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.

US jobless claims fall, but labour market stays weak

A better than feared report on US jobless claims sparked a rare bout of optimism about the American economy yesterday, though underlying data continued to underscore the weak state of the labour market.

Hospitals to face fines over mixed sex wards

Hospitals will face fines if they fail to end the "indignity" of mixed-sex wards, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said today.

Leading article: The pluses – and minuses – of the big tent

Alan Milburn's decision to accept an invitation to work for the coalition brings to three the number of prominent former Labour figures who have, in a sense, crossed the floor. He follows Frank Field and John Hutton in agreeing to place his expertise at the service of the Government. And there could be a fourth if it turns out that David Blunkett is also in line for a role. Mr Milburn, who produced a report on social mobility for the last government, will advise on improving the chances of the least well off; he will not be paid.

Village People: Spookily inefficient

The farcical tales we have been reading recently about Russian spies are a reminder that the spooks are always with us.

Election-funds inquiry edges nearer Sarkozy

French prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that the country's richest woman secretly funded President Nicolas Sarkozy's election campaign, a judicial official said yesterday.

Slowing services sector dents US recovery hopes

The recovery prospects of the US economy dimmed a little last night after new data pointed to a moderation in the pace of growth in the dominant services sector.

£1m severance payout for ex-Labour ministers

Former Labour ministers were handed more than £1 million in severance pay at the General Election, official figures showed today.

Leading article: Money alone is not the answer

This week Londoners will mark the fifth anniversary of the 7 July terror attacks, which killed 52 people and injured 750 in the capital. They will do so against the backdrop of a depressing political row about the funding of police operations designed to ensure that Britain never again suffers such an atrocity.

Signs of faltering growth as fears of 'jobless recovery' materialise

The global economic recovery is showing signs of losing momentum, according to the latest evidence.

BBC blames £2bn black hole as it slashes pension scheme benefits

The BBC yesterday became one of the first quasi-public sector bodies to take the axe to its final salary pension scheme, blaming a £2bn funding black hole. The final salary scheme will be closed to new staff from this December while existing staff will see their benefits sharply reduced.

Osborne eyes incapacity claimants for savings

A controversial drive to reduce the £12.5bn a year paid to sick and disabled people deemed unfit to work will be at the heart of the government-wide spending review this summer.

Blair's top appointees to quit schools inspectorate

The two most senior executives at the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, are leaving their jobs as the school inspectorate faces a major review of its operations.

John Rentoul: Why Labour should welcome the Budget

In the days after the general election, a former Labour minister said to me that it was “the perfectly wrong result"

Row as Labour minister joins 'pension cuts' body

John Hutton, a former Labour Cabinet minister, has been appointed to head a commission that will look for ways to cut the cost of pensions for public sector workers.

Move to keep weekly bin collections

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is to order the local government watchdog to stop pressurising councils into abandoning weekly bin collections.

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No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor