A cross-party deal for a new press regulator underpinned by statute appeared closer today as Labour said it was confident that reopened talks had secured the basis of an agreement. The prime minister began last-ditch efforts to find an accord on Sunday as he faced a likely Commons defeat on the issue on Monday with about 20 of his MPs set to back a rival package put together by an alliance of his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the Opposition. A senior Labour source said: “After five and a half hours of talks in Ed Miliband’s office which ended at 2.30am, we are confident we have the basis of an agreement around our royal charter entrenched in statute.” The Conservatives were represented at the meeting by Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin – who has been the key figure for the party during months of Leveson talks – and were also attended by the Labour leader, the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and the shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman. The Guardian
According to The Times, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund may be planning an ‘audacious’ takeover bid for High Street giant Marks & Spencer for eight billion pounds. The paper says that if shares in M&S rise more than five per cent on speculation of a bid, the FTSE 100-listed company or any possible bidder would be under pressure to release a statement under Takeover Panel rules.
The Telegraph writes that the FTSE 100 will fall sharply in early trading on Monday, tracking Asian markets and the euro lower, as fears over Cyprus escalate. With the country taxing savers’ deposits, it has raised fears “that it could set a precedent for future Eurozone bailouts”, the paper says.
The Guardian reports that; Fresh evidence is revealed today about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair told parliament before the war that intelligence showed Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme was “active”, “growing” and “up and running”. A special BBC Panorama programme tonight will reveal how British and US intelligence agencies were informed by top sources months before the invasion that Iraq had no active WMD programme, and that the information was not passed to subsequent inquiries. It describes how Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, told the CIA’s station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, through an intermediary that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD. Sabri said in a statement that the Panorama story was “totally fabricated”. However, Panorama confirms that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Saddam had no active WMD. The meeting in the Jordanian capital, Amman, took place days before the British government published its now widely discredited Iraqi weapons dossier in September 2002.
The Ernst & Young Item Club estimates that the public borrowing bill in this week’s Budget will be £88bn (excluding one-off effects), up £8.0bn from the official £80bn forecast by the Officer for Budget Responsibility three months ago. The paper says that Chancellor George Osborne “faces political humiliation” when he reveals his Budget statement on Wednesday. The Telegraph.
The Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) has found that women account for 19% of the board at the 29 manufacturing firms listed on the FTSE 100, higher than the 17% average across the index as a whole, reports The Independent. However, with nine out of 10 engineers being male, the EEF says that the number of women engineers is “far too low”.
According to the Financial Times, the world’s biggest insurance companies have escaped bank-style capital levies based on their whole balance sheets with the International Association of Insurance Supervisors unveiling plans this week to deal with “systemically important insurers”, sources told the paper. The paper says that capital surcharges – much like the capital buffers that banks have been ordered to hold – will be limited to a percentage of insurers’ “non-traditional non-insurance businesses”, rather than their entire balance sheets.