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Tories 'to protect schools budget' if party wins election

The Conservatives will protect the schools budget if the party wins the next General Election, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has indicated.

Ms Morgan said she is "absolutely fighting for the schools budget to be protected", hinting that she had already won the battle.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan speaks to Andrew Marr. Credit: BBC/The Andrew Marr Show

Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether the schools budget will be protected, Morgan said: "We're going to have more to say on schools funding very shortly but what I can say is that I am absolutely fighting for the schools budget to be protected."

"It goes back to the point, the announcement that we're making today, which is actually about getting the basics right really early on and that's why the investment is in the schools budget."

European Union rules 'are a problem for UK farmers'

European Union rules on what British farmers must grow are a "problem", the Environment Secretary has said.

Liz Truss said she saw the damaging impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on the UK farming industry "all the time".

Liz Truss said there are 'benefits' and 'serious costs' to being in a single market. Credit: Stephen Rafferty/Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

Truss told the Sunday Telegraph: "There are benefits to being in a single market, but there are serious costs.

"The three crop rule means that Brussels bureaucrats are going to be deciding what our farmers produce, rather than what consumers want, which is a problem."

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Labour's Alexander doesn't rule out SNP deal

Labour's election strategist Douglas Alexander has refused to rule out a coalition with the SNP.

The shadow foreign secretary was repeatedly pressed on whether Labour would do a deal with Nicola Sturgeon's party in the event of a hung parliament but said he was "not going to play that game".

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander speaks to Andrew Marr. Credit: ITV/The Andrew Marr Show

"If you want change in Scotland my message is clear - the safest, securest vote is for the Labour Party because otherwise you risk David Cameron getting back into Downing Street," Alexander told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"She [Sturgeon] is trying to get Labour voters to vote SNP to get a Labour government. My message is vote Labour for a Labour government'."

10% paramedic vacancies 'an underestimation'

Richard Webber from the College of Paramedics said the 10% staff shortage uncovered by Labour across England is an underestimation, as some ambulance chiefs are filling some of the posts with less qualiflied care assistants. In an interview with the Times, he said:

Trusts have run short for a number of reasons: pressure and stress is causing people to leave, and there also more opportunities for paramedics than there used to be.

The public are not getting paramedics out treating them in the numbers they should.

The public are not getting paramedics out treating them in the numbers they should. Paramedics have better assessment skills and a wider range of treatments so people with severe illness may not be getting the best care immediately.

– Richard Webber

Staff shortages hit ambulances services across England

Ambulance services across the country are underperforming due to staff shortages, Labour's shadow health secretary said.

Freedom of Information requests by Labour have revealed that one in ten paramedic posts are empty - in London and East Anglia, this figure rises to one in five. The government says an extra 2,000 paramedics have been recruited since 2010.

Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports.

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Labour research reveals one in ten paramedic posts empty

Freedom of Information requests by Labour have revealed that ambulance trusts in England have over 1,100 ambulance staff vacancies.

Freedom of Information requests reveal one in ten paramedic posts are empty. Credit: Press Association.

The requests, to the English Ambulance Trusts, showed that there are 1171.97 paramedic and ambulance staff vacancies across England. There are 12,137 paramedics nationally.

The following figures show how many vacancies there are different services across England, based on the FOI requests made by Labour, or on board papers from the trust.

  • London Ambulance Service: 359.79 vacancies
  • North East Ambulance Service: 22.24 vacancies
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service: 20 vacancies
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service: 0 vacancies - West Midlands included 'emergency care practitioners'
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service: 112 vacancies
  • South West Ambulance Service: 140.6 vacancies
  • South Central Ambulance Service: 152.5 vacancies
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service: 46.93 vacancies
  • East of England Ambulance Service: 284.64 vacancies
  • North West Ambulance Service: 33.27 vacancies

Thousands march in Madrid ahead of election

Tens of thousands of people have flooded the centre of Madrid in a rally for the far-left party Podemos, a party formed just a year ago which is currently topping opinion polls in the run up to local, regional and national elections this year.

People are fed up with the political class

– Pensioner, speaking to Reuters
Central Madrid has been flooded with tens of thousands of anti-austerity protests. Credit: Reuters

Last week, Alexis Tsipras swept into victory on a wave of anti-austerity anger in Greece. He said he hoped voters across Europe would be inspired by Greece to break the "vicious cycle of austerity". Speaking shortly after his election he said:

First we talk Athens, then we take Madrid.

– Alexis Tsipras

Thousands of anti-austerity protesters rally in Madrid

Tens of thousands of people turned out to take part in a march organised by Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos today.

Chanting "yes we can" and "tic tac tic tac" the gathered protesters were supporting Podemos' call for political change in light of the country's struggling economy.

The Podemos march Credit: Reuters
The crowds were calling for political change Credit: Reuters
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