer."As elections are approaching, I had already assessed that there would increase in communal tension in the country … We have information that some people will try to create disturbances," the minister told local broadcaster CNN-IBN.Uttar Pradesh is seen as a bellwether state, sending 80 representatives to the lower house of parliament, almost a seventh of the total.The SP won state elections in 2012 and will hope to garner sufficient national seats in Uttar Pradesh in the coming general elections to negotiate from a position of strength when a coalition government is formed.The maverick populist politician Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj party (BSP) lost to the SP in 2012 amid allegations of incompetence and corruption, claimed "the [BJP and the SP] want to create communal tension in the run up to the polls"."Both parties are together in this and trying to play dirty politics," Mayawati said.IndiaJason Burke theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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Chancellor acknowledges rising utility bills but says Labour's campaign does not amount to an economic policyThe Labour party's focus on the rising costs of living amounts to a "shopping list of interventions and government regulation" that would end up increasing the cost of living, George Osborne has said.In a speech on economic policy in which he said the recent recovery showed Britain was "turning the corner", the chancellor claimed victory in the intellectual battle. "Those in favour of a plan B have lost the argument," Osborne said on Monday at the One Commercial Street development in east London.The chancellor said he had been following a "hard and difficult road" as he sought to eliminate Britain's structural budget deficit mainly through spending cuts.But he said that Labour's campaign on the cost of living, to be highlighted in Ed Miliband's speech to the TUC on Tuesday, did not amount to an economic policy. Osborne said: "You don't solve the pressure on the cost of living with simply a shopping list of interventions and government regulation."The chancellor said he acknowledged the impact of rising utility bills and the costs of financial services. He is to address these later this year.Osborne said: "We know every penny counts for hard-working people. But by themselves these changes don't amount to an economic policy. And to focus exclusively on these things alone, important as they are, is to miss the wood for the trees."I know times are tough and that family budgets are squeezed. But fundamentally Britain is poorer than it was not because government didn't intervene enough, or rail regulation wasn't tough enough or rental policies weren't fair enough. Britain is poorer because of a massive failure of economic policy in the last decade."The chancellor said he was targeting the cost of living through tax-free childcare, low mortgage rates and raising the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000. Labour's plan would increase the cost of living, he maintained."The alternative plan still being presented is a return to higher borrowing, more debt, more instability, lost jobs, rising interest rates and higher taxes. These will all add hugely to the cost of living."Balls is likely to counter that the economy has gone through three years of lost growth, and even now is underperforming. He may also suggest that the recovery is based on job insecurity, social division and falling living standards for most people.Osborne said: "The only sustainable path to prosperity is to reject the old quick fixes and stick to the course we have set."He admitted there had been controversy as to whether GDP growth had been lower than he and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast, saying there were two competing analyses: "The first is a simple – some would say simplistic – story that lays the blame mainly or sometimes entirely on fiscal consolidation by the government."These fiscalist advocates of plan B, Osborne says, claim that with interest rates at their lower bound, the fiscal multipliers – the impact of spending cuts and tax rises on output – have been much higher than anticipated, and the resulting impact of the consolidation on GDP growth far greater than forecast.The counteranalysis advanced by supporters of Osborne's plan A is that fiscal consolidation has not had any greater impact than originally allowed for in the OBR's June 2010 forecasts.Osborne argues that plan A led to lower than expected growth not because of spending cuts, but mainly due to "external inflation shocks, the eurozone crisis and the ongoing impact of the financial crisis on financial conditions".Osborne said the OBR agreed with the Treasury that the effect of multipliers on UK growth had not been bigger than its original estimates. "Proponents of the fiscalist story cannot explain why the UK recovery has strengthened rapidly over the last six months. The pace of fiscal consolidation has not changed, government spending cuts have continued as planned, and yet growth has accelerated and many of the leading economic indicators show activity rising faster than at any time since the 1990s."If the fiscal multipliers were much higher than the OBR estimates, as the fiscalist story requires, this should not be possible. Indeed, proponents of the fiscalist analysis predicted that stronger growth would only return if the government changed course and reduced the structural pace of consolidation".The chancellor argues that the impact of cuts is likely to be relatively low in an open economy with a floating exchange rate and independent monetary policy. He also asserts that the UK's pace of fiscal consolidation, at around 1% of GDP per annum, is line with the G7 and G20 average and the IMF's guidance for developed economies.The main remaining external risks to recovery are "the slowdown in emerging markets, the possibility of further turbulence in the eurozone, and the risk that instability in the Middle East will push up oil prices".George OsborneEconomic policyLabourEd BallsConservativesEconomicsNicholas WattPatrick Wintour theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Chancellor to say that sustainable recovery is under way, but Ed Balls likely to counter that economy is still underperformingChancellor George Osborne will claim on Monday that critics of his economic policy have now decisively lost the argument and will say the economy has "turned a corner", and that a sustainable recovery is under way. But he will insist that it is premature to consider any slowdown in his deficit reduction programme in the light of better economic forecasts, saying it is vital to stick to the course he has set."Even if the improving economic news eventually leads to an improvement in the fiscal outlook, the job will not be done," he will say in a major speech aimed at setting the parameters of the 2015 election. "More tough choices will be required after the next election to find many billions of further savings."A bullish chancellor will claim that critics of his deficit reduction plans are at a loss to explain why the recovery is now taking place. He will point out that the spending cuts are at their deepest now owing to the backloading of the cuts programme.He will point to evidence that shows in his view "the last few months have decisively ended [the] controversy" about fiscal policy – as those who advocate a so-called plan B cannot explain recent improvements in the economic data.He will say that if he had heeded the advice of the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, to spend and borrow more, it would have undermined the recovery. Instead he will claim he held his nerve, and that the economy is now recovering.Balls is likely to counter that the economy has gone through three years of lost growth, and even now is underperforming. He may also suggest that the recovery is based on job insecurity, social division and falling living standards for most people.Osborne is expected to address those arguments in part of his speech, saying that he will ensure the recovery rewards the deserving workforce, and not bankers. But he will insist: "The only sustainable path to prosperity is to reject the old quick fixes and stick to the course we have set."Osborne, seeking to avoid a premature triumphalist note, will say: "Britain is turning a corner. Of course, many risks remain. These are still the early stages of recovery. But we mustn't go back to square one." He will add that this is the only path to a lasting improvement in living standards.He will admit there has been controversy as to whether GDP growth has been lower than he and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast. He will claim there have been two competing analyses: "The first is a simple – some would say simplistic – story that lays the blame mainly or sometimes entirely on fiscal consolidation by the government."These fiscalist advocates of plan B, Osborne says, claim that with interest rates at their lower bound, the fiscal multipliers – the impact of spending cuts and tax rises on output – have been much higher than anticipated, and the resulting impact of the consolidation on GDP growth far greater than forecast.The counteranalysis advanced by supporters of Osborne's plan A is that fiscal consolidation has not had any greater impact than originally allowed for in the OBR's June 2010 forecasts.Osborne will argue that plan A led to lower than expected growth not because of spending cuts, but mainly due to "external inflation shocks, the eurozone crisis and the ongoing impact of the financial crisis on financial conditions".The OBR agrees with the Treasury that the effect of multipliers on UK growth has not been bigger than its original estimates, he will point out. By contrast, he will say: "Proponents of the fiscalist story cannot explain why the UK recovery has strengthened rapidly over the last six months. The pace of fiscal consolidation has not changed, government spending cuts have continued as planned, and yet growth has accelerated and many of the leading economic indicators show activity rising faster than at any time since the 1990s."If the fiscal multipliers were much higher than the OBR estimates, as the fiscalist story requires, this should not be possible. Indeed, proponents of the fiscalist analysis predicted that stronger growth would only return if the government changed course and reduced the structural pace of consolidation".He will say growth is under way due the initial impact of the commodity price shock at the end of 2010 working its way through the economy: "The eurozone crisis that began in 2010 and intensified in the summer of 2011 has finally abated following the ECB's decisive intervention last summer. That has removed the enormous tail risks that have been holding back investment and dampening consumption."The government's continued fiscal credibility has allowed the UK authorities to pursue a strategy of monetary activism with schemes such as Funding for Lending that have supported a dramatic improvement in financial conditions."The chancellor will argue that the impact of cuts is likely to be relatively low in an open economy with a floating exchange rate and independent monetary policy. He will also assert that the UK's pace of fiscal consolidation, at around 1% of GDP per annum, is line with the G7 and G20 average and the IMF's guidance for developed economies.If he had not shown the resolve to resist plan B, Osborne will claim, "the UK would have risked higher interest rates and becoming sucked into the eurozone sovereign debt crisis". The economy would have been even more vulnerable had the euro crisis got even worse, leading to a bigger impact on living standards.The main remaining external risks to recovery, he will claim, are "the slowdown in emerging markets, the possibility of further turbulence in the eurozone, and the risk that instability in the Middle East will push up oil prices".He will also insist that the recovery is not built on bad old ways of debt-fuelled, consumption-led growth, saying that figures like Ed Balls, after losing the wider fiscal argument, are now resorting to the claim that the Treasury is fuelling the wrong sort of growth.He will claim that consumer spending accounted for less than half the rise in GDP over the first half of this year, while a rise in exports contributed much more.Total private-sector debt has fallen by almost 40% of GDP since its peak in the first quarter of 2010. The ratio of household debt to incomes has fallen too, unwinding all of the increase seen during the credit boom of 2004 to 2008.Economic policyGeorge OsborneEconomicsEconomic growth (GDP)AusterityPatrick Wintour theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Chris Grayling unveils new consultation after proposal for price-competitive tendering sparked protests from lawyersControversial proposals to award legal aid contracts in criminal cases to the lowest bidder are to be scrapped, the justice secretary has confirmed.Unveiling a fresh consultation on legal aid, Chris Grayling told MPs on Thursday he would drop the highly unpopular plan for price-competitive tendering, which triggered mass demonstrations by lawyers in London and Manchester.The MoJ is still seeking to make savings of £220m through cuts of 17.5% in fees paid for legal aid work, which will now be phased in over two years. More remand hearings will also be conducted by email or via video link to reduce expenditure.The government had planned to restrict the number of firms representing defendants in police stations and courts from 1,600 to 400. Critics warned that price-competitive tendering would lead to the market being dominated by international contractors such as G4S, Serco and Capita and be the ruin of traditional firms of high street solicitors that have local knowledge and specialist expertise.Grayling said he still intended to withdraw legal aid from prisoners, who will now be forced to pursue claims through the prison complaints system. The MoJ will also go ahead with a financial eligibility test, denying those with an "annual disposable income of £37,500 a year" and at least £3,000 to spare each month after paying household bills access to legal aid in criminal cases.Competitive tendering will, however, be introduced for duty solicitor schemes covering otherwise unrepresented defendants in police stations and courts. It will be based on both the firm's legal quality and its long-term financial viability.Grayling told MPs: "I have listened to lawyers' concerns and had constructive discussions with the Law Society. They acknowledge that, while it may be difficult, change is also inevitable. But it must be the right change that brings about the right outcomes. The proposals we have agreed make sure legally aided lawyers will always be available when needed and that people can choose the lawyer they want to help them."Even after these reforms, we will still have one of the most generous legal aid systems in the world. I want to ensure the limited money we have is concentrated on those cases and people who need it most."In a further concession, the justice secretary said some exceptions would be introduced to the proposed residency test that will prevent those who have lived in the UK for less than 12 months from receiving legal aid – including "vulnerable" individuals and cases relating to the protection of children.The dropping of price-competitive tendering is the MoJ's second climbdown over changes to legal aid. It has already abandoned proposals that would have prevented defendants from choosing which solicitor represents them.Ray Shaw, from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), said: "There's still [in the MoJ report] an anticipation of a significant reduction in the number of firms. It will lead to lots of firms sinking. Things are already lean. We have taken so many hits and cuts."The idea that it can be done without any significant reduction in the quality of everything in the justice system is laughable".Kat Craig, the legal director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, said: "Disappointingly, the government remains more focused on cheap headlines than on real justice when it comes to their plans for legal aid."The reality is that the 'residence test' is the latest in a long line of attempts by the government to silence its critics in the courts. David Cameron and Nick Clegg once thought that torture victims and Gurkhas denied the right to live in Britain deserved their day in court – why are they now backing plans which would shut them out?"Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, welcomed the government's decision to drop its "half-baked and legally illiterate" measures, saying that it exposed "the sloppy way [Grayling] goes about making policy".Even following the justice secretary's announcement, there was criticism of the remaining proposals by a number of Conservative backbenchers. Sir Edward Garnier, a former solicitor general, warned that without an adequate minimum fee for barristers "there could be a flight from the Bar", depriving the courts of those who might have gone on to become judges. Grayling said junior barristers would be paid a minimum of £225 plus VAT for a full day's court appearance.The Law Society president, Nicholas Fluck, welcomed the proposals as "a shared way forward for a more stable and sustainable criminal legal aid system". He added: "[The lord chancellor] has listened to the concerns of the profession and we are confident that the agreed proposal represents the best achievable outcome for our members and those who rely on legal aid."The new proposals will demand considerable change, but offer genuine opportunities for those firms who wish to continue to provide these crucial legal services. Crucially, all firms that meet the required quality standards will be entitled to continue conducting own client work."The revised proposals are likely to force further consolidation in the legal market, with many small firms amalgamating to save on overheads.Legal aidChris GraylingUK criminal justiceOwen Bowcotttheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Cabinet minister takes rare step of publicly blaming civil servants after report says they have weak control of welfare projectIain Duncan Smith has blamed civil servants for IT failings in the introduction of the £2.4bn universal credit system, which is designed to consolidate six welfare payments into one.The work and pensions secretary took the rare step for a cabinet minister of publicly blaming civil servants after the release of a scathing report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the introduction of universal credit. The report said the welfare changes had been poorly managed and were riddled with major IT problems, threatening to increase costs by hundreds of millions of pounds.Duncan Smith told BBC Breakfast he had "lost faith in the ability of the civil servants to be able to manage this programme" and the vast IT development involved.He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: "I fully accept, because I could have written this report myself, that the problem was that those charged with putting together the detail of the IT – we rely on people telling us that is correct – did not make the correct decisions. But we intervened to change that and all the programme directors from outside have said we did the right thing. Even the report says this is the right process."Duncan Smith blamed the initial IT team for failing to raise concerns. "What went wrong with the universal credit team – and they [the NAO] are right about this – there was a sense that somehow they just wanted to be able to say it was all going well. And that was the key problem."I agree with that, which is why in 2011, with my concerns, I changed the programme to introduce a pathfinder and why in 2012, after my own independent review told me that my concerns were justified, we made changes to personnel and brought in outside people."Duncan Smith said Howard Shiplee, the construction director for the London 2012 Olympics who was brought in earlier this year to lead the delivery of universal credit, had said the project would be delivered on budget and on time. "The overall timetable of 2017 – we will deliver this in that timescale. It is a very important reform and it is a reform that will both save the government and taxpayers money and improve the lot of those most needing it."The NAO said the universal credit project had been beset by "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance".Ministers have already written off £34m wasted on failed IT programmes for the project run by the Department for Work and Pensions and may be forced to delay its national launch beyond 2017, the NAO said.Universal credit merges six different benefits, with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment. It requires different payments to landlords, more online claims, and merges in-work and out-of-work benefits, requiring new definitions of benefit conditions for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HM Revenue & Customs.It was initially planned that the project would be introduced nationally by October this year, but pilot projects were delayed and are now going ahead in four areas.The report was seized upon by Labour as evidence that Duncan Smith has covered up significant problems that could put welfare claimants and their families at risk. Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, described universal credit as a "Titanic-sized IT disaster".In urgent parliamentary questions on Thursday, Byrne told the House of Commons that the top civil servant at the DWP had confirmed to him that the timing of the entire programme may have to be put back."To hit his [Duncan Smith] deadline at the end of 2017 he must now move over 200,000 people a month on to the new system, that is a city the size of Derby," Byrne said. "He has lost control of the programme and he has lost control of the department … The quiet man must not become the cover-up man."The work and pensions committee chair, Dame Anne Begg, accused Duncan Smith of bullish behaviour and said he should "stop over-promising what can't be delivered".Duncan Smith told the house that he took "full responsibility for the delivery of this. I will not shirk that," and retorted that it took determination to complete a project of this size."I'm not being over-bullish about this. The reality is it takes determination to drive a reform through. I have that determination and the department is determined, with support and help, to make this happen."He said he could not give figures for how many would be in receipt of the benefit by the election in 2015 but added that he was seeking to shut down other types of payments in the next two years."I am looking to close down jobseeker's allowance and tax credits well in advance of the election," he said.In March 2013 Duncan Smith told parliament universal credit was "proceeding exactly in accordance with plans". However, the report outlined how the project was "reset" a month earlier following the involvement of the Major Projects Authority, which has the power to intervene on behalf of taxpayers.The auditors' report also found the government had not achieved value for money on its spending up to the end of April, most of which was spent on building IT programmes which could handle data for 184,000 claimants. Of the £303m spent on IT, £34m had been written off and the systems still had limited functionality.Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, said: "The DWP seems to have embarked on this crucial project, expected to cost the taxpayer some £2.4bn, with little idea as to how it was actually going to work."The NAO found the IT system could not identify potentially fraudulent claims, meaning manual checks were needed. "Such checks will not be feasible or adequate once the system is running nationally. Delays to the introduction will reduce the expected benefits and – if the department maintains a 2017 completion date – increase risks by requiring the rapid migration of a large volume of claimants."Civil servants were also accused by the watchdog of having weak control of the programme and were unable to assess the value of the systems on which more than £300m had been spent."These problems represent a significant setback to universal credit and raise wider concerns about the department's ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress," it said.WelfareCivil serviceBenefitsIain Duncan SmithNicholas WattRajeev SyalShiv Maliktheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
£34m wasted on failed IT programmes and Labour says report proves cover up of issues that put welfare claimants at riskDavid Cameron's flagship programme of welfare changes has been poorly managed and is riddled with major IT problems while its cost could escalate by hundreds of millions of pounds, according to a highly critical report by the government's official auditors released on Thursday.The National Audit Office said universal credit, the £2.4bn project meant to consolidate six welfare payments into one, has been beset by "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance".Ministers have already written off £34m wasted on failed IT programmes for the project run by the Department for Work and Pensions and may be forced to delay its national launch beyond 2017, the NAO says.The report was seized upon by Labour as evidence that Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has covered up significant problems that could put welfare claimants and their families at risk. Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pension secretary, described universal credit as a "Titanic-sized IT disaster".Byrne called for cross-party discussions to ensure that a welfare programme is agreed. "The Conservatives welfare revolution has now finally collapsed. It is now mission-critical that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith swallow their pride and agree to the talks we proposed in the summer."Universal credit merges six different benefits with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment. It requires different payments to landlords, more online claims, and merges in-work and out-of-work benefits, requiring new definitions of benefit conditions for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HM Revenue & Customs.In the business case for the project, the Department for Work and Pensions estimated substantial savings – a net benefit of £38bn by 2023.From 2023, the estimated annual benefit was planned to be £7bn. It was initially planned that the project would be introduced nationally by October this year, but pilot projects were delayed and are now going ahead in four areas.The auditors' report has said the government had not achieved "value for money" on its spending up to the end of April, most of which was spent on building IT programmes which could handle data for 184,000 claimants. Of the £303m spent on IT, £34m had been written off and the systems still had "limited functionality".In March 2013 Duncan Smith told parliament that universal credit "is proceeding exactly in accordance with plans". However, the report outlines how the project was "reset" a month earlier following the involvement of the Major Projects Authority, which has the power to intervene on behalf of taxpayers.Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, said: "The DWP seems to have embarked on this crucial project, expected to cost the taxpayer some £2.4bn, with little idea as to how it was actually going to work."The NAO found the IT system could not identify potentially fraudulent claims, meaning manual checks were needed. "Such checks will not be feasible or adequate once the system is running nationally. Delays to the introduction will reduce the expected benefits and – if the department maintains a 2017 completion date – increase risks by requiring the rapid migration of a large volume of claimants."Civil servants were also accused of having weak control of the programme and were unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300m to develop, the watchdog added. "These problems represent a significant setback to universal credit and raise wider concerns about the department's ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress."The DWP said the department would continue with the planned reform and was committed to delivering it on time by 2017 and within budget. "The report does not cover the significant developments we've made since April including the go-live in Greater Manchester, our progress on the IT challenge, the latest plans for expansion from October, or the fact that we brought in two of the country's leading project management experts to lead UC," it said.The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude said: "Universal credit is a brilliant policy designed to ensure that work always pays and that hardworking taxpayers see their money being spent judiciously."WelfareState benefitsDavid CameronMargaret HodgeIain Duncan SmithBenefitsLabourCivil serviceFrancis MaudeFamily financesConsumer affairsRajeev SyalShiv Maliktheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
After strong performance for the last 3 months as investors around the world turn their eye towards Europe as the hot-money inflow area for clean dirty shirt macro tourists, the core of Europe's hope, Germany, has seen its equity market stumble a little recently. Since Monday alone, the DAX is down 2%, underperforming such stalwart economies as Spain and Greece. The reason, aside from international money flows and "war-" and "Taper"-premia, appears to be worries that Merkel may be losing popularity. After 17 million watched the German debates on Sunday night, opinion polls show Merkel's opposition, Peer Steinbruck, surged in popularity... Via Open Europe, The debate only briefly touched on the Eurozone crisis and EU policy, with Steinbrück criticising Merkel’s policy over Greece in particular. Though some Anglo-Saxon commentators have written this up as the SPD candidate “criticising austerity” , in fact, he was more criticising the pace of austerity and its balance with more 'growth orientated' policies – not austerity itself. As we've argued before, you just don’t criticise Sparpolitik in Germany – next to plagiarism, this is the best way to end a mainstream political career. Steinbrück did, however, criticise the pace and scale of Merkel’s austerity policies, again repeating his calls for an as yet very vague new “Marshal Plan” for Europe. “There must be budget consolidation”, he said, but must not be “a deadly dose”. Merkel hit back, saying that if, as Steinbrück claims, the need for a third Greek bailout is a sign of her Eurozone policies failing, why did he and his party vote in favour of all the bailouts so far? So who won the debate? The view in the German media and commentariat seems to be pretty unanimous that though the debate itself was pretty much a draw... However, Steinbrück saw a major boost to his head-to-head ratings. An ARD poll has a massive swing in favour of Steinbrück on the question: who would you vote for if the Chancellor could be elected directly? So is that what is spooking the long-term bulls that their money-fairy Merkel may not be as beloved as everyone assumes?