Friday, November 30, 2007

Is the roof falling in on the housing market?

By Sean O'Grady, Economics Editor Published: 30 November 2007

Has the bubble burst? The signs are ominous. For some months the property market has been cooling, the bubble showing distinct signs of strain.
Five increases in interest rates from the Bank of England in just over a year had begun to do their work, even before the recent credit crunch. House price rises began to moderate in the summer, and values in the past couple of months have been falling, albeit modestly and from a very inflated level. The Nationwide and the Halifax have reported drops of one to two per cent since the autumn, the worst performances since the housing recession of the early 1990s.

Britain's educational ranking falls

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 2:50am GMT 30/11/2007

School standards have come under renewed attack as pupils in Britain slipped in another international education league table.
The country fell to 14th in new rankings based on children's ability in science - beaten by nations including Slovenia, Estonia and Liechtenstein.

Labour at war over party donations

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor Last Updated: 9:54am GMT 30/11/2007

The Labour fund-raising scandal has escalated into open warfare between Gordon Brown and his party deputy Harriet Harman after she blamed the Prime Minister's inner circle for her decision to accept an illegal donation.
As the police prepared to launch a full-scale criminal inquiry into the affair, Miss Harman's aides named Chris Leslie - the co-ordinator of Mr Brown's leadership campaign - as the man who recommended she seek a donation from one of the secret intermediaries used by David Abrahams.;jsessionid=RCGL5J005MOKTQFIQMGSFFOAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/30/nbrown130.xml

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Food company 'sold tainted meat to schools'

By Gary Cleland and Harry Wallop Last Updated: 2:11am GMT 28/11/2007

A food company supplied contaminated meat to Government departments, prestigious schools and top hotels, according to a former employee.
McLaren Foods, based in Ashford, Kent, supplied meat to the Treasury, Westminster School and The Dorchester and Claridges hotels.
The company, which has since gone into administration, also supplied hospitals including London Chest Hospital, Ipswich and Royal Marsden and care homes.

Rammell warns of extremism at universities

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 2:10am GMT 28/11/2007

Universities are in danger of becoming "breeding grounds for violent extremism" unless academics challenge hard-line views among students, the Government warned last night.
Students should be encouraged to debate controversial topics, such as the motives behind suicide bombers, to stop those with radical beliefs disappearing underground, said Bill Rammell, the higher education minister.
He also suggested that in the interests of free speech radical lecturers should be allowed to argue that suicide bombers are "justified".

Gordon Brown urged to sack chief fundraiser

By Bonnie Malkin and agencies Last Updated: 11:14am GMT 28/11/2007

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has called for Jon Mendelsohn - who was brought in by Mr Brown to fund the general election - to be dumped if allegations that he was aware of secret donations to the Labour Party from property developer David Abrahams are true.
Mr Abrahams disclosed last night that he received a handwritten note from Mr Mendelsohn only yesterday calling him one of the party's "strongest supporters".;jsessionid=ETEZPO1RV0CDJQFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/28/nbrown1528.xml

Monday, November 26, 2007

MP quits Oxford Union in BNP row

By Aislinn Simpson Last Updated: 2:00am GMT 26/11/2007

A senior Conservative MP has resigned his membership of the Oxford Union as the pressure mounted on the organisers of tonight's debate on free speech to withdraw an invitation to Nick Griffin, of the British National Party, and Holocaust denier David Irving.
Julian Lewis, the shadow defence minister, turned in the membership he has held for 37 years following the Union's controversial invitation. He said he was "ashamed" of the students' decision. Others attacked the invitation as "juvenile provocation" and a "festival of anti-Semitism".
The Defence Secretary Des Browne, June Sarpong, the television presenter, Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP, and other speakers have pulled out of engagements at the union as a result of the invitation.

Schools struggle with foreign children influx

By Victoria Thake Last Updated: 2:45am GMT 26/11/2007

An influx of migrant children is changing the culture of schools and pushing some to 'breaking point', the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will claim this week.
Some schools do not have the resources to cope with scores of school-age children arriving in the UK from eastern Europe with a poor grasp of the English language and customs, a Government inquiry will be told.
The warning follows the publication of figures from the Government Actuary's Department which suggest that increased levels of immigration and an increasing birthrate could result in the population of the UK rising to about 90 million by the middle of the century.

Average Briton is now £33,000 in debt

By Nick Allen Last Updated: 2:35am GMT 26/11/2007

Families are stretched to the limit of their borrowing capacity, with personal debt having almost doubled since the turn of the century, an independent report warns today.
The average adult now owes £33,000 through mortgages, credit cards and personal loans compared with £17,000 in 2000, the international accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers claims.
Many households are likely to have to use their credit cards to meet rising mortages
As borrowers default on their debts in growing numbers and banks and building societies try to recoup their losses, annual fees on credit cards will become standard, the report says. These would equate to up to £30 a year.

Donations: Labour general secretary resigns

By Robert Winnet Last Updated: 6:03pm GMT 26/11/2007

The Labour Party’s general secretary has dramatically resigned after admitting he knew that one of the party’s major benefactors had sought to hide his financial support by funnelling donations through other people.
Peter Watt stood down amid the growing furore over a series of donations totalling almost £400,000 made by property developer David Abrahams. Mr Abrahams gave the money to two members of staff who then donated the money to Labour.;jsessionid=EQ2YGKOXZ3TRTQFIQMGSFFWAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/26/nlabour326.xml

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Foot and mouth: New leak at Pirbright site

By Nick Allen and Graham Tibbetts Last Updated: 12:03pm GMT 22/11/2007

A new leak of foot and mouth disease has been discovered at the same site where an outbreak started three months ago.
The virus was released through a leaking valve at the private pharmaceutical firm Merial in Pirbright, Surrey, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said.
The Pirbright laboratory is shared by the private firm Merial and the Government's Institute for Animal Health
The Pirbright site, which also contains the Government's Institute for Animal Health, was the source of the August outbreak which cost the farming industry an estimated £100 million.;jsessionid=US1GYVU5LQEYFQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/22/nfoot122.xml

England search begins as Steve McClaren axed

By David Bond and Giles Mole Last Updated: 1:27pm GMT 22/11/2007

Steve McClaren's reign as England manager has come to an end after failure to qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships next summer.
Members of the Football Association executive board decided this morning that McClaren's brief but disastrous reign as England manager needed to be brought swiftly to a close.
Directors on the 12-man board discussed their next move in the aftermath of England's 3-2 defeat by Croatia at Wembley last night. But they agreed to wait until this morning before making a final decision.;jsessionid=US1GYVU5LQEYFQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/sport/2007/11/22/ufnfro222.xml

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Widow of man killed by gang blames police

By Nigel Bunyan Last Updated: 2:33am GMT 21/11/2007

The widow of a man punched and kicked to death by drunken youths in front of his family has told how police had failed to do anything to stop the gangs who had terrorised their estate for months.
Giving evidence at the trial of five teenagers for her husband’s murder, Helen Newlove said meeting after meeting had been held by worried residents, who complained that the police had no way of stopping these gangs plaguing their neighbourhood.

The Chancellor will go: the question is when

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 21/11/2007

Six weeks ago, as he called off an autumn election, Gordon Brown explained that while his administration had shown "competence", he wanted time to set out its "vision".
Yesterday, as he sat alongside his hapless Chancellor in the Commons, the Prime Minister must have cursed his timidity.
For Alistair Darling's wretched account of how Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs contrived to lose the computerised details of 25 million people will taint Labour indelibly with a reputation for incompetence on an epic scale.

Data on 25m benefits claimants lost in post

By Gordon Rayner and Andrew Porter Last Updated: 2:49am GMT 21/11/2007

Every parent in the country has been put at risk of fraud and identity theft after the Government lost 25 million personal records in Britain’s worst ever data protection breach.
Two compact discs containing bank details and addresses of 9.5 million parents and the names, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers of all 15.5 million children in the country went missing after a junior employee of HM Revenue and Customs put them in the post, unrecorded and unregistered.
Alistair Darling, already under pressure over the Northern Rock crisis, revealed the “inexcusable” blunder to incredulous MPs, admitting that there was still no trace of the CDs more than a month after they went missing.;jsessionid=0WTUCSPTSRH23QFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2007/11/20/ncustoms620.xml

Monday, November 19, 2007

Artists too frightened to tackle radical Islam

Ben Hoyle, Arts Reporter

Britain’s contemporary artists are fĂȘted around the world for their willingness to shock but fear is preventing them from tackling Islamic fundamentalism. Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing potter, Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist, said that he had consciously avoided commenting on radical Islam in his otherwise highly provocative body of work because of the threat of reprisals.
Perry also believes that many of his fellow visual artists have also ducked the issue, and one leading British gallery director told The Times that few major venues would be prepared to show potentially inflammatory works.
“I’ve censored myself,” Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”


Review shows 'things are good' for most children - Ed Balls Monday November 19, 2007

Parents who supply their children with alcohol are behind soaring rates of binge drinking among Britain's teenagers, the Government has warned.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was wrong for family members to buy under-age children "four-packs" and send them out to get drunk with their friends.He published a study warning that teenagers in the UK consume "extremely high" quantities of alcohol compared to children in other countries.

New 'superbug' may be killing hundreds

By Victoria Thake Last Updated: 1:47am GMT 19/11/2007

Hundreds of patients are dying each year from a new "untreatable" hospital infection, a leading expert has warned.
Pseudomonas is usually found in specialist wards and can cause a number of illnesses
Pseudomonas is dangerous because it is especially virulent in intensive care units and has become increasingly resistant to treatment, says Professor Mark Enright, an authority on healthcare-acquired infections.
"Pseudomonas is a nightmare for hospitals - a real struggle," said Prof Enright, of Imperial College, London.

Deadly H5N1 bird flu hits second turkey farm

By Megan Levy and agencies Last Updated: 5:08pm GMT 19/11/2007

A second case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in turkeys at a farm near last week's initial outbreak, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed today.
About 6,000 birds were slaughtered after last week's initial outbreak in Redgrave
All 9,000 turkeys have already been slaughtered at the new infected premises, Hill Meadow Farm, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. The new farm is operated by the same company that runs Redgrave Park Farm, where the first bird flu case was discovered last week.;jsessionid=FOAREATAHMRZPQFIQMGSFGGAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/19/nbird119.xml

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pupils take flight from bad schools

By Julie Henry Last Updated: 1:25am GMT 18/11/2007

Nearly a quarter of a million children have to travel to neighbouring council areas to get a good education, according to new figures.
In many cases, children commute longer distances than their parents as they cross council boundaries to be taught at a good school rather than put up with underperforming ones on their doorsteps. In the worst local authorities, half of all pupils leave home every morning to be taught in another council area, according to statistics to be published by the Policy Exchange think-tank this week.

England's prayers answered as Israel triumph

By Roy Collins Last Updated: 1:21am GMT 18/11/2007

England's prayers for a miracle in the Holy Land that would resurrect their Euro 2008 qualifying hopes were answered in spectacular style last night. Indignant and hurt by all the conspiracy theories, of which there were more swirling around in the Tel Aviv night than in the Paris courtroom where the inquest into Princess Diana's death drags on, Israel raised themselves to post a historic win against Russia in the Ramat Gan Stadium that handed England a reprieve.;jsessionid=3EUXGTQD11GR1QFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/sport/2007/11/18/sfnfro118.xml

Our forces can't carry on like this, says General Sir Richard Dannatt

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent Last Updated: 1:30am GMT 18/11/2007
The head of the Army has warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue", The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, reveals in a top-level report that the present level of operations is "unsustainable", the Army is "under-manned" and increasing numbers of troops are "disillusioned" with service life.
General Dannatt describes his report as an accurate and vivid picture of Army life
Gen Dannatt states that the "military covenant is clearly out of kilter", and the chain of command needs to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.;jsessionid=3EUXGTQD11GR1QFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/18/nforces118.xml

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Elderly sell homes to cover care bills

By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 1:52am GMT 17/11/2007

Nearly one in five people has to sell all their assets, including the family home, to fund their place in a care home, according to new research.
Amid the ongoing scandal of people who have worked and saved all their lives giving up everything when they go into a home, it found a chronic lack of awareness of the cost of care.
Six in 10 adults over the age of 50 have no idea how much care homes charge until they are faced with the reality - which is around £25,000 to £30,000 a year.

Helmand hero quits over troops' treatment

By Stephen Adams Last Updated: 1:59am GMT 17/11/2007

An Afghanistan war hero who led some of the toughest fighting against the Taliban is to leave the Army in disgust at the Government's treatment of troops.
Lt Col Stuart Tootal, 42, who some believe had the ability to lead the Army in the future, wrote a damning letter to military personnel chiefs slamming the "shoddy" treatment of soldiers before announcing his resignation.
It is a fresh blow for Gordon Brown and his Defence Secretary, Des Browne, who have been trying to show renewed commitment to the armed forces.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fresh turmoil on fear of new bank seeking emergency aid

From The Times November 16, 2007
Siobhan Kennedy, Christine Seib and Tom Bawden

Britain’s banking sector was yesterday thrown into fresh turmoil as lending rates rose sharply amid fears that another bank had sought emergency funding from the Bank of England.
Shares in Britain’s banks plunged despite a statement from Barclays that its exposure to the sub-prime crisis was far lower than had been feared.

Salmond 'lied to Scots over tax freeze'

By Kate Devlin, Scottish Political Correspondent Last Updated: 2:37am GMT 16/11/2007

Wendy Alexander counters Mr Salmond’s claims in Holyrood yesterday
Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, was accused of lying to the Scottish Parliament last night as his announcement of a freeze in council tax until 2011 appeared to unravel.
Labour took the unprecedented step of reporting Mr Salmond to Sir John Elvidge, the Scottish Executive's Permanent Secretary, after the leader of the Scottish National Party [SNP] insisted his government was delivering policies that his own ministers have said they will scrap.

Tony Blair's top aide attacks honours inquiry

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor Last Updated: 2:37am GMT 16/11/2007

Downing Street's most senior official yesterday attacked the police decision to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged sale of honours.
Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, said that the Metropolitan Police inquiry had been "incredibly distracting" for the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Sir Gus added that he was "puzzled" by suggestions from Scotland Yard detectives that Downing Street officials tried to hinder the investigation.

New intelligence chief reveals all on website

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor Last Updated: 2:37am GMT 16/11/2007

The most senior British intelligence official, appointed yesterday to oversee MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, has a website revealing his home address, phone numbers and private photographs of himself, family and friends.
The website features a photograph of Alex Allan windsurfing on the Thames and one of him as a young rock fan in 1969
Alex Allan, 56, is the new head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) with access to sensitive documents and information regarding anti-terrorist operations.
But the details on his website, described by a security official as "a serious breach", reveal him as a devoted fan of the American rock band Grateful Dead and a keen cyclist who once windsurfed to work in Westminster during a train strike.

BA may face multi-million compensation battle

By Laura Clout Last Updated: 7:01am GMT 16/11/2007

British Airways could face a multi-million pound bill after it agreed to compensate two passengers for cancelled flights.
The airline reportedly agreed to pay £430 compensation and legal costs for two passengers who were stranded in Cape Town because of an industrial dispute.
Its settlement raises the possibility of similar claims from thousands of other customers affected by the strike earlier this year.
EUclaim, which represented the pair, is to apply for the case to be heard in a Dutch court and claims it has been contacted by 400 other BA passengers and travel agents acting on behalf of multinational companies who are all seeking compensation.

Primary school children's 'monthly binges'

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 6:12am GMT 16/11/2007

The true scale of drug and alcohol abuse among children has been disclosed as the first large-scale Government survey showed that thousands of primary school pupils get drunk every month.
As many as one in 20 children aged 10 and 11 admitted taking part in a heavy drinking session in the past four weeks. Among 14- and 15-year-olds the numbers rose above a third - raising fresh fears over the extent of Britain's binge drinking culture.
Alarmingly, one in 10 secondary school pupils had tried cannabis and three per cent took hard drugs, including cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Emigration soars as Britons desert the UK

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor Last Updated: 6:56pm GMT 15/11/2007

Britain is experiencing the greatest exodus of its own nationals in recent history while immigration is at unprecedented levels, new figures show.
Last year, 207,000 British citizens - one every three minutes - left the country while 510,000 foreigners arrived to stay for a year or more.
The majority of people leaving the UK go to New Zealand, France, Spain or Australia
The British made up more than half of the 400,000 moving abroad - yet only 14 per cent of immigrants were UK nationals coming home.;jsessionid=XAP4NUELWGBENQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/15/nemi115.xml

Deportation of Darfuris 'not unduly harsh'

By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent Published: 15 November 2007

Campaigners have lost a test case that could have prevented the deportation of Darfuri asylum-seekers to Sudan.
The law lords overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that it was "unduly harsh" to send people back to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The Home Office said it was now free to start sending people back to the city, despite warnings that people faced torture or harassment when they arrived back in their homeland.
There was widespread anger at the ruling as campaigners warned they would launch a fresh legal challenge if the Home Office attempted to deport any Darfuri asylum-seekers.

Growing suicide toll among troops

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent, and James Kirkup Last Updated: 3:25am GMT 15/11/2007

The number of troops who have committed suicide after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan is equivalent to 10 per cent of deaths suffered on operations.
There are now no dedicated mental health wards for Service personnel
The Ministry of Defence has disclosed that 17 serving personnel have killed themselves after witnessing the horrors of conflict.
There are also fears that the number of suicides among troops who have recently left the Armed Forces could be significantly higher than 17. However, no records are kept once they leave the Services.

Bird flu 'may have hit second farm'

By Nick Allen Last Updated: 12:10pm GMT 15/11/2007

The bird flu crisis escalated today as vets said the virus may have spread to a second farm a few kilometres from the initial outbreak.
Turkeys at Grove Farm near Botesdale in Suffolk were being slaughtered on suspicion of having the disease.
The site is within a 3km protection zone established around Redgrave Park Farm where the deadly H5N1 virus was first discovered on Sunday.

Terror crackdown: Passengers forced to answer 53 questions BEFORE they travel

By JAMES SLACK Last updated at 14:01pm on 15th November 2007

Travellers face price hikes and confusion after the Government unveiled plans to take up to 53 pieces of information from anyone entering or leaving Britain. For every journey, security officials will want credit card details, holiday contact numbers, travel plans, email addresses, car numbers and even any previous missed flights.
The e-borders system will monitor every passenger travelling into or out of the country. The information, taken when a ticket is bought, will be shared among police, customs, immigration and the security services for at least 24 hours before a journey is due to take place.
Anybody about whom the authorities are dubious can be turned away when they arrive at the airport or station with their baggage.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fewer tourists visit Britain

By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 3:01pm GMT 14/11/2007

One million fewer tourists visited Britain during the three months to September, compared with the same period last year, as sky-high prices, poor airports and bad weather deterred people, official figures showed.
Britain is seen as an unexciting, troublesome destination
Overseas visitor numbers fell by 10 per cent to 9.25 million – the largest quarterly fall since the fall out of September 11, 2001, when American tourists numbers ground to a halt. This time, the weak dollar, rather than terrorism, is behind the fall in numbers.
Added to this, is Britain’s increasing reputation as an unexciting, troublesome destination, compared to more exotic places in Asia.

Doctors call for end to cheap alcohol

By James Kirkup and Nic Fleming Last Updated: 6:59am GMT 14/11/2007
Increasing numbers of people are suffering serious liver disease as a result of Britain's heavy drinking culture, doctors warned yesterday.

The new figures were released as pressure mounted on the Government to act against supermarkets selling alcohol at knock-down prices, in some cases for as little as 22p for a can of lager.
Leading doctors and charities highlighted the steep rises in alcoholic liver cirrhosis and drink-related deaths as they launched the Alcohol Health Alliance, which brings together 24 health groups to lobby for changes in drinking laws.
The figures show a 95 per cent rise in alcohol liver cirrhosis rates since 2000. In the two years to 2006, cirrhosis rose by 36 per cent.

TV nannies exploit toddlers, says NSPCC

By Nicole Martin, Digital and Media Correspondent Last Updated: 2:09am GMT 14/11/2007

Television nannies are teaching "outdated and potentially harmful" techniques, and should be banned from featuring children under five on their shows, the NSPCC has said.
Programmes such as Bringing Up Baby exploit babies and toddlers and damage the confidence of new parents who slavishly follow the techniques espoused by unqualified and often childless nannies, the charity claimed.
The warning comes as Channel 4 investigates Claire Verity, the controversial "baby guru" on Bringing Up Baby, over claims that she lied on her CV about her childcare qualifications.

Police complaints hits 17-year high

By John Steele, Crime Correspondent Last Updated: 7:16pm GMT 14/11/2007

Allegations of neglect of duty and rudeness by police have driven the total of complaints against police to a 17-year high, according to the latest report from the service's watchdog body.
The number of complaints against officers, many made by law-abiding middle class people disappointed by officers' behaviour, has almost doubled since the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) came into force three years ago.
There were just under 29,000 complaints received by the IPCC in England and Wales last year, compared with 15,900 in the 12 months before it was set up.

Security minister slapped down by Gordon Brown

By James Kirkup, political correspondent, and Gary Cleland Last Updated: 12:18pm GMT 14/11/2007
Admiral Lord West, the security minister, was today forced into an abrupt and humiliating U-turn after publicly opposing Gordon Brown's bid to raise the time limit on holding terror suspects without charging.
Lord West was forced into a U-turn by Gordon Brown
The former navy chief was drafted into the Government in the summer and asked to review Britain's defences against al-Qa'eda terrorists, and parts of that review will be presented to parliament later today.
The Prime Minister's most contentious anti-terror proposal is to look at raising the pre-charge detention time limit from 28 to 56 days.

'10,000 illegal immigrants' work in security

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor Last Updated: 6:59am GMT 14/11/2007

Up to 10,000 foreign nationals could be working illegally in the security industry, the Home Secretary indicated yesterday. The figure is double the previous estimate.
Jacqui Smith told MPs that officials were still trying to find out the scale of the fiasco but, despite accusations from the Conservatives of "blunder, panic and cover-up", she denied trying to conceal the problem.
The latest controversy to hit the Home Office centres on the disclosure that sensitive security installations were being guarded by illegal immigrants. They were licensed to work by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), a government agency that checks whether they have a criminal record.

Troops get rough deal, says Chief of Defence

By Con Coughlin Last Updated: 10:24am GMT 14/11/2007

The covenant between the Armed Forces and the British people is under growing threat from the poor conditions and lack of understanding shown to troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chief of the Defence Staff warns today.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup says the agreement that guarantees forces generous treatment in return for their sacrifices is "under stress".

Gordon Brown reveals 'Fortress Britain' plan

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor Last Updated: 6:27pm GMT 14/11/2007

Train passengers face routine airline-style bag checks and body searches as part of a new counter-terror crackdown announced by Gordon Brown.
He conjured up visions of ''Fortress Britain" as he unveiled a succession of security measures at airports, railway stations, sports venues and other public places.
In 2003 tanks were deployed to Heathrow Airport because of a suspected plot to shoot down an airliner
There is also to be a huge ''hearts and minds" drive aimed at diverting young Muslims away from the influence of fanatics. The Prime Minister said a review of vulnerable buildings and crowded spaces like shopping centres had led to a rethink of the way they are protected.
More than 250 busy railway stations, airports and seaports as well as 100 ''sensitive" installations like power stations and electricity substations will be given extra security.;jsessionid=LTFMTLEMAG3AFQFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/15/nfortress115.xml

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

London 'is second most expensive city'

Last Updated: 1:21am GMT 13/11/2007

London is the second most expensive city in the world, according to the latest study to show that British consumers pay more for weekly shopping, transport, and entertainment.
A morning journey to work, a cup of coffee and a pint of milk cost more in London than in 27 other cities. Only Oslo manages to pip Britain's capital when it comes to prices.
The research, from the shopping comparison website PriceRunner, examined 27 goods, including a can of Coca-Cola, an Apple iPod, a litre of petrol and a cinema ticket.
Londoners suffer particularly from high transport costs, with petrol touching £1 a litre and a one-way bus ticket costing £2, compared with 9p in Beijing.

Police 'too busy' to solve major crime

By Sophie Borland Last Updated: 1:21am GMT 13/11/2007

Police are letting dangerous criminals slip through the net because they are too busy concentrating on minor offences in order to meet government targets, a former chief constable has warned.
Peter Neyroud, the chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency, claims that catching a murderer now carries no more importance than arresting someone for stealing a pint of milk.
The former chief constable, who heads the organisation set up six months ago to improve policing in England and Wales, said that over the past five years police had focused on increasing the number of so-called "offences brought to justice" in a bid to meet targets.

Sir Ian Blair 'broke law' in delaying inquiry

By Nick Allen Last Updated: 1:20am GMT 13/11/2007

The embattled Metropolitan Police Commissioner personally broke the law when he delayed an independent inquiry into the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Tories have claimed.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, has written to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, demanding that Sir Ian Blair be sacked because his conduct had "discredited" the police.
The commissioner is said to have prevented the Independent Police Complaints Commission from beginning an investigation immediately into the death of Mr de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian mistaken for a suicide bomber.
The delay led to "much of the avoidable difficulty" in unravelling the circumstances surrounding the shooting in 2005, according to the IPCC.

Fastest rise in food prices for 14 years

By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 1:46am GMT 13/11/2007

Food prices are increasing at their highest rate for more than a decade, official figures showed yesterday.
Increased wheat, dairy, meat and vegetable prices mean food factories are having to pay six per cent more for their raw ingredients than a year ago - the highest annual rate since 1993, said the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
After a decade of low prices in supermarkets, vegetables, milk, bread and meat are all expected to show substantial rises
The surging costs will be passed on to consumers, who are experiencing the highest food bills for years and could end up paying almost £1,000 extra on their annual food bill than a year ago.

Jacqui Smith accused of immigrant 'cover-up'

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent, and Gary Cleland Last Updated: 11:31am GMT 13/11/2007

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is to appear before MPs over claims she tried to conceal the fact that thousands of illegal immigrants had been authorised to work in sensitive Government security posts.
Following pressure from David Cameron, the Home Office announced that Ms Smith would address the House of Commons this afternoon.
The Tory leader demanded that the Home Secretary explain why she did not make public the fact that thousands of illegal workers were given the jobs. Leaked emails showed that Ms Smith was told about the latest immigration fiasco as long ago as July, but only admitted to it on Sunday in response to questions from journalists.;jsessionid=VVMY2RC5YN40LQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/13/nmigrants413.xml

Monday, November 12, 2007

How can Britain's 'lost generation' be saved?

Britain is in danger of creating a "lost generation" of wayward teenagers responsible for rising levels of violence, the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith warns today.
He will set out plans for a comprehensive inquiry into youth crime which is likely to form the basis of radical new Conservative policies for the next general election.
Among the proposals likely to be on the agenda are a "zero tolerance" approach to law enforcement, as well as measures to encourage companies to invest in youth centres to keep children off the streets.;jsessionid=CXH24MCLGC515QFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?view=BLOGDETAIL&grid=F11&blog=yourview&xml=/news/2007/11/12/view12.xml

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Disgraced Aitken in key new Tory role

· Ex-minister heads jail commission· 'My prison term was vital experience'
Nicholas Watt, political editor Sunday November 11, 2007 The Observer

Jonathan Aitken, the disgraced former Tory cabinet minister who was jailed for perjury, will be rehabilitated into the political frontline tomorrow when he takes charge of a task force on prison reform that will help formulate Conservative policy.,,2209213,00.html

British 'spy' arrested in Russian secrets plot

By Sean Rayment and Jasper Copping Last Updated: 4:11am GMT 11/11/2007

A former British soldier has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Russian intelligence services, it can be disclosed today.
Peter Hill, a former Territorial Army trooper in the Royal Armoured Corps, was detained under the Official Secrets Act, for allegedly attempting to sell classified military documents to the Russians.
Peter Hill is reportedly being questioned for attempting to pass secrets to the Russians
He was arrested following a Metropolitan Police "sting" in which an undercover officer was understood to have posed as a Kremlin agent. Hill, 23, described as an "opportunist", is understood to have been under surveillance for some time and was arrested in Leeds last Wednesday evening, within minutes of the alleged exchange taking place.;jsessionid=VP2KAZSIF0EZTQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/11/nspy111.xml

Health-care failings make Britain the poor relation within Europe

By Patrick Sawer Last Updated: 2:44am GMT 11/11/2007

Britain's health-care system is a bad deal for patients here, compared with those in the rest of Europe, according to a new report. Although this country has the highest-paid doctors and the second-highest number of nurses per head of population, Britain was described by the study as "the poor relation" of European health-care.British hospitals have the lowest number of doctors and consultants but the highest levels of the MRSA superbug.

Illegal immigrants working as security guards

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor Last Updated: 12:43pm GMT 11/11/2007

Thousands of illegal immigrants have been given official licences to work as security guards, the Home Office has admitted.Ministers have now ordered urgent checks to be carried out on hundreds of thousands of people vetted by the government's Security Industry Authority (SIA) over the past three years.A loophole in the vetting rules meant that the entitlement of people to work in Britain was not checked for those applying for jobs in the security industry. According to newspaper reports, investigators have discovered illegal immigrants working at the Metropolitan Police, government departments and at ports and airports since the situation first came to light in July. One illegal immigrant was even employed as a security guard charged with protecting the Prime Minister's Jaguar.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The cruellest sacrifice: Revealed: 88 casualties of MoD's failures

Andrew Johnson reports Published: 11 November 2007

While the nation remembers its war dead, service families react with fury as our investigation reveals the extent of the mistakes that have consigned so many of Britain's forces to unnecessary deaths.
More than one in three servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan might still be alive if not for avoidable blunders and equipment problems, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday has revealed. An audit of the 254 deaths in the two conflicts revealed that at least 88 have died in avoidable accidents, friendly fire incidents or equipment shortages, prompting claims that the Ministry of Defence has been negligent of its duty of care to servicemen and women.

Dr Bari: Government stoking Muslim tension

By Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 10/11/2007

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain does not mince his words on integration, report Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson
There is fear and loathing in Britain. This week, the head of MI5 claimed there were 2,000 people involved in terrorist activity and children as young as 15 were being "groomed" to be suicide bombers.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: Britain must beware of becoming like Nazi Germany
Gordon Brown announced plans to require immigrants to learn English and Downing Street said the Prime Minister wanted to double the number of days that terrorist suspects can be detained without trial. Then, just as the Metropolitan Police was being censured for shooting the Stockwell One, the Lyrical Terrorist became the first woman to be convicted of terrorist crimes.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), thinks the Government is stoking the tension.;jsessionid=V4ERJVD1YLHHVQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/11/10/nbari110.xml

Middle classes abandon state schools

By Graeme Paton and Toby Helm
Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 10/11/2007

A growing proportion of middle-class parents are giving up on state education after 10 years of Labour rule by paying to educate their children in the independent sector, official figures have disclosed.
Many families outside the traditional fee-paying heartland of the South East are shunning comprehensives
The scale of the exodus is shown for the first time in statistics indicating that many families outside the traditional fee-paying heartland of the South East are shunning comprehensives in favour of private schools.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Terrorists jailed in UK prisons 'to rise tenfold'

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs EditorLast Updated: 2:26am GMT 08/11/2007

The number of terrorists in prison in Britain is expected to rise by more than tenfold over the next 10 years. Internal projections by the Prison Service suggest that the number of inmates held on terrorist offences will rise from 131 today to 1,600 by 2017. About 1,300 of them will be Category A inmates, who require the highest level of security.

Sir Ian Blair defiant despite no confidence vote

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter Last Updated: 5:06pm GMT 07/11/2007

The London Assembly today passed a surprise motion of no confidence against Sir Ian Blair, further escalating pressure on the under-fire Metropolitan Police commissioner. The vote calling for Sir Ian's sacking - arranged by Lib Dem Assembly members - came after he endured another angry grilling at City Hall over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes,

British forces 'underfunded and over-stretched'

By Aislinn Simpson Last Updated: 1:38pm GMT 08/11/2007

A group of influential ex-defence chiefs have called on Gordon Brown to give an urgent cash injection to Britain’s overstretched Armed Forces. General Lord Guthrie, Admiral Lord Boyce and Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, together with former foreign secretary Lord Owen, today launch the UK National Defence Association to press for a major increase in defence spending. With British troops committed on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the patrons argue that the Armed Forces are spread too thin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

British Airways flight seconds away from mid-air disaster

By RAY MASSEY - Last updated at 00:20am on 7th November 2007

Hundreds of passengers watched in horror as their British Airways jumbo narrowly avoided a collision with another airliner over France. The Johannesburg-bound flight from Heathrow was suddenly forced to climb to avoid an Argentinian passenger jet.

Sharp decline in confidence knocks sales of new houses

Gabriel Rozenberg and James Rossiter

The fallout from the global credit squeeze claimed another victim on this side of the Atlantic as one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders yesterday blamed an abrupt turnaround in consumer confidence for a drop in house sales.
In one of the firmest indications yet that the housing market is slowing, Bovis said that its sales had fallen sharply over the past six weeks and it would now miss its full-year forecasts. Profits will come in at least 7 per cent below expectations.
The warning was seen as a sign that the problems in the US housing and finance markets were beginning to affect consumer confidence in the UK. The City is betting that conditions in Britain’s housing market are set to deteriorate — the value of Britain’s top seven housebuilders has fallen by £8.7 billion, a drop of 42 per cent, since April 6, calculations by The Times show.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

MI5: Al-Qa'eda recruiting UK children for terror

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 2:08am GMT 06/11/2007

Muslim children as young as 15 are being recruited by al-Qa’eda to wage "a deliberate campaign of terror" in Britain, the head of MI5 has said.
Jonathan Evans used his first speech since taking over the security service to warn that Islamists were "radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism."
Mr Evans said the threat has yet to reach its peak He said MI5 had identified 2,000 individuals who pose a direct threat to national security and public safety but warned the number of potential terrorists living in this country could run to 4,000. The stark assessment came as the Government prepared to announce plans for a new counter-terror crackdown.

‘Bribe’ is doubled for foreign prisoners who agree to leave Britain

Richard Ford, Home Correspondent

The Government has almost doubled to £1,500 the “bribe” offered to foreign national prisoners to persuade them to return home and ease prison overcrowding, The Times has learnt.
The improved package of help is being offered for the next 5½ weeks as the Government attempts to meet a target of removing 4,000 foreign prisoners by the end of the year. Opposition politicans and penal reform groups suggested last night that the enhanced package was a clear sign that the Government was not on target.
The revised package was introduced quietly without any publicity or formal announcement by the Home Office a week ago as Parliament rose for a week’s break.

BA joins Europe's 'poorest performing airlines'

By David Millward, Transport Editor Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 06/11/2007

British Airways performed worse than any other major European airline, with more than two in five flights running late, according to figures released yesterday. AEA consumer report [pdf]
Not only did BA's punctuality figures leave it languishing alongside the Portuguese and Greek carriers, it was also among the worst airlines for losing baggage over the summer.
The latest performance league table, covering July to September, was released by the Association of European Airlines.
It was published within days of BA announcing that it had notched up a 25 per cent increase in profits for the first six months of the year.

Bishop attacks 'appalling' military housing

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent and Thomas Harding
Last Updated: 2:07am GMT 06/11/2007

The Roman Catholic bishop to the military has attacked the Government for failing to upgrade the "appalling" living conditions of troops and their families. The Bishop of the Forces, the Rt Rev Tom Burns, is demanding that money is provided immediately to raise the quality of military housing.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Christmas should be 'downgraded' to help race relations says Labour think tank

By JAMES CHAPMAN - Last updated at 12:56pm on 1st November 2007

Christmas should be downgraded in favour of festivals from other religions to improve race relations, says an explosive report.
Labour's favourite think-tank says that because it would be hard to "expunge" Christmas from the national calendar, 'even-handedness' means public organisations must start giving other religions equal footing.
The leaked findings of its investigation into identity, citizenship and community cohesion also propose:
• "Birth ceremonies", at which state and parents agree to "work in partnership" to bring up children
• Action to "ensure access" for ethnic minorities to "largely white" countryside
• An overhaul of Britain's "imperial" honours system
• Bishops being thrown out of the House of Lords
• An end to "sectarian" religious education
• Flying flags other than the Union Jack.
The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research was commissioned when Nick Pearce, now head of public policy at Downing Street, was its director.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cameron in race row as Tory claims that Enoch was right

Nicholas Watt, political editor Sunday November 4, 2007 The Observer

David Cameron was drawn into a row over race last night after a candidate in a high-profile Parliamentary seat praised Enoch Powell for his notorious 'rivers of blood' speech, which warned that Britain was 'literally mad' to allow widespread immigration.
Days after Cameron was praised by the head of the Equality Commission for tackling the issue of immigration in a non-racial way, Labour called on the Tory leader to remove Nigel Hastilow as a prospective Conservative candidate for declaring that Powell was 'right'.

Full story:,,2205014,00.html

The royals & a toxic court

The young Windsors and their hangers-on who keep the royal soap opera rolling.
Susie Mesure and Andrew Johnson report on another week of toe-curling headlines
Published: 04 November 2007

In the soap opera that is Britain's Royal Family, one part of the cast seems destined to provide less than elevating storylines for years to come: its younger generation and their coterie of friends, hangers-on and trainee courtiers. They are fast becoming the royals' toxic twentysomethings, and in the past seven days they have been on vintage form.
It has been, even by the rococo standards of the Windsors, a fine week for toe-curling headlines. Last Sunday, there was "Royal victim of coke and sex blackmail bid". This was followed by "Police question Prince Harry over hen harrier shooting". And yesterday, the Daily Mail ran a spread headlined "Why does Harry drink so much?" replete with details of Knightsbridge nights running up £1,567 bar bills and 23-hour drinking sessions.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Guardian's One-Sided Analysis


HonestReporting has previously debunked the misleading charge that Gaza is 'under siege'. Yet, The Guardian's Seumus Milne headlines his op-ed "The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation". Milne does not take long to reveal where his sympathies lie, referring to "rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups". Since when is the firing of Qassams from Gaza schoolyards (see video here) against civilian targets in Sderot and the surrounding region an act of resistance and not terrorism?
The piece continues in the same vein, littered with bias. Here are some examples:
Milne refuses to hold Hamas responsible for the situtation in Gaza. Instead, in a perverse inversion, an increase in Qassam attacks is blamed on Israel. Additionally, Milne notes an increase in the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli casualties without acknowledging that the majority of those Palestinians were directly involved in terrorist activities that Israel has every right to defend itself against.;jsessionid=4BP4YLRHKRJW1QFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/10/30/nmosques130.xml

'Hate literature easily found at UK mosques'

By Toby Helm, Chief Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:35am GMT 30/10/2007

Extremist literature that encourages hatred of gays, Christians and Jews can be easily found at many of Britain's mosques, according to a new survey.
Researchers for the centre-Right think tank Policy Exchange claims it found the literature in a quarter of the 100 mosques and Islamic institutions they visited.Many of the publications allegedly called on British Muslims to segregate themselves from non-Muslims and for unbelievers to be treated as second-class citizens wherever possible.The literature also allegedly contained repeated calls for gays to be thrown from mountains and tall buildings and for women to be subjugated.
Policy Exchange said that among the documents were the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and other publications peddling bizarre conspiracy theories.
Anthony Browne, the director of Policy Exchange, said: "It is clearly intolerable that hate literature is peddled at some British mosques.;jsessionid=4BP4YLRHKRJW1QFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/10/30/nmosques130.xml

Too much testing "harms primary school pupils"

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 2:18am GMT 02/11/2007 The repeated testing of young children is seriously undermining their education, a major study reports. Hours spent drilling pupils increases "anxiety and stress", narrows the curriculum and has limited impact on standards, it is claimed. Children aged 11 spend almost three weeks practising and sitting tests in their final year of primary school in England — while teachers waste five weeks preparing exams. Despite claims that children are brighter than ever, researchers said the system of high-stakes tests had "exaggerated" pupils' progress, with up to a third given the wrong grades. In a damning conclusion, the report says £500 million spent on Labour's National Literacy Strategy had been wasted as children's ability to read was no better than the 1950s. The findings are part of a two-year inquiry — led by Cambridge University — into the state of English primary schools.;jsessionid=HMO4SOEEERATRQFIQMFSFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2007/11/02/nschools102.xml