Which laws should we scrap?

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Submitted by Marcus on Thu, 2010-07-01 08:03

In a historic move, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is asking people to submit ideas about which UK laws need to be scrapped.

He has already set up a website for contributions called "Your Freedom":

http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/

It remains to be seen whether the Government will actually act on the popular suggestions, or if it will just end up as a glorified talking shop.

After a quick look through I have seen some encouraging proposals such as the decriminalizing of drugs, allowing protests outside parliament, removing restrictions on fire-arm use, overturning anti-smoking ban and removing restrictions on Sunday trading.

So my question to SOLOists is what law or regulation would you repeal if you could choose just one?

I think I would overturn the ability of the Treasury to prosecute people for not paying taxes. (Assuming that is just one law.)


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Miliband lives in a Marxist Universe says PM.

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Under-25s would not be able to claim benefits

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Under-25s would not be able to claim benefits under all-Conservative government, David Cameron says

People under 25 would not be able to claim benefits under an all-Conservative government, David Cameron has said.

"Young people should be forced to “earn or learn” and no longer have the option of a “life on benefits”, Mr Cameron said.

The Prime Minister made the suggestion in his speech to the Conservative conference, in which he appealed to voters to give his party a Commons majority in 2015 so the Tories can “finish the job”.

Echoing Sir Winston Churchill’s wartime appeal to “Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” Mr Cameron outlined his vision for Britain under a Conservative government after 2015."

Government to privatise Royal Mail in coming weeks

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Government to float Royal Mail on stock exchange 'in the coming weeks'

Sell-off of 497-year-old postal service is most contentious privatisation since British Rail two decades ago.

"Vince Cable has fired the starting gun on the sale of Royal Mail by formally announcing the government's intention to float the company on the London Stock Exchange in "the coming weeks".

"This is an important day for the Royal Mail, its employees and its customers," the business secretary said. "HM Government is taking action to secure a healthy future for the company. These measures will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the six days a week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal postal service."

The sell-off of the 497-year-old postal service is the most contentious privatisation since British Rail two decades ago, and is forcefully opposed by the unions, who are meeting with the Royal Mail chief executive, Moya Greene, on Thursday morning to once again voice their anger at the "great British flog-off".

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) plans to disrupt the sale process by holding a strike ballot on 20 September, which could lead to a nationwide strike by 10 October. It would be the first nationwide postal strike since 2009. The union is also pushing for a better pay deal, after rejecting a 8.6% pay rise over three years.

Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU, said 96% of Royal Mail staff oppose the sell-off, which "not even Thatcher dared do".

Margaret Thatcher, who privatised British Gas, British Airways, British Telecom and dozens of other state-owned institutions in the 1980s, famously refused to countenance a sale of Royal Mail, saying she was "not prepared to have the Queen's head privatised".

Lord Heseltine and Lord Mandelson both subsequently tried but failed to sell the company, in the face of intense opposition from MPs. The sale of Royal Mail was approved by parliament in the 2011 Postal Services Act."

Uruguay votes to create world's first legal marijuana market

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Cameron and Clegg, please take note!

Uruguay votes to create world's first national legal marijuana market

Proposals likely to become law, leading to innovative policies at odds with the 'war on drugs' philosophy.

"Uruguay's unprecedented plan to create a legal marijuana market has taken its critical first step in the lower house of Congress.

All 50 members of the ruling Broad Front coalition approved the proposal just before midnight on Wednesday in a party line vote, keeping a narrow majority of the 96 MPs present after more than 13 hours of passionate debate.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected to make Uruguay the first country in the world to license and enforce rules for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.

Legislators in the ruling coalition said putting the government at the centre of a legal marijuana industry is worth trying because the global war on drugs had been a costly and bloody failure, and displacing illegal dealers through licensed pot sales could save money and lives.

They also hope to eliminate a legal contradiction in Uruguay, where it has been legal to use pot but against the law to sell it, buy it, produce it or possess even one marijuana plant.

"Uruguay appears poised, in the weeks ahead, to become the first nation in modern times to create a legal, regulated framework for marijuana," said John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America. "In doing so, Uruguay will be bravely taking a leading role in establishing and testing a compelling alternative to the prohibitionist paradigm."

NHS privatisation fears deepen over £1bn deal

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jul/26/nhs-privatisation-fears-deepen-deal

Biggest health contract yet – for services including end-of-life care – is condemned by Labour as 'audacious sell-off'.

"The NHS is embarking on its single biggest outsourcing of services so far by inviting bids for a contract that will be worth between £700m and £1.1bn.

The value of the deal, to provide health services including end-of-life care for older people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, far outstrips the previous record of £450m, where Virgin Care now provides a range of NHS services across Surrey.

The size of the contract on offer has sparked interest from a large number of private firms and claims that the privatisation of the NHS is increasing in pace. Virgin is believed to be sizing up a bid, as is another health provider, Circle, which operates the only privately run NHS hospital in the UK – Hinchingbrooke, Cambridgeshire – and Serco, which has won contracts to provide several public services and was recently castigated by MPs over major flaws in its provision of out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall.

The move is the latest example of how under the coalition growing numbers of NHS services are being put out to tender, and usually won by private operators.

Critics, including Labour, which called the new tender the "most audacious sell-off to date", say the increasing multitude of providers is leading to the fragmentation of the NHS and will undermine ministers' stated objective of ensuring that patient care is more integrated. Ministers, though, welcome the trend and support the health service's right to strike deals with providers who can offer services at the lowest price at a time when it is under huge financial pressure.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: "One year to the day that Danny Boyle famously celebrated before the eyes of the world an NHS that puts people before profits, we find a government stealthily breaking it up and selling it off."

Ice-cream van chimes: the sound of the British summer

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Ice-cream van chimes: the sound of the British summer

"The low, sweet call of the woodpigeon; the distant sound of leather on willow; the thin, peculiar song of the ice-cream van playing Greensleeves through the warm, child-cluttered streets of a housing estate; of these is the distinctive sound of a British summer made.

And now, at long last, the British summer may bloom louder and longer. For, 31 long years since its seminal work Code of Practice on Noise From Ice Cream Vans Etc was published, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has finally agreed to relax the country's chime regulations.

In a move that has brought jubilation to the ice-cream industry, chimes can play for up to 12 seconds rather than four; and once every two minutes, instead of three. Vans may also now chime while stationary.

It is, says Steve Verrill, a spokesman for the Ice Cream Alliance, which represents 650 different ice-cream companies: "a welcome loosening of the red tape". The regulations, he says, "were quite draconian and outdated" and took little account of the sheer joy spread by the sound of the ice-cream van. "Just this morning, I was speaking to an ice-cream van owner from Scarborough who had initially chosen to forgo a chime on his van," he adds. "But he said he would turn up at events and the children would be so disappointed there was no chime on his van that he had to get one. The chimes are a great feature – it means there's a nice treat coming your way."

George Osborne wields welfare axe

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George Osborne wields welfare axe

A new welfare crackdown to be introduced just weeks before the next general election has been announced as the centrepiece of the Government’s latest round of public spending cuts.

"Today’s welfare crackdown was only sanctioned by the Liberal Democrats on the basis that the money saved is “recycled” back into the system to help the unemployed return to work.

Under the proposals, 100,000 people who do not speak an acceptable level of English will be forced to attend intensive tutoring and pass an exam to certify their language skills. Those who fail face having their benefits removed.

The long-term unemployed will also have to visit Job Centres once a week, rather than once a fortnight, to demonstrate what they are doing to find work and to seek help and advice. People will also have to wait a week before receiving unemployment benefits – and will have to begin their search for work during this period. Currently, people receive benefits after three days and only then have to begin looking for work.

Announcing the changes, Mr Osborne said: “Taken together, this new contract with people on benefits will save over £350 million a year, and all that money will enable us to afford extra support to help people get into work.”

On Wednesday night, Labour criticised the spending announcements but said it would not reverse the overall plans if it wins the 2015 general election."

Generation Y: why young voters are backing the Conservatives

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Generation Y: why young voters are backing the Conservatives

Young people are supposed to be left-leaning idealists, but polls tell us that today's under-34s don't believe in handouts and high taxes – and they're voting for David Cameron.

"A large share of Generation Y seems to build its opinions around a liberalism that is both social and, crucially, economic. This, conveniently, also forms the core of the modern Toryism espoused by David Cameron and George Osborne.

Which brings us to the next revelation, which reached the media last week. Though the under-34s are less keen on the idea of political loyalty than older cohorts, latter-day Tories have apparently managed to speak to a creditable swath of Gen Y, and pull off an amazing political feat. When Cameron took over the Tory leadership in 2005, the party's support among Generation Y stood at 10%. It has since more than doubled, to 20.5%: when Osborne gets up to deliver his latest spending review and serve further notice that the state must be hacked back, and the economy must somehow be rebalanced between private and public, large numbers of young people will apparently be in full agreement.

One recent YouGov poll put support for the Tories among the 18-24s at 31%, with Labour trailing at 27%. By way of a contrast, Tory support among those aged 40-59 was at 29%, with Labour on 40%. In other words, the time-worn wisdom about politics and the young may be in the process of being turned on its head. Welcome, then, to yet another element of the New Normal, and a sobering fact: when it comes to questions about the welfare state, work and the like, the younger you are, the more rightwing you're likely to be."

Former home secretaries urge Clegg to drop snooper's charter opp

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Former home secretaries urge Clegg to drop snooper's charter opposition

"In a letter published in the Times, the politicians – Labour's Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Alan Johnson, and the Conservative Lord Baker – argue that the new internet monitoring powers contained in the communications data bill are a vital tool in the fight against terrorism...

Civil liberties advocates criticised the letter's signatories. Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Several of the signatories to this letter argued that ID cards, 90-day detention without trial and a million innocent people on the DNA database were all necessary to keep us safe. Fortunately the government did not succumb to their scaremongering on those issues, and nor should it on the question of whether in modern Britain we want the state to be undertaking blanket monitoring of our emails, web browsing and social media messages."

New statutory register of lobbyists

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David Cameron: We have a 'problem' with lobbyists

David Cameron has admitted that Parliament has “a problem” with lobbyists in the wake of the latest scandal to engulf the Commons.

"Following disclosures by The Telegraph about MPs and peers taking money from undercover reporters posing as lobbyists, the Prime Minister said that the “influence” of third parties needs to be tackled.

His comments came after a series of new cash-for-questions revelations at the weekend.

Lord Laird resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party after he offered to arrange for Parliamentary questions to be asked in return for a fee of £2,000 a month.

During a joint investigation by the Telegraph and BBC Panorama programme, the peer said he was prepared to help undercover reporters posing as lobbyists to set up a Parliamentary group, “bribe” colleagues to ask questions and influence debates on behalf of a client paying him a retainer.

A separate investigation into lobbying by The Sunday Times has also led to two peers being suspended from the Labour Party over claims they offered to carry out parliamentary work in return for cash.

Ex-cabinet minister Lord Cunningham and former senior police officer Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate were recorded by undercover reporters posing as lobbyists.

Lord Laird was also exposed as part of that investigation.

The MP Patrick Mercer has already quit the Tory party following an investigation by The Telegraph and BBC’s Panorama that revealed he tabled parliamentary questions and motions and offered lobbyists a security pass to the Commons after being paid thousands of pounds.

Downing Street has announced that a bill to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists will be published before the start of Parliament's summer recess next month.

The Prime Minister’s measures have renewed Coalition tensions after it emerged that the bill will also include provisions which could impose new restrictions on trade union funding of the Labour Party.

Under the new plans, only those paid to lobby as “third parties” will be regulated.

Financial penalties would be imposed on any who refused to take part in the scheme.

But the Tories are insisting that the new laws also tighten the rules on trade unions.

They want to close a loophole which allegedly allows unions to campaign at general elections but avoid the full force of a cap on what parties can spend.

Under the proposals unions will have to demonstrate annually that their membership figures are accurate. The change could affect Labour’s funding.

Mr Cameron added: “As we promised in the Coalition agreement we will be bringing forward a lobbying register and we’ll also be bringing forward some measures to make sure the trade unions behave properly too.”

About time the Communist Republic of Scotland...

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...became independent.

Nigel Farage barricaded in Scottish pub and rescued by police riot van

Nigel Farage has been barricaded by police in a pub before being whisked away in a riot van after his visit to Scotland was hijacked by hard-Left independence supporters.

"The Ukip leader was left stranded in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, surrounded by around 50 nationalists and socialists calling him a racist, but demanding that he: “Go home to England”.

Police officers attempted to persuade two taxi drivers to take Mr Farage away from the trouble but both refused as the protesters continued to barrack the MEP with chants of “racist Nazi scum”.

A shaken Mr Farage told reporters: “We have never had a reception like this anywhere in Britain before. Clearly, it’s anti-British and anti-English. They hate the Union Jack.”

Police officers then insisted for his own safety that he enter the Canon’s Gait pub, the wooden doors of which were then locked.

The protesters continued to jeer and shout abuse, with some unveiling a 20ft banner that, referring to next year’s referendum, stated: “Vote Yes for Scotland”.

Others among the mostly young crowd serenaded Mr Farage by telling him where he should “stick your Union Jack”.

It was not clear how the stand-off would end, with some enterprising nationalists disappearing round the back of the building to check Mr Farage did not sneak out the rear entrance.

One wag joked that the Ukip leader would have to come out for a cigarette sooner or later. However, a Lothian and Borders Police riot van was spotted making its way up the usually gentile Royal Mile and stopped directly outside the pub.

After a delay of around ten minutes, the doors opened and the crowd surged forward while police ‘kettled’ Mr Farage from the building and into the vehicle safely."...

A spokesman for Radical Independence Edinburgh said: “Farage came up to Scotland to spread his racism and bigotry here – we showed he's not welcome.

"His party Ukip have always achieved a derisory vote in Scotland but Farage thought that could change after their recent local elections successes in England.

"In 2014 we finally have the chance to get rid of the political system at Westminster that pours fuel onto the bigoted fire of Farage and Ukip Scotland wants to be a country that welcomes immigrants – but we need independence to make that desire a reality."

Scrap the fucking lot from Brussels

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"Then, to prove beyond all doubt that he is really serious on Europe, he must sack Ken Clarke."

Plans to part-privatise military procurement

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Plans to part-privatise military procurement come under scrutiny

"With an annual budget of £14bn, a staff of 16,500, and the welfare of thousands of troops at stake, the Ministry of Defence knows the future of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) is crucial to the armed forces.

But with the MoD budget under huge stress, and the military having made a dog's breakfast of some procurement projects, the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, has been tiptoeing towards giving responsibility for running DE&S to a private company.

This is what the Queen meant when she said, rather obliquely, that "measures will be brought forward to improve the way this country procures defence equipment".

Last month the Guardian revealed the MoD was pressing ahead with the privatisation idea, which will involve DE&S becoming a so-called "GoCo" – government-owned, contractor-operated.

No other military power has part-privatised such an important part of defence, and the initiative has been criticised by union leaders, experts and former military personnel. The US is worried about it too, according to a report in the Financial Times.

On Tuesday, the FT quoted a US officer raising concerns about "putting contractors in roles normally filled by government employees and the effects this would have on ongoing and future operations".

Basically, Washington will be far less keen to share sensitive information with staff from a private company."

Mr Bachler

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So if Kenny couldn't persuade him I don't know how I can. Fair enough. I could do it from here too, I thought, after posting.
I didn't vote for UKIP but conservative, there was no UKIP candidate in my area. I've had similar moral quandaries here.

Gregster...

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...Kenny who regularly posted on SOLO a few years ago used to be Farage's press officer. He knew all about Objectivism. So if Kenny couldn't persuade him I don't know how I can.

I noticed in the run up to the election some in the media were calling UKIP a "far-right" or "libertarian" party and I am heartened to see that those labels didn't frighten voters away.

However it is time for UKIP to walk the walk. Although they say they want a smaller state they are just as left-wing as any other party with regards the NHS. They have "suggested" a flat rate of income tax, but have not made it party policy.

I hope they will have the strength of their Libertarian convictions after their increase in support.

I didn't vote for UKIP but conservative, there was no UKIP candidate in my area.

Being kind to 'Kippers'

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Which laws should we scrap? Which parties should they boot!

UKIP chief Nigel Farage’s “clowns” were today ready to enjoy the last laugh after the biggest protest vote in British history.

A wave of support in yesterday’s council elections put the anti-EU party on course to take up to a THIRD of all votes in some battlegrounds.

An early indication of their strength came last night in the South Shields Parliamentary by-election. Labour held the seat — but UKIP came second with 5,988 votes.

Their slice of the vote in the local elections, meanwhile, looked set to top 20 per cent.

That would smash the previous best for a party outside Westminster’s big three — UKIP’s 16.5 per cent in the 2009 Euro elections.

Early council results suggested UKIP were on course to win over 100 seats.

It follows a week in which the party were branded “clowns”, “fruitcakes”, and “loonies” by a raft of senior Tories. The onslaught looks only to have boosted the party’s popularity among disenchanted voters.

Marcus - as you're the man at the scene - get him some Objectivist literature - it wouldn't be too far a move for him to incorporate it.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/ho...

Plain fag packets plan up in smoke

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Plain Packs Plan scrapped

"DAVID Cameron has scrapped plans to force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs, The Sun can reveal.
Health ministers had been weighing up the move for a year.

Campaigners had insisted making packets bland would put smokers off — and stop kids from starting the habit.

The PM initially backed the plan, but has been persuaded it would damage the packaging industry.

There were also concerns it could cost £3billion in lost tax revenue and tie up the Commons in bitter arguments.

Mr Cameron has now ordered the proposed law to be pulled from next week’s Queen’s Speech.

A Whitehall source said: “Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the Government’s key purpose.

“The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”

Kavanagh nails it again

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‘The Kippers’ joke is now on Tories

"THEY all laughed when Nigel Farage set out to transform “the Kippers” from a joke party into a mainstream political force.
Well, as the great Bob Monkhouse said, they’re not laughing now.

The UKIP leader is good company, with a permanent grin on his cheeky-chappie face, a fag in one hand and a large glass of red wine in the other.

He is also deceptively single-minded and relentless.

It has taken 20 gruelling years, but this week he can claim a revolution in British politics.

He rivals Boris Johnson as the most instantly recognisable politician in the land and now he is poised for a breakthrough in Thursday’s local elections.

Thousands of disaffected voters are flocking to join — and half of them are ex-Tories.

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg cannot gloat because one in four are Labour deserters and the rest are fugitives from the Lib Dems — fourth behind UKIP in the polls.

Farage is already looking to the future.

He has his sights on outright victory in next year’s European elections, and some Westminster seats before or after the 2015 election.
The former City trader taps into a rich seam of anger towards politicians who, once elected to Westminster, take not a blind bit of notice of the people who put them there.

Voters are resentful over mass immigration, unelected Strasbourg judges and especially the European Union, which usurped MPs’ power to represent their voters.

UKIP wants Britain out of the EU and the Convention on Human Rights, leaving us free to restrict immigration and deport foreign crooks and terrorists."

Prison perks

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Prison perks: inmates must wear uniforms as Grayling cracks down

"All convicted male prisoners are to be required to wear prison uniform for the first two weeks of their sentence under a shakeup of life in jail ordered by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.

The changes, to be announced on Tuesday, will also mean prisoners losing automatic access to gym equipment and daytime television. They will be expected work a longer day than at present too.

The 4,000 offenders in privately run prisons will also lose access to satellite subscription channels, such as Sky Sports. Prisoners in all jails will not be allowed to watch daytime television in their cells when they should be working or engaging in purposeful activities. The change in the prison service's "incentives and earned privileges" scheme will mean that prison governors lose much of their discretion over which perks and privileges are available to reward good behaviour.

The changes, to be introduced into public and private sector prisons in England and Wales over the next six months, follows a review ordered by Grayling to ensure that life inside was not seen as a "soft touch".

Grayling said that under the new policy, the lack of bad behaviour would not be enough to earn privileges; instead inmates would have to work actively towards rehabilitation and help other prisoners.

The change will add a new "entry" level for all male prisoners for the first two weeks of their sentence in which their privileges, including access to private cash and wearing their own clothes, will be restricted."

George Osborne unveils tax breaks for creative industries

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George Osborne unveils tax breaks for creative industries

"Mr Osborne has announced tax relief for high end TV drama and animation to encourage companies to film within the UK.

Popular shows like the HBO fantasy drama The Game Of Thrones in Northern Ireland is already partly shot in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at Bafta's offices in London, the Chancellor said: "The UK now has one of the most competitive tax regimes for the creative industries.

"This is the place to do your new hit TV show, this is the place to do your excellent animation."

Newspapers reject press regulation plans

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Leveson report: Newspapers reject press royal charter

The newspaper industry is to reject cross-party press regulation plans, and will publish proposals for self-regulation backed by royal charter.

"The three main political parties agreed to a royal charter last month in response to Lord Justice Leveson's report on press standards and ethics.

They said an independent watchdog would be set up by royal charter with powers to issue fines and demand apologies.

But newspapers argue that they had no say in the final discussions.

According to a statement released by the Newspaper Society on behalf of the national and local newspaper industry, the industry said the royal charter published by the government on 18 March had been condemned by a "range of international media freedom organisations" and enjoys "no support within the press" in the UK.

"A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press," warned the statement.

The industry's proposal is closely based on the draft royal charter published on 12 February following negotiations with national and local newspapers and magazines.

The statement described it as "a workable, practical way to swiftly deliver the Leveson recommendations, which the industry accepts, without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech".

The statement said the new proposal has "widespread backing across the industry".

Nick Clegg: No 'web snooping' bill while Lib Dems in government

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Nick Clegg: No 'web snooping' bill while Lib Dems in government

Home Office plans to store details of Britons' online activity will not happen while the Liberal Democrats are in government, Nick Clegg has said.

"Mr Clegg said he would be willing to accept changes to take account of new technology - such as ensuring each mobile device had its own unique IP address.

But, he said: "What people have dubbed the snooper's charter - I have to be clear with you, that's not going to happen.

"In other words the idea that the government will pass a law which means there will be a record kept of every website you visit, who you communicate with on social media sites, that's not going to happen.

"It's certainly not going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government."

Right to die

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Right to die: Paul Lamb takes up Tony Nicklinson fight

"A paralysed man is taking up the legal challenge previously mounted by the late Tony Nicklinson for the right to die with the help of a doctor.

Paul Lamb, 58, from Leeds, has joined forces with the family of Mr Nicklinson, who died in 2012.

Earlier this year, Nr Nicklinson's widow Jane won permission to continue the challenge to a High Court ruling against doctor-assisted death.

Anti-euthanasia campaigners say the current law protects vulnerable people.

The two cases will be heard in the Court of Appeal on 14 and 15 May."

Osborne distances himself from Thatcher legacy of benefits

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Osborne distances himself from Thatcher legacy over disability benefits

"George Osborne has buried a key legacy of Margaret Thatcher when he condemned the way her government placed thousands of unemployed people on disability benefits as "quick-fix politics of the worst kind".

In an attempt to show an even-handed approach, as he embarked on a staunch defence of the coalition's welfare changes, the chancellor criticised "governments of all colours" that have "parked" too many people on disability benefits.

The chancellor sidestepped questions about whether he could survive on £53 a week after Iain Duncan Smith said he could if he had to.

"I don't think it is sensible to reduce this debate to an argument about one individual's set of circumstances and the example that was given on the BBC radio," Osborne said after the Today programme cited a market trader David Bennett who lives on that amount.

The chancellor added: "We have a welfare system where actually there are lots of benefits available to people on very low incomes. There is jobseeker's allowance and income support, there is a working tax credit, there is council tax benefit, there is housing benefit. So there are a number of different benefits there.

"This debate is not about any individual. This is about creating a welfare system that rewards work, that supports people who do the right thing, that helps those that want to get on in life and has a regard for the many millions of people who work very hard and pay their taxes and expect their money to be well spent."

Osborne made his remarks as he addressed workers at the main Morrisons supermarket distribution centre in the south-east of England at Sittingbourne in Kent.

The Treasury chose the centre because it is based in the swing parliamentary seat of Sittingbourne and Sheppey, and where the Morrisons distribution workers earn an average of £20,000. Tory research shows that the government's welfare changes, notably the household benefit cap of £26,000, will appeal to such workers, who reportedly resent seeing their taxes fund benefits.

Amid criticisms that he is turning the clock back to the 1980s, the chancellor criticised the Thatcher government for the way it placed many unemployed people on disability benefits. The chancellor said: "Governments of all colours let too many unemployed people get parked on disability benefits, and told they'd never work again. Why?

"Because people on disability benefits don't get counted in unemployment figures that could embarrass politicians.

"It was quick-fix politics of the worst kind – and the people who lost out were you, hard-working taxpayers who had to pay for all this and those on disability benefits who could have worked but were denied the opportunity to do so."

The chancellor was also highly critical of the Labour party, which says the welfare changes will penalise poor people. In remarks that appeared to be aimed at the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, Osborne said: "In recent days we have heard a lot of, frankly, ill-informed rubbish about these welfare reforms. Some have said it's the end of the welfare state. That is shrill, headline-seeking nonsense.

"I will tell you what is true. Taxpayers don't think the welfare state works properly any more. When did this start to happen? When we created a system that encouraged people to stay out of work rather than find a job.

"Our reforms are returning welfare to its most fundamental principles – always helping the most vulnerable, but giving people ladders out of poverty. And the politicians who should have to explain themselves are those who have given up on trying to get people working again."

900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests

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900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests

"Nearly 900,000 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claim to the payments rather than undergo a tough medical test, latest government figures show.

The 878,300 who decided not to have an official assessment of whether they were fit for work was more than a third of the total number of people claiming sickness-related benefits.

The statistics also revealed that some claimants cited conditions such as “blisters”, “sprains and strains” and “acne” as preventing them from having a job."

David Cameron gives green light for aid cash to go on military

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David Cameron gives green light for aid cash to go on military

"Hundreds of millions of pounds from Britain's aid budget are expected to be diverted to peacekeeping defence operations as the government moves to build up support on the Tory benches for overseas development.

Amid deep unease among Conservative MPs at the size of the £10bn aid budget, which has increased while defence spending has been cut, David Cameron said on Wednesday that he was "very open" to the idea of pooling more resources.

Speaking in Amritsar on the final leg of his Indian trip, the prime minister said difficult decisions would have to be taken by the chancellor, George Osborne, when he outlines the government's spending review for the first year after the 2015 general election.

"These spending rounds are always difficult," Cameron said as he praised the Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, for criticising the "fiscal nimbyism" of some ministers who call for overall restraint while fighting to preserve their own budgets. He added: "I am sure the coalition will step up to the plate and make them."

No 10 said the aid budget could only be used to fund military spending in three areas – security, demobilisation and peacekeeping. The new funds would not be used for combat operations or combat equipment."

Same-sex marriage bill hailed

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Same-sex Marriage

"Party leaders at Westminster have hailed the significance of the backing for same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key Commons vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday's vote had been "an important step forward" and Labour leader Ed Miliband called it a "proud day".

MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.

But 136 Tory MPs opposed the bill and have continued to voice their concerns.

MPs were given a free vote on the bill, meaning they were not ordered to vote a particular way by party whips.

Their decision to back the bill at second reading signifies that they approve of it in principle. The legislation will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny.

If it becomes law, the bill will enable same-sex couples, who are currently able to engage in civil partnerships, to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies - the latter only with the consent of religious institutions."

UK drug advisers reject khat ban

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UK drug advisers reject khat ban

"More than 2,500 tonnes of khat, worth about £13.8m, was imported by the UK in 2011/12, bringing in £2.8m of tax revenues, the ACMD added.

The report was supported by a former chairman of the ACMD.

David Nutt, who was sacked in 2009 by the then home secretary after claiming ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol, said: "Its evidenced, measured recommendation to use current legislation and community measures to address the relatively low harms of khat is just the sort of rational thinking that we need more of in the drug policy debate."

Cameron calls for referendum on EU

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Cameron calls for UK exemption from EU's 'ever-closer' union

"Cameron has outlined the scale of his ambition to transform the terms of Britain's membership of the EU by calling for the UK to be exempted from its founding principle: the creation of an ever-closer union.

In his long-awaited speech on the EU, the prime minister cast himself as a modern-day heretic as he pledged to challenge established thinking.

Speaking at the London headquarters of Bloomberg, Cameron confirmed plans to hold an in-out referendum after the next election but warned: "The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point."

The prime minister said that nothing would be off the table when he puts forward demands for the repatriation of a series of powers to Britain if he wins the 2015 general election. A new settlement would then be put to voters in a referendum by the end of 2017."

Workers who claim benefits told to increase hours

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Workers who claim benefits told to increase hours or lose universal credit

Part-time workers could receive monthly statements telling them how much better off they would be if they increased hours.

"Nearly 1m people who are in work and claim benefits may be required to work longer, increase their earnings or face losing access to the new universal credit, two welfare ministers, Lord Freud and Mark Hoban, said on Monday.

The state's capacity to ask more of those in work and those that are self-employed is likely to be transformed by the introduction of universal credit in April, the ministers said at a Policy Exchange event.

Lord Freud, the welfare minister, said: "The fact that those in work will come under the ambit of the JobCentre Plus for the first time as a result of universal credit gives the government radical new opportunities.

"Those in work currently face no obligations within the system to increase their hours in work and the system offers them no incentives to do so either. People on low wages can lose up to 96p in every £1 they earn as they increase their hours in work."

He claimed that as a result employers told him their staff did not want to work longer hours for fear of losing benefits. He cited B&Q as one firm that had told him their staff repeatedly requested not to work longer hours for fear of losing benefit: "This conversation is replicated in company after company."

He claimed work incentives under universal credit will be as much as 12 times more generous, as recipients will retain more of their extra income. Critics say that the system will penalise those who can't increase their hours. Hoban said that as part of the drive to keep part-time workers in work for longer, he proposed these workers could receive monthly statements telling them how much better off they would be if they increased their hours, as well as receive texts telling them how much they will benefit from working longer hours, or getting better-paid work through developing higher skills.

He said new demands could also be placed on the self-employed, pointing out that the tax credit system as it stands allowed people to pursue hobbies, earn nothing and subsidise their income through state support "without any expectation that they will increase their earnings and move towards self-sufficiency. This flies in the face of a principled welfare system".

Hmmm

Jules Troy's picture

Withdrawing anything to do with soon to be Brusselsistan might not be a bad idea!

Cabinet ministers could be allowed to campaign for EU exit

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Cabinet ministers could be allowed to campaign for EU exit

Conservative Cabinet ministers could be free to campaign for the UK to exit the European Union, it has emerged.

"David Cameron will meet with senior Tory ministers today to brief them ahead of his EU speech on Friday.

Up to nine Tory Cabinet ministers are thought to back a British exit from the EU if significant powers cannot be repatriated from Brussels.

The Prime Minister will today tell those ministers that they will be allowed to campaign for a possible exit from the EU, the Daily Mail has reported.

It comes as a group of Conservative MPs called on Mr Cameron to seize back control of employment and social laws from Brussels and stop European nationals from claiming benefits in this country.

The Fresh Start group of Conservative backbenchers has set out proposals to return responsibility for laws to Westminster and cut Britain’s bill for EU membership by billions of pounds a year."

George Osborne warns Britain could pull out of EU

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George Osborne warns Britain could pull out of EU

Chancellor offers strongest signal yet about leaving union, after German admonition about 'blackmailing' other members.

"George Osborne has delivered the strongest warning to date that Britain might be forced to leave the European Union unless a fresh settlement is negotiated by its 27 leaders.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, published after an ally of Angela Merkel criticised the UK for seeking to "blackmail" its partners, Osborne called for change to ensure Britain remains a member of the EU.

His intervention came as the leader of Tory MEPs warned that strident Euroscepticism was in danger of giving the impression of Britain "snarling like a pitbull across the Channel".

In his interview with Die Welt, Osborne said: "I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change."

The Treasury confirmed that the translation of the interview, which was published in German, was accurate. But a source played down the significance of the chancellor's comments.

"This is consistent with what we have said," a Treasury source said. "We want to remain in the EU but the EU needs to change, and indeed is changing."

The remarks by Osborne were consistent with the approach David Cameron will set out in his long-awaited speech on Europe later this month. The prime minister will say that the current terms of British membership are unacceptable and they must be renegotiated. He is expected to say that a "new settlement", in which powers would be repatriated, should be put to British voters in a referendum."

Britain should stay in European Union, says Obama administration

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Britain should stay in European Union, says Obama administration

Intervention from senior US official comes as UK position on EU membership is criticised in Brussels and Dublin.

"The Obama administration issued a direct challenge to David Cameron over Europe, on Wednesday when it warned of the dangers of holding a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

A senior US official questioned the merits of holding a referendum as the prime minister's campaign to reset the terms of Britain's EU membership also came under assault from Brussels and Dublin.

With just weeks to go until Cameron delivers a landmark speech in which he is expected to promise to hold a referendum on a "new settlement" for Britain in the EU, the US assistant secretary for European affairs warned that "referendums have often turned countries inwards".

"We welcome an outward-looking European Union with Britain in it. We benefit when the EU is unified, speaking with a single voice, and focused on our shared interests around the world and in Europe," Philip Gordon said during a visit to London, adding: "We want to see a strong British voice in that European Union. That is in the American interest."

Gordon stressed that it was it was up to Britain to determine its European role but, in what appeared to be a clear reference to attempts to renegotiate UK membership with the EU, he said: "It would be fair to say that every hour at an EU summit spent debating the institutional makeup of the European Union is one less hour spent talking about how we can solve our common challenges of jobs, growth, and international peace around the world."

The intervention by Gordon, who was in London to meet the Europe minister, David Lidington, highlights the alarm in Washington as opinion polls show a rise in support for British withdrawal from the EU and the prime minister prepares to set out how he will repatriate powers from the EU.

Cameron is expected to say in his speech that, if elected with a majority in 2015, he will use an EU treaty revision to underpin new eurozone governance arrangements to repatriate some powers.

The new terms of British membership would be put to the UK public in a referendum."

First UK Private Navy in 200 years

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Insurance firms plan private navy to take on Somali pirates

"Insurers have drawn up plans for the world’s first private navy to try to turn the tide against Somali pirates who continue to plague the global shipping industry by hijacking vessels for ransoms of more than £100m a year, The Independent has learnt.

The new navy, which has the agreement in principle of several shipping groups and is being considered by the British Government, is the latest attempt to counter the increasingly sophisticated and aggressive piracy gangs who operate up to 1,200 miles from their bases in the Horn of Africa and are about to launch a new wave of seaborne attacks following the monsoon season.

A multi-national naval force, including an EU fleet currently commanded by a British officer, has dramatically reduced the number of assaults in the Gulf of Aden in recent months. But seizures continue with 16 ships and 354 sailors currently being held hostage. The Independent has seen Nato documents which show both ransom payments and the period that pirates are holding vessels have doubled in the last 12 months to an average $4m and 117 days respectively.

In response, a leading London insurer is pushing ahead with radical proposals to create a private fleet of about 20 patrol boats crewed by armed guards to bolster the international military presence off the Somali coast. They would act as escorts and fast-response vessels for shipping passing through the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.

Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT), which insures 14 per cent of the world’s commercial shipping fleet, said the unprecedented “private navy” would work under the direct control of the military with clear rules of engagement valid under international law. Early discussions have also been held with the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Transport and the Foreign Office."

Duncan Smith defends benefits squeeze

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Duncan Smith defends benefits squeeze

Work and pensions secretary says 1% cap on benefit rises will close a gap between wages and welfare payments.

"Iain Duncan Smith has defended the government's decision to restrict social security and tax credit payments to below-inflation rises, saying it will bring about a rebalancing of wages and benefit payments, ahead of a Commons vote on the proposal.

The work and pensions secretary said the coalition's decision to limit increases in working tax credits and some benefit payments to 1% until 2016 had not been taken lightly and was being carried out on behalf of low-paid workers who would otherwise pick up the bill for higher government debt.

Although the government will win Tuesday's vote, Labour says it will oppose the three-year squeeze. The Liberal Democrat former children's minister, Sarah Teather, said she would vote against the coalition and government sources were said to be anticipating a rebellion by about five Lib Dem MPs."

Clegg calls for reform of drugs laws

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Nick Clegg and David Cameron clash over drug law reforms

Deputy prime minister says politicians know 'war on drugs' is failing and prime minister must show courage over issue.

"Divisions between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over Britain's "war on drugs" burst into open hostilities on Friday after the Liberal Democrat leader said that current policy was not working and accused politicians of "a conspiracy of silence".

Committing his party to a major review of how to tackle the drug problem in its 2015 election manifesto, Clegg claimed Britain was losing the war "on an industrial scale" and said Cameron should have the courage to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.

He threw his weight behind the report from the Commons home affairs select committee earlier this week that recommended that a royal commission look at such options.

"In politics, as in life, you can't keep on doing something that does not work", said Clegg, in an interview with the Sun."You can't keep making the same mistakes.

"If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting young people – you'd have to say you are losing and it's time to do something different."

Clegg's intervention came days after Cameron ruled out such a commission and Downing Street quickly quelled any suggestion Cameron might change his mind."

Gay marriage plans offer 'quadruple lock' for those opposed

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Gay marriage plans offer 'quadruple lock' for opposed religious groups

Culture secretary reveals legal protections for religious groups that may not want to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.

"The culture secretary, Maria Miller, has prepared herself for a year-long battle to introduce same-sex marriage, with the first ceremonies due to take place in 2014.

On Tuesday she sought to reassure Tory MPs that religious groups would not be obliged to conduct the ceremonies, vowing a triple legal guarantee that the European court would not be allowed to interfere, and in the case of the Church of England, a quadruple guarantee or lock...

This lock will:

• Ensure the legislation states that no religious organisation or individual minister can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises.

• Provide an opt-in system for religious organisation who wish to conduct marriages for same-sex couples.

• Amend the Equality Act 2010 to reflect that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for that purpose.

• Ensure that legislation will not affect the canon law of the Church of England or the Church in Wales."

MPs urge David Cameron to consider legalising drugs

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MPs urge David Cameron to consider legalising drugs

Cross-party committee says PM should set up royal commission on drug laws at 'now-or-never moment for serious reform'.

"David Cameron should urgently set up a royal commission to consider all the alternatives to Britain's failing drug laws, including decriminalisation and legalisation, an influential cross-party group of MPs has concluded.

The Commons home affairs select committee says after taking evidence from all sides of the drug debate, including from Russell Brand and Richard Branson, that "now, more than ever" there is a case for a fundamental review of all UK drug policy. "This is a critical, now-or-never moment for serious reform," they say.

Among the recommendations contained in a report published on Monday, the MPs say Home Office and health ministers should be sent to Portugal to examine its system of replacing criminal penalties for drug use with a new emphasis on treatment. They say the Portuguese example clearly reduced public concern about drug use and was backed by all political parties and the police.

The MPs also suggest the British government should fund a detailed research project monitoring the recent legalisation of marijuana in the American states of Washington and Colorado and the proposed state monopoly of cannabis production and sale in Uruguay.

The committee visited Colombia, the US and Portugal as part of their year-long inquiry.

In the report the MPs say: "We recommend the establishment of a royal commission to consider the best ways of reducing the harm caused by drugs in an increasingly globalised world.

"In order to avoid an overly long, overly expensive review process, we recommend that such a commission be set up immediately and be required to report by 2015."

Ministers should at the same time instigate a public debate in Britain on all the alternatives to current drug policy as part of the royal commission, recommends the report, Drugs: Breaking the Cycle. The government also needs to initiate a discussion within the United Nation's commission on narcotic drugs, including the possibility of legalisation and regulation – to tackle and reduce the harms from the global drug trade at home and abroad."

Bank of England refrains from further QE stimulus

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Bank of England refrains from further QE stimulus

"The Bank of England has decided not to extend its quantitative easing (QE) stimulus programme, which has injected £375bn into the UK financial system.

Under QE, the Bank creates money and uses it to buy government bonds to try to stimulate the economy.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) also decided to keep interest rates at 0.5%, the record low they have been held at since March 2009.

The UK came out of recession recently, growing 1% between July and September."

George Osborne slashes welfare and extends austerity

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Autumn statement: George Osborne slashes welfare and extends austerity

Cuts in corporation tax, higher infrastructure spending and delay to fuel duty rise among measures announced by chancellor.

David Cameron bravely defends freedom of press!

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David Cameron rejects call for statutory body

PM says legislating could infringe on free speech and free press but Ed Miliband backs proposals in full.

"David Cameron has rejected the central proposal of the Leveson inquiry for a statutory body to oversee the new independent press regulator, warning that legislating could ultimately infringe on free speech and a free press.

Risking the wrath of the victims of phone hacking, he said that Britain would be crossing the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land. He said parliament had been the bulwark of democracy over the centuries and MPs should think very carefully before crossing such a line.

He warned that the legislation required to underpin the regulatory body would be more complicated and create a vehicle for politicians in the future to impose regulation and obligations on the press.

Cameron said that other options should be explored for putting in place incentives, providing reassurance to the public and ensuring the remaining Leveson proposals are put in place.

But he said the status quo was not an option and he would give the press a limited amount of time to set up a new regulatory system.

There have been suggestions that Cameron is willing to give the press a year to set up this tougher body."

UKIP are not the answer though...

Marcus's picture

Apart from the one issue of the EU, UKIP are just conservatives with a small "c".

UKIP soars

gregster's picture

UKIP last night soared to its highest poll rating in the wake of the fostering scandal.

An exclusive YouGov poll for The Sun put the party on 11 per cent — up from eight per cent just two weeks ago.
It comes as a huge boost ahead of tomorrow’s by-election in Rotherham, where a UKIP-supporting couple had their three foster kids taken away by the town’s Labour-run council and where the party hopes to win its first Commons seat.

The latest EU budget row is also thought to have boosted nationwide support for the party.

Our poll has UKIP in third place behind Labour on 43 per cent and the Tories on 31 per cent. The Lib Dems are two points behind UKIP on 9 per cent.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/ho...

In The Sun

gregster's picture

Britain increases its speed in its particular race to the bottom thanks to ill-named "human rights" laws. These laws give rights to subhumans and deprive all good, albeit misguided, citizens.

By MPs FRANK FIELD and NICHOLAS SOAMES

IF you thought that the NHS stood for National Health Service, think again. Since last July it has become the International Health Service — but paid for, of course, out of your taxes.

That was when the Government sneaked out new instructions to family doctors with no public announcement and certainly no debate.

Doctors must now accept on their lists any foreign visitor who is here for more than 24 hours. They must also accept any illegal immigrant who cares to apply.

It is hard to think of a more open invitation to health tourists both from developing countries and from rich countries like the United States where health care is private and very expensive.

It is astonishing that the Government should have agreed to this when the NHS is struggling. It must be cancelled now.

Can we just get rid of the BBC, please?

Marcus's picture

Can we just get rid of the BBC, please?

"Have you looked at Auntie’s schedules recently? Makeover shows, freak shows, cookery shows, Strictly Come Rubbish, the lottery, the oleaginous simpering of witless professional narcissists such as Stephen Fry. And have you seen what these fellows cost?

Ah, but don’t forget “the highest standards of investigative journalism from the finest public service broadcaster in the world,” as I heard from one parroting BBC apparatchik yesterday morning Lord McAlpine and the victims of Jimmy Savile have suffered enough of this stuff to last them a lifetime. Then there’s that other vaunted guarantee: that of true editorial independence and freedom from bias.

What a joke! The BBC has a social and political agenda immoveable as the laws of the Persians and Medes. Look no further than the recent US election when its journalists and presenters cheered relentlessly for Obama. Or the arrogance with which the Corporation doesn’t even bother to deny – because realistically it can’t – its tireless promotion of the superstitious fad of global warming. The BBC was accused of bias against Israel which it denied, setting up its own internal enquiry into the matter. When the result of the enquiry became available, the BBC refused to publish it and even went to the lengths of incurring hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs to have the proof of its anti-Israel policy hushed up.

The BBC displays incompetence, partisanship and self-satisfaction in equal measure. Perhaps there was a time when it deserved our respect and even our affection, but that time is long past. These days it is a decadent institution failing in all the ways in which it is possible to fail. Let us take the opportunity presented by the latest scandals and address the Corporation in the words Oliver Cromwell used when he dismissed the Rump Parliament:

“You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Britain to stop aid to India

Marcus's picture

Britain to stop aid to India

UK to halt state financial assistance to India in 2015 and will make no new cash commitments before then, says minister.

"All financial assistance from the UK to India will end from 2015, the international development secretary, Justine Greening, has announced.

Britain is to make no new financial aid commitments to India, and will save about £200m by 2015.

Greening, who took responsibility for Britain's aid budget in September, said programmes already under way would be completed as planned but no new initiatives would be signed off.

British support for India will in future be limited to skills sharing in area areas such as trade and investment and health.

"After reviewing the programme and holding discussions with the government of India this week, we agree that now is the time to move to a relationship focusing on skills sharing rather than aid," Greening said.

"Having visited India, I have seen first-hand the tremendous progress being made. India is successfully developing and our own bilateral relationship has to keep up with 21st-century India. It's time to recognise India's changing place in the world.

"It is of course critical that we fulfil all the commitments we have already made and that we continue with those short-term projects already under way which are an important part of the UK and government of India's development programme."

The move follows criticism of the government for maintaining aid to India, which has a booming economy and its own space programme. It will delight Conservative MPs critical of David Cameron's commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid.

The changes will mean Britain spending about £200m less from 2013 to 2015 than had been planned by the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell."

Marcus

Jules Troy's picture

Finally a step in the right direction!!!

Families who have more than two children will lose benefits

Marcus's picture

Families who have more than two children will lose benefits as ministers claim Labour's welfare state promoted 'destructive' behaviour

Parents will only be allowed to have two children before facing curbs on benefits, Iain Duncan Smith revealed today.

"The Work and Pensions Secretary took aim at the ‘madness’ of taxpayers subsiding poorer people to have ever-bigger families.

He said for too long money had been spent trapping people on state handouts, as he set out how the government hopes to save £10billion in savings from the welfare budget by 2016.

Ahead of a lecture in Cambridge today, Mr Duncan Smith said people in work make decisions about having children based on their finances and those on benefits should do the same.

He added: ‘Where you see the clustering of the large families is really down at the very lowest incomes, those on significant levels of welfare, and those on the very top incomes.

‘In other words, the problem for those who are paying the taxes, paying the bills - they make the decisions about their lives, even if they sometimes would like to maybe have extra children, they make decisions,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Can there not be a limit to the fact that really you need to remember you need to cut your cloth in accordance with what capabilities and what finances you have?’

Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

Marcus's picture

Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

Advisors say no serious rise in consumption is likely if possession of small amounts of controlled drugs is allowed.

"A six-year study of Britain's drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

The commission is chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman with a membership that includes the former head of the British Medical Research Council, Prof Colin Blakemore, and the former chief inspector of constabulary, David Blakey.

The report says their analysis of the evidence shows that existing drugs policies struggle to make an impact and, in some cases, may make the problem worse.

The work of the commission is the first major independent report on drugs policy since the influential Police Foundation report 12 years ago called for an end to the jailing of those possessing cannabis."

PM: ‘I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.’

Marcus's picture

PM champions his 'aspiration nation': David Cameron sets out battle lines with 'sneering Labour' and promises to help all Brits make a better life for themselves

"David Cameron put himself firmly on the side of the aspirational middle class yesterday with a powerful pledge that the Tories will be the party of those who ‘want to be better off, those who strive to make a better life for themselves’.

The Prime Minister set out what he called the battle lines for the next election, condemning Labour for opposing the reform of schools, the cutting of welfare dependency and the reduction of government spending.

He delighted party faithful with a vow to build an ‘aspiration nation’ from the wreckage of Labour’s disastrous economic inheritance, repeatedly stressing traditional Tory values of ‘individual effort’ and ‘hard work’.

Audaciously, Mr Cameron sought to turn the opposition’s attacks on his comfortable upbringing to his advantage, promising to widen privilege of the kind he enjoyed growing up.

Insisting he wanted every child to have the kind of education he had at his ‘posh school’, the Prime Minister declared: ‘I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.’ ...

Taking a swipe at ‘intellectuals of other parties’ like Mr Miliband who ‘sneer at people who want to get on in life’, Mr Cameron said: ‘We here salute you.’

‘They call us the party of the better-off – no, we are the party of the “want to be better-off”, those who strive to make a better life for themselves and their families.’

He predicted ‘a lot more fights’ with conservationists, Nimbys and bureaucrats, as he vowed to unlock the planning system."

PM: When a burglar invades your home they give up their rights.

Marcus's picture

David Cameron: when a burglar invades your home they give up their rights

David Cameron described burglary as a crime of violence as the Conservatives set out plans to give homeowners more rights against intruders who break into their homes.

"David Cameron branded burglary a 'crime of violence' today as he backed plans to give householders more powers against intruders.

"When that burglar crosses your threshold, invades your home, threatens your family, they give up their rights," he said.

Speaking at his Party's annual conference, where Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, is due to outline the proposal dubbed "batter a burglar," the Prime Minister revealed that he himself had been a victim of several break-ins.

He told Sky News: “I've been burgled a couple of times when I lived in London, in North Kensington. There was one occasion when I left the keys in my car and they loaded up my Skoda and drove off.

"It is a horrible feeling when your house has been invaded. Some people say it is not a violent crime but in many ways your house has been invaded and your privacy has been invaded.”

The proposals mean that householders will be given protection under the law for fighting back against burglars unless they use "grossly disproportionate" force.

Mr Grayling has suggested that this would be action such as stabbling an intruder who had already been rendered unconscious.

In ordinary circumstances, those who attacked burglars would not face prosecution.

Mr Cameron said that he was more interested in defending the "rights" of homeowners rather than burglars.

“We’re saying ‘you can do anything as long as it’s not grossly disproportionate," he said. "You couldn’t, for instance, stab a burglar if they were already unconscious, but really we should be putting the law firmly on the side of the homeowner, the householder, the family, and saying ‘when that burglar crosses your threshold, invades your home, threatens your family, they give up their rights’.

"And I’m more interested in the rights of the people who want to defend their homes and their properties.”

Workers of the world unite...and give up your employment rights

Marcus's picture

George Osborne: workers of the world unite...and give up your employment rights

George Osborne, the Chancellor today invited employees to give up their workplace rights in exchange for tax-free shares in their companies as he urged workers of the world to 'unite'.

"George Osborne has invited employees to give up their workplace rights in exchange for owning tax-free shares in their companies.

In a speech which was greeted with luke-warm applause at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Chancellor jokingly borrowed the Marxist slogan "workers of the world unite" to launch his new scheme.

The plan effectively involves workers gambling on their career prospects, by sacrificing their protection against unfair dismissal and other rights in return for profits on company shares which will be free from capital gains tax.

In a highly political speech, which featured frequent attacks on Ed Miliband for his address to last week's Labour conference in which he sought to adopt the traditionally Conservative philosophy of One Nation.

Mr Osborne also confirmed reports that he plans to cut £10 billion from the welfare budget by 2016, and disclosed that he would tackle the £16 billion in savings which need to be found with a ratio of 20 per cent in tax rises to 80 per cent of public spending cuts.

The biggest cheer of what was a muted response to the speech inside and outside of the hall came when the Chancellor promised to take action to stop young people who had never worked receiving free homes on the state, while those twice their age with jobs were forced to live with their parents.

He also pledged to withdraw funding from couples who continue to have children while knowing they can not pay for them."

No, minister!

Marcus's picture

No, minister! Senior civil servants deliberately block policy, says Francis Maude

Britain’s most senior civil servants are deliberately blocking Government policies they do not agree with, a senior minister will say.


Sir Humphrey Appleby, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Administrative Affairs.

"Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will condemn the “unacceptable” behaviour of some mandarins in charge of Whitehall departments, who are refusing to carry out the orders of their ministers.

In a speech at the Institute of Government, Mr Maude is expected to confirm there are several examples of top officials who intentionally frustrate Coalition policies when they do not want them to go ahead.

“Ministers from this Government, and in previous ones, have too often found that decisions they have made do not then get implemented,” he will say.

“There are cases when permanent secretaries have blocked agreed Government policy from going ahead or advised other officials not to implement ministerial decisions - that is unacceptable. And such exceptional cases undermine the sterling work of the majority of civil servants.”

In his speech, he will say permanent secretaries must be directly accountable to ministers and meet objectives published on their department’s website. The civil servants will then be appraised in line with their objectives by ministers...

Mr Maude is currently overseeing the most radical shake-up of Whitehall in a generation.

He has saved more than £5 billion in the civil service over the last year and wants to quadruple cuts to £20 billion a year by 2015 with a fresh round of job cuts and redundancies.

He is increasing savings by tackling fraud, wasteful spending on major projects, temporary workers and badly-negotiated contracts over the next three years.

The minister has also waged a war on Whitehall’s “sickie culture” and wants to make it easier to sack underperforming staff."

Live music red tape lifted

Marcus's picture

Live music red tape lifted for small venues

Venues in England and Wales with a capacity of under 200 people will no longer need a licence for live music.

"The change in law is part of a government move to free businesses from red tape, which ministers say will give them more freedom to grow.

UK Music, which represents the music industry, estimates that the Live Music Act could enable 13,000 more venues to start holding live music events.

Live unamplified music can also now be played in any location under the act.

Musicians and business owners have welcomed the change, which will allow live music to be played between the hours of 08:00 and 23:00 but it has not proved popular with noise campaigners.

Jazz musician Buster Birch described the change as "a huge thing", adding that live music is "very important for our society and our culture".

However Lisa Lavia from the Noise Abatement Society said there will be a "dramatic rise" in noise complaints that will "set residents at odds with local businesses".

Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "From today businesses are freed from the red tape that holds them back.

He described the previous rules that affected pub gigs and small live performances as "over-the-top bureaucracy that stifles community groups and pubs".

"We've set ourselves the challenging target of scrapping or reducing a total of 3,000 regulations. I'm determined to slim down regulation and make Britain an easier place to start and run a business," Mr Fallon added.

The threat to our free press is grave and foolish

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Editorial

The threat to our free press is grave and foolish

The growing clamour for press regulation backed by statute threatens a priceless British freedom.

"In a country governed by the rule of law, the independence of the press is a constitutional necessity. It is fundamental to the continued exercise, indeed the survival, of the liberties that we sometimes take for granted. This might sound like the opening of a self-interested piece of special pleading on behalf of the newspaper industry, but these are, in fact, the words of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge. In a speech last year, he set out his thoughts on the future of press regulation in the context of the Leveson Inquiry, which had just got under way at the time.

On Thursday, Lord Judge again emphasised the importance of a free press. He was, he said, a “passionate believer” in the rights of newspapers, which were an “essential ingredient” in British society. Lord Judge insisted that Lord Justice Leveson, whom he recommended to David Cameron to head the judicial inquiry into press ethics, shares that view. We worry that this is not the case.

Lord Judge recognises that to have the best of a free press it may also be necessary to accommodate the worst. To over-regulate the many in order to curb the excesses of a few is to risk losing everything. As he says: “An independent press will from time to time… behave if not criminally, with scandalous cruelty and unfairness, leaving victims stranded in a welter of public contempt and hatred or uncovenanted distress. But on the very same day, one or other of its constituent parts may reveal a public scandal. The first… should never happen… . The public value of the second is priceless.”

As Lord Justice Leveson puts the finishing touches to his report, he must keep these wise words at the forefront of his mind. There is a real danger that, because some newspapers allegedly behaved in a criminal manner, efforts will be made to reduce the whole press to an emasculated cipher of high-minded opinion...

Understandably, Lord Justice Leveson does not want his report to be consigned to the same dusty Whitehall shelf as have been past inquiries into the industry. But it would be worse were he to be responsible for the first quasi-state regulation of the press in 300 years. Once a regulatory measure, however well intentioned, is on the Statute Book, MPs will seek to define the public interest in law, and governments will be tempted to use the legislation to choke off dissent. Statutory bodies, once created, tend to grow and seek additional powers – they become bureaucracies. And it is no coincidence that countries with the highest levels of corruption have the most tightly regulated media. Britain can boast one of the least venal political systems in the world precisely because its press is not beholden to the state in any way, either through statute or, equally as bad, through subsidy. Those who regard statutory regulation as an acceptable quid pro quo for state financial help do not have the interests of a free press at heart. This includes pressure groups that talk blithely of public subventions for “high-quality” journalism, but that are in reality attempting to constrain the influence and reach of Right-of-centre and tabloid newspapers that have traditionally opposed Labour.

It should be noted that the most illuminating story of the conference season so far came not from a broadsheet investigation, nor from a TV interview, but from the disclosure in the Sun of Andrew Mitchell’s foul-mouthed rant at police officers guarding the gates of Downing Street. We are sleepwalking into a world in which such ostensibly demotic stories – which actually reveal deeper truths and spark useful national debates – will be officially frowned upon. The growing clamour for press regulation backed by statute threatens a priceless British freedom. A Conservative prime minister should have no part of it."

TV first: Drugs live!

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Drugs Live

"Nearly half a million people are believed to take the Class A drug ecstasy every year in Britain and the country was dubbed the 'drug-taking capital of Europe' in a recent EU Drugs Agency report.

Now, in a UK television first, two live programmes will follow volunteers as they take MDMA, the pure form of ecstasy, as part of a ground-breaking scientific study."

We should eat badgers, says Two Fat Ladies star

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We should eat badgers, says Two Fat Ladies star

"Broadcaster and food writer Clarissa Dixon Wright has outraged animal rights campaigners by suggesting that badgers killed in the imminent cull should be eaten.

The Two Fat Ladies presenter claimed that badger had once been “a staple food of the population”.

“It would solve the problem. There's going to be a cull, so rather than just throw them in the landfill site why not eat them?” she said.

“I would have no objection to eating badgers. I have no objection to eating anything very much, really,” she added. “There are too many badgers. It's very interesting - the reason at certain times of the year you see so many dead badgers on the road is that the badgers throw out their old and ill that aren't going to survive the winter.”

Ms Dixon-Wright, who is currently publicising her new book and has been a vocal supporter of country sports, claimed that in her youth West Country pubs served badger meat at the bar. She even offered cooking tips for preparing a badger-based meal.

“Either make a ham or treat it like pork - very lean pork because it's got no fat on it. Baste it properly and marinade it properly and cook it in a casserole or whatever,” she said.

Her comments attracted the ire of Queen guitarist Brian May, who has spearheaded the fight against the planned cull.

Today a petition to rally public opposition to the cull, which is aimed at reducing the spread of tuberculosis to cattle, surpassed its target of 100,000 signatures, meaning that the issue can now be considered for debate in the House of Commons."

Who is not paying their fair share? Not the rich!

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Any Lib Dems who care to look at the figures will see the rich are paying their fair share

Every conference season, the same thing happens. The party says we should tax the rich more. But the numbers prove that would not address the real problem.

"Best to go straight to the horse’s mouth, which in this case is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Its figures for 2011/12 show that the top 1 per cent of income earners paid 24.8 per cent of all income tax collected: the same group’s earnings were 11.2 per cent of the total. This fact helps to explain just why the Treasury gets so jumpy at the thought of more top earners joining Lady Green in Monaco: the tax base increasingly resembles an inverted pyramid, so it wouldn’t take much for the whole thing to topple over.

This, more or less, is what has happened in California. By far the most populous of all the states of the Union, it had reached a situation in which almost half of all net income taxes were being paid by the top 1 per cent of earners. When enough of them moved out, or fell on hard times, it was a substantial cause of a series of municipal bankruptcies – as a result of which a number of Californian cities are no longer able to pay the pensions of former state employees.

That, in part, is the background to the now notorious remark by the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to the effect that almost half of the voters pay no income tax and will vote for Obama no matter what, because “they are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims”. This was staggeringly bad politics on Romney’s part, not least because a significant portion of those people he stigmatised vote Republican.

Yet the basic US fiscal structure is pretty much as Romney described. As a matter of fact, it was mostly Republican presidents, such as Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, who created this giant system for the creation of fiscal deficits: this is what happens when you narrow the tax base and increase public spending. The Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw observed a couple of months ago on his blog that the most recent figures from the Congressional Budget Office on the distribution of income and taxes showed that the effective tax rate in the US is not negative just for those in the bottom two quintiles (ie, the bottom 40 per cent); even the middle quintile were net recipients. Or, as Mankiw expressed it: “The middle class, having long been a net contributor to the funding of government, is now a net recipient of government largesse.”

Inspired by this observation, Britain’s own Centre for Policy Studies has attempted a similar analysis of the fiscal position in the UK. It has shown me its provisional figures, which reveal a very similar situation. It is clearly a complex business to work out the value of all benefits at every income level, so the numbers need to be treated with caution, especially because many in the lower-earning brackets will be retired people. None the less, the figures are striking.

According to the CPS, in the year 2010/2011 taxes less transfers as a proportion of original income were minus 211 per cent for the lowest quintile, minus 85 per cent for the second lowest quintile and minus 23 per cent for the middle quintile. It is only when you get into the top 40 per cent that people begin to be net contributors.

The truth is that both in the US and (to a lesser extent) the UK, governments have for years acted efficiently as vote-maximisers with their tax and spend policies: increasing the number of those eligible for benefits while reducing the number called upon to fund them. Result (as Mr Micawber might have put it): misery, in the form of a colossal national debt. The rich will indeed have to pull their weight in order to help pay this down, probably with higher council tax; but it is fatuous for any numerate politician to pretend that this is where the fiscal problem lies."

Lord Ashcroft tells Coalition to'turn off the golden taps

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Lord Ashcroft tells Coalition to 'turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money'

Ministers should “turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money”, according to a senior Conservative.

"Lord Ashcroft, who was made a Government adviser in this month’s reshuffle, said Britain’s approach to aid for the developing world was “flawed and self-defeating”.

He urged new development secretary Justine Greening to avoid “spraying around taxpayers’ money” in the developing world like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

In strident comments, Lord Ashcroft - who has donated millions to the Conservative party - said it was “politically insane” by trying to “curry favour” with Guardian readers over the development budget.

In an open letter to Ms Greening - signed "Yours sincerely, Michael xx" - he said: “Britain’s approach to aid is flawed and self-defeating.

“So I urge you to recommend to the Prime Minister to turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money.”

The former Conservative party deputy chairman was appointed the Prime Minister’s new “special representative for veterans’ transition” in last week's Government reshuffle.

He said that Ms Greening will be able to “travel the world like a medieval potentate, with politicians in the developing world keen to tap into your generosity.

“You will visit some of the world’s most wonderful nations and see some of the globe’s most stunning scenery.”

He warned Ms Greening that unless she reined in spending she would not be “very popular when you are in Britain”.

Ed Miliband: I don't mind the rich

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Ed Miliband: I don't mind the rich, as long as they got there the hard way

Labour leader says the creativity of capitalism should be harnessed but made 'more decent' and 'humane'.

"The Labour leader Ed Miliband said he has nothing against the rich – as long as they made their money "the hard way".

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Miliband said he will not "pass moral judgment" on people who have made fortunes but insists their wealth comes with responsibilities.

He said the last Labour government was too ready to accept that businesses and financial services needed "light touch" regulation.

However, he says the "creativity" of capitalism should be harnessed and made "more decent" and "humane".

"I believe capitalism is the least worst system we've got," he said.

He also acknowledged the merits of Margaret Thatcher's aspiration agenda.

Asked whether it is good to be rich, he replies: "Yes, if you make it the hard way. It's not for me to pass moral judgment."...

Ralph Miliband, his father, was an anti-capitalist of the Marxist left but the Labour leader said he does not think as his father did.

"My dad was sceptical of all the Thatcher aspirational stuff," he said. "But I felt you sort of had to recognise that what she was talking about struck a chord. I want to save capitalism from itself."

Cable backs capping unfair dismissal payouts

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Not nearly far enough, but why Lib Dem left-winger Cable has the job of Business Secretary is a mystery.

Cable backs capping unfair dismissal payouts

Business Secretary Vince Cable is to announce that workers will face a cut in how much they can win for unfair dismissal at employment tribunals.

"He will also back using settlement agreements, under which staff agree to leave without being able to go to a tribunal, but get a pay-off in return.

He will also confirm that proposals to make it easier to fire under-performing staff will not be made law.

The "no-fault dismissal" proposals were controversial among Liberal Democrats.

Mr Cable himself opposed it, even though "no-fault dismissals" had the backing of many Conservative MPs and business groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce.

Mr Cable, who will unveil his proposed changes to employment law later, will also consult on plans to change the limit on unfair dismissal payouts to a maximum of 12 months salary.

The recommendations were made in a report, commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron and compiled by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft.

The Liberal Democrat minister will announce that the government supports making it quicker and easier to use settlement agreements.

This would act as an alternative to going to an employment tribunal, which can be costly and time-consuming, and, according to businesses, make bosses less inclined to hire new people.

"We are very pleased that Adrian Beecroft's proposal to allow employers to fire employees at whim has been ignored," TUC union general secretary Brendan Barber said.

"However, reducing payouts for unfair dismissals will let bad employers off lightly and deter victims from pursuing genuine cases."

At the time of the Beecroft Report, Mr Cable said the recommendation that "no-fault dismissals" be allowed was "nonsense", arguing that it was not the job of government to "scare the wits out of people" by reducing their employment rights.

Mr Beecroft responded by calling the business secretary a "socialist" who appeared "to do very little to support business".

Cable's red tape exemptions get muted welcome

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Cable's red tape exemptions get muted welcome

Slashing red tape including health and safety inspections is not a 'silver bullet' for restoring growth, say small firms.

"Slashing red tape including health and safety inspections for smaller companies is not a "silver bullet" for restoring economic growth, according to the organisation representing more than 100,000 British businesses.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called for a wider range of measures to kickstart the economy after the business secretary, Vince Cable, announced that hundreds of thousands of firms including shops and pubs would be exempted from health and safety inspections.

"Cutting back forms of red tape that do not serve the public interest is a very positive move for the business environment. However, it is not going to be the silver bullet that delivers growth," said Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC. "It has to go alongside access to financing, improvements in infrastructure and making a skills system that works for companies."

The Confederation of British Industry, another business lobby group, was more positive, saying deregulation would bring immediate benefits by freeing up time and money, allowing companies to concentrate on expanding.

Guy Bailey, head of employment policy at the CBI, said: "A growing number of regulations can stifle innovation and economic growth. Reducing the regulatory burden will benefit businesses and the economy."

The announcement was met with alarm at the annual TUC conference in Brighton, however, where the Prospect union questioned the government's reference to 3,000 regulations when there were only 200 health and safety regulations in the UK.

"Where the government gets its figures from is anyone's guess," said Mike Clancy, general secretary designate of Prospect, which represents more than 1,600 staff at the Health and Safety Executive.

Clancy added that companies had a "commercial and moral" imperative to have a strong health and safety culture: "If you do not have coherent legislation, the alternative is that employers will develop business models where they take liberties with peoples' safety. You will not have good customer service and products in that environment."

Judge faces official investigation

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Judge who said burglary needed courage faces official investigation

Office for Judicial Complaints to look into case after public complaints about Judge Peter Bowers's remarks.

"A judge who said burglary needed "a huge amount of courage" will be investigated after members of the public contacted the Office for Judicial Complaints to vent their anger at his remarks.

Judge Peter Bowers admitted he might be "pilloried" when he spared the burglar jail at Teesside crown court on Tuesday. The case caused controversy, with the prime minister saying burglars were not brave but cowards, and their crimes were "hateful".

A spokesman for the Office for Judicial Complaints said: "The Office for Judicial Complaints has received a number of complaints in relation to comments that His Honour Judge Bowers made in relation to a case in Teesside crown court on 4 September 2012.

"Those complaints will be considered under the Judicial Discipline Regulations in the usual way. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Bowers apparently told an offender who had raided three homes in five days: "It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve."

Handing the 26-year-old man a suspended 12-month term, the judge said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."

Burglars are cowards, says David Cameron

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Burglars are cowards, says David Cameron after judge's courage claim

Prime minister responds to apparent comments by Teesside judge that it took 'a huge amount of courage' to burgle homes.

"David Cameron has said burglars are cowards, after a judge reportedly told a criminal his raids took courage. The prime minister said he had been burgled twice, and branded the offence "hateful".

During a case at Teesside crown court, the judge, Peter Bowers, apparently told an offender who had raided three homes in five days: "It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve."

Handing the 26-year-old man a suspended 12-month term, the judge said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."

On ITV's Daybreak programme, Cameron stressed he had not seen the details of the case, but said: "I am very clear that burglary is not bravery. Burglary is cowardice. Burglary is a hateful crime. People sometimes say it is not a violent crime, but actually if you have been burgled you do feel it was violence.

"I have been burgled twice. You feel completely violated. When someone has smashed their way into your house and stolen your possessions ... I am very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison," he added. "That is why this government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence against burglars, saying householders have the right to defend themselves."

During a tour of a new housing estate in Cheshunt later, Cameron said: "Judges must speak for themselves and it is not for me to attack a judge, but I'm very clear that burglary is a dreadful crime, it is a hateful crime."

David Hines, chairman of the National Victims' Association, said the judge's comments were outrageous. "What message does this send out to society? The criminal justice system has let the victims down. Burglars are going to believe that judges think they are courageous. I think this judge is on a different wavelength to everyone else."

Justice minister: squatter laws will be 'crystal clear

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Hooray!!! About bloody time, the law protecting property owners!

Justice minister: squatter laws will be 'crystal clear

"Prisons and Probation Minister Crispin Blunt rejects the idea criminalisation of squatting will target the UK's most vulnerable people.

Squatters will face up to six months in prison and so-called squatters' rights scrapped as it becomes a criminal offence in England and Wales tomorrow.

Ministers said the move would shut the door on squatters once and for all and help protect hard-working home owners."

The Sun defies Royal Family

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The Sun publishes photos of naked Prince Harry

"TODAY The Sun is publishing the naked Prince Harry party pictures our readers have been prevented from seeing in print.

We are doing so despite warnings from the Royal Family’s lawyers — and we’ll explain why.

Before we do, let’s be clear on one thing.

The Sun is NOT making any moral judgement about Harry’s nude frolics with girls in a Las Vegas hotel. Far from it. He often sails close to the wind for a Royal — but he’s 27, single and a soldier. We like him.

We are publishing the photos because we think Sun readers have a right to see them.

The reasons for that go beyond this one story.

The images were first published on the web three days ago. But the Palace’s lawyers, via the Press Complaints Commission, warned the UK’s newspapers against printing them, claiming they would breach Harry’s privacy and the PCC Code.

Since then the entire UK media — print, online and TV — has reported on them and told readers and viewers how to find them on TMZ.com, the website that first published them, and on countless other sites that followed suit.

That coverage put those pictures a mouse-click away from anyone in the 77 per cent of British households with internet access.

Millions duly found them on sites from Canada to New Zealand. By yesterday, the photographs were indisputably in the public domain everywhere in the world.

That generated a legitimate public debate about the behaviour of the man who is third in line to the throne and increasingly taking on official duties, as he did most recently at the Olympics’ closing ceremony.

Yet as that debate went on in homes, factories, offices and pubs, the Press were still effectively banned from using the pictures.

The many millions of people who get their news in print, or have no web access, could not take a full part in that national conversation because they could not see the images.

The Royal Family’s lawyers claim there is no public interest in The Sun running the photos. This is a favourite mantra of those who wish to muzzle the world’s most vibrant newspapers, here in Britain — stuffily declaring that a story has “no public interest”, as though it were an unassailable fact.

But there is a clear public interest in publishing the Harry pictures, in order for the debate around them to be fully informed. The photos have potential implications for the Prince’s image representing Britain around the world."

Grades drop for first time in history

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GCSE results 2012: grades drop for first time in history in crack down on mark inflation

GCSE grades plummeted for the first time in the exam's 24-year history today following a radical toughening up of standards.

"Figures published by exam boards showed that the number of teenagers awarded good grades in a range of academic subjects including English, maths and science dropped sharply.

In all, the proportion of test papers marked at least an A fell by 0.8 percentage points to 22.4 per cent - the first annual drop since GCSE exams were first sat in 1988.

Elite A* grades also fell by 0.5 percentage points to 7.3 per cent.

Data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications showed that the overall proportion of tests awarded at least a C - considered a "good" pass - was down by 0.4 percentage points to 69.4 per cent. Girls again stretched their lead over boys at C grade.

The disclosure is likely to place huge pressure on state schools in England which have been threatened with closure or take-over if they fail to hit basic GCSE floor targets.

Schools must ensure at least four-in-10 pupils gain five good passes, with more than 250 secondaries falling short of the mark last summer.

But it also prompted outrage from head teachers' leaders today who claimed that pass-rates had been artificially held down to satisfy Government demands to contain "grade inflation".

More than 100 quangos axed by coalition, say ministers

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More than 100 quangos axed by coalition, say ministers

"More than 100 quangos have been axed and a further 90 merged into other bodies since the coalition came to power, ministers have said.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the cull of publicly funded agencies was on track to save £2.6bn by the end of this Parliament.

However, costs from the reorganisation, including redundancy payouts to staff affected, could be as high as £900m.

Labour said the "so-called clampdown" was not all it seemed.

Some campaigners welcomed the savings but one think tank queried the figures.

Quangos - "quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations" - are "arm's-length" bodies funded by Whitehall departments but not run by them.

They are advisory bodies, consumer watchdogs or organisations carrying out public services.

In October 2010, the coalition said it had reviewed 901 quangos and earmarked nearly 200 for closure and a further 120 for amalgamation as part of its deficit reduction strategy and Whitehall efficiency programme.

In its latest update on how the plans are proceeding, the Cabinet Office said 106 quangos had lost their public status since then.

Among those to be axed, sold off or to have had their functions transferred elsewhere include the Design Council, the Tote, the Renewables Advisory Board, the UK Film Council, Cycling England and England's eight regional development agencies.

Another 80 organisations - such as the postal regulator Postcomm - have disappeared after being merged into other organisations.

Mr Maude said £1.4bn would be saved as a result of decisions already taken and the government was on track to meet its target of £2.6bn in savings by 2015 - the scheduled date for the next election."

Profit-making hospitals abroad 'will help the economy'

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Profit-making hospitals abroad 'will help the economy'

The NHS can help rescue the UK economy by setting up profit-making hospitals abroad, medical chiefs said today.

"David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it is “absolutely right” to charge for NHS services abroad and bring back the profit to help improve patient care in Britain.

He said the idea of setting up foreign branches of well-known hospitals, such as Great Ormond Street and the Royal Marsden, is a huge opportunity as long as services in the UK are not harmed.

The Patients' Association said the move was a "distraction" at a time of upheaval in the NHS.

“If that happened, if it diverted attention away from running local health services to working internationally that would be a problem but that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Mr Stout added: “I don’t think this is distorting what we offer UK citizens, this is about exploiting the brand internationally.”...

Under the new plans, hospitals will be encouraged to set up profit-making branches abroad to raise funds for patients at home and raise the international profile of the health service.

Officials from the Department of Health and UK Trade and Industry will launch the joint scheme this autumn, which will aim to build links between hospitals wishing to expand and foreign governments which want access to British health services.

The proposal was reportedly inspired by hospitals in America, including Baltimore's John Hopkins, opening similar branches abroad.

British universities have already successfully exported their brands, including the Nottingham University’s campus in Malaysia.

According to reports in the Independent, upfront investment could only be drawn from income received from private patients and any profits made abroad would be channelled back to the UK...

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "The guiding principle of the NHS must be to ensure that outcomes and care for patients comes before profits.

"At a time of huge upheaval in the health service, when waiting times are rising and trusts are being asked to make £20 billion of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction. The priority of the Government, hospital trusts and clinicians should be NHS patients."

Foreign aid doesn’t help any poor countries

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India is heading for Mars: it doesn’t need British aid money to pay the bills

Foreign aid doesn’t help any poor countries – it just corrupts their governments.

"It is not our aid, or anyone else’s, that has caused India to develop, but the efforts of its own people. Aid is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the economic development of a poor country; there is no country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid, which is a form of international social security for corrupt governments. I saw this in Africa, working on a project that enriched an inefficient British company and its personnel, and those local government officials whom it bribed, while the country remained poorer than ever, a kind of tropical Merthyr Tydfil. The economic growth that Africa is now experiencing is thanks to higher commodity prices and somewhat wiser government policies, and has nothing to do with aid.

In any case, to lump poor countries together as if they were all in the same category is false, a form of uninterested and morally frivolous condescension towards all of them. India has a long, varied, glorious (and terrible) history of civilisation, with the sophistication necessary to absorb influences from abroad, including Western scientific ones. The best and most beautiful spoken English in the world is now to be heard in India. It is outrageous that we condescend to it with our paltry aid, just to pay the mortgages of aid workers.

In the 1880s, a young army doctor, Ronald Ross, who went on to discover the mosquito transmission of malaria at Secunderabad and to win one of the first Nobel Prizes for Medicine, wrote a poem that began:

Here from my lonely watchtower of the East

An ancient race outworn I see –

With dread, my own dear distant Country, lest

The same fate fall on thee.

It would be an exaggeration to say, except perhaps metaphorically, that such a fate has actually befallen us; but our continued aid to India is nevertheless a manifestation of the national administrative, mental and ethical torpor, as well as incompetence and corruption, that is leading us inexorably to economic and social disaster. It is high time we stopped such aid, and not only to India."

The Olympics are a celebration of everything the Left hates

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The Olympics are a celebration of everything the Left hates

The prohibition on competition in primary schools has been a horrendous handicap to the academic performance of boys for whom winning is a major motivation.

"The Olympics were an unapologetic festival of competitiveness, pursuit of individual excellence, almost superhuman self-discipline, and uncompromising reward for merit. They were, in other words, a celebration of all those aspects of the human condition which the political fashion and educational ideology of the past 40 years has attempted to denigrate. And the country loved it. Indeed, it was ecstatically untroubled by the fact that some people – who were exceptionally talented and phenomenally dedicated – won, and some other people, with considerable courage and no dishonour, lost.

Just a thought: I wonder if this is why, notwithstanding Ed Miliband’s effusion in our pages, the rest of the Labour front bench have been largely invisible during the events. Was there something about the unashamed glorification of personal achievement – of winning because you were the very best that it was possible to be – that made them feel uncomfortable?

The Left generally has not known quite how to position itself in all this. There was some rather mean-minded bleating among the Left-wing commentariat about “elitism” when there turned out to be a disproportionate number of private school people among the winners – but why should this surprise anybody? Since the collapse of standards in state education there have been a disproportionate number of private school people succeeding in every walk of life. Which brings us to the “lessons to be learnt”...

There has been much comment on the contrast between the Britain of the 2012 Games and the nihilistic violence which was parading across our television screens (or, if you were particularly unlucky, outside your front door) last year at this time.

Which is the real Britain, everybody wants to know: the mob of rioting delinquents or the wholesome, well-behaved crowds of the past fortnight? The answer, of course is both. (Maybe the “lesson to be learnt” from the one is relevant to the other: when young men grow up without acceptable outlets for aggressive impulses, they are likely to go to the bad.)

However, there is a decision to be made about which of those two countries we will embrace and which we will repudiate. The riots were the final fruition of unchecked delinquency. In truth, the failure to control them was just a logical extension of the long history of self-inflicted failure to get to grips with lawlessness and anti-social behaviour.

By significant contrast, when the golden post box commemorating Jessica Ennis’s Olympic triumph was vandalised within 24 hours of its dedication in her home city of Sheffield, the civic authorities painted out the graffiti immediately. That was how New York’s police defeated their epidemic of graffiti: by scrubbing it off as soon as it appeared. It was one of the ways that they took their city back. Sheffield, inspired by the Olympic spirit, decided not to let the hooligans win. Is it too much to expect that the rest of the country might do the same?"

Coalition axes school sports targets

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Olympic legacy: Coalition axes school sports targets

"Amid continuing debate over the Olympic legacy, it was revealed that the Department for Education is no longer forcing state schools to provide 120 minutes of PE and sport...

Under the previous Government, all children of compulsory school age were expected to take part in two hours of sport a week. By 2009/10, some 86 per cent of pupils were meeting the target.

Labour later outlined a long-term goal of ensuring children did five hours a week of physical activity during lesson time or after school.

As part of a new school sport strategy published in late 2010, the Coalition axed the last Government’s targets – including the new “five hour offer” – claiming they led to a decline in the number of children taking part in traditionally competitive sports such as rugby union, netball and hockey. A sports census completed by schools every year was also scrapped.

But a statement released at the time suggested that all schools would be expected to “continue providing two hours a week of PE and sport”.

Today, the Department for Education insisted that this was no longer the case.

“Instead of handing down target and quotas from Whitehall, we have chosen to trust teachers and parents when it comes to deciding how much sport pupils should do,” a spokesman said.

“We want to strip away the red tape that takes up too much time teachers should be using to teach, run sports clubs or plan lessons. In the past, schools were heavily over-burdened with paperwork and form-filling.”

Blue plaques for famous names dropped due to cuts

Marcus's picture

We need a new society for putting things on top of other things!

Blue plaques for famous names dropped due to cuts

Just under half of the blue plaques currently shortlisted to go up in London are being scrapped due to funding cuts

"Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Monty Python's Graham Chapman are among those who will miss out.

The scheme sees commemorative plaques attached to residences that famous personalities have lived in.

English Heritage, which runs the scheme, said the cull was due to a 32% cut in government funding...

Those who will receive a blue plaque in the future include Ava Gardner, David Niven and Peter Sellers.

Others who will miss out include cellist Jaqueline du Pre and Lolita writer Vladimir Nabokov.

The spokeswoman added that the shortlist would not be cut down any further.

In a statement, English Heritage said a panel had reassessed the existing shortlist and that factors such as a limited association with London and the pre-existence of other plaques were taken into account.

The panel noted that du Pre already had four plaques in London and that there was a private plaque for Epstein in central London, adding that it may be more appropriate to honour him further in Liverpool rather than London.

The panel felt it was too soon to single out Chapman for commemoration ahead of his Monty Python colleagues, including John Cleese.

There are numerous other plaque schemes in London, including various council schemes, trusts and societies.

English Heritage said it hoped that "where appropriate, alternative forms of commemoration may be found".

All I know...

Marcus's picture

...is that a 17 year old was arrested on suspicion of sending malicious tweets to the competitor Tom Daley. I haven't followed it myself but a friend on Facebook said that he had threatened to drown the swimmer after he lost.

Crikey!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Hard to believe it isn't already mandatory to wear helmets, as it is is PLAB—NZ.

And the more iPod imbeciles who get skittled, the better. Eye

Marcus, wot's the deal with the kid who got arrested in the middle of the night for an "offensive" tweet to an athlete?

Bradley Wiggins urges cyclist helmet laws after bus death

Marcus's picture

Bradley Wiggins urges cyclist helmet laws after bus death

"Olympic Gold medal winner Bradley Wiggins has called for new laws to make cyclists wear helmets after a man died in a crash near the Olympic Park.

He was asked for his views on the safety of London's roads after the man was hit by an Olympic bus on Wednesday.

It has not been revealed whether the victim, 28, was wearing a helmet, but Wiggins said forcing cyclists to take precautions would make the roads safer.

The London Cycling Campaign described the call as a "damaging diversion".

Wiggins, speaking after winning his Olympic gold medal in Wednesday's time trial, said making it illegal to cycle without a helmet would make the roads safer "because ultimately, if you get knocked off and you ain't got a helmet on, then how can you kind of argue".

He added: "[People] shouldn't be riding along with iPods and phones and things on and [they] should have lights and all those things.

"So I think when there's laws passed for cyclists, then you're protected and you can say, well, I've done everything to be safe."

He went on: "It's dangerous and London is a busy city with a lot of traffic. I think we have to help ourselves sometimes.

"I haven't lived in London for 10 to 15 years now and it's got a lot busier since I was riding a bike as a kid round here, and I got knocked off several times.

"But at the end of the day we've all got to co-exist on the roads. Cyclists are not ever going to go away, as much as drivers moan, and as much as cyclists maybe moan about certain drivers they are never going to go away, so there's got to be a bit of give and take."

The fatal crash, involving a bus carrying media workers from the Olympics, happened close to the hockey centre, velodrome and Paralympic tennis arena at about 19:45 BST, at the junction of Ruckholt Road and East Cross Route in Hackney...

London Mayor Boris Johnson said there were no plans to require cyclists to wear helmets or to provide them for the capital's fleet of hire bikes.

He said: "I think he's [Bradley Wiggins] quite right to say that people should do if they've got one.

"But we've absolutely no plans to make them mandatory.

"But the evidence is mixed. I have to say that in countries where they have made them compulsory, it hasn't always necessarily been good for cycling."

The cull of public libraries

Marcus's picture

The cull of public libraries

"More than 150 libraries have been closed or put into the hands of volunteers in the past year owing to the Government spending squeeze, with a further 225 at risk as councils look for ways of finding savings, according to research released last night.

The axe is falling as town halls – under pressure to reduce budgets by more than a quarter in four years – cut spending on libraries by an average of 7.5 per cent this year. More than 2,100 staff are believed to have lost their jobs and libraries will open for a total of 150,000 fewer hours this year across the country.

The extent of the closures immediately prompted a political storm, with Labour accusing the Government of complacency over the threat to the nation's library network. The research, carried out by the website Public Libraries News, calculated that 157 permanent or mobile libraries had been shut or moved to the voluntary sector.

Thirteen libraries have been shut in Leeds, five in Bolton and three in Liverpool. Nine have closed in London, including six in the borough of Brent. As well as ordering closures, councils are giving control of libraries to non-paid volunteers – a move which critics say will make their long-term survival more precarious.

Nine in Warwickshire, five in the Isle of Wight and three in Camden, north London, have been handed over in the past year to community groups – and other areas are known to be considering following suit. Some councils are keeping libraries open, but attempting to trim budgets by reducing opening hours and cutting spending on books and other services.

There are warnings of even more widespread closures over the next 12 months, with the website identifying 225 libraries in peril. More than half of the 13 libraries in Tameside could be shut and under one proposal just two could be left open in the Greater Manchester borough. Fourteen are under threat in Suffolk.

Ian Anstice, a senior librarian who conducted the research, said: "Libraries aren't a luxury item – I have talked to many people who say they do not know what they would do without their library. Cuts in funding, opening hours and numbers of libraries seriously affects those people who don't have the internet or don't have a car to get to their nearest library."

There are currently 4,064 library buildings and 548 mobile libraries in the UK. The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) recently estimated that 2,159 posts in the library service would be lost in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from total of 20,924 staff, a reduction of more than 10 per cent, and said 3,000 opening hours were being cut a week. It forecast deeper cuts in 2013."

The Government plans to break its own climate change law

Marcus's picture

The Government plans to break its own climate change law

Politicians are finally admitting that our 'carbon' targets and our energy needs are incompatible.

"It is not often our Government lets on that it is intending to commit a very serious breach of the law – even if it does so in such opaque fashion that it hopes no one will notice. But that is what we can read between the lines of last week’s statement by Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, which revealed just what a catastrophic shambles he is making of Britain’s energy policy.

The headlines that greeted this document were all that the spin doctors of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) could have wished for. They focused on the “victory” of Mr Davey over George Osborne, in managing to preserve the subsidy given to onshore wind turbines (currently 100 per cent) at 90 per cent, rather than the 75 per cent the Treasury supposedly wanted. The reports dutifully echoed DECC’s claim that this would bring “£25 billion of investment into the UK economy”, while Mr Davey was allowed by the Today programme to get away with the risible claim that this would “create hundreds of thousands of green jobs”.

Everything about this statement betrayed that Mr Davey and his officials have begun to realise that they are impaled on two wholly irreconcilable hooks. On one hand, they are under two legal obligations: a commitment to the EU that we will generate 32 per cent of our electricity from “renewables” by 2020; and, under the Climate Change Act, that we will cut our “carbon emissions” by 80 per cent within 40 years. On the other hand, it is their duty to ensure that we produce enough electricity to keep our lights on...

The first thing we might thus learn from Davey’s statement is that we will miss that legal target by a country mile. An even more revealing passage, however, is one that concedes that we are going to need more gas-fired power stations. Gas, says Davey, will remain “an important part of the energy mix”, not just to provide back-up for all those wind turbines when the wind isn’t blowing, but also to meet our “everyday demands” to 2030 and beyond.

It is all very well for Davey to throw in limp references to how this will “meet our carbon budget” with the aid of “carbon capture and storage”; but as he and his officials well know, piping off CO2 from power stations to bury it under the North Sea is just a pipe-dream. It is still an “unproven technology”, as Davey admits, for the simple reason that it can never be made to work.

So what we see emerging here for the first time is an official admission that, in order to keep our lights on and our economy running, we have no alternative but to rely massively on fossil-fuel gas, which will drive a coach and horses through the Climate Change Act’s target of an 80 per cent emissions cut.

Of course, the politicians will deny this, but they can only do so on the basis of wishful thinking. They are not going to get their “carbon capture” or their 32,000 wind turbines, let alone those “hundreds of thousands of green jobs”. In all directions they are screwed. And not the least telling feature of last week’s statement was that it made no reference to the shale gas revolution which has already halved US gas prices in five years, and which could solve our own energy problems by providing cheap gas for centuries.

One day we will have our shale gas and we will see the Climate Change Act repealed. These things will happen because the penny is finally dropping that the only alternative is economic suicide. But as yet, our politicians are unable to admit openly the enormity of the mess they have landed us in."

Mitt Romney would restore 'Anglo-Saxon' relations

Marcus's picture

Mitt Romney would restore 'Anglo-Saxon' relations between Britain and America

Mitt Romney would restore "Anglo-Saxon" understanding to the special relationship between the US and Britain, and return Sir Winston Churchill's bust to the White House, according to advisers.

"As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America's enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

Mr Romney on Wednesday embarks on an overseas tour of Britain, Israel and Poland designed to quash claims by Mr Obama’s team that he is a “novice” in foreign affairs. It comes four years after Mr Obama’s own landmark foreign tour, which attracted thousands of supporters.

He lands in London early on Wednesday morning, in advance of meetings with David Cameron and other senior ministers on Thursday. He will also meet Ed Miliband and Tony Blair before attending two lucrative fundraisers and the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

He used a speech in Nevada on Tuesday to accuse the President of drastically weakening America’s stance towards rivals such as Russia, China and Iran while imposing “devastating” spending cuts on the US military.

"If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your President," he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "You have that President today". Promising another "American century" in which the US acts as the global night watchman and does not hesitate to "wield our strength" when needed, he said: "I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world".

Members of the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy advisory team claimed that as president, he would reverse Mr Obama’s priority of repairing strained overseas relationships while not spending so much time maintaining traditional alliances such as Britain and Israel.

“In contrast to President Obama, whose first instinct is to reach out to America’s adversaries, the Governor’s first impulse is to consult and co-ordinate and to move closer to our friends and allies overseas so they can rely on American constancy and strength,” one told the Telegraph.

“Obama is a Left-winger," said another. "He doesn’t value the Nato alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory'.”

The two advisers said Mr Romney would seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”.

MPs seek relaxation of casino laws

Marcus's picture

MPs seek relaxation of casino laws

"Strict rules which prevent the spread of casinos and high-stake gambling machines should be relaxed, MPs have said.

Local councils should be allowed to permit betting shops to operate more than four high-stake gambling machines, which can accept stakes of up to £100 and offer prizes of £500, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said.

Casinos should be allowed up to 20 of the machines, the MPs claimed, adding operators across the sector should be charged lower fees by the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission.

The recommendations are likely to anger anti-gambling campaigners, who believe there is too much temptation on the high street for those with addictions.

But one source close to the MPs described the most recent legislation, the Gambling Act 2005, as "puritanical", adding it was now time to relax the rules governing the industry.

Ironically, the 2005 Act originally set out to allow the introduction of Las Vegas-style super-casinos across the country, with fruit machines offering unlimited payouts. However, the plans, proposed by then culture secretary Tessa Jowell, were watered down significantly in the face of fierce public opposition, with super-casinos cast aside and the creation of the Gambling Commission to regulate the industry.

MPs said the commission was too bureaucratic and expensive, adding it was not for Whitehall to decide on the location of casinos in the UK but local councils instead.

"Gambling is now widely accepted in the UK as a legitimate entertainment activity," said John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the committee. "The 'reluctantly permissive' tone of gambling legislation over the last 50 years now looks outdated."

Olympics: ministers 'discussed sacking' striking UK Border Staff

Marcus's picture

Olympics: ministers 'discussed sacking' striking UK Border Agency staff

"Ministers have discussed sacking UK Border Agency staff threatening to strike ahead of the Olympics, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The culture secretary insisted he did not want to "escalate" the row ahead of the planned walkout of immigration workers, but said questions about their employment had been raised.

Thousands of staff at the Home Office, including the UKBA workers, are to strike for 24 hours the day before the Olympic opening ceremony in a row over jobs, pay and other issues.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said its members would walk out on 26 July and would take other forms of industrial action, such as a refusal to do overtime, from 27 July to 20 August.

Hunt told Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek: "We have a contingency plan in place and I am absolutely confident that we will get everyone into the country. They're not going to stop anyone getting in and this is not the time to be pursuing this kind of dispute.

"Sack them? That is the Ronald Reagan approach and I can tell you amongst ministers there have been people asking whether we should be doing that, but I don't want to escalate things by talking about that right now, because I know amongst those 600 people there are lots of people who want to do the right thing and turn up for work."

Supermarkets to sell asthma inhalers over the counter

Marcus's picture

Being a mild asthmatic during the spring hay fever season who can't be bothered getting a prescription this is great news.

Supermarkets to sell asthma inhalers over the counter

"Asthma inhalers will go on sale in supermarkets for the first time this month, allowing sufferers to get the medicine without seeing their doctor.

Asda said it would start selling blue reliever inhalers over the counter without prescription from Tuesday.

Customers over 16 will be able to buy two inhalers for £7.

The Department of Health said that medicines must be dispensed by qualified staff "in line with all legal requirements".

In England such items would incur a charge of £7.65 if obtained on prescription; in the rest of the UK prescription charges no longer apply.

There are two different types of inhalers, "reliever" and "preventer" ones, available to the 5.2 million people in the UK who suffer from asthma.

Blue reliever inhalers - the ones Asda will be selling - contain the drug salbutamol and are used if someone is feeling wheezy or suffering an attack.

Preventer inhalers are taken twice daily to help keep asthma under control."

Plan to boost UK High Streets by cutting red tape

Marcus's picture

Plan to boost UK High Streets after Mary Portas report

The government has announced plans to try to revitalise the UK's High Streets, after a report by television retail expert Mary Portas.

"Ministers are cutting red tape to make it easier for business people to move into empty premises and open so-called pop-up shops.

More than 11% of town centre shops are currently empty across the UK.

Critics say the high level of rents and rates are a more serious hurdle than paperwork for new shopkeepers.

In May, Ms Portas described the country's High Streets as being at crisis point.

The number of shoppers has been falling, while more shops are becoming empty.

In response to her report, the government is making it easier for people to rent empty premises and establish temporary businesses known as pop-ups.

Retailers will now have up to two years to apply for planning permission instead of having to do so immediately.

BBC business reporter Brian Milligan said that should save them money and give more time for their businesses to get established.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Leaving empty shops to rot is a wasted economic opportunity that spoils the town centre...

"Reclaiming dreary unused street space can breathe new life into High Streets."

And since...

Ross Elliot's picture

"That's why some of the people (like Lydon) are only right some of the time."

...such an obvious contradiction can't exist without serious consequences, he's an idiot.

He is left-wing...

Marcus's picture

...and as such believes things should be given for "free" to the people.

But remember his words on question time, that we should be able to determine our own destiny free of Governments and other institutions.

How he squares this contradiction with his support for free education and the NHS, I don't know.

I assume he is one of those Bakunin anarchists who believes in voluntary community collectives (although I could not imagine him being a member of one of them).

Indeed John Lydon is just one of many philosophically confused.

That's why some of the people (like Lydon) are only right some of the time.

Marcus...

Ross Elliot's picture

...he belaboured the education point. Do you doubt he's in favour of government education with regard to drugs? Or do you think he's referring to throngs of spontaneous self-help advocates manning the porticoes of punk clubs?

You're wrong there...

Marcus's picture

...Johnny would never join any government organisation.

Give me one example where he has.

C'mon...

Ross Elliot's picture

...his opinion comes with all the caveats of the protective statist. Education was his big point. Johnny would be Minister of Drugs if they offered it to him. He has nothing to offer any champion of freedom. He'd subsidise it all in the name of self-expression.

The prototypical social-anarchist: let me do what I want to as long as someone else pays for it.

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