Newspaper headlines: 'Budget giveaway', and the Yard in the dock

On the day before of George Osborne's final Budget of the current Parliament, the newspapers, unsurprisingly, are awash with stories, leaks and hints about what might be in the famous red box on Wednesday.

The Daily Telegraph says that the lower repayment costs on government debt has handed the chancellor a windfall which he will use in part on a "giveaway" Budget.

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A reduction in the amount of Inheritance Tax paid on properties costing up to £2m - and the scrapping altogether of the tax on properties worth under £1m - is the headline measure the paper says.

"The Conservatives are also thought to be considering plans to bring forward the current timetable for David Cameron's pledge to raise the 40p income tax threshold to £50,000," it adds.

The Telegraph also notes the already announced increase in the minimum wage by 3% - and a 20% pay hike for those on apprenticeships.

There could also be what the paper calls "a major review" of business rates.

The total "giveaway" will amount to £6bn, the Telegraph says.

The Guardian says it has also seen the Conservative briefing papers outlining the Inheritance Tax change and it outlines how the complicated system would work on its front page.

Treasury analysis of the plan concludes that the scheme would "most likely benefit high income and wealthier households", it adds,

The paper quotes a "government source" as saying: "This looks like a policy to buy more Tory votes to help the wealthy and would be highly regressive in its impact on society."

The Guardian also notes that the change - if implemented - would most benefit London and the south of England, whereas areas such as Northern Ireland would be largely unaffected.

The Sun says Mr Osborne will launch an "unexpected raid" on high earner's pension pots.

It says the lifetime allowance will fall to £1m from the existing £1.25m.

The Sun says the move will "address concerns that youngsters have borne the brunt of the deficit reduction in favour of wealthy older people".

The paper adds that the move would "scupper" Labour plans to reduce the allowance post-election to pay for a cut in university tuition fees.

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Image caption Could David Cameron step out of the spotlight in 2017 as the Independent suggests?

The Financial Times gives a detailed break-down of the circumstances that give Mr Osborne "wiggle room" and could even see he him revise predictions of when the UK will "balance the books" and moderate spending cuts forecast in December's Autumn Statement.

"To do so would kill a core Labour economic argument," it adds.

The Independent has a story speculating on whether Mr Osborne might be considering launching a bid for the Tory leadership, should his party win in May.

The speculation centres on "betting in Tory circles" that Mr Cameron would stand down after holding an EU referendum in 2017, it adds.

"There is no doubting the Chancellor's ambition. After all, Mr Osborne changed his name from Gideon to George while he was at school because it sounded more prime ministerial," the paper concludes.


'Heart of power'

BBC Newsnight's revelation that police scrapped an investigation into Liberal MP Cyril Smith after he was arrested over allegations of "sex parties" with teenage boys, reignites press interest in the police investigation into possible Scotland Yard cover-ups of paedophilia involving senior establishment figures.

The Met Police announced on Monday that they will be investigating any possible corruption, collusion or failure to act over the allegations, which mainly date back to the 1970s and 80s.

The inquiry will be monitored by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The Daily Mail lists the 14 allegations which are being investigated under the headline "extraordinary abuse claims that lead to the heart of power".

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Image caption Dolphin Square - a block of flats in Westminster - has been alleged to have been a venue where MPs and other senior figures abused children

The paper says the investigation is the biggest spotlight on possible police corruption in the capital since Operation Countryman, which led to eight officers being jailed in 1982.

It notes that the Labour Party have called for a force other than the Met to undertake the investigation.

The Mail's opinion column says that new press regulations could place "more obstacles" in the way of reporting the affair.

The Daily Mirror says the probe has been launched as a result of interviews in its Sunday sister paper with two men who say they were victims of VIP paedophiles in the past.

The Sunday People had reported a detective had been taken off a child abuse investigation after naming a Labour minister from Tony Blair's government as a suspect.

In the Guardian's analysis, it says "claims of historical child sex abuse by VIPs and politicians at the Dolphin Square apartment complex in Westminster and at other locations are as wide-ranging as they are shocking.

"The most serious allegations, involving a multiple child murder, emerged last year from an abuse victim now in his 40s, who uses the pseudonym 'Nick'.

"The question of why police and prosecutors failed to tackle the claims, many of which surfaced years ago, is now being asked."

It notes one former detective says his planned investigation into abuse claims in 1998 was dropped because the questions he wanted to ask were, "all too uncomfortable to a lot of people".


Eye-catching headlines

"Yeti is probably just a brown bear, say scientists'" - The Daily Telegraph reports that analysis of "Yeti hair" samples shows that the abominable snowman may turn out to be a more familiar ursine

"Oh dairy me... coma lad wakes up addicted to cheese" - The Daily Star reports on the case of 15-year-old Kai Thomas from Chesterfield who came out of a nine-day coma after suffering a brain haemorrhage but is now obsessed with cheese and swears profusely. Medics say personality changes have been noted in such cases before.

"Clarkson 'victim' will call in police if BBC whitewash assault allegations" - The Daily Mirror says Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon could report presenter Jeremy Clarkson to the police if he feels the BBC does not seriously deal with the allegation that he punched him.


'Mixed legacy'

The fitness, or otherwise, of Tony Blair to remain involved in efforts to broker peace in the Middle East is a lively topic for discussion in many papers.

The ex-prime minister has represented "Quartet" countries - the US, EU, UN and Russia - in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Many criticisms of the former Labour leader focus on the lucrative business career he has forged for himself since relinquishing his premiership, advising foreign leaders, governments and businesses and undertaking lecture tours.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Blair has built up a fortune estimated at £60m.

The Daily Mail, the Independent and the Guardian all have features written by the authors of a new book, Blair Inc, which is highly critical of the man who won three general elections.

The Independent says "is Blair leaving to spend even more time with dictators", the Mail has "Blair cared more about getting filthy rich than he did about peace in the Middle East", and the Guardian says, "the question is not if Blair should go but why he's been tolerated for so long".

The Daily Telegraph's editorial agrees that Mr Blair should "move on" saying that a "mixed legacy" included early success on economic improvements in the Palestinian Territory.

But major breakthroughs in living standards were "stymied" by stalled peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the paper adds, and now "a radical new approach" is required.

The Financial Times's comment agrees that with a brief restricted to the economy, there was little Mr Blair could do to encourage economic growth in the area without a political solution.

It also says the "conflict of interest" issues have "tarnished" his work.

"Mr Blair's allies insist his Quartet role and his business interests are separate," the paper writes.

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Image caption Economic progress in the Palestinian Territories has been slow

"Yet the way in which he mixes public and private activity across the region is a matter of justified concern," it adds.

Columnist Rachel Sylvester in the Times offers the most sympathetic hearing for Mr Blair.

Under the headline "we must stop hissing this pantomime villain" she notes that ex-PM is "reviled by left and right" .

"The politician who broke down tribal party allegiances, class affiliations and the gender gap to build a grand coalition for his party looks increasingly isolated in a big tent of animosity," she argues.

But she argues that both Ed Milband and David Cameron need to become "the heir to Blair": the former by building a "centrist appeal" which will win southern voters over and be seen as "aspirational" and "pro-business"; the later by pursuing a "modernising path" and a "progressive compassionate Conservatism".

Mr Blair, she concludes, "rode the emotional wave... then came the crash when he failed to fulfil the over-inflated expectations".

Matt's cartoon on the front of the Telegraph neatly combines two of the day's big newspaper stories.

It shows a newsreader announcing: "Tony Blair will try to broker a peace deal between Elton John and Dolce & Gabbana".