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Page last updated at 07:18 GMT, Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Today: Wednesday 21st March

French police, hunting the killer of three Jewish schoolchildren and a teacher, have surrounded a house in Toulouse after a shoot-out with a suspect. The Chancellor is expected to announce major tax changes for millions of people in the Budget today. And also on the programme, Engelbert Humperdinck on his Eurovision entry.

We are no longer providing clips of every part of the programme but you will be able to listen via the BBC iPlayer .

Business news with Simon Jack on what small and medium-sized enterprises will hope to get out of the Budget which will be announced by the Chancellor later today.


The Chancellor is thought to be looking at a system of "regional" pay rates in the public sector as part of his Budget announcement. Chris May, senior national officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union, and John Cridland, director general of the employers organisation CBI, discuss the pros and cons of this proposal.

The Chancellor George Osborne will unveil his third annual Budget later today. Economics editor Stephanie Flanders looks ahead to what he is likely to announce. Read Stephanie's blog here.

From today, a ban on private security companies operating in Afghanistan will be introduced. International development correspondent David Loyn has the details on how it would work and Professor Michael Clarke, director general of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies examines the troubled history of private contractors in war zones.

Business news with Simon Jack.

Gunshots were heard this morning when French police raided a property in the north of Toulouse. A man, still holed up in the house, is thought to be responsible for a series of shootings in recent days which left seven dead, including three Jewish schoolchildren. The BBC's Christian Fraser reports from close to the scene.

Sports news with Garry Richardson.


Fresh evidence has emerged that aspirin can help protect against cancer. Peter Rothwell, Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, and Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, discuss what this new research means.

Paper review.


A new installation called A Room for London on top of London's South Bank, which is inspired partly by the river boat from Conrad's Heart of Darkness, has been doubling-up as a temporary lodging for internationally acclaimed performers from around the world to develop new work and among its most recent inhabitants is Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne. New York correspondent Matt Wells caught up with him back at home in Manhattan, to reflect on his stay in London.

Thought for the day with the Canon Angela Tilby of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford.


One of the most talked about proposals for the Budget has been to scrap the 50p tax rate for top earners, not a popular decision judging most polls. In Birmingham, John Caudwell, founder of Phones 4u and Simon Topman, CEO of the Acme Whistle Company, talk about whether this tax change would make any difference.

The BBC understands that the Chancellor George Osborne is set to announce a significant further increase in personal tax allowances in the Budget. Political editor Nick Robinson gives his analysis. Read Nick's blog here.


During last year's budget, Chancellor George Osborne said the government would "put fuel into the tank of the British economy" and said that manufacturing would be key to this. The Today programme's Evan Davis visits HydraPower Dynamics in Birmingham to find out what manufacturers will be looking for in this years Budget while Sir Nick Scheele, former president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, gives his thoughts on building a supply chain.


Seventy-five year-old crooner Engelbert Humperdinck is representing the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song 'Love Will Set You Free' at Baku in Azerbaijan in May. He talks to the Today programme's Sarah Montague about the upcoming performance.

Sports news with Garry Richardson.


It is thought that the Chancellor George Osborne will announce a significant further increase in personal tax allowances in today's Budget. Former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson reflects on whether today's Budget is more about politics than economics.

Business news with Simon Jack.

The government's controversial plans to change the NHS have passed their final hurdle in Parliament after 14 months of opposition and changes in both houses. Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of the health think-tank The King's Fund, looks at what we left with now.

On 3 May, 11 English cities will vote in local referendums on whether they want the city to be run by a mayor elected by boters rather than a council leader, chosen by other elected councillors. Gisela Stuart Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and James Hutchings, Conservative councillor for Edgbaston, debate the pros and cons. You can follow the mayoral race in Birmingham here.


A new book from the Economist out this week argues strongly that we can look forward to a world that in coming decades will be richer, healthier, more connected, more sustainable, more innovative, better educated, and with less inequality between rich and poor and between men and women. Daniel Franklin, co-editor of Megachange: The World in 2050 and business affairs editor of The Economist, and Dr Anders Sandberg, James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, discuss whether this is a possibility.

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