Ukraine agreement, Moyles' tax, and housing in papers

Chris Moyles Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A tax avoidance scheme used by Chris Moyles attracts much attention

Stories about pay, housing and benefits feature in Saturday's newspapers, with an admission by DJ Chris Moyles that he joined a tax avoidance scheme appearing on several front pages.

Meanwhile, the agreement between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders - mediated by European foreign ministers - is widely reported.

The Times sees the situation in Ukraine as an "uneasy calm... a good moment for Europe, but a tentative one".

"The truce brokered overnight... was an inspired act of crisis management," the paper says in an editorial.

"It came in the nick of time. Any further escalation of violence could have propelled Ukraine, so strategically vital for the peace of Europe, into a terrible civil war."

For the Guardian "the agreements that could put Ukraine back together, starting from the basic compact between people and government which has to be reforged, will, if they are achieved, only be secure if they sit within a broader east-west understanding".

The paper's Simon Tisdall says "credit will be due to European negotiators rather than Russia and the US, the two erstwhile cold war rivals whose competing interests have done so much to turn the country into a geopolitical as well as physical battleground".

The Financial Times' Tony Barber says it would be "inaccurate to portray the contests that broke out on the streets of Kiev in November as a showdown between a vicious pro-Russian regime and a democracy-loving opposition. Ukrainian politics are not so black and white".

The Independent's Robert Fisk sees parallel's with the situation in Syria.

"No one in the Middle East will be studying Ukraine's violent tragedy with more fascination - and deeper concern - than President Bashar al-Assad," he writes.

"Without Russian and Iranian support, Assad could scarcely have survived the past three years of war in Syria. Nor could Yanukovych, without Moscow's "brotherly" friendship, have withstood opposition forces - and the EU's flirtation with Ukraine - as long as he has."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The engagement of Formula 1 driver Jenson Button and his girlfriend Jessica Michibata is reported in several papers

Benefits debate

There is a mixed response to a Court of Appeal ruling backing both the government's cuts to housing benefit for those with spare bedrooms in social housing and its overall cap on benefit payments.

According to the Daily Mirror the ruling was "legal, but shameful," and it quotes lawyers saying the judgement left thousands at the risk of "poverty and eviction".

The Daily Express, however, hails the decisions, saying that the "double victory bolstered the crackdown on Britain's bloated benefits system".

In an editorial, the Express says the court challenges were "rightly thrown out".

"Believing that capping benefits is an abuse of human rights is clearly wrong-headed because that sum of £26,000 is the amount of money that the average working person takes home," it says.

The Express adds that the victory was "all the sweeter for ministers" after church leaders this week joined forces to accuse coalition welfare reforms of driving people into hunger and destitution.

And following up the bishops' complaints, the Times reports that some Conservative MPs are now demanding the clerics justify the figures cited, claiming they were "duped" into supporting a left-wing campaign.

The Sun's front page carries claims by a woman from Chelmsford, Essex, that her weight ballooned to 23 stone because state handouts allowed her to spend £120 a week on takeaways and junk food. She is now reportedly demanding government help for her obesity.

The Sun says in an editorial that benefits should be a "last line resort in hard times".

'Unfair' Moyles

The admission by former BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles that he tried to save up to £1m in a tax avoidance scheme attracts attention.

A tribunal ruled the Working Wheels scheme, which saw saw up to 450 high earners attempt to offset large fees incurred through their involvement in a second-hand car trade business against their tax bill, was not legitimate.

The Times headline asks "Would you buy a used car from this man?" and the story makes the front pages of the Sun and Daily Telegraph.

Moyles said after the decision was announced that his "knowledge of the dealings of the scheme were naive. I'm not a tax expert and acted on advice I was given".

But the Daily Mirror says in an editorial that it "exposes the grotesque depths the rich sink to in trying to avoid paying their fair dues to society.

"Every £1 he and his ilk skip by employing expensive, aggressive advisers means less money to fund nurses, teachers, soldiers, police officers, firefighters and all the other public service workers who keep our country running."

Staying with earnings, the Guardian's lead story concerns claims that the the bosses of Britain's biggest banks are on course to be awarded millions of pounds in share payments to circumvent a Brussels-imposed bonus cap. The paper says it is a "move that risks inflaming the toxic row over City pay deals".

Meanwhile, the FT has analysed figures on the earnings of the "uber-middle elite" of doctors, barristers and London's financial service workers. Their earnings power has seen large numbers of "cling-on" professionals working in fields such as teaching, engineering, and science priced out of the London housing market, the FT says.

Raising different housing concerns, the Daily Telegraph reports comments made by the Princess Royal at a conference.

The princess, who is patron of the English Rural Housing Association, told builders and local authority planners that villages must bear the brunt of accommodating urgently needed, affordable homes if the countryside is to be protected from "large-scale" development.

Passenger 'mutiny'

The Independent leads with comments by Labour leader Ed Miliband about his proposed reforms to party membership.

Mr Miliband tells the paper's political editor Oliver Wright that the "impact on the way it will change politics" mean his plans amount to the biggest devolution of power in the party's history. Mr Miliband said they went further than even Tony Blair's scrapping of Clause IV of the party's constitution, which committed it to nationalisation.

A report of an incident in which passengers on a delayed Ryanair flight called police after being left stuck on the tarmac for hours, is followed up by several newspapers. The story makes the front page of the Daily Mail, with the paper describing the incident at Stansted on 14 February as a "mutiny".

Another Daily Mail story refers to figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education that indicate immigration from Eastern Europe has resulted in a rise in the number of schoolchildren in England who do not speak English as their first language.

Polish and Lithuanian were the most widely spoken languages, with the fastest increase being seen in pupils whose mother tongue is Romanian, Latvian and Hungarian, the paper says, adding that there was a "huge financial strain on schools" which need to educate children who do not speak English.

The Times front page story focuses claims from mental health charities that thousands of teenage girls at independent schools are affected by a "silent epidemic" of anorexia.

'Golden Games'

Dramatic photographs of British speed skater Elise Christie crashing out of the Winter Olympics are splashed across several front pages.

The 23-year-old, a major medal hope before the Games, was sent sprawling to the ice in the semi-final of the 1,000m event in Sochi - following her earlier disqualifications in the 500m final and a 1,500m heat.

"Wallop. Bang. Crash... Third time unlucky for speed skater Christie," says the Guardian's headline.

The Daily Telegraph says "had there been a gold medal for putting a brave face on it..." Christie would have been top of the podium.

Image copyright Getty Images

Elsewhere, there is praise for the silver medal won by the men's curling team despite as the Telegraph puts it an "unusually error-strewn display" against Canada.

And as the Games draw to a close, the newspapers reflect on Team GB's achievements in Sochi, with its four-medal haul the best achievement since 1924.

An editorial in The Daily Telegraph focuses on the men's and women's medals in curling, and pays tribute to the sport for eschewing "gamesmanship such as critical commentary on the opponents' play".

"The failure to secure gold, while not itself good news, may be regarded by those who have paid attention to this well-bred sport as something to be faced in the Spirit of Curling," it says.

A Daily Mirror editorial says: "Sochi didn't go according to plan yesterday but these have been a golden Winter Olympics for Team GB".

Finally, the Times suggest Britain's Winter Olympic success "makes up for recent sporting disappointments".

It adds: "At a time when the debate about the future of the United Kingdom has been pitting politicians and even households against one another, we have all been able to applaud Scottish athletes delivering thrilling, world-beating performances. And we have had some English-born Olympians winning medals too.

"We can also note that the investment of taxpayers' and Lottery players money in British sport is continuing to deliver results."

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