Newspaper review: Pensions plan axed, Murdoch wedding, spring snow

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There is widespread coverage across Saturday's papers of Chancellor George Osborne's decision not to go ahead with big changes to tax relief on pensions.

"Victory!" says the Daily Mail, which has campaigned against Mr Osborne's proposals, which it claims would "impoverish millions and wreck his chances of becoming prime minister".

The paper says the chancellor has "ruled out a controversial move to impose a flat-rate system of tax relief" along with an idea to "force people to save into a 'pension Isa'".

Under the present system, reports the Daily Express, "a higher-rate taxpayer getting tax relief at 40% would only have to pay £60 to invest £100, while an additional-rate taxpayer with tax relief at 45% would pay just £55".

However, under the now-scrapped idea, "a new flat rate of between 25 and 30% relief would be imposed" so those paying the higher and top rates of tax would have lost out, the paper says.

The Guardian quotes an "ally of the chancellor" saying Mr Osborne has "listened to what people have said and concluded now isn't the right time... to turn things on their head".

The Times believes the move is "a sign" that Downing Street is "keen to clear any distractions that could damage its campaign to keep Britain inside the EU".

The politics in play is also highlighted by the Sun, which says the row "threatened to split even further a Conservative Party already deeply divided over the EU referendum".

The Independent makes the issue the subject of its leader column, in which it argues that the chancellor is "unlikely to be remembered as the man who solved Britain's pension problem", as it looks to Mr Osborne to help today's thirtysomethings build up a pension pot, and "give the younger generation a break".

Facebook's tax status update gets few likes from papers

Saturday's papers are mostly sceptical about social network Facebook's decision to change how it does business in the UK, which should see it pay more tax to the Treasury.

The Daily Express reports on the details of the deal, which will see the firm stop routing advertising sales from major UK customers through Ireland to benefit from its lower tax rates.

Image copyright AFP

In its leader column, the Times sees a link between the move and a new tax "designed to punish" technology companies for "moving British profits offshore". "There can be little doubt," the paper says, "it has acted now to avoid punishment and opprobrium rather than because of a sudden urged to do the right thing."

The Sun is similarly unconvinced. "Forgive us if we don't tug our forelocks in servile gratitude", it says in an editorial. Noting Facebook paid tax of £4,327 in 2014, and suggestions this will rise to "millions of pounds", the paper adds it will "believe it when we see it".

This chimes with the Independent's contention that the social network is set not to pay any extra tax "for years", because "it is sitting on £21.4m in deferred tax relief which it could use to offset future bills from HMRC".

The Times sees potential ramifications for the UK tax affairs of other foreign-based tech giants. Google - which paid £130m to HMRC in January to settle a 10-year tax inquiry into its UK business - has "refused to alter its own offshore tax structure despite being almost identical" to Facebook, says the paper.

In its leader column, the Guardian complains that big firms are able to negotiate their tax liabilities, "while ordinary taxpayers are compelled to pay what they owe according to clear tax rules" and that the "public is unlikely to regain the confidence that the tax system works fairly until that changes".

A Daily Mirror editorial also challenges the fairness of the tax regimes enjoyed by multinationals, and urges back taxes to be collected. "Companies making money here should be required to stump up a fair contribution for the services - health, education, police, roads - used by their workforces and customers," it says.

Eye-catching headlines

  • RIP2-D2 - the Sun's headline announces the death of the British creator of Star Wars' dustbin-like droid, R2-D2. Professor Tony Dyson, who was 68 and suffered heart failure at his home in Malta - was asked by the film's director George Lucas to build eight versions of the machine, the paper says. He was "proud" to have created the robot, his sister says.
  • 100ft asteroid is heading towards Earth - despite the gravity of the headline, the Times gives four column inches on page 27 to the story, so it would appear humanity's demise is not imminent. The paper reports scientists "are certain that it will miss the planet by at least 15,000 miles" adding that "there is no need to panic".
  • For your flowing mane, try horse shampoo - the Daily Mail isn't horsing about as it reports women are turning to a product called Mane 'n Tail "created to keep show ponies' coats looking glossy" to "achieve thick, lustrous locks of their own". Liberty in London stock the US-made product, although there is no word as to whether sales are stable.
  • BBC's latest twist to Le Carre's Night Manager: a second series - the Daily Telegraph reports that despite being just one novel and not a series, the BBC has signed on for another run of the John Le Carre book-based thriller. The paper says it's the first time he's allowed an adaptation that "goes beyond the parameters of his original work".

Nuts to allergies

A widely-reported study has cast doubt on NHS advice that children at risk of peanut allergies should not eat them for the first three years of their lives.

The Daily Telegraph reports that researchers at King's College London "have been studying hundreds of children for more than 10 years" to discover whether potentially lethal allergies could be averted by early exposure.

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The study found that introducing babies of three months to "peanuts, eggs and other potentially allergy-causing foods could prevent serious reactions in later life", says the Guardian.

"Scientists found that weekly consumption of the equivalent of approximately one and a half teaspoons of peanut butter and one small boiled egg would lead to the prevention of allergy," the paper says.

"Overall, the study saw a 74% relative reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy in those who consumed peanuts compared with those who did not," reports the Daily Express.

The Daily Mail says the number of UK children allergic to peanuts has doubled in the past decade, and "now affects one in 50 schoolchildren" and is rarely outgrown.

What the commentators say

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Media captionJack Blanchard of the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph's Tim Stanley review the papers

'Sun boss' marries, other papers react

There's an interesting range of reports marking the wedding of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and former model Jerry Hall in London on Friday - not least among the newspapers he owns.

"Good times" says the Times, which marks its proprietor's nuptials with just a picture on page one and no follow-up on the inside pages.

Image copyright Reuters

The wedding makes it on to page six of Mr Murdoch's other daily paper, the Sun, which reports he took to Twitter to declare he was the "luckiest and happiest man" in the world,

Rival title the Daily Mirror says "octogenarian tycoon Rupert Murdoch shows there's life in the old goat yet by marrying a woman 25 years his junior".

The Daily Telegraph notes Ms Hall wore flat shoes "to avoid towering over her 84-year-old husband".

Mr Murdoch and Ms Hall will have their marriage blessed on Saturday at St Bride's church off Fleet Street, following Friday's civil ceremony.

The Guardian reports Ms Hall "is expected to wear a gown by the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood" and that the couple's 10 children from previous relationships will all have an official role in the ceremony.

The Daily Mail devotes a two-page spread to the occasion, including details of the ring, the reception (David Cameron unlikely to go), the flowers, and where the couple will live.

The paper believes Ms Hall's home in Richmond, south-west London is likely, despite it being owned by her former lover, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. Mr Murdoch is "happy to buy Mick out of the property if push comes to shove", the Mail says.

March comes in like a lion

As weather-lore goes, March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb. And scenes of snowy Britain which grace many of the papers shows winter has yet to give way to the advancing spring.

According to the Daily Mail, the "Arctic blast caused chaos on the roads, shut hundreds of schools and delayed flights", adding that forecasters say the wintry weather is set to spread south "on what they regard as the first weekend of spring".

The Independent reports passengers at Manchester Airport "were stuck on runways for hours waiting for their outbound flights to leave, after a shortage of de-icers led to a queue of planes unable to fly".

The Daily Express contrasts the scene of snow in the north of England with a picture of daffodils in bloom at Greenwich Park in south-east London. Strong north-easterly winds will ensure temperatures remain below normal until the middle of next week, the paper says.

"Britain braces for a week-long Arctic hell", says the Daily Star, which predicts the UK faces a week of "polar blasts" as the country "plunges into sub-zero chaos". It does, however state that the first English strawberries have been picked in Kent.

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