Newspaper headlines: Budget build-up, driverless cars and Crufts substance tests

Next week's Budget occupies the thoughts of many of the papers, with much speculation about what George Osborne has up his sleeve.

The Telegraph says £1.2bn will be cut from the disability welfare bill by 2020 - allowing the chancellor to raise the threshold for the 40p tax rate.

The paper notes that the disability benefit, known as the Personal Independence Payment, is one of the most expensive elements of the welfare budget.

"The decision to slash disability welfare payments by as much as £140 a week will be controversial, with campaigners warning last night that the cuts would be 'devastating'," says the Telegraph.

"Critics have previously warned that successive governments have failed to reform disability welfare payments because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"The current government has faced a series of demonstrations over proposals to cut a fund which pays for carers to help disabled people in their homes."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption George Osborne will deliver his Budget on Wednesday

The Mail believes the timing is likely to prove controversial - with the chancellor set to include a tax giveaway for middle class voters.

The Financial Times says Mr Osborne will be compelled tighten the squeeze on public spending because of an £18bn "black hole" that has developed in the economy.

The FT explains that the size of the UK economy was 1% smaller than predicted, creating a shortfall in tax receipts.

"Such is the scale of the downward revision to the size of Britain's economy found by the Office for National Statistics that it is enough to wipe out the surplus in the public finances that had been expected by the end of the decade," it continues.

"To ensure he can yet hit that long-cherished target, Mr Osborne has already indicated he is prepared to take even more cash out of government departments."

The Times says Mr Osborne is believed to be preparing another increase in the tax on insurance premiums.

The cost of motor insurance, states the Times, will rise by up to £80 compared with six months ago.

The Sun says Mr Osborne is under pressure not to raise fuel duty, as oil prices recover.


Eye-catching headlines

  • Tesco will sell wonky veg and give leftovers to charity: Britain's biggest supermarket retailer is to sell "wonky vegetables" and donate surplus food to charities as part of a campaign to reduce food waste Times
  • Put a lid on it! Outrage as pasty wins pie competition: It is a pie competition with rules so strict that even a lattice-topped entry would be turned away so it has come as a surprise - and caused considerable controversy - that this year's winner of the British Pie Awards is a pasty Telegraph
  • Will we still feed him, when he's 64? Rising life-spans give zoos a dilemma: At 94 years of age, Darwin the tortoise is one of a growing breed of geriatric zoo and aquarium animals that are beginning to fill up UK attractions after significant advances in medicine, diagnosis and care have extended their life expectancy Independent
  • Put your phone away! What children are telling their parents at the table: Parents used to be the ones telling their children to put down their phones and pay attention but now children are asking mum and dad to ditch their gadgets and spend more time with them, a study has found Mail

'Ferocious battle'

The Guardian sees the Budget as a key moment for Mr Osborne in the battle for the Conservative leadership.

"George Osborne's Budget on Wednesday should be another triumphant staging post en route to the premiership, the job for which he has been preparing for a decade or more," it says.

"Yet he will come to the dispatch box against the backdrop of a ferocious battle for the future of his party, and Britain's place in the world."

Mr Osborne is seeking to appease Eurosceptic backbenchers, it continues, and deliver a blow to the "man-of-the-people" appeal of Boris Johnson.

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Media captionSue Matthias, of the Financial Times, and the Sunday Post's James Millar join the BBC News Channel to review Saturday's front pages.

An editorial in the Telegraph conveys a similar sentiment.

The paper says: "Next Wednesday's Budget will be an election Budget.

"With Britain facing a referendum on Brexit, George Osborne will try to show that Tory policies plus membership of the EU equals prosperity.

"But if he really wants to heal the division on the right, and lay out his stall as a candidate for prime minister, Mr Osborne will have to ensure that the Budget is true-blue Tory."

James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, writes in the Sun that, on this occasion the Budget will be overshadowed by the EU referendum.

"In normal times it is the Budget that is the big political set-piece event of the spring," he writes. "But these are not normal times.

"Ahead of this Budget, George Osborne finds himself hemmed in by the EU referendum, fraying Tory discipline and the worsening global economic situation.

"He has little room for manoeuvre."


'Global leader'

News that there are plans to trial driverless cars with the aim of their widespread use on British roads by 2020 stirs up great interest in the press.

The Telegraph says the chancellor promised to clear red tape so the vehicles can be sold to the public.

The paper explains that the trials by Highways England will take place at quiet times on lanes closed off to other traffic.

The Times says driverless cars will be tested on motorways as part of a significant expansion of the technology.

The paper notes that UK car manufacturers are increasing their involvement in driverless cars.

"Nissan has announced that it will make its first mass-market autonomous car in the UK at its Sunderland plant, while Jaguar Land Rover is planning to test its autonomous and connected vehicle technology on the roads of the West Midlands this year," it says.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Driverless cars will be trialled on motorways next year

The Guardian reports that test drives will begin on a few local roads in Bristol, Coventry, Greenwich and Milton Keynes within months, before tests on motorways are carried out in 2017.

The Independent remarks: "The chancellor will publish proposals this summer to scrap rules that prevent autonomous driving on motorways.

"He wants Britain to be a global leader in a market that could be worth £900bn worldwide by 2025."

The Mirror says driverless vehicles still sound like science fiction - and it is not known what the future holds.

"Testing guided cars, trucks and buses on motorways must not compromise safety," it comments, "but nor should we close our minds to what may be possible in the years and decades ahead.


Jet of the future

A transport advance which is much further away from reality is featured in the Times.

It is a concept design of the passenger plane of 2050, drawn up by an airport company and university students.

The jet is wider and shorter than today's planes, powered by six biofuel engines, and windows are replaced by live image projections.

Passengers would be able to put virtual reality visors over their heads to watch films or play games in 3D.

A spokeswoman said advances in passenger space, in-flight entertainment and extra room for bars and relaxation would improve the flying experience.


In the doghouse

Bob's cartoon in the Telegraph is set at Crufts dog show, with a mop-haired "Boris-dog" bounding for the exit and pulling along David Cameron who is imploring "heel!" to no avail.

The Times brings us anything but a shaggy dog story from the show.

"It is normally a fate reserved for the likes of Maria Sharapova," it begins. "Now her canine equivalents had better watch out, because Crufts is about to carry out spot tests for a performance enhancing substance - hairspray.

"While the show dogs have little need for drugs, Crufts does have its own list of banned substances, namely hairspray and chalk, which owners use to hold or whiten their pet's fur."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hairspray and chalk are banned substances at Crufts

The tests were introduced in 2011 but suspended after some owners complained they were neither fair nor accurate.

The Kennel Club told the Times the tests would be enforced while research continued to find a one that was "100% reliable".

Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "The Kennel Club regulations state the use of products which could alter the natural colour, texture or body of the coat, which may include hairspray, chalk, is strictly prohibited."