The five things you need to know on Wednesday 30 October 2013…
1) STOPPING THE PRESS
Newspaper and magazine publishers will today ask the High Court for permission to mount a legal challenge over a decision to reject their proposals for a new royal charter to govern the regulation of the press. The Guardian reports the industry’s bid for a judicial review is believed to include an 11th hour request for an injunction to stop ministers going to the Privy Council today with plans to seek the Queen’s approval for a rival royal charter.
The rival charter is backed by the three major political parties but bitterly opposed by much of the industry. If the application for an interim injunction is successful, it will put everything on hold until the legal challenge has been heard. The Queen has already been urged by a group of international press freedom bodies not to sign the cross-party charter, and industry sources said the Privy Council should now reconsider its plans.
2) WHAT’s THE BIG DEAL?
It is “unrealistic” for the White House to know about reported United States eavesdropping on foreign leaders, and perfectly reasonable for intelligence officials to have neglected to tell Congress, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper argued Tuesday, The Huffington Post reports.
Clapper was among a clutch of officials who trouped to Capitol Hill to testify to Congress about the ongoing surveillance programs revealed over the summer by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. But their appearance came after revelations that the U.S. monitored the phones of other leaders, including allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Clapper suggested such activities were not particularly remarkable and didn’t rise to the significance meriting explicit notification to Congress or the White House. He said trying to figure out what foreign leaders are thinking is a mainstay of his job.
3) ‘YOU CHARGE WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH’
Energy giant bosses blamed controversial rises in customers’ bills of over 9% on green taxes in a tense confrontation with MPs of the Commons Energy and Climate Change committee. Tony Cocker, CEO of energy giant E.ON, described government green schemes as a “stealth tax” or a “poll tax”, as he called for environmental reforms to be toned down.
Labour committee member Ian Lavery branded the energy giants’ price rises an “absolute outrage”, while another committee member John Robertson asked: “Do you understand that people in this country do not trust you?” Sitting alongside the assembled energy giant bosses, Ovo Energy boss Stephen Fitzpatrick said the big firms charged the “maximum they feel they can get away with” and that they had “almost entirely failed” to ensure a competitive energy market.
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4) BLAIR: WE SHOULD HAVE MADE CUTS
Labour should have made cuts to public spending before the financial crisis hit Britain, Tony Blair has admitted. The Times reports the former Prime Minister said that he regretted not following through on a plan to weed out billions in unnecessary and wasteful spending in 2005. “I think the honest truth is, around the 2005 time, we — and this was a debate that was had in government at the time — [had] this thing called the Fundamental Savings Review that didn’t really go anywhere, but I think should have led to us then driving through even greater change in the existing amount of money.”
5) RIP OFF PENSIONS
Plans to put an end to “rip off” pension charges which can wipe tens of thousands of pounds off someone’s retirement savings pot are to be set out by the Government.
A ban on all charges above 0.75% a year is among the options for a crackdown in a consultation being launched, to help give savers confidence that they are getting good value for money as the Government rolls out its landmark reforms to automatically place people into workplace pensions.
While the industry has been working to improve transparency and the average charge on new pension schemes set up in 2012 is around 0.51%, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) estimates that there are more than 186,000 pension pots with £2.65 billion worth of assets which are subject to an annual charge of above 1%.