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":


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.)

( categories: )


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"ARGENTINA last night raised the prospect of “armed conflict” with Britain over the Falklands Islands – where Prince William is serving as an RAF helicopter pilot.

Arturo Puricelli, defence minister in the Buenos Aires government, accused the UK of attempting to “destabilise” his country and provoke hostilities.

He also claimed that Argentina was ready to go war against a British “invasion”.

His outburst came in the wake of an astonishing tub-thumping speech by Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

She lambasted Britain’s “militarisation” of the South Atlantic and vowed to make a formal complaint to the United Nations against Britain after the decisions to send the Prince and one of the Navy’s most modern destroyers to the South Atlantic territory.

Speaking to a local radio station, Mr Puricelli said: “What the British have got to understand is that we tolerate them in the Falklands but if any armed English force invades Argentine territory, have no doubt we will exercise our legitimate right to self-defence and we have the capacity to do so.”

Newspaper Labels Argentine Leader A 'Bitch'

"A Falkland Islands newspaper has sparked Argentine outrage after an employee posted a picture of Argentine president Cristina Kirchner on its site labelled "bitch".

The offending filename was quickly renamed by Penguin News editor Lisa Watson from the site, but not before generating a storm of angry Argentine tweets and emails.

The Penguin editor tweeted: "not my aim to cause anger - but PN (Penguin) staff have naughty sense of humour."

Daily Argentine newspaper La Nacion complained about the insult explaining to its readers that the English word was one of strong disrespect.

Speaking to the Guardian before the incident Lisa Watson said she frequently received many hostile emails and tweets.

The editor said: "The threats I try not to take seriously, particularly as the individuals tend to sign their name and even offer 'besos' (kisses) after claiming they are coming to the Falklands and their first task will be to kill me."

Osborne promises to fight 'anti-business culture'

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Osborne promises to fight 'anti-business culture'

"George Osborne has promised to fight an "anti-business culture", warning that the row over bonuses and pay threatens to undermine jobs and prosperity.

MPs have been debating a demand by Labour for "excessive" rewards for City executives to be reduced.

But the chancellor said "rewards for success" should be maintained.

RBS chief Stephen Hester told the BBC he understood the controversy about bankers' pay but added: "Let's not demonise the whole industry."

Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive gave up a share-only bonus worth nearly £1m amid public outcry.

This followed the announcement that the bank - of which 82% is owned by taxpayers - was laying off 3,500 staff around the world.

On Monday, Sir David Higgins, the chief executive of Network Rail, said he would turn down a bonus of up to £340,000, which would have been awarded, despite the company failing to meet some performance targets...

In a letter to RBS staff, Mr Hester said press coverage of his bonus had been "discomforting to say the least", but insisted the bank was "making progress in the face of a difficult inheritance".

Asked how the political row over his bonus had affected him, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm certainly not a robot and there have been some deeply depressing moments - by the way not just now - over the last three years.

"I guess in the end, in the intensity of it, I came to the conclusion that I thought it would be actually indulgent for me to resign and that what I ought to do is draw on the reserves of strength I have and try to make RBS a success."

Asked if he had considered resigning but decided it was the wrong thing to do, he added: "That's right."

He said he understood the controversy about bankers' pay, particularly at a time of austerity, and said that, during 20 years of "unbridled expansion" in the industry "hubris sets in" - which was painful to correct.

But he said bankers were not the only ones to make mistakes during the boom - there had been mistakes in economic management around the world: "Let's not demonise a whole industry.

"Let's not demonise something that is fundamental to the world economy, which employs millions of people even today. There are millions of people doing a good job, an essential job. We need to correct the areas where that job was done poorly. But we shouldn't forget banking is important, financial services are important, it supports the economy."

MPs urge Cameron to opt out of EU laws on policing

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MPs urge Cameron to opt out of EU laws on policing

"David Cameron should take back control of more than 100 laws on crime and policing from the European Union, according to a letter signed by half of his backbench MPs.

In a letter to The Telegraph, 102 Tory MPs urge the Prime Minister to "opt out" of 130 EU laws over the next two years. They warn that if he fails to do so, the transfer of powers to Europe will become irreversible.

The powers include the European Arrest Warrant, under which 200 British nationals have been surrendered to Continental prosecutors, and a requirement for DNA and fingerprints to be shared with European police forces. The letter has been signed by two former cabinet ministers, more than half the influential backbench 1922 Committee and several committee chairmen.

The MPs organising the letter insist that it is intended to be a positive contribution to the debate on Europe, but it threatens a new confrontation between Mr Cameron and backbenchers, who are demanding further repatriation of powers after successfully lobbying him to veto a new EU treaty at a summit in Brussels in December.

Tory backbenchers are increasingly vocal on a range of issues. In a separate letter at the weekend, Tory backbenchers wrote to Mr Cameron urging him to "dramatically cut" the £400 million-a-year subsidies paid to the "inefficient" onshore wind turbine industry...

Opting out would give Britain the chance to rule on how courts applied extradition rules. Currently, British courts can only block a European Arrest Warrant request on procedural grounds, raising concerns from civil liberties campaigners. Since the introduction of the warrants in 2004, nearly 200 British nationals have been surrendered to Continental prosecutors.

Britain can also opt out of a requirement to share DNA and fingerprints with police forces on the Continent, and a rule that will force British courts to take into account convictions in another country, whether or not they are unsafe, according to analysis by campaigners Open Europe.

The letter was organised by Charlie Elphicke and Dominic Raab. Mr Elphicke said: “Euro crimes, Euro police and Euro prosecutors are not right for the UK because our criminal system is so different. The pragmatic thing would be to opt out of the lot. We can always opt in at a later date because it is the right thing to do for Britain.”

Mr Raab added: “The last thing the UK needs is the European Courts of Justice in Luxembourg doing for British crime and policing what the Strasbourg court has done for human rights.”

Cameron and Sarkozy war of words over financial transaction tax

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Cameron and Sarkozy war of words over financial transaction tax

"Mr Sarkozy said France was "aligning" itself more with Germany rather than with its "British friends" by supporting industry and launching plans to unilaterally impose a 0.1pc tax on financial transactions.

The President's comments in Brussels followed his statement earlier in the day that Britain is a country with "no industry", which he claimed as he set out "shock measures" to reinvigorate France's faltering economy.

However, Mr Cameron who was also speaking that the EU leaders summit in Brussels, hit back by calling the transaction tax "extraordinary".

"We are not going to rebalance [the economy] by punishing a successful industry, such as financial services. It is a widespead industry and one of country's strengths.

"If other countries want to put in place a financial transaction tax, I do think it's an extraordinary thing to do. The European Commission has told us that would cost Europe half a million jobs. To do something that would cost so many jobs does seem to me to be extraordinary.

The Prime Minister added: "In the spirit of this healthy competition with France... If France goes for a financial transactions tax, then the door will be open and we will be able to welcome many French banks to the United Kingdom and we'll expand our economy that way."

Should the law on smacking be relaxed?

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  • Context
  • : In the UK, spanking or smacking is legal, but it may not leave a mark on the body.

    Boris Johnson backs calls for parents to be allowed to smack their children

    Boris Johnson has supported calls for a change in the law to allow parents to smack their children to instil discipline in their homes.

    "The Mayor of London said the current system left families feeling “anxious” that they would face prosecution if they attempted to impose authority over their children.

    Mr Johnson spoke after the Tottenham MP David Lammy claimed Labour's 2004 decision to tighten up the smacking law was partly to blame for last summer's riots, which erupted in his north London constituency.

    Mr Lammy, a former education minister, said working-class parents needed to be able to use corporal punishment to deter unruly children from turning to gangs and knife crime.

    Current legislation, enforced under Labour’s Children Act of 2004, says parents are allowed to smack their offspring without causing the "reddening of the skin".

    Mr Johnson last night backed Mr Lammy’s stance, saying the current law was “confusing” and left parents unsure of how far they can go in terms of smacking their children.

    “People do feel anxious about imposing discipline on their children, whether the law will support them,” he told the Pienaar’s Politics programme onBBC Radio 5 Live.

    “I think there ought to be some confirmation that the benefit of the doubt will always be given to parents in these matters and they should be seen as the natural figures of authority in this respect.

    “Obviously you don’t want to have a licence for physical abuse or for violence and that’s very important.”

    The Mayor said he believed he had the support of Education Secretary Michael Gove.

    Mr Lammy, who admits smacking his three and five-year-old sons, said that previously, parents could use "reasonable chastisement" with a judge deciding if they had overstepped the mark. However, since the 2004 amendments the decision has been left to social workers."

    Duke of York in Davos: 'At least Britain has its own currency'

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    Duke of York in Davos: 'At least Britain has its own currency'

    "Addressing entrepreneurs attending the Davos summit in Switzerland, the Duke reportedly urged foreign companies to invest in the UK rather than other European countries because “unlike them it is open for business”.

    The remarks were made at a private cocktail party attended by international business leaders and politicians who have gathered in the ski resort for the World Economic Forum.

    Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson were also at the reception hosted by the Prince to promote British business.

    According to witnesses, quoted in the Mail on Sunday, the Duke said in his welcoming speech: “The message to get across here tonight is that Britain is open for business – unlike one or two other countries I could mention."

    To applause, he added: “And what is more, we have our own currency.”

    The comments come ahead of tomorrow’s EU summit in Brussels, where Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to face criticism over his refusal to accept EU curbs on the City of London."

    George Osborne defends Stephen Hester's £1m bonus

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    George Osborne defends Stephen Hester's £1m bonus

    George Osborne has defended Royal Bank of Scotland's award of a bonus worth just under £1m to its chief executive, Stephen Hester, saying it was up to the state-backed lender to decide what he should be paid.

    "RBS announced yesterday that Mr Hester would get a bonus of £963,000, but the taxpayer-backed lender faced political and public pressure that the bonus was too generous. The award is 60pc of the maximum Mr Hester could have received.

    The Chancellor said the bonus was not a decision for the government but RBS, and added that Mr Hester's bonus would be "a lot less" than what other bank chiefs would be paid.

    He said: “In the end he was hired after the crash to sort out the problems at RBS. He was asked to shrink – by my predecessor – the size of its balance sheet and the size of its workforce.

    "He is doing those things and in the end under the arrangement we have created it has got to be up to the board to make a decision on the bonus that he receives."...

    Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, criticised the decision as "absolutely bewildering" while Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, claimed it as a "disgraceful failure" of leadership by David Cameron to have allowed it to happen.

    Mr Johnson said the "masters of the universe" bankers needed to learn to be "servants of society". He said it was "not on" to pay large bonuses when banks had been "floated off the rocks" by taxpayers.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said this morning: "There is a contract in place, that contract was put in place by the previous Government. Under that contract he's entitled to be considered for a bonus in good faith and that bonus judgement is taken by looking at his performance against current objectives.

    "That process is what happened here. It's a decision that was taken by the board of RBS. The Government had views on the bonus and it expressed those views and UKFI, which holds the public sector stake, was involved and took a keen interest in this issue."

    The Opposition said that the scale of the payout showed the Government was "desperately out of touch" with voters and not serious about reining in executive pay and perks."

    Desperate Osborne set to gamble on early tax cuts

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    Desperate Osborne set to gamble on early tax cuts

    "George Osborne is considering tax cuts for low and middle earners in his March Budget in an attempt to kick-start growth after figures showed that the economy is contracting.

    The Chancellor will consider speeding up the Coalition's plan to raise the personal tax allowance to £10,000 a year by 2015. The move would help families in the "squeezed middle" and enable them to spend more – in the hope this would get the economy moving again.

    Significantly, the Treasury has cleared a speech by Nick Clegg today in which he will urge Mr Osborne to go "further and faster" towards the £10,000 tax-free income goal. This was a key Liberal Democrat pledge at the 2010 election and is Mr Clegg's No 1 priority in negotiations with Mr Osborne about the Budget, which have just begun.

    The personal allowance was raised from £6,475 to £7,475 this financial year and will go up to £8,105 in April, putting the Coalition on course to hit the £10,000 target by the next election and take more than a million people out of the tax net.

    Mr Clegg believes his case for speedier action has been strengthened by figures from the Office for National Statistics yesterday, which showed that the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the final three months of last year. Ministers fear another negative figure for the first quarter of 2012, confirming Britain has entered a double-dip recession, which would put a huge question mark over their deficit-reduction strategy."

    David Cameron shrugs off welfare battles to soar in poll

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    David Cameron shrugs off welfare battles to soar in poll

    "The Conservatives have forged a five-point lead over Labour, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll, suggesting David Cameron would stand on the verge of an outright majority if an election were held now.

    The Tories are on 40%, up three percentage points from December, while Labour has drifted down one to 35%. The Liberal Democrats are on 16%, up one.

    The Tories' standing is their highest since before the general election in the Guardian/ICM series – they last stood at 40% in March 2010. Their lead is the biggest since the eight-point edge they enjoyed in June 2010, a few weeks after Cameron moved into Downing Street.

    The result will add to the pressure on Ed Miliband, who has endured a difficult few weeks amid whispering about his performance and rows with union leaders over his attempt to harden his party's line on the deficit. Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, attacked Miliband after the Labour leader and Ed Balls backed the public sector pay freeze and signalled they could not currently promise to reverse any of the coalition's spending cuts.

    The poll will provide welcome relief for Cameron as he braces himself for a battle with the House of Lords over welfare reform after the government suffered its fifth defeat in the upper house on the welfare reform bill .

    An alliance of Labour, crossbench and Lib Dem rebels supported an amendment by the Rt Rev John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, by 252 votes to 237, to exempt child benefit payments from a proposed £26,000 annual cap on household benefits. Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the former Lib Dem leader, rebelled against the coalition government for the first time after describing the impact of the cap on children as "completely unacceptable"...

    With the focus on the government defeat in the Lords, ministers were bullish about overturning the bishops' amendment on the benefit cap. Sources suggested the relatively small majority of 15 would be easily overturned by MPs."

    Iain Duncan Smith defends benefits cap before Lords vote

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    Iain Duncan Smith defends benefits cap before Lords vote

    "Iain Duncan Smith has defended the government's plans to cap the benefits paid to a single household, insisting families would not be "plunged into poverty" as a result of the proposed £26,000 annual limit.

    Speaking before Monday's Lords vote on the measures, the work and pensions secretary also denied the £500-a-week cap would lead to an increase in child poverty, adding: "We just don't believe that that's going to happen."

    It has emerged that the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown will join Church of England bishops and other rebel Lib Dems by voting against the proposals unless greater measures are put in placer to ensure children living in poverty are protected.

    However, ministers appear determined to ride out the opposition, believing there is strong public support for their plans to curb a "benefits dependency culture" and "make work pay".

    Britain challenges power of human rights court

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    Britain challenges power of human rights court

    "The Prime Minister will travel to Strasbourg, home of the court, amid anger at senior levels in the Government over its ruling last week that Abu Qatada, the radical preacher, cannot be deported from Britain.

    The judges declared that Qatada, who is wanted in Jordan on suspicion of conspiracy to carry out bombings, might not get a fair trial if sent there by the British government. Qatada, who has been described in the past as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe and called “truly dangerous” by an English court, has been in jail since 2005, fighting deportation.

    In his speech Mr Cameron will set out plans for reform of the institution, at which Britain loses three out of every four cases it fights.

    Britain currently holds the rolling six-monthly chairmanship of the Council of Europe, which oversees the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR].

    The Prime Minister will call for a “filtering system” that would stop the ECHR dealing with cases that have already been resolved “properly” by national courts, in an attempt to save time and money. Germany is among nations backing calls for reform.

    Britain is also pushing for changes to the way the court’s judges are appointed. It currently has 47 judges, representing every member state of the Council of Europe including Liechtenstein, Monaco and Andorra.

    The overall aim is to reform the international court so that it deals only with significant breaches of human rights.

    The reform process is expected to be a long one, with changes, if approved unanimously by members of the Council of Europe, likely to take two or three years.

    If they are not brought in, the “nuclear option” of pulling Britain out of the court — possibly on a temporary basis — is winning increasing support among senior Conservative ministers, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

    “We cannot have another Abu Qatada,” a senior government source said. “You have to look at every option down the line, including some sort of temporary withdrawal from the court.

    “There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for reform and we currently have it. We cannot have the current system of this panel of European judges being the final court of appeal on issues directly affecting our national security.”

    OK Mr Cameron all is forgiven...

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    Mostly Eye (Edit: Corrected view by full transcript of Cameron speech posted by admin).

    Cameron's capitalism

    "Much rot is spoken about capitalism. It is not an ideology, there is no rule book you can tweak: it is simply the name given to the system where people trade with each other the world over. There are as many types of capitalism as there are countries: the very word is good for making speeches, or selling books, but not much else. Cameron is a proudly post-ideological leader, which is why his speech made so much sense. If you talk about capitalism as an ideology, you’re getting it wrong. The phenomenon being described is, basically, human freedom: belief in capitalism is belief in mankind. And it’s something that Conservatives have in spades.

    Cameron started with an analysis of what happened, which is crucial. Many on the left talk as if capitalism has failed somehow, but, as Cameron said, we have just witnessed a crisis of government. Rather than regulate the banks, Gordon Brown entered coalition with them. The inept regulatory structure that he personally drew up allowed banks to take risks in London that would have been illegal in Wall St. Greed was a factor: Brown’s greed for tax revenues meant he asked no questions and every bonus was split 60/40 with the British government. It was a joint racket.

    The great irony behind Brown’s excuse, that ‘it started in America’, was that America’s problems started in London. It was the London AIG, Lehmans and MF Global which were taking the most risks with the CDSs — doing so to escape the eye of Federal regulations. To an extent which has still not been been properly appreciated, Brown’s London was the contagion. (Those with strong stomachs should read this analysis by ZeroHedge.) Countries with properly-regulated system (Canada, Australia, Sweden) saw no banks collapse at all. Cameron put it well: Brown entered a ‘Faustian Pact” with the banks — and it wasn’t capitalism, but the most dangerous kind of corporatism.

    Crucially, as Cameron pointed out, the issue was wrong-touch regulation, not right-touch regulation. There was plenty of red tape, as anyone who tried to open a bank account found out. But if you wanted to led unsecured billions to a Russian who had a small chance of paying you back, or re-hypothecate assets of 300 per cent of the collateral, then fine. As Cameron said: ‘Small companies were strangled in red tape while the banks were allowed to let rip.’ And how.

    And the solution? Cameron says he wants less regulation. He doesn’t conflate the banking blow-up with a failure of capitalism, and says that what’s needed more are virtues that people, not governments, possess: ‘Intelligence; ingenuity; energy; guts,’ and the state can only do so much. ‘While of course there is a role for government, for regulation and intervention, the real solution is more enterprise, competition and innovation.’ Labour’s instinct would be to produce an Ingenuity, Energy & Guts Bill (2012). Cameron says different. ‘I believe that open markets and free enterprise are the best imaginable force for improving human wealth and happiness. They are the engine of progress, generating the enterprise and innovation that lifts people out of poverty and gives people opportunity.’

    David Cameron will call for 'popular capitalism'

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    Don't know if this belongs here or under the "decline and fall of the west" thread.

    This is mainly window dressing to keep the Lib Dems happy, but sickening never-the-less.

    What happened to the PM's "for every new regulation there will be one removed?"

    Where are your balls, Mr Cameron!

    David Cameron will call for 'popular capitalism'

    "David Cameron will set out his vision in a speech that is due to call for reforms to make capitalism more responsible.

    He will argue that the Conservative agenda is well-placed to usher in a new era of moral capitalism.

    The Prime Minister will say that the Tories are naturally opposed to monopolies and favour transparency in business as the best way to root out unacceptable practices.

    Though he will promise to act to ensure excessive pay is tackled, he will insist on the benefits of free markets.

    His address in London will come after Goldman Sachs disclosed that its staff pay and bonuses for 2011 totalled almost £8 billion.

    The Wall Street bank, which has about 5,300 employees in Britain, said its total pay packet went down by 21 per cent, but the share of revenues paid out to staff increased to 42 per cent.

    British banks, including the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland, will post their figures next month, which are expected to anger taxpayers.

    “Every pound going on bonuses is another pound less to lend to small businesses,” a Government source was quoted as saying.

    The Government is expected to promise to end “rewards for failure”, as well as the “old boys’ network” of remuneration committees.

    Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is due to announce measures on Tuesday to curb excessive pay. They will not include proposals favoured by Mr Cable to allow workers to sit on pay committees, which would give them an opportunity to debate their bosses’ earnings."

    David Cameron accuses Argentina of 'colonialism' over Falklands

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    David Cameron accuses Argentina of 'colonialism' over Falklands Islands

    "Last month, a powerful South American trading bloc announced a ban on ships flying the Falklands Island flag from docking at ports. Tensions are high as the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War approaches.

    Mr Cameron said that Britain's National Security Council had discussed the issue and ensured that all defences were in order in the British-held South Atlantic archipelago.

    "The key point is we support the Falkland Islanders' right to self-determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue is actually far more like colonialism because these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else," he said at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.

    "I'm determined we should make sure that our defences and everything else is in order, which is why the National Security Council discussed this issue yesterday."

    He added: "The absolutely vital point is that we are clear that the future of the Falkland Islands is a matter for the people themselves, and as long as they want to remain part of the United Kingdom and be British they should be able to do so."

    Argentina's foreign minister Héctor Timerman said: "Instead of convening its National Security Council, Great Britain should call Ban Ki-moon and accept the multiple resolutions of the [UN] organisation urging a dialogue on the Malvinas [Falklands] question to reach a peaceful solution.”

    Mr Timerman added that Britain was “in imperial decline” was attempting to “rewrite history”.

    Argentina’s interior minister Florencio Randazzo said the “colonialism” comment was “absolutely offensive”.

    “It is absolutely offensive especially in the case of Great Britain. History clearly shows what its attitude to the world was,” said Mr Randazzo.

    Argentina president Cristina Kirchner has been vocal on the Falklands issue. In December she accused Britain of "taking Argentine resources" and ignoring UN resolutions as she called for renewed talks about the future of the Falkland Islands."

    'The Iron Lady’ shows us what we’re missing

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    'The Iron Lady’ shows us what we’re missing

    "Two extraordinary leaders are the subject of new films. Each has a profile like a hawk and a character to match. Neither has any time for fuss. Both of them distress their families and dismay their allies. Their enemies are toast. They are contemptuous of the public’s demand that they should feel a little more and, worse still, show those feelings to the world. They define themselves in use, by deeds not words. They are often feared, seldom liked, and could not care less. Both have a piercing, pale blue gaze that is about as kind as an oxyacetylene torch. The eyes most definitely had it for Gaius Marcius Coriolanus and Margaret Hilda Thatcher...

    In The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher is so spookily accurate it is more like a hallucination than a performance. They say that the sure-fire recipe for an Academy Award is a great turn in a mediocre film. In which case, the 16-times-nominated Streep should be making room in the downstairs loo for her third Oscar.

    Unfortunately, though, The Iron Lady, the movie, is more interested in weakness than strength. By focusing on Baroness Thatcher’s dementia and her regrets, the film creates a sympathetic character who flatters the audience by being just like one of us. There’s Thatcher the widow sorting through her late husband’s clothes, Thatcher the frail, lonely mother. All of this is desperately touching. There’s only one problem: Margaret Thatcher was not like us. If she had been, she would never have become this country’s first and, at the present rate of progress, last, female prime minister. “Someone must say the unsayable. None of these men have the guts,” she snaps...

    Politics, she reflects, “used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.” As the film makes clear, she didn’t have to try: she was cast in iron from the start. How many people will come out of cinema this week wondering if we shall ever see a leader like Margaret Thatcher again?"

    David Cameron takes aim at Britain's 'health and safety culture'

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    David Cameron takes aim at Britain's 'health and safety culture'

    Prime minister says sea of red tape is a restrictive 'monster' that is strangling UK businesses and hampering growth.

    "Britain's "health and safety culture" will be killed off for good by the government, David Cameron declared as he warned that a "monster" was hampering business growth. In his first public appearance of 2012, intended to show that boosting economic growth is the government's main priority, he also said local authorities needed a "slap" to encourage them to work more effectively with businesses.

    But Cameron admitted the government had made a mistake in one of its first initiatives to boost economic growth. A national insurance holiday, introduced for new businesses outside London and the south-east in September 2010, had created fewer jobs than expected, he said. "It wasn't as successful as we hoped," he said at the headquarters of Intuit, a financial software and services firm, in Maidenhead. "It was perhaps too complicated, it was too targeted at specific businesses in specific areas of the country and so it didn't work as well as we hoped."

    However he last night vowed not to give in to pressure to scale back austerity measures. He said it would be "the wrong thing to do" after a poll by ComRes for ITV News showed 59% of voters wanted a slowdown in spending cuts if economic forecasts remain grim. The survey by ComRes for ITV News, conducted in November and December, suggested just less than a quarter of the public (24%) backed a continued hardline stance irrespective of the conditions.

    Cameron told ITV News he was determined not to alter course – even if it meant being defeated at the next general election. "I would rather be a one-term prime minister who does the right thing than a two-term prime minister who does the wrong thing," he said.

    His main message of the day was the announcement of new relief for businesses complaining of excessive health and safety regulations. In an article for the London Evening Standard, he wrote: "One of the coalition's new year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or diamond jubilee year, but the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all."...

    While Cameron was keen to show that the government would make economic growth its main priority, the poor performance of the national insurance holiday had shown Whitehall schemes can only have a limited success.

    "You can come up with all the schemes in the world," he said. "But actually there is no scheme that is as good as controlling your spending, getting the debts under control and therefore keeping your taxes down – and particularly keeping the taxes down that cost businesses when they employ people."

    I can't but...

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    ...reiterate my advocacy of the American system of competitive federalism.

    States have the right to institute laws, including voluntary suicide, that a nationwide consensus would deny.

    Assisted suicide should be legal, says major report

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    Assisted suicide should be legal, says major report to parliament

    "MPs should consider changing the law on assisted suicide to allow some terminally ill people to end their lives at home with the help of their doctor, a major report into the subject has concluded.

    The Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, says a choice to end their own lives could be safely offered to some people with terminal illnesses, provided stringent safeguards were observed.

    Describing the current law on assisted dying as "inadequate and incoherent", the commission will today outline a legal framework that would permit only those who had been diagnosed with less than a year to live to seek an assisted suicide, and then only if they met strict eligibility criteria. These would include:

    • Two independent doctors were satisfied with the diagnosis.

    • The person was aware of all the social and medical help available.

    • They were making the decision voluntarily and with no sense of being pressurised by others or feeling "a burden".

    • They were not acting under the influence of a mental illness, and were capable of taking the medication themselves, without help.

    The 400-page report follows a year of investigation by the commission, whose members also include the former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Blair, a former president of the General Medical Council, a leading consultant in disability equality, an Anglican priest, and medical, mental health, palliative care and social care specialists."

    The Iron Lady reviews

    Marcus's picture

    The Iron Lady: review

    It may be flawed, but there's genuine passion at the heart of The Iron Lady, writes David Gritten.

    "How people react to The Iron Lady depends on their attitude to her. David Cameron and Nick Clegg may squirm at a line in which she mocks coalitions.

    Trade unionists will find it too kindly. It may not find favour in Argentina. (“Sink it!” she snarls about the Belgrano.) Yet US Republicans, currently lacking a presidential candidate with a fraction of Thatcher’s conviction and confidence, will surely drool over it.

    This is a brave stab at a contemporary life, and even with its flaws it does Margaret Thatcher a certain grudging justice. Awards should be coming Streep’s way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself."

    The Iron Lady portrays a very different Margaret Thatcher from the one I knew

    The definitive verdict on the biopic from former Guardian political editor Michael White, who observed Thatcher up close as a young sketchwriter in the 1970s.

    "Is it a leftie assassination job? Or rightwing hagiography? Neither. The odd thing about The Iron Lady is that, for a film about politics, it not very political. In handling the politics of deeply divided Britain of the 80s it is blandly fair to both perspectives, Thatcher's and her critics.

    Why? Because this is a personal, essentially feminist story, about how a shopkeeper's daughter conquered a very patrician world, how she was torn between ambition and family (ambition usually won), how hard it was to become the first woman ruler of Britain since Elizabeth I – who dispatched her own (female) rival, her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, to the block and instantly regretted it, as Thatcher might have done.

    Yet here, as in life, Thatcher, housewife and statesman, is not a satisfactory feminist icon. She could have promoted women (only Janet Young served briefly in her cabinet), but didn't. As the film rightly notes, she preferred men and wanted women to win on merit, as she had done, not on gender alone."

    Louise Mensch: the heir to Thatcher? Really?

    "In an interview with Louise Mensch entitled Iron Maiden, GQ magazine declared the backbench MP for Corby the "spiritual granddaughter of Margaret Thatcher". The portraits show a pussy-bow nod to Thatcher's wardrobe, a skirt recalling the era of power dressing, and the chin-up expression of pure determination. Mensch could have walked off the cover of one of her own bonkbusters. Destiny, perhaps? Desire?

    Over the past year Mensch has emerged as one of the most enigmatic of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs, and the Thatcher comparison sheds new light. It's one she will presumably relish. Mensch once said "you can take the girl out of the 80s, but you can't take the 80s out of the girl", and she has proved it by writing in praise of the former leader. In a column for the ConservativeHome blog in 2007, Mensch wrote that while she considered herself a "Cameroon, I remain, as I have always been, a Thatcherite", attesting to "profound hero worship … Margaret Thatcher shaped me as a girl, a woman, and a would-be politician".

    As soon as the UK brings out...

    Marcus's picture

    ...a more liberal law, NZ will follow suit afterwards - I bet you!

    Great to see someone in a

    Mark Hubbard's picture

    Great to see someone in a position to do something about it speaking out on the euthanasia issue. Pointless waiting for such bravery from any applicable Kiwi, unfortunately.

    Change 'unsafe' law on assisted dying, says ex police chief

    Marcus's picture

    Change 'unsafe' law on assisted dying, says ex police chief

    "The law on assisted dying is "incoherent and unsafe" and must be changed, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair warns today, ahead of a landmark report on helping the terminally ill to take their own lives.

    Lord Blair of Boughton, who spent four years as Britain's most senior police officer at the head of Scotland Yard, argues: "The law as it currently stands is failing both those whom it seeks to protect and those tasked with enforcing it."

    Writing exclusively in The Independent on Sunday, Lord Blair argues the law "has not kept pace with modern life and modern science" and must be changed. He is a member of the Commission on Assisted Dying which will this week recommend significant changes to the way the terminally ill are treated and the legal threat faced by those who help them to die.

    New figures released to Parliament last month reveal that police have referred 31 cases of suspected assisted suicide to prosecutors, but none has led to charges being brought since new guidelines were introduced by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, in February 2010.

    Lord Blair says the current arrangement means people must take a "leap of faith" that Mr Starmer "will respond compassionately" and not prosecute, "trading off their respect for a loved one's dignity against the fear of prison". He adds: "At a time when they should be grieving", the current system forces relatives of loved ones "into a world of uncertainty that leaves the police and prosecutors torn between good practice and natural human sympathy".

    Last month, a former TV producer, Geraldine McClelland, 61, travelled to Dignitas to die, leaving a letter that said: "I don't believe that my brother and sister should have to break the law so that they can be with me when I die. Because of the cowardice of our politicians I can't die in the country I was born in, in my own home."

    Apple designer becomes Sir Jonathan Ive in New Year Honours

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    Apple designer becomes Sir Jonathan Ive in New Year Honours

    "Jonathan Ive, the designer of some of Apple's most successful products, including the iPod and the iPhone, has received a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

    Ive, who is Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, receives a KBE from the Queen "for services to design and enterprise".

    "I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the UK of designing and making," he said. "To be recognized with this honour is absolutely thrilling and I am both humbled and sincerely grateful."

    "I discovered at an early age that all I've ever wanted to do is design," Ive added. " I feel enormously fortunate that I continue to be able to design and make products with a truly remarkable group of people here at Apple."

    The 44-year-old was born in Chingford, north London, and studied design at the University of Northumbria. He joined Apple in 1992 and has been based in California ever since. Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1996, appointed Ive to his current position in 1997."

    Tories say they want to leave EU and prefer Boris to Cameron

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    Tories say they want to leave EU and prefer Boris to Cameron

    Some 92 per cent of party believe PM's vetoing of a new EU treaty was his best moment, poll shows

    "A majority of Conservative Party members want Britain to leave the European Union. A poll of 1,566 party members, carried out for The Independent by the ConservativeHome website, shows that David Cameron delighted the Tory grassroots by vetoing a new EU treaty at this month's summit in Brussels.

    But the survey also suggests that he may have created hopes of forging a more detached relationship with the EU that he may find difficult to fulfil – and that he will come under pressure from his party to continue to prove his Eurosceptic credentials. If he does, he would risk fuelling tensions with the Liberal Democrats and his fellow EU leaders. If he does not, he would upset many of his party's activists.

    Some 54 per cent of Tory members say their ideal vision of the relationship is for the UK to leave the EU and sign up to a free trade agreement. Although that view is shared by a minority of Tory MPs, the poll suggests the party's grassroots is more in tune with the policy of Ukip, which wants Britain to pull out of the EU...

    According to ConservativeHome, Mr Cameron's tough stance in Brussels has significantly boosted his standing among Conservative activists. His net satisfaction rating – the difference between the number satisfied and dissatisfied with his performance – has jumped from +45 points to +64 points since the summit. Last month he stood in eighth place in the Cabinet's popularity rankings but has now risen to third, behind Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

    Nick Clegg, who publicly criticised Mr Cameron's actions at the summit, has seen his net rating among Tory members slump from -2 points to -52 points in the past month. Despite George Osborne's gloomy Autumn Statement in November, his net rating has risen from +35 points to +45 points.

    However, the poll suggests that Tory members are not convinced that Mr Cameron is "one of us". Asked which politicians come closest to their own politics, Baroness Thatcher tops the list, with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, in second place, followed by Ronald Reagan, the former US President; William Hague, the Foreign Secretary; Lord Tebbit, the former Tory chairman; David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary. Mr Cameron trails behind them."

    Military Wives are the Christmas number one

    Marcus's picture


    Military Wives are the Christmas number one after selling 556,000 copies in a week

    "The Military Wives choir has marched to the top of the charts, taking the coveted Christmas number one spot.

    Their single, Wherever You Are, sold 556,000 copies in the last week, more than the rest of the top 12 combined, the Official Charts Company said...

    Gareth Malone formed the group for BBC2 programme The Choir, which climaxed with the group performing at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

    Proceeds from the single are being donated to the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).

    Malone said: 'This is so surreal. Who would have guessed in those first rehearsals that we could take Christmas Number 1?

    'It's testament to the Military Wives' hard work and the nation's support of them, as well as the power of choral singing.

    'It's a winning combination - a Christmas Number 1 winning combination! Thank you to the British public for supporting the Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help by buying this single."

    Cameron's approval rating outstrips his government's – poll

    Marcus's picture

    Cameron's approval rating outstrips his government's – poll

    "David Cameron is ending 2011 on a high, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll. The main parties remain stuck in a political deadlock as the year draws to a close, but the prime minister is outpolling his own government and Labour's leader, Ed Miliband.

    After 12 months in which a nascent economic recovery fizzled out, Cameron retains a positive personal rating of five points – the gap between the 48% who think he is doing a good job and the 43% who say he is doing a bad one.

    The survey finds a country which is approaching the new year with many anxieties, and unimpressed by the performance of the government as a whole. Almost half (47%) of respondents say the coalition is doing a bad job as against 39% who say it is doing well, an eight-point gap which plunges the coalition as a whole into negative territory.

    The prime minister is the only one of Britain's leading political figures to be enjoying favourable ratings. Nick Clegg's net score is -19 percentage points, Miliband's is -17 points while the chancellor, George Osborne, is at -2.

    After Cameron's veto of a European treaty this month, a clutch of polls showed the Tories breaking into the lead, with an ICM survey for the Sunday Telegraph suggesting they were six points clear of Labour."

    Britain will never surrender sovereignty of the Falkland Islands

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron: Britain will never surrender sovereignty of the Falkland Islands

    David Cameron said Britain will never negotiate on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands

    "In his Christmas message to the islands, the Prime Minister said he could not accept challenges by Argentina to their right to self-determination.

    He condemned what he described as ''unjustified and counterproductive'' efforts by the government in Buenos Aires to disrupt shipping links to the islands.

    His intervention comes after Argentina led a group of South American nations in banning ships flying the Falklands flag from docking at their ports.

    In his message, Mr Cameron declared: ''Whatever challenges we face in the UK, the British Government's commitment to the security and prosperity of the overseas territories, including the Falklands, remains undiminished.

    ''So let me be absolutely clear. We will always maintain our commitment to you on any question of sovereignty. Your right to self-determination is the cornerstone of our policy.

    ''We will never negotiate on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless you, the Falkland Islanders, so wish. No democracy could ever do otherwise.''

    The ban on Falklands-flagged ships by the Mercosur bloc - which also includes Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - is the latest flare-up between Britain and Argentina over the islands.

    Buenos Aires - which has long claimed sovereignty over the territory it calls the Malvinas - reacted angrily last year when Britain allowed offshore drilling for oil in the islands' waters.

    The Argentinians were also irritated by the recent announcement of Prince William's forthcoming RAF posting to the islands."

    UK GDP revised up after surprise bounce in economy

    Marcus's picture

    UK GDP revised up after surprise bounce in economy

    "Gross domestic product was revised up from a previous estimate of 0.5pc, but the improvement was offset by a downward revision to growth between April and June from 0.1pc to zero.

    Together, growth for the year to September was unchanged at 0.5pc.

    The data did suggest the squeeze on households is beginning to ease, though, with real household disposable income increasing by 0.3pc the third quarter, following a 1.3pc rise in the previous three months.

    That leaves real household disposable income 1pc lower than it was in September last year.

    Families used the extra cash to boost their savings, the ONS showed, leaving household consumption to stagnate.

    Although the headline figures were largely unchanged, there was a marked shift in the components of growth - with Government spending accounting for a smaller proportion and private investment providing more support. George Buckley at Deutsche Bank said: "The detail looks a bit better."...

    The household saving ratio rose to 6.6pc in the third quarter, the highest since Q4 2010, suggesting Brits are hoarding their cash. Britons' household finances have been squeezed by weak wage growth and soaring inflation, which has taken its toll on the retail sector.

    However, the BoE expects a sharp fall in inflation next year which will leave households with more spare cash."

    You have a human right to hoard

    Marcus's picture

    You have a human right to hoard

    "It was an astonishing case. Eccentric hoarder Richard Wallace had accumulated so much rubbish in his back garden that it could be seen from space - much to the fury of his neighbours.

    But when his local council served a notice on him to remove it, he took his case to the crown court – arguing that it was his 'human right' to hoard junk on his land - and won.

    Now, in an extraordinary twist, the case has taken a new turn – without the need for lawyers and judges.

    Mr Wallace, 61, has already cleared the rubbish from his garden, which was so out of control it showed up on Google Earth – and he was helped by the very neighbours he had been in dispute with for years...

    He is now working on the house, fuelled by home-cooked meals from locals, is waiting for an appointment to see a psychologist, and has had his first haircut in years.

    And in it lies a lesson for us all. It shows that a bitter dispute can be resolved with a little care and understanding on both sides – and a community working together is more effective than the law.

    It just goes to show that, if the bureaucrats had taken more trouble to find out that Mr Wallace had an obsessive illness, the case would never have escalated so far."

    For Rand's sake, Gregster,

    Mark Hubbard's picture

    For Rand's sake, Gregster, put that on its own thread: a great clip.

    (I tried to post, but don't understand SOLO instructions: Let's say this is the link to your video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7uk... - Simply wrap it in square brackets and prepend the video: keyword: ????

    Call me thick. Go on.)

    Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary

    gregster's picture

    This man's got the idea.

    The eurozone will not survive another year, warns Boris

    Marcus's picture

    The eurozone will not survive another year, warns Boris

    "Boris Johnson became the most senior British political figure to forecast that the eurozone would not survive the economic crisis intact as he predicted yesterday that Greece would soon quit the single currency.

    The Tory Mayor of London joked that the Greek drink, Ouzo, would be cheaper within a year as he warned against "hysterical attempts to bubblegum the whole thing together".

    Baroness Neville-Jones, a former security minister, said Spain could also crash out of the currency, stranding UK nationals living in the country.

    The remarks will dismay senior Liberal Democrats, who yesterday stressed the need to rebuild links with the European Union since David Cameron's use of his treaty veto 10 days ago.

    Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, hit out at Eurosceptics who were "breezily predicting" the eurozone's collapse, and the risk to millions of British jobs, "with a sense of glee".

    PM calls on the Church to defend 'values and moral code'

    Marcus's picture

    PM calls on the Church to defend 'values and moral code'

    "At an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, he said: ‘We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.

    'The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

    ‘Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear, moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it any more.

    ‘Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.

    ‘Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.’

    Mr Cameron’s demands for a ‘moral code’ were directed at human rights apologists and Left-wing politicians who recoil from promoting Britain’s Christian heritage.

    But they also covered the hand-wringing pronouncements of many senior churchmen, who refuse to condemn lawbreaking by rioters and show unwillingness to take on militant Islam for fear of offending Muslims."

    This is how the Scotts deal...

    Marcus's picture

    ...with a non-paying brain-dead "yoof". Bravo!

    Europe: Voters liked the veto – now they want more

    Marcus's picture

    Europe: Voters liked the veto – now they want more

    "Banging on about Britain’s relationship with the European Union is a sure-fire way to turn off voters. That, at least, is the conventional wisdom of many advisers in No 10. Three years ago, they may well have been right. But not any more. Following the Prime Minister’s rejection of a new EU treaty, polls show a surge in Conservative support. Seventy per cent of voters want a referendum on Europe. Half want to leave the EU altogether. Euroscepticism has gone mainstream.

    So what has changed? First, the eurozone crisis has thrust Europe’s impact on Britain into the spotlight. Until recently, even major events such as the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, which had huge implications for our national sovereignty, did not make Europe a key issue for voters: it remained a secondary, technical topic, the preserve of constitutional lawyers and Westminster wonks. That is no longer the case. Yes, the public are far more concerned about the economy than Europe – but the eurozone crisis means the two issues are now one and the same.

    Second, Eurosceptics have, quite simply, been proved right. Right that the single currency’s one-size-fits-all interest rate was a disaster waiting to happen. Right that the euro would lead to closer fiscal union. Right that it would be bad for Britain.

    Third, the Brussels summit has shown the readiness of European politicians to attack those who will not agree to their demands. The Prime Minister went to Brussels ready to agree a new treaty, if he could negotiate a handful of modest safeguards. Nicolas Sarkozy called this “unacceptable”. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, blamed Britain for making compromise impossible. A prominent French MEP wants our rebate – worth almost £3 billion this year – scrapped as punishment.

    Most voters know that such leaders are behaving in a bullying and undemocratic way. They understand that Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and the commission came to last week’s summit not to discuss options, but to present an ultimatum. That Britain was given one choice: take it or leave it...

    We are seeing the emergence of a new European politics – one dominated by the triumvirate of Germany, France and the European Commission. Now is the time to think seriously about our future in Europe – to discuss where Britain fits in, and what role we should play. That should be for the British people to decide in a referendum, something that may not happen any time soon. But we do know this: on the issue of determining our relationship with Europe, last week’s veto was not the end, but only the beginning."

    David Davis is MP for Haltemprice & Howden and a former Europe Minister

    UK to resist calls to give IMF more funds for euro-bailout

    Marcus's picture

    UK to resist calls to give IMF more funds for euro-bailout

    "David Cameron will resist any attempt by eurozone countries to press Britain to hand more cash to the International Monetary Fund to help fund a euro-bailout fund.

    The IMF reported on Tuesday that eurozone countries at last week's EU summit had agreed in principle to raise €200bn (£168bn) for the IMF including €50bn from non-eurozone countries.

    But the prime minister's spokesman said Cameron had made it clear he had not agreed to this proposal and it had not been approved by the IMF board.

    Cameron said at the Cannes G20 summit he would be willing to put more money to the IMF, but indicated the additional contribution could not exceed the £40bn ceiling that has already been approved by MPs in a vote in the summer.

    The UK has already committed a £30bn contribution, meaning the UK could not commit more than an extra £10bn without a further vote in parliament, something Cameron will want to avoid.

    Any attempt to give the eurozone extra loans, even via the IMF, would be fiercely resisted by Tory Eurosceptics.

    The reference to €200bn fund was not made in the summit statement agreed last week but appeared in the official IMF magazine, Survey.

    It said: "European leaders agreed to make bilateral loans to the IMF of as much as €200bn – with €150bn contributed by eurozone members and €50bn from other members of EU."

    In the Commons, Cameron made no reference to specific sum, telling MPs: "Alongside non-European G20 countries we are ready to look positively at strengthening the IMF's capacity to help countries in difficulty across the world. But IMF resources are for countries, not currencies, and cannot be used specifically to support the euro."

    David Cameron heroically blocks crucial EU treaty deal

    Marcus's picture

    Good on you, David Cameron!

    David Cameron blocks crucial EU treaty deal

    Eurosceptic Tory MP, Mark Reckless, has welcomed David Cameron's move to veto EU treaty change as a "very significant development". He told the Today programme:

    "The Prime Minister has been as good as his word.

    He said he would not agree to a new treaty unless he was able to safeguard the interests of the City. The other EU countries would not agree to safeguard the interests of the City and therefore David Cameron has said no.

    I think this is a very significant change. All of us will need time to see how the institutions of Europe are going to move forward.

    Nicolas Sarkozy was talking about a re-founding of the European Union. Now we see that is happening among between 23 and 26 countries and we are remaining outside that. That now gives us the opportunity to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union that is in our interests.

    We need to look to negotiate bilaterally, in the same way that Switzerland does, to protect our interests. That is the way this appears to be developing and I think we need to do that to secure our own independence and make our own decisions in our own interests."

    New green alliance in savage attack on George Osborne

    Marcus's picture

    New green alliance in savage attack on George Osborne

    Coalition on path to becoming most environmentally destructive government to hold power in the UK, say campaigning groups.

    "An extraordinary alliance of countryside campaigners, wildlife groups and green activists has launched a savage onslaught on the government, accusing it of showing "stunning disregard" for the environment.

    The attack – backed by organisations including the RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England – is a significant embarrassment for David Cameron who claimed at the last election that his would be the "greenest government ever".

    However, in letters to the Observer, green groups – including the umbrella organisation the Wildlife Trusts, which has more than 800,000 members – ridicule this claim and vent their fury over last week's autumn statement by George Osborne.

    With the government outlining cuts in solar energy subsidies, reforming planning regulations and introducing tax support for energy-intensive industries, the chancellor's rhetoric has infuriated the green lobby. "Following the chancellor's autumn statement, we can say that the coalition is on a path to becoming the most environmentally destructive government to hold power in this country since the modern environmental movement was born," states one letter, signed by the green campaigners George Monbiot, Tony Juniper, Jonathon Porritt, Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, and others.

    A second letter, from the heads of the RSPB, Greenpeace and others, says: "The stunning disregard shown for the value of the natural environment not only flies in the face of popular opinion but goes against everything the government said in June, when it launched two major pieces of environmental policy – the natural environment white paper and the England biodiversity strategy."

    The backlash comes as serious tensions are developing inside the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition over green policy. The Observer understands that the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, Chris Huhne, was not consulted by Osborne about his comments in the autumn statement. In terms that many MPs saw as at odds with the government's professed enthusiasm for the environment, Osborne told the Commons last Tuesday: "We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers. All we will be doing is exporting valuable jobs out of Britain."

    Jeremy Clarkson's anti-strike rant

    Marcus's picture

    Jeremy Clarkson's anti-strike rant on The One Show prompts on-air apology

    Top Gear presenter said live on air that public sector workers out on strike should be 'executed in front of their families'

    "The One Show has apologised after Jeremy Clarkson suggested on air that strikers should be "executed in front of their families".

    The provocative Top Gear presenter sparked a storm of outrage on Twitter after telling viewers of the BBC One programme that he would have striking public sector workers shot.

    "I would have them taken outside and executed them in front of their families," he said.

    He prefaced the remarks, however, by asserting that he liked the strikers as the industrial action meant there was no traffic on the roads. Adding that he had to be balanced as he worked for the BBC, he then launched into an anti-strikers rant, which appeared to be at least partly in jest.

    Clarkson went on to shock viewers by saying trains should not stop for people who have committed suicide by throwing themselves onto the rails.

    The corporation said in a statement: "The One Show apologised at the end of the show to viewers who may have been offended by Jeremy Clarkson's comments."

    Unison calls for sacking of Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson

    "A spokeswoman for the trade union, Unison, has called for Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson to be sacked after remarks he made about those involved in Wednesday's pensions dispute.

    Speaking on the BBC's The One Show, Mr Clarkson had said about the strikers: "I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families."

    Unison's Karen Jennings said the remarks amounted to ''incitement to hatred,'' adding that legal advice was now being taken.

    The BBC has apologised for the comments."

    Britain withdraws diplomats from Iran after embassy attack

    Marcus's picture

    Britain withdraws diplomats from Iran after embassy attack

    "Britain is withdrawing diplomatic staff from Iran after a mob attacked its embassy and a residential compound in the Iranian capital.

    The Foreign Office confirmed that some of its staff were leaving, but did not say who or how many. Nor did it say whether it would continue to have an embassy in Iran or maintain diplomatic relations with the country.

    A spokesman said: "The prime minister and foreign secretary have made clear that ensuring the safety of our staff and their families is our immediate priority. In light of yesterday's events, and to ensure their ongoing safety, some staff are leaving Tehran..

    The scenes, reminiscent of the 1979 seizure of the US embassy, prompted the foreign secretary, William Hague, to accuse Iran of breaching the Vienna convention.

    He said: "The United Kingdom takes this irresponsible action extremely seriously. It amounts to a grave breach of the Vienna convention which requires the protection of diplomats and diplomatic premises under all circumstances. We hold the Iranian government responsible for its failure to take adequate measures to protect our embassy, as it is required to do."

    David Cameron warned the Iranian government of "serious consequences" for failing to protect Britain's diplomatic staff.

    The storming of the embassy was triggered by the UK's decision to sever ties to the Iranian banking system and parliament, the Majlis, after the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report citing "credible" evidence that Iranian scientists had experimented with a nuclear warhead design and could be continuing to do so.

    The Majlis retaliated on Sunday by calling for the expulsion of Britain's ambassador, Dominick Chilcott, and the permanent downgrading of bilateral relations."

    Public sector job losses to hit 710,000

    Marcus's picture

    Public sector job losses to hit 710,000

    "The number of public sector job losses will be 310,000 higher than the 400,000 redundancies forecast for this Parliament by the OBR eight months ago...

    "The Government's decision to pencil in further spending cuts in 2015-16 and 2016-17 implies a reduction in total paybill growth for those years. Combining these with our paybill per head assumption implies a total reduction in General Government Employment of around 710,000 between the first quarter of 2011 and the first of 2017, compared to 400,000 between the first quarter of 2011 and the first of 2016 in our March forecast," the OBR said.

    The OBR expects 1.7 million private sector jobs to be created between 2011-17, against 700,000 state-sector jobs lost...

    The finding will infuriate thousands of public sector workers who are striking [today] over the government's move to cut public sector pensions.

    In his Autumn Statement this lunchtime, George Osborne said public sector pay increases would be capped at one per cent after a two-year pay freeze comes to an end.

    "In the current circumstances the country cannot afford the two per cent rise assumed by some government departments thereafter. So, instead, we will set public sector pay awards at an average one per cent for each of the two years after the pay freeze ends," the Chancellor told MPs.

    While he conceded that a one per cent average pay rise was "tough", he said that it was fair to those who worked to pay the taxes that will fund the increase.

    Restricting pay rises to one per cent will save more than £1 billion by 2014-15, MPs were told...

    But he triggered further trade union fury by announcing a review of employment laws, including reforming Tupe regulations which protect workers' pay and conditions when businesses change hands.

    The Chancellor said he also wanted to reduce "delay and uncertainty" in the collective redundancy process as well as introducing the idea of "compensated no-fault dismissal" for firms with fewer than 10 employees.

    "We will cut the burden of health and safety rules on small firms because we have a regard for the health and safety of the British economy too," he said.

    "This Government has introduced flexible working practices and we are committed to fair rights for employees. But what about the right to get a job in the first place?

    "Or the right to work all hours running a small business and not be sued out of existence by the costs of an employment tribunal?"

    David Cameron, we have a few questions for you…

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron, we have a few questions for you…

    "From Piers Morgan to Polly Toynbee, Jemima Khan to Jarvis Cocker – David Cameron takes questions from public figures who want answers."

    These answers show Cameron to be a mainstream Conservative politican, but with a wicked sense of humour.

    I wonder if this reply will be reported in the New Zealand news?

    Eine, graffiti artist whose work Cameron gave to Obama as an official gift in 2010

    Imagine it's your stag weekend, which is being organised by Silvio Berlusconi. There are five places spare on the coach. Based solely on their ability to have a good time, which world leaders would you invite (past or present, but they have to be living)? If you don't choose Bill Clinton, why not?

    "That is so difficult. I don't know that many past world leaders. I think you probably would choose Bill Clinton because he'd be fascinating to talk to. But God, that's difficult. I like Obama – I always enjoy chatting to him. My new best friend is the president of the Maldives. He's great. That's a weird mixture, isn't it? I like Sarkozy, we'd have fun. And I like John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand."

    Here's a funny one:

    Lord Ashdown, Unicef UK president

    What will your pitch be – and what do you expect Nick Clegg's to be – when you both appear before the TV cameras in the leaders debates before the next election?

    "I hope it will be that we've dealt with extremely difficult economic circumstances and debts we've inherited, and we've got the country back on the road to both an economic recovery and, I hope, something of a social recovery, too." [Guardian: But how is that different from Nick Clegg's pitch?] "Well, I'm only responsible for my pitch." [Guardian: What do you expect his to be?] "I expect he'll say, 'I agree with David and think you should all support him.' [Laughs]"

    Osborne on course to hit deficit reduction targets

    Marcus's picture

    Osborne on course to hit deficit reduction targets

    "George Osborne received some welcome news ahead of his autumn statement next week when the latest set of official figures for state borrowing showed the chancellor remains on course to hit his deficit-reduction target for this year.

    Despite David Cameron's warning on Monday that repairing the damage to the public finances was proving more difficult than expected, higher tax revenues meant the deficit for October was smaller than the City had anticipated.

    Data released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday morning showed that net borrowing excluding state support for UK banks to help them through the financial crisis – the government's preferred measure of the deficit – stood at £6.5bn last month against £7.7bn in October 2010.

    In the first seven months of the 2010-11 financial year, public sector net borrowing totalled £68.3bn, down from £78.7bn in the same period in 2009-10. The ONS said there had been a downward revision to borrowing in September. Osborne said in his March budget that he expected net borrowing to come down from £137bn to £122bn this year, and despite the slowdown in activity, the City believes he is currently on course to meet his goal."

    Cameron tells CBI euro woes having 'chilling effect'

    Marcus's picture

    Cameron tells CBI euro woes having 'chilling effect'

    "The crisis in the eurozone is having a "chilling effect" on the UK's economy, Prime Minister David Cameron has told the CBI conference.

    He said the stream of negative news about Europe was affecting confidence.

    The government's strategy is to pay down debt and focus on growth, he has told the CBI.

    He also said that the chancellor would next week announce a "massive credit-easing scheme" to help small and medium-sized businesses borrow money.

    The details will come with the Autumn Statement on Tuesday 29 November.

    He also put the case for radical business deregulation and employment law reforms.

    The CBI's annual conference, this year being held at a hotel in London's West End, has made boosting UK exports its centrepiece topic.

    The CBI wants Britain to match the EU average of one in four small-to-medium-sized enterprises exporting by 2020.

    Mr Cameron also told the conference: "Everyone agrees now that in the past Britain's economy had become lopsided: too dependent on debt, on consumption, on financial services.

    "If we are to build a new model of growth, we need to give a massive boost to enterprise, entrepreneurship and business creation.

    "Put simply Britain must become one of the best places to do business on the planet."

    The BBC's hidden 'warmist' agenda is rapidly unravelling

    gregster's picture

    When Mr Doherty was made redundant in the 2008 recession, he started his own business, Auto-Movements, taking cars all over the country on a trailer for dealers and leasing companies. All went well – he turns over more than £100,000 a year – until he recently met a friend’s son working for the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA). He told Mr Doherty that new EU rules coming into force on December 4 might apply to him because the combined weight of his van and trailer exceeds 3.5 tons.
    When Mr Doherty discovered what this was about, he was shocked. Under EU Council Regulation 1071/2009, thousands of small businesses like his are being put on the same regulatory footing as large transport firms operating trucks all over Europe. He will have to pay £1,000 and take two weeks off work to obtain an International Certificate of Professional Competence (even though he never works outside the UK), or hire a fully qualified transport manager. He will have to keep £8,000 permanently in the bank as security, and acquire “premises” to store his vehicles when not in use.
    As shocking as anything was that – although Mr Doherty learned about it only by chance – the new law comes into force in just two weeks’ time. Yet VOSA tells him it will take 12 weeks to process his paperwork. So for more than two months it will be illegal for him to work.
    On looking into it, I was astonished to find that the statutory instrument putting the EU regulation into UK law was only laid before Parliament on November 7, less than a month before coming into force. When I discussed this with the Department for Transport, they were clearly sensitive to the difficulties it was creating. They admitted that they had no way of notifying all the businesses that will be affected, but said that VOSA will take no enforcement action for six months, until businesses have had time to comply.
    Oddest and most shocking of all, however, is to read in the EU regulation that it is “unnecessary” for it to be applied to firms “which only perform transport operations with a very small impact on the transport market”. If Mr Cameron’s Government had wished it, thousands of tiny operations such as Mr Doherty’s could quite legally have been exempted altogether. Instead, it has imposed on them a wholly unnecessary burden which is likely to force many out of business.


    Meryl Streep's Iron Lady dismantled by Norman Tebbit

    Marcus's picture

    Meryl Streep's Iron Lady dismantled by Norman Tebbit

    Margaret Thatcher wasn't 'half-hysterical' leader film portrays, says former Tory MP – but reviewers rave regardless

    "It has drawn ecstatic notices from early screenings, but Meryl Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady has been dismissed by one of the former prime minister's most loyal supporters, Norman Tebbit.

    Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the one-time Conservative party chairman and trade and industry secretary said he failed to recognise the woman on screen as his former leader. He also said he was surprised that the film's director and screenwriter, Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan, had not spoken to him about his experiences working with Thatcher by way of research.

    "You might think that if you were setting out to make a so-called 'biopic' about such a dominant figure on the political stage of the late 20th century, your researchers would have sought out those who were closest to her in those years and asked them," Tebbit wrote. "I do not know whom the makers of the Meryl Streep film talked to. Perhaps Michael Heseltine or Geoffrey Howe, but certainly not me."

    Tebbit, who was a member of Thatcher's cabinet between 1981 and 1987, said the Iron Lady he knew was tough and determined, but never intransigent or over-emotional. "She was always open to persuasion, but only by argument and facts properly marshalled and presented, and she could be hard – perhaps at times unfairly so – on colleagues who failed her standards," he wrote. "However, she was never, in my experience, the half-hysterical, over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep."...

    The Daily Mail's Baz Bamingboye said he had expected The Iron Lady to vilify a politician he described as "our greatest prime minister since Churchill", but viewing the film had left him pleasantly surprised. "I can state categorically that the doomsayers were wrong," he wrote. "Streep's portrayal will, I have no doubt, come to be seen as a magnificent portrait of Lady Thatcher.

    "Only an actress of [her] stature could possibly capture Thatcher's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting, a searing interpretation that looks at the big forces that shaped Mrs T's life."

    The Evening Standard's deputy editor, Sarah Sands, a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, rebuked critics of the film. "Funny reading Thatcher sceptics struggling with magnificence of The Iron Lady. Wait 'til fan base gets going. I am tear stained with love."...

    The Iron Lady is released on 6 January 2012 in the UK following a 30 December opening in the US. It is already being tipped for Oscars success, with William Hill naming Streep their 5/4 favourite to win the best actress award in the wake of these early reviews. But the odds on The Iron Lady picking up best picture are considerably longer, at 16/1."

    Virgin Money to buy Northern Rock

    Marcus's picture

    Virgin Money to buy Northern Rock

    "Northern Rock is being sold to Virgin Money for £747m, the government has announced.

    The bank was nationalised in 2008 following its near collapse at the onset of the global credit crunch.

    The government said Northern Rock customers would see no change to their accounts and services and would not need to take any action."

    David Cameron attempts to impersonate Australian PM's accent

    Marcus's picture

    "During a speech at the lord mayor of London's banquet, the prime minister described an exchange with Australian leader, Julia Gillard, and tried to imitate her accent. Cameron's audience at the Guildhall in London laughed, but the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described his impersonation as 'bizarre'."

    Over-sensitive, eh?

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg clash amid euro crisis

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg clash amid euro crisis

    "David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashed over Europe today as the continent struggles to deal with the eurozone crisis.

    After the Prime Minister urged "fundamental reform" of EU institutions, his Liberal Democrat deputy delivered a dire warning that renegotiating treaties would cause paralysis.

    Only "populists, chauvinists and demagogues" would benefit if mainstream politicians became locked into "arcane" discussions rather than focusing on economic recovery, Mr Clegg insisted.

    In his annual foreign policy speech to the Lord Mayor of London's banquet last night, Mr Cameron dismissed talk of "grand plans and Utopian visions" and called for a looser EU with "the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc".

    Mr Cameron - who pointedly described himself as among the "sceptics" on Europe - acknowledged that the immediate priority for the EU was restoring growth and tackling the debt crisis.

    However, he said the current crisis also offered an opportunity to undertake fundamental reform and address long-standing problems afflicting the EU."

    Labour hate the idea...

    Marcus's picture

    ...of voluntarism because it does make the state redundant.

    People say, hey we don't need the state after all - let's go private.

    At the moment the Liberal Democrats and Labour are scrambling to make sure dirty "profits" can't be made.

    Funny enough the conservatives managed to get that one through and the new private management of this NHS hospital are allowed to make a profit.

    States must be prepared to cede some sovereignty to world bodies

    Sandi's picture

    if the international system (big society) is to function.

    Globalisation thus implies that sovereignty is not only becoming weaker in reality, but that it needs to become weaker. States would be wise to weaken sovereignty in order to protect themselves, because they cannot insulate themselves from what goes on elsewhere. Sovereignty is no longer a sanctuary.


    David Cameron is "going to train 5,000 community Organisers

    Sandi's picture

    to help build the big society.

    I don’t believe that you roll back the state and a big society miraculously appears. We, the government should be building the big society"


    Cameron seeks to push one million workers out of public sector

    Marcus's picture

    Cameron seeks to push one million workers out of the public sector

    Staff in the NHS and other services are being shifted into mutual-style programmes based on the John Lewis model

    "With little fanfare, services across the country are being quietly taken over by their own staff – state funded but run independently. The Prime Minister claims the number of services that adopt the scheme will be a key test of his Big Society vision.

    Mr Cameron told MPs: "Why are we doing all this? In the end, it is to try to make sure that we have better schools, that we have hospitals treating patients better, that we have better-run care homes. This is all just the mechanics under the car bonnet to make the car work better. But to me, mutuals are one way to get that."

    At least 45,000 health workers have already left the public sector under the programme, including 10,000 nurses. A new right to request, where staff or a voluntary organisation can ask to run a service, has been created.

    To supporters, mutuals put staff in the driving seat, releasing them from the deadening grip of the Whitehall mandarin. They are free to focus their efforts on helping the public, not politicians. As a result, staff are more motivated and productive; costs and bureaucracy are cut and sickness can fall by as much as half.

    To critics, the idea heralds the piecemeal break-up of nationwide services, a drift towards privatisation by the back door. "You go to John Lewis to buy a sofa, not to have chemotherapy," the Unite union said.

    Last week, it was announced that Circle, a social enterprise co-owned by 49.9 per cent of staff, was to become the first private firm to run an NHS hospital. From February next year, it will run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire as part of a £1bn, 10-year deal. Labour seized on the decision as proof of the Government's "true vision for the future of our NHS, with the wholesale transfer of the management of entire hospitals to the private sector".

    Is the reason for this Deterrence

    seymourblogger's picture

    escaping you? 1984? Brave New World? Anyone? Hello.

    Private firm to run NHS hospital

    Marcus's picture

    Private firm to run NHS hospital

    Circle Healthcare will take over Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire as part of a £1bn 10-year contract.

    "Significantly this allows doctors to take a slice of the profits – and this landmark deal, the government hopes, will lead to other cash-strapped NHS hospitals consider outsourcing their management to private companies.

    Circle's chief executive, Ali Parsa, said: "At a time when some healthcare commentators say the solution for small district general hospitals is simply to merge or be shut down, we believe the NHS Midlands and East's courage and zeal for innovation will enable us to show how clinician and staff control can provide a more sustainable alternative."

    Circle beat outsourcer Serco to clinch the deal a year ago. The company has ambitious plans to expand – in its share prospectus it said it had brought land in five city centres to expand its hospital services.

    The market to run state-owned acute services is worth £8bn and with hospitals forced to find savings every year, experts warn that many will have to consider private help to meet efficiency targets.

    Two NHS trusts are considering private sector management options — the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the Whiston Hospital (St Helens).

    The head of health at Unison, Christina McAnea, told the BBC a new management team could have been found without going private.

    "We just don't accept there is no expertise within an organisation the size of the NHS, and to turn to the private sector which has a very patchy record in delivering these kind of services is an accident waiting to happen."

    If Obama is re-elected

    Sandi's picture

    Then I'd say the war would be in America and not Iran.


    Brant Gaede's picture

    Talk before the fact isn't going to happen. Israel isn't strong enough to broadcast its intentions as opposed to just doing something. This is not the U.S. hammer poised to descend on Iraq in 2003. As for the U.S. and the U.K., they are always drawing up plans. They are supposed to. They've got drawers full of plans. However, war is coming; it will likely involve Iran, just not tomorrow. If it can help Obama get re-elected, I'd say late next September.


    From what I have read lately

    Sandi's picture

    war with Iran is imminent.

    UK and U.S. 'draw up joint plan to attack Iran'

    Marcus's picture

    UK and U.S. 'draw up joint plan to attack Iran'

    "The UK and U.S. are drawing up plans to attack Iran amid growing tensions in the Middle East, it was claimed last night.

    Barack Obama and David Cameron are preparing for war after reports that Iran now has enough enriched uranium for four nuclear weapons.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline regime in Tehran has been linked to three assassination plots on foreign soil, according to senior officials in Whitehall.

    Iran has come sharply back into focus following the end of the Libya conflict.

    And the unrest has been inflamed by sabre-rattling from top politicians in Israel.

    Yesterday it was revealed that Tel Aviv had successfully test-fired a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead which could strike Iran.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are reportedly agitating for a pre-emptive attack against the Islamic state."

    Governments must not censor internet, says William Hague

    Marcus's picture

    Governments must not censor internet, says William Hague

    "The UK has issued a direct challenge to China and Russia over regulation of the internet, with William Hague insisting that cyberspace must not be "stifled by government control or censorship".

    In a strongly worded opening address to an international conference hosted in London, the foreign secretary told delegates that the internet "must remain open and not become ghettoised" – rebuffing the notion that new international treaties were needed to police online activity.

    "Nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation," he said.

    Hague told delegates that cyberspace should not be "subject to separate rules and processes in different regions set by isolated national services, with state-imposed barriers to trade, commerce and the free flow of information and ideas".

    This, he said, would be deeply counter-productive. Both China and Russia have pushed for new international treaties governing cyberspace. China has also been heavily criticised for censoring the internet by blocking news or comment that it deems damaging."

    I never said Cameron...

    Marcus's picture

    ...was a saint.

    However he is in fact proposing to take some powers back from Brussels.

    David Cameron - Scraping laws??

    Sandi's picture

    By embracing Big society.


    I just can't wait to get my teeth into this bastard as well. And I will do when time permits.

    Give firms freedom to sack unproductive workers

    Marcus's picture

    Give firms freedom to sack unproductive workers, leaked Downing Street report advises

    "Companies should be given the right to dismiss unproductive workers without explanation, a leaked Downing Street report advises.

    Britain’s “terrible” employment laws are undermining economic growth and should be overhauled, according to the confidential report obtained by The Daily Telegraph (Published below).

    It says that British workers should be banned from claiming unfair dismissal so that firms and public sector bodies can find more capable replacements.

    Under current regulations, workers are allowed to “coast along” and employers are left fearful of expanding because new staff may prove “unknown quantities” who are impossible to sack, the report says."

    Euro break-up plan award offered by Lord Wolfson

    Marcus's picture

    Euro break-up plan award offered by Lord Wolfson

    "A UK businessman is offering a £250,000 prize for the best plan to manage one or more countries abandoning the euro currency.

    The award is being sponsored by Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, the High Street retailer, and a Conservative party donor.

    The process will be managed by the Policy Exchange think tank.

    The body is sending out application packs to leading economists around the world.

    The prize is described as the second biggest cash prize to be awarded to an academic economist after the Nobel Prize.

    However, Lord Wolfson told the BBC that the competition was open to everyone.

    "I think there is a very real possibility that the euro may collapse, and if that happens then it needs to be managed, and if it's not managed then it's going to be catastrophic for European finances, and not just for European finances," he said.

    "The knock-on effects for the world banking system would also be very very serious."

    Iain Duncan Smith accused of 'losing his cool'

    Marcus's picture

    Iain Duncan Smith accused of 'losing his cool' in housing benefit outburst

    "Campaigners accused the welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, of "losing his cool" after the cabinet minister launched an extraordinary attack against a charity for challenging the government's proposed housing benefit reforms in the courts, describing the action as "ridiculous … irresponsible behaviour (and) an ill-judged PR stunt" which resulted in "a massive waste of taxpayers' money and court time".

    The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) had sought to overturn the government's cap on housing benefit, arguing in the high court that such a move would result in the "social cleansing" of expensive areas of the UK.

    The caps mean that benefits paid to the poor to cover rents cannot exceed £250 a week for a one-bedroom property, £290 for two bedrooms, £340 for three bedrooms and £400 for four bedrooms. The government's own assessment shows that groups affected include people with disabilities, teenage mothers and ethnic minority families.

    Charities had argued that the effect would be felt first in the capital, saying 9,000 London households facing would have to leave their homes as a result of the caps – and about 4,600 would be unable to find anywhere else to live "locally".

    This could mean upwards of 20,000 children having to move, 14,000 out of their local area, resulting in disruption to education, health and social services. The Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to proceed with the changes, arguing that the risks – of increasing levels of homelessness, crime and serious disruption to poor children's schooling – outweighed any financial savings.

    However the judge dismissed CPAG's claim – essentially agreeing with the government that the purpose of housing benefit was not to prevent homelessness, but to help claimants with their rent while also protecting the public purse. Ministers were within their rights to cut back spending.

    Duncan Smith said: "CPAG's challenge to our housing benefit reforms was an ill-judged PR stunt, and amounts to nothing more than a massive waste of taxpayers' money and court time."

    He added: "The cost of housing benefit has spiralled completely out of control, and this judgment is further vindication that our reforms will ensure support is in place for those who need it, but stop the crazy excesses we have seen in recent years of people on benefits living in houses that those in work could not afford."

    He warned that campaigners should "think twice" before challenging the government. "I sincerely hope CPAG will think twice before repeating this ridiculous and irresponsible behaviour in future," he said.

    Anti-poverty groups were "shocked" by the outburst. Bob Holman, the community activist who has known the former Tory leader since he toured Glasgow's Easterhouse scheme with him in 2002, said the cabinet secretary had cracked under the "pressure of daily criticism".

    Boris Johnson vs Jeremy Paxman at Tory Conference

    Marcus's picture

    Moody's cuts ratings on RBS and Lloyds

    Marcus's picture

    If Gov't wont bail them out - then that's a good thing in my books Smiling

    Moody's cuts ratings on RBS and Lloyds

    "Britain's beleaguered banks and building societies were dealt another blow today after a debt agency said the decreased likelihood of Government backing made them less credit-worthy.

    Lloyds Banking Group, Santander UK, Royal Bank of Scotland, Co-operative Bank, Nationwide and seven smaller building societies saw their credit ratings slashed by Moody's Investor Service.

    The move - which triggered a fall in banking shares on the London Stock Exchange - means the cost of borrowing for the affected financial institutions is likely to increase.

    RBS, which saw its shares drop more than 3%, also came under pressure after a report in the Financial Times suggested it could require a further bailout from the Government.

    The bank said it was "disappointed" that Moody's had not acknowledged its progress in strengthening its finances since 2008.

    Moody's stressed its review did not reflect a deterioration in the financial strength of the banking system or the Government.

    The move reflects a shift in Government policy to transfer risk from taxpayers to creditors, rather than deepening problems within the banks.

    Elisabeth Rudman, senior vice president of the financial institutions group at Moody's, said: "Moody's has lowered the amount of support it incorporates into the institutions' ratings to reflect the overall weakening support environment."

    Moody's said the downgrade comes after Government support was removed for the seven small institutions, which include the Norwich & Peterborough, Principality and Yorkshire building societies.

    Elsewhere, support was reduced for the larger "more systemically important" institutions including Lloyds and RBS.

    While the Government is "likely to continue to provide some level of support" to those banks, it is also "more likely now to allow smaller institutions to fail" if they become financially troubled."

    David Cameron: better days lie ahead but Britain needs to fight

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron: better days lie ahead but Britain needs to fight

    Britain must show a bulldog “spirit” to see out the economic storm and enjoy the brighter future that will follow, David Cameron promised today.

    "David Cameron has insisted that “better days” lay ahead for Britain but that the nation would have to “show the world some fight” to emerge from the economic turmoil.

    The Prime Minister said that the “time of challenge” could be turned into a “time of opportunity” as he compared the plight of Britain to that the country overcame following the end of the empire.

    He called on Britons to show “spirit” and “confound the sceptics” and promised to help lead the country into recovery by harnessing the nation’s “can-do optimism”.

    “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” the Prime Minister said.

    In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Cameron repeatedly urged the public not to despair as the country faces a second phase of the global economic crisis.

    “We’ve been told we were finished before,” the Prime Minister said. “They said that when we lost an Empire that we couldn’t find a role. But we found a role, took on communism and helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

    “Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources, but we had the spirit.

    “Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around, watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not.”

    Mr Cameron said he sees an “optimistic future” for the country. “Let’s show the world some fight,” he said. “Let’s pull together, work together and together lead Britain to better days.”

    David Cameron to urge households to pay off debts

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron to urge households to pay off debts

    "David Cameron will urge the country not to become paralysed by gloom and fear even though he will admit the depth of the debt crisis means the good times will be a long time coming.

    In a delicate balancing act, he will try in his closing speech to the Conservative party conference on Wednesday to re-energise the country by insisting that despite the pessimism over the economy, politics and society, "the country's best days are not behind us". "Let's bring on the can-do optimism," he will say before claiming that his "leadership is about unleashing your leadership".

    But despite the efforts to lift the mood of the country, Cameron will also provide a frank admission that the economy is not going to be fixed quickly. His aides openly admit that the country's finances are in worse state than they had expected – a fact underlined by repeated downgrading of official growth forecasts.

    At one point he will even urge households to clear their debts: "The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills."

    In a frank assessment, he will tell delegates in Manchester: "We need to tell the truth about the overall economic situation. People understand that when the economy goes into recession, times get tough. But normally, after a while, things pick up. Strong growth returns. People get back into work. This time, it's not like that. And people want to know why the good times are so long coming.

    "The answer is straightforward, but uncomfortable. This was no normal recession; we're in a debt crisis. It was caused by too much borrowing, by individuals, businesses, banks – and, most of all, governments."

    He will also warn there is a limit to what government can do to speed the process of rebuilding the foundations of the economy. "When you're in a debt crisis, some of the normal things that government can do, to deal with a normal recession, like borrowing to cut taxes or increase spending, these things won't work because they lead to more debt, which would make the crisis worse."

    Home Secretary Theresa May: scrap the Human Rights Act

    Marcus's picture

    Home Secretary Theresa May: scrap the Human Rights Act

    "Theresa May, the Home Secretary, risks an explosive rift inside the Coalition with an explicit call for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

    "Mrs May uses an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to warn that the Act is hampering the Home Office’s struggle to deport dangerous foreign criminals and terrorist suspects.

    “I’d personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it,” she says.

    The Home Secretary’s words will be cheered by many Conservative MPs as well as Tory ministers across Whitehall."

    Eurozone a "burning building with no exits"

    Marcus's picture

    Burning House

    "William Hague has branded the eurozone a "burning building with no exits" amid frantic efforts to control the sovereign debt crisis.

    The Foreign Secretary said he believed Germans would have to subsidise weaker members such as Greece for "the rest of their lifetimes".

    Delivering the starkest comments so far by a senior British minister, Mr Hague also claimed the single currency was set to become an "historical monument to collective folly".

    David Cameron: world should be quicker to take military action

    Marcus's picture

    David Cameron will today urge the world to be quicker to take military action to stop states from slaughtering their own people

    "The Prime Minister will use his first speech to the United Nations to demand that the organisation become less of a talking shop and intervene when people under brutal regimes require its help.

    In a clear statement of intent following Nato's successful campaign against Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, Mr Cameron will tell international leaders that the world must be prepared to act again.

    "You can sign every human rights declaration in the world but if you stand by and watch people being slaughtered in their own country, when you could act then what are those signatures really worth?" Mr Cameron will ask the General Assembly."

    Clegg vows: I won't let Osborne cut 50p tax

    Marcus's picture

    Clotty sounds like Obarmy, doesn't he?

    Clegg vows: I won't let Osborne cut 50p tax

    "Nick Clegg has declared that he will veto George Osborne's plan to abolish the 50p top rate of tax. He warned that cutting it could "destroy" public support for the entire tax system and provoke a taxpayer revolt. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the Deputy Prime Minister promised the Government would do more to kickstart the economy in a "Plan A-plus", including a boost for housebuilding.

    Mr Clegg issued the clearest possible warning that he would not allow the Chancellor to bow to pressure from business leaders and Conservatives to axe the 50p rate on earnings over £150,000. Speaking on the eve of the Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Clegg said: "What I, and any government including Lib Dems, are interested in is lowering the tax burden on the millions of people on lower and middle incomes – not rushing to make sure the very, very richest pay less tax. It would be utterly incomprehensible for millions of people who work hard, do their best for their families, and play by the rules, if suddenly the priority is to give 300,000 people at the very, very top a tax break."

    Largest shopping mall in Europe opens in London...

    Marcus's picture

    UK riots: courts could be asked to dock benefits

    Marcus's picture

    UK riots: courts could be asked to dock benefits

    "Magistrates and crown court judges could be asked to dock benefits from convicted criminals under preliminary proposals being drawn up by the government in response to the riots, the Guardian can reveal.

    Ministers are looking hard at how benefits, or tax credits, could be taken away to show criminals that privileges provided by the state can be temporarily withdrawn.

    Under the proposals anyone convicted of a crime could be punished once rather than potentially facing separate fines – first by a magistrates court and then a benefit office. By giving powers to the courts to strip benefits, the Department of Work and Pensions would no longer be obliged to intervene directly in the criminal justice system.

    Sources indicate that a vast array of punitive options are being examined as Whitehall races to meet an October deadline to publish its post-riot response.

    Number 10 is actively looking at the withdrawal of child maintenance or child benefit from parents who allow children to truant, or repeatedly allow them to stay on the streets late at night."

    Michael Gove slackens rules on use of physical force in schools

    Marcus's picture

    Michael Gove slackens rules on use of physical force in schools

    Education secretary seeks to stem 'erosion of adult authority' by recruiting former male soldiers to the classroom

    "Ministers are scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to "restore adult authority" in the wake of the riots in England.

    The education secretary, Michael Gove, said that he wanted greater numbers of men teaching, particularly in primary schools, so as to provide children with male authority figures who could display "both strength and sensitivity".

    In a speech delivered at Durand academy, in Stockwell, south London, Gove said the regulations on the use of force inhibited teachers' judgment.

    He said: "So let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, 'sorry, we can't physically touch the students', then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed."

    Gove said men considering teaching were deterred by a fear of rules that made contact between adults and children "a legal minefield".

    The government was planning to start a programme this autumn encouraging former members of the armed forces to take up teaching, specifically to ensure more male role models, Gove said."

    Nick Clegg: I will refuse to let human rights laws be weakened

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    Nick Clegg: I will refuse to let human rights laws be weakened

    "Deputy prime minister says Liberal Democrats will not let Tories water down human rights laws

    Nick Clegg has issued a trenchant defence of human rights laws, setting out their strengths and saying his party will not let Conservatives water them down should there be a fresh push to renegotiate legislation.

    In an article for the Guardian, the deputy prime minister acknowledges much common ground with the prime minister, David Cameron, who in recent weeks has increasingly given voice to the frustrations of cabinet ministers, MPs and his activist base that European human rights legislation has overruled British courts and must be renegotiated. A European ruling earlier this year that prisoners must be given the vote despite parliament voting for the opposite infuriated Conservatives.

    Writing at the weekend, Cameron said: "Though it won't be easy, though it will mean taking on parts of the establishment, I am determined we get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights.

    "We are looking at creating our own British bill of rights. We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European court works and we will fight to ensure people understand the real scope of these rights and do not use them as cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense."

    Libya: Man suspected of killing Pc Yvonne Fletcher identified

    "The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Abdulmagid Salah Ameri, a junior diplomat working at the Libyan embassy, was seen firing a machinegun from a window in April 1984.

    Following the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, Scotland Yard, which has kept the case open, is planning to send officers to Libya in the hope of bringing the suspected killer and his alleged accomplices to justice.

    Mr Ameri was identified by a witness in a 140-page secret review of evidence conducted at the request of the Metropolitan Police. The report, seen by The Daily Telegraph, was written by a senior Canadian prosecutor and addressed to Sue Hemming, the head of counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service.

    Pc Fletcher was killed by a single bullet that hit her in the abdomen. An 11-day armed siege followed that ended when 30 Libyans from the embassy were deported. No one has ever been charged with killing the officer.

    Queenie Fletcher, her mother, declined to comment but said earlier this week that the turmoil in Libya offered the “best chance yet” of catching her daughter’s killer. "

    The shirking classes

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    The shirking classes: Just 1 in 14 incapacity claimants is unfit to work

    "Only seven per cent of incapacity claimants are sick enough to stay on benefits for good.

    The results of new and tougher tests show the vast majority are either fit enough to work, or abandon their application half-way through.

    All fresh applicants for the Employment and Support Allowance, which is replacing Incapacity Benefit, must undergo the work capability assessments.

    The resulting figures, which will reopen debate about ‘workshy’ Britain, show that 39 per cent were found fit enough to take a job.

    A further 17 per cent were deemed able to do some form of work, with the right support.

    More than one in three dropped out in the application process and only one in 14 was too sick to undertake any employment."

    Charities angry over ministers' crackdown on disability benefits

    "Ministers were accused of labelling disabled people as scroungers yesterday, after the Government said that only one in 14 people applying for disability benefit has a genuine claim.

    Disability charities said the figure was misleading and that ministers' comments were likely to lead to a rise in hatred towards the disabled.

    Just 7 per cent of people applying for the new incapacity benefit, Employment Support Allowance, were deemed too sick to work after an initial assessment, according to the Department for Work and Pensions figures released yesterday. The statistics suggest that 39 per cent of new claimants are fully fit to work, while another 17 per cent can do some work with the right support.

    The Prime Minister used the figures to argue that Britain's welfare system was broken and allows many fit and healthy people to claim benefits...

    Vicki Nash, from the mental health charity Mind, said: "The figures on how many people are fit for work are misleading. The benefit test as it stands is simply not sophisticated enough to examine where mental health problems can stop someone from coping and performing in the workplace... There are so many appeals, that the appeals system is struggling to cope."

    During a visit to Working Links in Caerphilly, a company that specialises in getting people into work, David Cameron dismissed criticism that there were no jobs because of the closure of local shops and factories.

    He said: "I'm not saying it's easy... but if you give people the skills, the confidence and the help, there are jobs and they can work."

    David Cameron on trip to bolster UK trade with Africa

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    David Cameron on trip to bolster UK trade with Africa

    "David Cameron has arrived in Johannesburg for the start of a trip to bolster Britain's business links with Africa's fastest growing economies.

    On his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa, he said trade not aid would lift millions out of poverty.

    The prime minister is also set to highlight trade's importance for securing deals to help the UK economy.

    It is understood that the trip has been cut back so he could return to the UK to deal with the on-going hacking row."

    Clarke plans to close two jails and privatise eight more

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    Clarke plans to close two jails and privatise eight more

    "Eight jails will be transferred from the public sector under plans to privatise wide sections of the prison system.

    Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, invited private firms to bid to run jails in Yorkshire, Northumberland, County Durham, Northamptonshire and Surrey. The moves are designed to save money and improve efficiency, but critics warn they could undermine efforts to rehabilitate offenders.

    Mr Clarke has promised to find savings of £2bn from his £8.7bn budget over the next four years.

    Birmingham prison will be transferred to a private company in October, with the loss of more than 100 jobs. The contract to run one of the country's largest jails was won by the company G4S, which beat a rival bid from the public sector.

    New "for sale" notices are being hung over: Lindholme, Moorland and Hatfield prisons in Yorkshire; Acklington and Castington in Northumberland; Durham prison; Onley in Northamptonshire; and Coldingley in Surrey. The Prison Service will be invited to bid, but private firms are likely to win contracts.

    A ninth prison, the Wolds, in Yorkshire, is also being put out to tender. It is already run by G4S, which is nearing the end of its contract.

    The move could nearly double the number of jails in England and Wales run by private firms from 11 to 20."

    UK unemployment level falls again

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    UK unemployment level falls again

    "UK unemployment fell 26,000 in the three months to May to 2.45 million, official figures show.

    The unemployment rate was 7.7%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), down from 7.8% in the previous quarter.

    However, the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in June rose by 24,500 to 1.52 million - the biggest such increase in two years.

    It follows an upwardly-revised 22,500 rise in the claimant count for May.

    Benefit changes

    The total number claiming unemployment benefits reached its highest level since March 2010, while the claimant count rate held steady at 4.7%.

    It is the second month in a row that the claimant count has risen while the unemployment total - which is based on a separate survey - has fallen.

    The ONS said part of the discrepancy between the two measures was due to an increase in the number of women claiming Jobseeker's Allowance due to changes in the benefits system.

    Victoria Cadman, economist at Investec, said it was "still difficult to assess where the labour market is overall", but she added that the employment figures were reassuring.

    The total number in employment rose 50,000 versus the previous quarter to 29.28 million - the highest total in more than two years.

    The employment report indicated that the number of new jobs created in the private sector was still outstripping government job losses.

    The public sector workforce shed 24,000 during the three months to May, far less than the 104,000 new positions created by the private sector."

    David Cameron to unveil blueprint for public services

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    David Cameron to unveil blueprint for public services

    "David Cameron is to unveil his blueprint for public services in England aimed at "putting power in people's hands".

    At a speech in London, the PM will vow to deliver "more freedom, more choice and more local control".

    He wants to allow companies, charities and community groups to bid to run everything from local health services to schools, libraries and parks.

    Labour says the government is over-emphasising the role of the market.

    "This is where David Cameron's Big Society idea becomes a concrete plan for change," says BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue.

    Unveiling his Open Public Services White Paper with a speech in east London on Monday afternoon, Mr Cameron will say public services are "the backbone of this country" and "have created a fairer, more equal country since the Second World War".

    "But I know too that the way they have been run for decades - old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you're-given - is just not working for a lot of people," he will say.

    The prime minister will suggest that set-up has become "incredibly damaging", with many services "failing on fairness".

    He will say, for example: "We've got a welfare state that doesn't deliver welfare, that doesn't get people back into work but traps them in poverty instead."

    Common sense reform to teacher authority in classroom

    Teachers have for too long been subjected to pupils who 'know their rights', but not their responsibilities.

    "Last November's White Paper on education, The Importance of Teaching, promised action to strengthen discipline by lifting some of the politically correct inhibitions on teachers' ability to keep order in the classroom.

    Such a move was long overdue. According to the Department for Education, almost 1,000 children are suspended from school for abuse and assault every school day.

    Last year, 44 teachers were taken to hospital with serious injuries after being assaulted by pupils – a five-year high. One teacher in every four has had false allegations made against them by pupils.

    Unsurprisingly, two thirds of teachers say this level of intimidation is driving many of them out of the profession. And the disruptive impact of such behaviour on other pupils is immense.

    Today the Coalition makes good its promise by publishing new guidance for teachers on classroom discipline. The previous document ran to 600 pages: the new guidance comprises just 52.

    With a declared aim of unequivocally restoring adult authority to the classroom, it finally frees teachers to take the action necessary to curb unruly and violent pupils.

    It insists that schools should not have a "no touch" policy, not least because it is often necessary to touch a child when dealing with accidents or illness, or when teaching a musical instrument.

    It spells out that teachers have legal power to use "reasonable force" to remove a pupil who is disrupting a lesson or to prevent a child from leaving a classroom without permission."

    Statue of Ronald Reagan joins Churchill

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    Statue of Ronald Reagan joins Churchill, Nelson and Wellington in London

    Foreign Secretary William Hague and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both paid tribute to the late President at the unveiling ceremony, which coincides with the US Independence Day celebrations.

    "I doubt very much that President Reagan would have even imagined the world that we see today and so this statue of Ronald Reagan is quite clearly a memorial and a commemoration of a glorious past but more importantly it is a call to an even more glorious future," said Ms Rice, who was representing Reagan's widow, Nancy Reagan, at the ceremony.

    Mr Reagan's great political ally and friend, former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, was not able to attend due to her physical frailty, so Mr Hague paid tribute to the former President on her behalf: "Ronald Reagan was a great President and a great man. A true leader for our times. It was a pleasure to be his colleague and his friend and I hope that this statue will be a reminder to future generations of the debt we owe him," he said.

    The statue will stand alongside existing statues of other former American presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D Roosevelt."

    Ministers cut school trips red tape

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    Ministers cut school trips red tape

    The Government has told schools and councils to cut health and safety red tape to ensure that more pupils go on trips.

    "Ministers are to publish new guidelines for parents and teachers in England, telling them to scrap “unnecessary paperwork”.

    The government guidance has been cut from 150 pages to eight. Michael Gove, the education secretary, said the move would mean a “more common sense approach to health and safety".

    "It will make it easier for schools to make lessons more inspiring and fun,” he said.

    The new guidelines clarify that written parental consent is not needed for each activity and encourage schools to use a new one-off consent form signed once when a child starts at a school.

    Mr Gove said: “Children should be able to go on exciting school trips that broaden their horizons. That is why we are cutting unnecessary red tape in schools and putting teachers back in charge."

    Fear of prosecution was too often used as an excuse not to organise school trips, he added.

    In the past five years only two cases have been brought against schools for breaches of health and safety law on a visit."

    Health and safety fears are 'taking the joy out of playtime'

    Misguided "jobsworths" have turned playgrounds into joyless no-go zones and risk harming children’s education for fear of being sued, the chairman of the Health and Safety Executive has warned.

    "Bureaucrats were using health and safety rules as a “feeble” excuse to stop people enjoying themselves, Judith Hackitt told The Daily Telegraph.

    “Cynical” authorities employed them as cover for cost-cutting, she added.

    “The creeping culture of risk-aversion and fear of litigation also puts at risk our children’s education and preparation for adult life,” she said.

    “Children today are denied – often on spurious health and safety grounds – many of the formative experiences that shaped my generation.

    “Playgrounds have become joyless, for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring.”

    Miss Hackitt said the “gloves are off” and her organisation would target officials or employers who wrongly used health and safety to stop everyday activities."

    PM signs China deals but urges respect for human rights

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    PM signs China deals but urges respect for human rights

    "David Cameron has said China provides a "huge opportunity" for British business as he announced £1.4bn of trade agreements between the two countries.

    After meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for talks, Mr Cameron hailed what he said was a "deeper dialogue".

    But he said political and economic progress must go hand in hand as respect for human rights was "the best guarantor" of prosperity and stability.

    Mr Wen urged co-operation and dialogue over the issue, not "finger-pointing".

    During talks in Downing Street, the two leaders signed bilateral trade agreements worth £1.4bn and restated their desire to double the value of two-way trade between the countries by 2015.

    UK companies are to get greater access to Chinese markets in architecture, civil engineering and research and development.

    A ban on British poultry exports to China in place since a case of avian flu in 2007 is being lifted while more British pigs and pig meat are to be sold to China. Agreements on services and taxation have also been reached...

    Mr Cameron rejected suggestions there was a "trade-off" between the UK's commercial interests in China and its willingness to speak out about human rights, saying no subject had been "off limits" in their talks.

    While stressing that China and the UK were "different countries with different histories", Mr Cameron said the development of civil society and freedom of expression and respect for human rights "underpins stability and prosperity for us all".

    "We applaud the economic transformation that has taken place in China...But, as I said in Beijing last November, we do believe the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together."

    New UK nuclear plant sites named

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    New UK nuclear plant sites named

    "Ministers have announced plans for the next generation of UK nuclear plants.

    The government confirmed a list of eight sites it deems suitable for new power stations by 2025, all of which are adjacent to existing nuclear sites.

    The sites are: Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; and Wylfa, Anglesey.

    The announcement comes three months after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

    The future of nuclear as a power source for countries around the world was called into question after the disaster which occurred in March when a Japanese earthquake and tsunami rocked the reactors at Fukushima, leaving radioactivity leaking from the plant.

    The proposals for new UK nuclear power plants are part of a series of national policy statements on energy which have been published following a public consultation.

    The plans will be debated and voted on in Parliament, but ministers are hopeful that, with a pro-nuclear majority in the Commons, they will win the argument."

    Ed Balls calls for emergency tax cut

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    Ed Balls calls for emergency tax cut

    "Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called for an emergency tax cut - urging the Government to reduce VAT temporarily to "kick-start" economic recovery.

    Accusing George Osborne of risking permanent damage to the economy by pressing ahead with stark austerity measures, he said the Chancellor needed to act to boost confidence.

    Reducing the sales tax back to 17.5% for a period would help to stimulate consumer spending, bring down inflation and boost job creation, he argued in a keynote speech.

    Mr Osborne raised VAT to 20% from January.

    "The question is not the cost to George Osborne of paying for this temporary emergency tax cut, but the price our country will pay if he carries on regardless," he said.

    "Slowing down the pace of deficit reduction with a temporary VAT cut now would give the flat-lining economy the jump start it so urgently needs, boost jobs and be a better way to get the deficit down for the long term."

    In an address to the London School of Economics, Mr Balls accused the Chancellor of "keeping his fingers crossed and stubbornly ignoring the economic evidence" that his plan is not working...

    Mr Balls though insisted the previous government's move to cut VAT to 15% for 13 months had been effective and was backed by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    "At the end of each month, millions of families did see extra money in their pockets, and thousands of businesses saw the difference in their bottom line," he said.

    "As the IFS has said, it proved an 'effective stimulus'. And the economy received a much-needed injection which helped it return to growth, led unemployment to fall and saw the deficit come in £21 billion lower than expected."

    Answering questions following his speech, Mr Balls said VAT was his preferred tax for Mr Osborne to cut because "he has got to choose the measure which has the quickest impact".

    "He can reverse it from 20% to 17.5% immediately and it has an immediate impact on people's purchasing power and the bottom line of businesses," said the shadow chancellor.

    "I think the evidence is getting pretty clear George Osborne needs to do something quickly. If he wants to do something quickly that will work, he should cut VAT."

    Mr Balls accepted that Labour was "culpable" for mistakes for which it should apologise in its time in power, such as the failure to regulate banks more tightly.

    And he agreed that not every penny in the previous government's budgets was well-spent, citing the repeated reorganisation of NHS primary care trusts as something that was "destabilising and wasteful".

    But he rejected Mr Osborne's argument that excessive spending by Labour is the reason for the UK's current problems with its deficit.

    "The charge that Labour's profligacy and waste in spending caused the deficit or caused the crisis is just not true," said Mr Balls.

    He sought to shrug off demands for him to admit over-spending under the Blair and Brown administrations, saying: "I think rather than having a debate about 'the past - good or bad?', we should focus on where the country is going and whether George Osborne is taking the right or wrong choices."

    If Archbishop is against it, it must be good...

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    Archbishop of Canterbury criticises coalition policies

    "The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the government is committing Britain to "radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted".

    Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Dr Rowan Williams raised concerns about the coalition's health, education and welfare reforms.

    He said there was "indignation" due to a lack of "proper public argument".

    A Downing Street spokesman said: "This government was elected to tackle Britain's deep-rooted problems."

    "Its clear policies on health, welfare and the economy are necessary to ensure we are on the right track," he added.

    The article was written for the latest edition of the New Statesman, which Dr Williams guest edited...

    In the piece, Dr Williams said the Big Society idea was viewed with "widespread suspicion".

    Talking specifically about the government's key health and education policies, he said they were being introduced at a "remarkable speed".

    "At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context," he said.

    In a wide-ranging attack, he accused the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of creating "anxiety and anger" in the country by introducing reforms without sufficient debate.

    Dr Williams was critical of Prime Minister David Cameron's flagship Big Society initiative, which aims to shrink the state and hand more control of services to volunteer groups, describing it as a "stale" slogan, viewed as an "opportunistic" cover for spending cuts.

    The archbishop's article also said there was concern that the government would abandon its responsibility for tackling child poverty, illiteracy and poor access to the best schools."

    Privacy injunctions unsustainable, says Cameron

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    Privacy injunctions unsustainable, says Cameron

    "Privacy rulings affecting newspapers are "unsustainable" and unfair on the press, the prime minister has said.

    David Cameron told ITV1's Daybreak the law should be reviewed to "catch up with how people consume media today".

    It comes after Scotland's Sunday Herald became the UK's first mainstream paper to name a footballer accused on Twitter of taking out a privacy injunction.

    Twitter users had responded to a legal bid to find out who was behind messages naming a footballer by posting more.

    Situation 'unsustainable'

    The player, who an injunction says can only be identified as CTB, is involved in proceedings against ex-Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, who is a former Miss Wales, and the Sun newspaper.

    Lawyers for the Sun will go to the High Court later to ask for the injunction to be lifted, the newspaper said on its website.

    Mr Cameron told Daybreak: "It is rather unsustainable, this situation, where newspapers can't print something that clearly everybody else is talking about."

    David Cameron: 'We save the NHS by changing it'

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    David Cameron: 'We save the NHS by changing it'

    "The overall cost of medicines is rising by £600million a year, he will say, driven by new treatments coming on stream.

    Mr Cameron adds: “Sticking with the status quo and hoping we can get by with a bit more money is simply not an option.”

    The prime minister’s speech comes as a report published today claims that taxpayers would save £5.5 billion a year if the Government pushes ahead with plans to allow private companies to offer more public services.

    Allowing private companies to bid for more public sector work will drive down costs or force Government bodies to reduce their prices.

    The money saved would be enough to cut more than one pence off the basic rate of income tax.

    The Daily Telegraph has also obtained a letter sent on behalf of 41,000 health workers in the private sector providing NHS services urging the Government not to demonise their work and insisting that patients are satisfied with their treatment.

    In the report, Reform, a think tank, studied private involvement in the public sector around the world in the provision of services from prisons to hospitals.

    It concluded that the potential savings for the British public sector was about £5.5 billion annually."

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