News A defiant George Osborne during Treasury Questions in the House of Commons

George Osborne refused to rule out a cut in the top rate of tax from 45p to 40p today as the Conservatives and Labour clashed over the economy.

Pension legislation to go ahead

The Government is pressing ahead with legislation to enact its controversial public sector pension reform in the new year, even though an agreement has not been reached with unions to end the bitter dispute.

Jobless dip boosts recovery hopes

The US unemployment rate fell to a two-and-a-half-year low of 8.6 per cent in November and companies stepped up hiring in further evidence that the US economic recovery is gaining momentum.

Leading article: The wrong time for mass industrial action

Even with the reforms, public-sector pensions are better than private sector equivalents

Andy McSmith: Corridors of power are full of mysterious middle men

It was as difficult to walk through parts of Manchester earlier this month without bumping into a lobbyist as it has been for Liam Fox to visit a foreign capital without meeting up with Adam Werritty. Literally thousands of lobbyists took the trip north for a week's social networking and deal-clinching at the Conservative Party conference. There were more of them there than Tory representatives.

Job news gives unexpected lift

The struggling US economy got an unexpected lift yesterday as new figures showed it created many more jobs than expected last month – estimates of past months' job creation were also raised.

Suu Kyi meets with 'new' regime

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's democracy movement, has held her first meeting with a government official since she was released last year from seven years under house arrest.

Senior civil servant feared reporters hacked his phone

A senior civil servant embroiled in a political row with the Education Secretary Michael Gove contacted the police over fears that his phone had been hacked by journalists.

Bright pupils should attend masterclass, says Burnham

Bright state-school pupils should be taught in "masterclasses" to prepare them for elite universities, the shadow Education Secretary, Andy Burnham, said yesterday.

Coalition MPs condemn abolition of Rural Advocate

Countryside needs an independent voice in government, say rebellious Conservative and Lib Dem backbenchers

Final push for circus animals campaign

Thousands appeal to MPs to back ban on cruelty in crucial Commons vote tomorrow

US jobless aid claims climb

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefit unexpectedly edged higher last week, stoking fears of a stalled economic recovery even as a separate report showed record US exports in April.

Outsiders to help decide fitting punishment for errant MPs

Members of the public are to sit in judgement on cheating MPs under reforms designed to counter the claim that parliamentary wrongdoing is punished with little more than a slap on the wrist.

Councils offered cash to keep weekly bin collections

Weekly bin collections, one of the public services most highly prized by Conservative voters, are to be rescued from the impact of public spending cuts.

Coalition 'cowardly' over wild animals circus ban

The coalition was attacked from all sides in an emergency Commons debate yesterday over its failure to ban wild animals in circuses. In a bruising, 20-minute session, the Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice admitted that he and Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, had misled MPs three times last week by suggesting there was a live legal challenge to a ban in Austria.

US jobless claims at 8-month high

Economists digested some grim data on the US economy yesterday, with official figures showing that new claims for unemployment benefits had climbed to an eight-month high, while productivity growth slowed over the first three months of the year.

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