8 March

Lyle Hill

8 March

When Philip Hammond stands at the Despatch Box later today and attempts to convince us that the government is preparing competently for Brexit, his cause may have been undermined last night by the unsympathetic peers in the House of Lords.

Theresa May has sought at every stage to secure primacy for her ministers, but has come unstuck on more than one occasion. First, her government lost its battle in the Supreme Court, and last night the opposition in the Lords defeated the government for a second time on an amendment to the Brexit bill.

On this occasion, the disagreement was over whether parliament should get a “meaningful” vote on the Brexit deal at the end of the negotiation process. Despite Theresa May insisting that this vote will occur anyway, the government is curiously unwilling to include it as an amendment to its Brexit bill, insisting it may “tie its hands” during negotiations.

The government is clearly worried about running out of options to combat the uncertainty that lies ahead. Philip Hammond’s Treasury has leaked continuously that any improvements in the public finances will be saved for a rainy Brexit economic fall out.

Maybe to ease his anxiety he’ll be the first chancellor since Ken Clarke to drink something alcoholic during his budget speech. Although, having watched the Autumn Statement, I suspect not.

 

NEWS

Wikileaks posted nearly 9,000 confidential CIA files online last night. The documents include evidence that the British intelligence services colluded with the CIA in an attempt to develop cyberweapons that would allow the two states to hack mobile phones, smart TVs and personal computers. This represents the worst breach of western intelligence since Edward Snowden in 2013.

Lord Heseltine has been sacked from his role as a government adviser after rebelling against the government in the House of Lords last night. Heseltine backed the demand for a parliamentary vote and was informed late last night that he had been fired from all five government advisory roles he held. He called the news “unsurprising”, but insisted that sometimes issues “transcend party politics”.

Republicans unveiled their flagship health policy, the American Healthcare Act, yesterday. The new legislation, backed by President Trump, is the Republicans’ answer to Obamacare. However, it has already been met with resistance from within the GOP, as well as from conservative groups and lawmakers.

The Scottish Government has once again delayed the implementation of its controversial Named Person Scheme. The UK Supreme Court ruled against the scheme in July 2016, citing concerns over information sharing. The government hoped it could amend the scheme for implementation in August this year, however fresh legislation would see the scheme up and running by 2018 instead.

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Having only purchased the company six months ago, Japan’s SoftBank is to sell an $8 billion stake in Arm, the UK chip designer. SoftBank will offload a 25% share in the company to a Saudi-backed $100 billion investment fund. The decision comes as SoftBank looks to meet fundraising goals and secure the backing of an Abu Dhabi state-backed investment group.

In the trial of two ex-Barclays traders who are accused of fixing the libor rate between 2005 and 2007, a witness from the British Bankers’ Association has admitted that there is an “inherent conflict of interest” in Libor’s governance. Sally Scutt was responding to evidence that, at the time, the Foreign Exchange and Money Markets Committee at the BBA, which was made up of staff of the BBA’s member banks, set the rate.

Sterling fell to a seven-week low yesterday as investors continue to sell down positions before the triggering of Article 50 and move into the dollar instead. The shift has been driven by the prospect of three US rate rises this year and a softening of UK growth indicators. Philip Hammond’s announcement that he would not spend any windfall from lower borrowing disappointed the markets.

 

MARKETS

The FTSE 100 traded higher for much of the day, but fell away by close, losing 10.75 points, or 0.15% at 7,339.37.

Shares in FTSE 250 company Aggreko fell by 11% yesterday after the temporary power provider announced that it expected profits to fall this year.

Paddy Power Betfair shares also slumped 5%, despite the group announcing an 18% jump in revenues and a 44% growth in underlying profits. The share price slipped as when the costs of the merger between Paddy Power and Betfair were taken into account, the group made a loss of £5.7 million.

On the currency markets, the pound fell against both the dollar and the euro, slumping 0.29% against the former to $1.2203 and 0.27% against the latter at 1.1535 euros.

FINALS

Admiral Group, Foxtons Group, Legal & General Group, Menzies (John), Pagegroup, Restaurant Group, Stock Spirits Group

AGMs

Blackrock Income And Growth Investment Trust, Impax Asset Management Group

Final Dividend Payment Date

Elegant Hotels Group

Interim Dividend Payment Date

Stagecoach Group

International Economic Announcements

(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(14:00) Wholesales Inventories (US)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in The Times, once again makes the case for a separate tax to fund the NHS. This argument has been around for a long time and is backed by polling evidence that people would accept a rise in their taxes if it was explicit that it would fund the NHS. Finkelstein argues that the rising cost of healthcare could wreck the public finances if we don’t have a radical rethink.

Chuka Umunna, writing in the New Statesman, outlines how he believes Labour must change in order to make its way back to power.This is an interesting intervention from a moderate Labour MP who neatly categorises Labour’s failings and provides an intellectual response that he believes can bring the party back into contention for power.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

NASA scientists believe that due to their atmospheric make up, it is possible that it rains diamonds on both Jupiter and Saturn.

 

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral Questions

Wales

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Financial Statement

Spring Budget Statement

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Help for men who seek support in addressing their abusive behaviour — Baroness Verma

Local government support to increase the number of women in leadership roles — Baroness Scott of Bybrook

Action to deal with recent rises in fly tipping — Bishop of St Albans

Legislation

Higher Education and Research Bill — Report stage (day 2) — Viscount Younger of Leckie

Short Debate

Strategy to increase the UK’s exports — Viscount Waverley

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions

Education and Skills

Business Motions

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral Questions

Exiting the European Union, including Topical Questions

Debate

Continuation of the Budget debate

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Helping displaced minority communities in Iraq to return to their homes in areas liberated from Daesh — Bishop of Coventry

Impact on claimants of the time taken between applying for Universal Credit and receiving payments — Baroness Sherlock

Legislation

Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill — Baroness Neville-Rolfe

Criminal Finances Bill — 2nd reading — Baroness Williams of Trafford

Debate

International Women’s Day — Baroness Shields

Scottish Parliament

First Minister’s Questions

Scottish Government Debate

Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017