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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Day In a Page

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
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform