19 February

Lyle Hill

19 February

Good morning,

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to launch a review into the costs of higher education in a speech today.The review is expected to be conducted by an independent panel, chaired by a senior business figure, and will last up to a year.

The expected review and possibility of changes to university tuition fees were a constant source of news over the weekend, as details of May's speech were leaked to the media in advance.

The prime minister is expected to argue that no university funding option is out of the question, except funding through general taxation. It is expected that May will want to see the cost of courses based in the humanities and the arts slashed to reflect the earning potential after graduation. Damien Hinds, the education secretary, believes the fees should be determined by the cost of providing the course as well as the “benefit to the student and the benefit to our country”.

May has been keen to review higher education funding since entering office, highlighting access to university for poorer students as a key policy consideration in her maiden speech outside Downing Street. Today, she will admit that Britain has “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world”.

However, university funding has long been a contentious issue and has played key roles in recent elections as parties scrambled for the youth vote. Justine Greening, the recently removed education secretary, was quick to voice her criticism of May's plans from her new position on the backbenches.

Speaking on Peston on Sunday, Greening argued that reducing the price of some courses, but not all, risked reducing social mobility and widening the skills gap. 

Another backbench fight with her own MPs over tuition fees is not what May needs currently, and perhaps that is why the independent review is scheduled to report in a year, when, in theory, Brexit negotiations should have concluded.

News

Oxfam has released an internal report from 2011 investigating the scandal involving charity workers on Haiti. The report outlines that three men accused of sexual misconduct physically threatened witnesses at the time of the incident and cited that more should be done to prevent "problem" staff working for other charities. 

John McDonnell has suggested that investors in private finance initiatives may not receive any compensation if contracts were renationalised under a Labour government. McDonnell argued that whether compensation was provided and the scale of that compensation would be decided solely by parliament following a review of PFI contracts were Labour to win power at the next election.

President Trump has criticised the FBI, his national security adviser and the Democrats in another Twitter tirade over the weekend. The tweets follow Robert Mueller's 37 page indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities filed on Friday. Trump argues that the FBI is "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign" and should get "back to basics".

Business & Economy

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has released a survey conducted into recruitment attitudes towards women in the workplace and has argued that some employers still live in the "dark ages". The study found that 36% of employers thought it reasonable to ask a women about plans to have children. The EHRC has called for more support for employers to understand basic employment law.

The Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committees have today released a joint report into written statements made by Carillion directors. The report highlights that investors were "fleeing for the hills" two years before the scandal broke and that the company's annual report was a "worthless guide" to the business' financial health, leading to questions over corporate governance.

Centrica's boss Iain Conn is preparing to cut costs at British Gas, leading to job losses, as he looks to shore up the parent group's finances following a profit warning in November. Profit is expected to dip to £1.3 billion in 2017, from £1.5 billion in 2016. The profit warning left analysts questioning the strength of the management team.

 

Markets

The week ahead
HSBC will report its annual results on Tuesday. It will be the last results headed by Stuart Gulliver, who will hand over the leadership to John Flint. The results look set to be strong, analysts expect the bank to halt declining revenues and double pre-tax profits to $17.9 billion.

HSBC will be followed by Lloyds Banking Group on Wednesday, as investors will take stock of the three year strategy put in place by the company's management. Results are also expected to be strong, with revenues increasing and pre-tax profits set to rise by a quarter to £5.7 billion.

Also on Wednesday, the UK will release its labour market statistics. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 4.3%, but the claimant count is expected to rise again. Pay growth is also expected to be unchanged from December.

To close out the week, on Friday EU leaders will meet in Brussels to decide long term budget and future leadership within the EU. This will include a discussion of how to plug the funding gap left by Brexit.

Finals
Fidessa Group
McColl's Retail Group
Reckitt Benckiser Group
Spectris

AGMs
Elegant Hotels Group

 

International Economic Announcements
(09:00) Current Account (EU)

Columns of Note

Kevin Pringle, writing in The Sunday Times, argues that lawmakers in the United States should learn from our response to the Dublane tragedy and that democratic leaders around the world should lobby US politicians for gun control as they do Chinese leaders over human rights abuses.

Polly Toynbee, writing in The Guardian, argues that while the recent reorganisation of the NHS has led to renewed fears of privatisation, it would be unwise to believe that the NHS's problems can be fixed merely with increased competition. She believes only a Labour government can put the NHS privatisation issue to rest.

Did you know?

The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colours.

 

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
 
In recess. The House will next sit on Tuesday 20th February.
 
House of Lords
 
In recess. The House will next sit on Tuesday 20th February.

Scottish Parliament

In recess until Monday 19th February.