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.

Cap on court payments to defendants ruled unlawful

A Government scheme which left many defendants having to pay to clear their name in court was ruled unlawful yesterday.

New Zealand politician defends blue movie claim

Former government ministers used their official credit cards to buy pornographic films, Bollinger champagne and flowers and even charter an aircraft.

Hodge wins secret ballot to chair spending watchdog

Margaret Hodge, the former Labour minister, has been handed one of the most powerful backbench jobs in the Commons after winning the election to lead parliament's government spending watchdog.

MPs paid £10.5m 'golden goodbye'

MPs who retired or lost their seats at last month's general election are to receive "golden goodbyes" totalling almost £10.5m.

Field made 'poverty tsar'

Frank Field, the former Labour minister, is to conduct a major review into poverty levels across Britain.

No 10 in row over Question Time panel

Downing Street refused to field a Cabinet minister on BBC1's Question Time this week because the panel featured former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell, the flagship current affairs programme said.

BT boss adds 1.2m bonus to £860,000 salary

The chief executive of BT received a bonus of £1.2 million last year on top of a salary of £860,000, the telecoms giant reported today.

Julian Knight: Stagflation is here, so how do you live with it?

The stock market, once it has settled down after the euro affair, may be the investment answer

Balls joins Miliband brothers in contest for Labour leadership

Ed Balls will finally announce today that he is to join the race to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

Civil servants 'objected' to Labour's final spending spree

Whitehall's most senior civil servants formally protested over a spending spree by Labour ministers during Gordon Brown's final months in power.

Terence Blacker: Entrapment is the name of the game

What a happy day it must have been for Melissa Jacobs when a silly old fool called Lord Triesman took a shine to her.

Fans protest as bid to host World Cup falls prey to the oldest trick in the book

The Lord Triesman affair has provoked a huge backlash – but proves that kiss-and-tells can still bring down the powerful. By Cahal Milmo

Chancellor launches audit of Government spending

Chancellor George Osborne will today launch an independent audit of Government spending after ministers claimed they had found "black holes" in the budgets left behind by the outgoing Labour administration.

Leading Article: Universities should not be tied to business

Until 11 months ago there was a separate department for higher, further and adult education. Gordon Brown set up the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, also known as DIUS, after he came to power in 2007. It made sense to separate higher education from schools to show that it was important in its own right and deserved its own department – and linking universities to innovation and skills chimed with the political mood. Universities are about the life of the mind, but they are also important engines in the UK's economic development and many undergraduates regard a degree as a ticket to a job. The three areas were obviously linked.

National identity card scheme to be axed

The £5 billion national identity card scheme will be consigned to the scrapheap as a result of the new coalition Government, the Home Office confirmed today.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month