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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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
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Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home