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"Labour battle plan 'hides Blair' The Tories have accused Tony Blair of being "terrified" of scrutiny after Labour unveiled details of how it will fight the next general election. In a break with tradition, the party will ditch the leader's battle bus and daily press briefings in Westminster. Instead Mr Blair will travel to key cities and marginal seats to deliver the party's message. Labour election chief Alan Milburn denied the party was trying to "hide" the prime minister. He promised "the most positive and upbeat election campaign Labour has ever run". But Tory co-chairman Liam Fox said Labour's plans showed Mr Blair was "terrified of facing proper scrutiny". "At a time when the British people are looking for more accountability and openness, this government turns its back on them; abandoning plans to tour the country and scared to face journalists in a press conference - it does rather beg the question, 'What have they got to hide?'" The general election is widely expected next May and all the parties are stepping up their campaign preparations. Mr Milburn said the economy would take centre stage in Labour's campaign in what would be a "watershed" election and the "last stand of the Thatcherites". Mr Milburn said Labour's slogan would be "Britain is working - Don't let the Tories wreck it." The tone of the campaign, said Mr Milburn, would be more conversational than rhetorical; more spontaneous less scripted; less national more local and less based on issues and more concentrated on people. The approach is particularly designed to appeal to women voters, he said. Mr Milburn brushed aside questions over why the chancellor was not present at the Cabinet meeting to discuss election strategy particularly since such importance was being given to the economy. "I'm not privy to everybody's diary," he said. Mr Brown has headed Labour's preparations for previous polls but Mr Milburn is taking that role this time. In a break with the past, Labour will not hold a daily news conference in London. It will not be a "battle bus" style campaign either, he said. In previous elections, each party leader has had their own battle bus transporting national newspaper, television and radio reporters to staged campaign events around the country. Mr Milburn said Labour's media effort this time would focus more on local newspapers and broadcasters, with every local radio station given the chance to interview the prime minister. Mr Milburn said there would also be a greater effort to set up face-to-face meetings between ministers and the electorate. Former Downing Street media chief Alastair Campbell is also returning to advise Labour on media strategy and campaigning. Mr Milburn said no decision had been taken yet over whether David Blunkett would have a prominent role in the election. Liberal Democrat chief executive Lord Rennard suggested Labour was avoiding news conferences in London because it wanted less scrutiny of its record and proposals. "Tony Blair seems to have disappeared from Labour leaflets and broadcasts," he said. "In contrast Charles Kennedy will feature prominently in the Liberal Democrat campaign right across the country.""
"Mr Milburn said the economy would take centre stage in Labour's campaign in what would be a "watershed" election and the "last stand of the Thatcherites".Mr Milburn said no decision had been taken yet over whether David Blunkett would have a prominent role in the election.Mr Milburn said Labour's slogan would be "Britain is working - Don't let the Tories wreck it."Mr Milburn said there would also be a greater effort to set up face-to-face meetings between ministers and the electorate.Mr Milburn said Labour's media effort this time would focus more on local newspapers and broadcasters, with every local radio station given the chance to interview the prime minister.Labour election chief Alan Milburn denied the party was trying to "hide" the prime minister.The tone of the campaign, said Mr Milburn, would be more conversational than rhetorical; more spontaneous less scripted; less national more local and less based on issues and more concentrated on people.But Tory co-chairman Liam Fox said Labour's plans showed Mr Blair was "terrified of facing proper scrutiny".It will not be a "battle bus" style campaign either, he said.Mr Brown has headed Labour's preparations for previous polls but Mr Milburn is taking that role this time."
"Kennedy calls for Iraq exit plans Tony Blair should set out a proper exit strategy from Iraq in the wake of next Sunday's elections in the country, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has said. In a speech focusing on issues arising from the re-election of George W Bush, Mr Kennedy said Iraq had become a "crucible of militant terrorism". He wants to see a phased withdrawal of UK troops "as soon as the situation allows", he said in London. Any exit strategy must "augment and support" the democratic process. "There are some who are of the opinion that the mere presence of British and American troops in Iraq feeds the insurgency," he said. "There is some truth in that, especially after the initial mistakes that were made - the heavy-handedness of operations like Fallujah, and the well-publicised instances of abuse at the hands of coalition forces." Mr Kennedy pointed out that the Netherlands, Portugal and the Czech Republic, which all have troops operating in the southern sector of Iraq, have announced their imminent withdrawal "regardless of the situation on the ground". He accused Mr Blair's government of "being less than straightforward" over its plans. "Next week the prime minister should make a statement regarding the elections in Iraq," Mr Kennedy said during his City of London speech. "He should set out a proper exit strategy, including the phased withdrawal of British troops, as the security situation allows." Mr Kennedy also argued that British troops deployed in Iraq should be replaced with forces from other countries - "especially Islamic countries"."
"Mr Kennedy also argued that British troops deployed in Iraq should be replaced with forces from other countries - "especially Islamic countries".Tony Blair should set out a proper exit strategy from Iraq in the wake of next Sunday's elections in the country, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has said."Next week the prime minister should make a statement regarding the elections in Iraq," Mr Kennedy said during his City of London speech.Mr Kennedy pointed out that the Netherlands, Portugal and the Czech Republic, which all have troops operating in the southern sector of Iraq, have announced their imminent withdrawal "regardless of the situation on the ground".In a speech focusing on issues arising from the re-election of George W Bush, Mr Kennedy said Iraq had become a "crucible of militant terrorism"."
"Campbell returns to election team Ex-Downing Street media chief Alastair Campbell will return to the fold to strengthen Labour's general election campaign, the party has confirmed. Mr Campbell has consistently made public his keenness to play a part in the poll, expected in May. Both Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott have welcomed his return. "He is a strong Labour Party member," Mr Prescott told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme. Mr Campbell quit Number 10 in August 2003 after being Tony Blair's right-hand man at the 1997 and 2001 elections. Labour have refused to discuss his exact new position and have not said how it would affect his Downing Street replacement David Hill. "Of course Alastair's going to be part of the election campaign and I think that all of us who will also be part of the election campaign are very pleased about that," Ms Jowell told Sky News. But she said his return would not put anybody else's "nose out of joint". "This is the daft thing about the way in which politics is written about," Ms Jowell added. "There's room for everybody. We serve the country better if we make room for all the talent." A Labour source told the Sunday Times Mr Campbell would "effectively front" the election media campaign but said he would be given no formal title. Labour strategists told the paper he would be "set loose" on Conservative leader Michael Howard in attacking his party's economic record when it was in power. "They used pictures from the 1970s in the 1992 campaign to remind people of the winter of discontent - and now it's our turn," the source told the paper. "Making Michael Howard leader gives us an unmissable opportunity to remind people what it was like to pay mortgage rates of 15% even if it was more than a decade ago." Mr Campbell was at the centre of the government's row with BBC over Andrew Gilligan's story about the Iraq weapons dossier. The Hutton inquiry cleared him of "sexing up" the dossier in the run-up to the Iraq war. Since leaving Downing Street, he has toured the country with his one man show, An Audience With Alastair Campbell and presented a number of interview programmes for Channel 4."
"A Labour source told the Sunday Times Mr Campbell would "effectively front" the election media campaign but said he would be given no formal title.Ex-Downing Street media chief Alastair Campbell will return to the fold to strengthen Labour's general election campaign, the party has confirmed.Mr Campbell was at the centre of the government's row with BBC over Andrew Gilligan's story about the Iraq weapons dossier."Of course Alastair's going to be part of the election campaign and I think that all of us who will also be part of the election campaign are very pleased about that," Ms Jowell told Sky News."He is a strong Labour Party member," Mr Prescott told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme.Labour strategists told the paper he would be "set loose" on Conservative leader Michael Howard in attacking his party's economic record when it was in power.Since leaving Downing Street, he has toured the country with his one man show, An Audience With Alastair Campbell and presented a number of interview programmes for Channel 4.Mr Campbell has consistently made public his keenness to play a part in the poll, expected in May."
"UK firms 'embracing e-commerce' UK firms are embracing internet trading opportunities as never before, e-commerce minister Mike O'Brien says. A government-commissioned study ranked the UK third in its world index of use of information and communication technology (ICT). The report suggests 69% of UK firms are now using broadband and that 30% of micro businesses are trading online. Mr O'Brien said UK businesses were sprinting forward in ICT use, but that there were more challenges ahead. The report, carried out independently by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton and HI Europe, placed the UK third behind Sweden and Ireland for business use of ICT. It showed British business brought greater maturity to their ICT use, by using broadband in increased numbers, bringing ICT into their business plans and using new technologies such as voice activated programmes and desktop video conferences. Mr O'Brien said: "The increase in the proportion of business connected by broadband shows that UK companies are embracing the opportunities that ICT can bring. "It is particularly encouraging to see that small businesses are beginning to narrow the digital divide that appeared to have opened up in recent years." The government would play its part in "cultivating an environment where information and communication technologies can flourish", Mr O'Brien said. The "clear message" the report sends is that effective use of ICT can bring real improvements in business performance for all business. "However, we are not at the finishing line yet and many challenges remain if the UK is to reach its aim of becoming a world-leading e-economy," he added. The International Benchmarking Study was based on 8,000 telephone interviews with businesses, of which more than 2,700 were UK businesses. It is the eighth in a series of examining the adoption and deployment of ICT in the world's most industrialised nations."
"Mr O'Brien said UK businesses were sprinting forward in ICT use, but that there were more challenges ahead.Mr O'Brien said: "The increase in the proportion of business connected by broadband shows that UK companies are embracing the opportunities that ICT can bring.A government-commissioned study ranked the UK third in its world index of use of information and communication technology (ICT).The report suggests 69% of UK firms are now using broadband and that 30% of micro businesses are trading online.The report, carried out independently by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton and HI Europe, placed the UK third behind Sweden and Ireland for business use of ICT.The "clear message" the report sends is that effective use of ICT can bring real improvements in business performance for all business."
"McConnell in 'drunk' remark row Scotland's first minister has told a group of high school pupils that it is okay to get drunk "once in a while". Jack McConnell was speaking to more than 100 secondary pupils from schools in the Highlands about the problems of binge drinking and drink promotions. He has been criticised by the SNP for encouraging young people to get drunk. But the Scottish Executive has insisted Mr McConnell was speaking about adults and his comments were "a recognition that people will get drunk". The first minister's comments came in a question and answer session at Glenurquhart High School in Inverness, attended by pupils from a number of secondary schools. A Highland councillor who was at the event has also defended Mr McConnell. Margaret Davidson, the independent member for the Loch Ness West, said the first minister was speaking in a very general way and she was sure he was speaking about adults at the time. When one pupil asked Mr McConnell how the executive proposed to tackle under-age drinking, began his response with the quip: "I'm sure there's no under-age drinking in the Highlands." He went on to speak about the evils of binge drinking and railed against irresponsible drinks promotions. He said: "I hope I'm not going to be seen as preaching to anybody here but the really serious problem at the moment is binge drinking and the impact it has on people's health and their ability to control what's happening round about them." Mr McConnell said he regularly saw reports on the effects of binge drinking sprees which ended in assaults or even rapes, and on the health consequences of binge drinking. "The one thing we are going to do something really serious about is binge drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions that can help lead to that," he said. "Far too many pub chains in particular are selling far too much booze far too cheaply and encouraging people to drink it far too quickly. "We are go to clamp down on that and make those promotions illegal in the hope that people can enjoy a drink sensibly over the course of an evening." He added: "By all means get drunk once in a while - but do not get into a situation where people are being encouraged to get completely incapable just to save some money and drink more quickly." SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "This is an incredible gaffe by Jack McConnell. "We all know that under-age drinking is an issue in Scotland but it is quite staggering that any politician, particularly the First Minister, should encourage young people to get drunk. "The first minister should withdraw these remarks immediately." But an executive spokeswoman insisted Mr McConnell had made the remark with adults, not youngsters, in mind. "He was talking in the context of adults binge drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions - which are for the over-18s," she said. "It was just a recognition that people will get drunk, but that binge drinking and drinks promotions that encourage it are not acceptable.""
""It was just a recognition that people will get drunk, but that binge drinking and drinks promotions that encourage it are not acceptable."Jack McConnell was speaking to more than 100 secondary pupils from schools in the Highlands about the problems of binge drinking and drink promotions.But the Scottish Executive has insisted Mr McConnell was speaking about adults and his comments were "a recognition that people will get drunk"."He was talking in the context of adults binge drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions - which are for the over-18s," she said."We all know that under-age drinking is an issue in Scotland but it is quite staggering that any politician, particularly the First Minister, should encourage young people to get drunk.Mr McConnell said he regularly saw reports on the effects of binge drinking sprees which ended in assaults or even rapes, and on the health consequences of binge drinking."The one thing we are going to do something really serious about is binge drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions that can help lead to that," he said.Scotland's first minister has told a group of high school pupils that it is okay to get drunk "once in a while".He has been criticised by the SNP for encouraging young people to get drunk."
"Tory expert denies defeat warning The Conservatives' campaign director has denied a report claiming he warned Michael Howard the party could not win the next general election. The Times on Monday said Australian Lynton Crosby told the party leader to focus on trying to increase the Tories' Commons presence by 25 to 30 seats. But Mr Crosby said in a statement: "I have never had any such conversation... and I do not hold that view." Mr Howard later added there was not "one iota" of truth in the report. The strategist helped Australia's PM, John Howard, win four elections. Mr Howard appointed Mr Crosby as his elections chief last October. Mr Crosby's statement said: "The Conservative Party has been making an impact on the issues of lower tax and controlled immigration over the past week." It added: "The Labour Party will be wanting to do all they can to distract attention away from the issues that really matter to people.""
"Mr Howard appointed Mr Crosby as his elections chief last October.Mr Crosby's statement said: "The Conservative Party has been making an impact on the issues of lower tax and controlled immigration over the past week."Mr Howard later added there was not "one iota" of truth in the report.But Mr Crosby said in a statement: "I have never had any such conversation... and I do not hold that view.""
"Howard and Blair tax pledge clash Tony Blair has said voters will have to wait for Labour's manifesto to see if the party has plans to increase tax. The premier was responding to a challenge from Tory leader Michael Howard who said Labour would raise taxes in its post-election Budget. Mr Blair derided Tory claims they could cut £35bn in "wasteful spending" saying the party had got its sums wrong. The two political leaders clashed just days after the opening salvoes of the pre-election period. Mr Howard told MPs that "every independent expert" from the International Monetary Fund to the Institute of Fiscal Studies had suggested the "government was spending more than it is raising and a Labour chancellor would have to put up taxes". Mr Blair replied: "I think they are wrong for this very simple reason: that the Treasury forecasts on the economy have been proven right." The Tories on Monday highlighted their plans for tax cuts worth £4bn, although the specific taxes to be cut have not been announced. They also spelled out their plans for reduced government borrowing and more spending on key services. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said the party's sums do not add up and claim it would cut frontline services. But Mr Howard said voters faced a clear choice at the next election between more waste and more tax under Labour and Tory value for money and lower taxes. The Liberal Democrats have also launched their pre-election platform, with leader Charles Kennedy saying his party was the "authentic opposition", particularly on the Iraq war, council tax and university tuition fees. Labour hit back at the Tory proposals even before their publication with election coordinator Alan Milburn accusing Mr Howard of producing a "fraudulent prospectus"."
"The premier was responding to a challenge from Tory leader Michael Howard who said Labour would raise taxes in its post-election Budget.But Mr Howard said voters faced a clear choice at the next election between more waste and more tax under Labour and Tory value for money and lower taxes.Mr Blair derided Tory claims they could cut £35bn in "wasteful spending" saying the party had got its sums wrong.Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said the party's sums do not add up and claim it would cut frontline services.Mr Howard told MPs that "every independent expert" from the International Monetary Fund to the Institute of Fiscal Studies had suggested the "government was spending more than it is raising and a Labour chancellor would have to put up taxes"."
"Howard denies split over ID cards Michael Howard has denied his shadow cabinet was split over its decision to back controversial Labour plans to introduce ID cards. The Tory leader said his front bench team had reached a "collective view" after holding a "good discussion", but admitted it was "not an easy issue". He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration. The Lib Dems have pledged to oppose the bill when it is debated next Monday. Tory sources say senior party figures had argued vociferously against the ID card scheme. Among those reported to have serious reservations over the strategy were senior shadow cabinet members David Davis, Oliver Letwin and Tim Yeo. But Mr Howard denied Mr Yeo, his transport and environment spokesman, said the plans "stink". He also said he was confident shadow home secretary Mr Davis would "set out the position very clearly" when he stands up to debate the matter next week. Mr Howard said the police had said ID cards could "help them foil a terror bomb plot in which people could lose their lives". He added: "When the police say that you have to take them seriously". He acknowledged there were "good libertarian arguments" against the cards, but said the shadow Cabinet had weighed up all the "conflicting interests" before reaching its decision. "I don't pretend that it is an easy decision but at the end of the day a decision has to be taken." He also denied he was afraid of looking "soft" on the issue, compared to Labour. The Conservatives announced their support for the government plans on Monday evening. Sources within the party told the BBC Mr Howard had always been in favour of ID cards, and tried to introduce them when he was Home Secretary. But the Tories insisted they would hold ministers to account over the precise purpose of the scheme. They said they would also press Labour over whether objectives could be met and whether the Home Office would be able to deliver them. And they pledged to assess the cost effectiveness of ID cards and whether people's privacy would be properly protected. "It is important to remember that this bill will take a decade to come into full effect," a spokesman said. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten has branded the ID scheme a waste of money and "deeply flawed". He said: "This has all the signs of Michael Howard overruling colleagues' concerns over ID cards." The chairman of the Bar Council, Guy Mansfield QC warned there was a real risk that people on the "margins of society" would be driven into the hands of extremists. "What is going to happen to young Asian men when there has been a bomb gone off somewhere? They are going to be stopped. If they haven't [ID cards] they are going to be detained." Tory ex-minister Douglas Hogg said he opposed the plans for ID cards branding them a "regressive" step which would intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens without any counterbalancing benefits. He predicted ultimately carrying the cards would become compulsory and that would lead to large numbers of Britain's ethnic minorities being stopped by police."
"Michael Howard has denied his shadow cabinet was split over its decision to back controversial Labour plans to introduce ID cards.Mr Howard said the police had said ID cards could "help them foil a terror bomb plot in which people could lose their lives".He said: "This has all the signs of Michael Howard overruling colleagues' concerns over ID cards."He also said he was confident shadow home secretary Mr Davis would "set out the position very clearly" when he stands up to debate the matter next week.He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration.Tory ex-minister Douglas Hogg said he opposed the plans for ID cards branding them a "regressive" step which would intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens without any counterbalancing benefits.They said they would also press Labour over whether objectives could be met and whether the Home Office would be able to deliver them.But Mr Howard denied Mr Yeo, his transport and environment spokesman, said the plans "stink".Sources within the party told the BBC Mr Howard had always been in favour of ID cards, and tried to introduce them when he was Home Secretary.If they haven't [ID cards] they are going to be detained."And they pledged to assess the cost effectiveness of ID cards and whether people's privacy would be properly protected."
"Parties build up poll war chests The Labour Party received more than £5m in donations in the final quarter of 2004, new figures show. This is nearly half of the £11,724,929 received by 16 political parties listed by the Electoral Commission. The Conservatives were in second place with donations totalling £4,610,849, while the Liberal Democrats received just over £1m. The majority of Labour's donations came from affiliated trade unions. There were also large sums from individuals. Lord Drayson, whose company PowderJect won multi-million pound contracts to provide smallpox vaccine to the government after the 11 September terror attacks, gave £500,000 to the party just days before Christmas. This followed an earlier donation of the same amount earlier in 2004. He was made a lord by Tony Blair last year. Other significant donations came from retired millionaire businessman and philanthropist Sir Christopher Ondaatje who gave the party a sum of £500,000, and refrigerator magnate William Haughey OBE who gave £330,000. The totals for the fourth quarter were well up on the same period of 2003, as the parties built up their war chests for the general election campaign. The largest donation to the Conservatives was a bequest from Ruth Beardmore of nearly £400,000. The joint founder of merchant bank Hambro Magan gave £325,417. There were also donations topping £250,000 for the Conservatives from Scottish Business Groups Focus on Scotland and the Institute of International Research, the world's largest independent conference company. Also among the gifts to the Tories were 24 donations totalling £161,840 from Bearwood Corporate Services. This company is controlled by the party's former treasurer Lord Ashcroft which has directed almost £300,000 to specific marginal constituencies over the past two years. The Liberal Democrats' largest donor was the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, a company which promotes political reform and constitutional change, which gave a sum of £250,000. And fast food giants McDonald's are listed as donating a sum of £10,575. This was a fee the firm paid for a room for an event held with the work and skills foundation during the party's conference. The UK Independence Party, which lost its main donor Paul Sykes amid the row over Robert Kilroy-Silk's bid for the leadership last autumn, took in £63,081. Just £8,170 of this was cash and the remainder came in gifts in kind, such as office space and printing. Registered political parties are required to set out each quarter all donations over £5,000 to their headquarters and over £1,000 to local constituency parties they receive. It is an offence for a person to knowingly or recklessly make a false declaration about party donations."
"Registered political parties are required to set out each quarter all donations over £5,000 to their headquarters and over £1,000 to local constituency parties they receive.The Labour Party received more than £5m in donations in the final quarter of 2004, new figures show.Other significant donations came from retired millionaire businessman and philanthropist Sir Christopher Ondaatje who gave the party a sum of £500,000, and refrigerator magnate William Haughey OBE who gave £330,000.The largest donation to the Conservatives was a bequest from Ruth Beardmore of nearly £400,000.The Conservatives were in second place with donations totalling £4,610,849, while the Liberal Democrats received just over £1m.The Liberal Democrats' largest donor was the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, a company which promotes political reform and constitutional change, which gave a sum of £250,000.This is nearly half of the £11,724,929 received by 16 political parties listed by the Electoral Commission.There were also donations topping £250,000 for the Conservatives from Scottish Business Groups Focus on Scotland and the Institute of International Research, the world's largest independent conference company.Also among the gifts to the Tories were 24 donations totalling £161,840 from Bearwood Corporate Services."
"Labour's 'EU propaganda' A "taxpayer subsidised propaganda exercise" on the EU is being used to lull the British public into a false sense of security, say the Tories. Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram told MPs a new White Paper was part of trying to soften up opinion ahead of the referendum on the EU constitution. His claims were denied by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who accused the Tories of "running scared" of debate. EU cooperation would help get better UK immigration controls, he argued. Mr Straw used Thursday's Commons debate to launch the new White Paper on the prospects for the EU in 2005. Security, stability and prosperity would be the key themes when the UK took over the chairmanship of the EU in July, said Mr Straw. Africa and climate change would also feature highly. He said the UK was trying to ensure future EU budgets were limited to 1% of Europe's economic output and were spent "where it adds most value". Mr Straw promised to continue to ensure the UK's budget rebate, secured in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher, was "fully justified". "We, like all other countries, have a veto on any changes proposed in this area," he said. Mr Ancram condemned the document, which the Foreign Office says has cost about £2,500 to design, print and deliver. "Isn't the reason that the government is now involved in a taxpayer subsidised propaganda exercise to try to sell the new EU to the country in advance of the forthcoming referendum and general election?," he asked. The Tory spokesman also criticised the government for claiming the EU constitution would make Europe easier to understand. "The government, last week, had to publish a commentary of 500 pages to try and explain this 'easy and simple' constitution to the British people," he said. "Who are they trying to kid?" The proposed question for the constitution referendum is: "Should the United Kingdom approve the Treaty establishing a Constitution for the European Union?" The Electoral Commission on Thursday said it was satisfied the question was easy to understand. The government has suggested the referendum on the constitution could take place in spring 2006, with the Tories set to campaign for a "no" vote. Mr Ancram said ministers were prolonging uncertainty by putting the vote off until the latest date possible. The foreign secretary hit back by saying Tory attitudes to Europe had helped keep the party out of power for more than a decade. Mr Straw argued cooperation with European partners could bring a "level playing field" on immigration and asylum controls. "You are setting your face against all of these things," he added. For the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell said the UK should not ignore the need to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Change was particularly important for developing countries wanting access to markets, he argued. Sir Menzies was among those worried about plans, backed by the UK, to lift the arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Mr Straw said no decisions had been taken - Chinese human rights had improved but not by enough."
"Security, stability and prosperity would be the key themes when the UK took over the chairmanship of the EU in July, said Mr Straw.Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram told MPs a new White Paper was part of trying to soften up opinion ahead of the referendum on the EU constitution.He said the UK was trying to ensure future EU budgets were limited to 1% of Europe's economic output and were spent "where it adds most value".Mr Straw used Thursday's Commons debate to launch the new White Paper on the prospects for the EU in 2005.The Tory spokesman also criticised the government for claiming the EU constitution would make Europe easier to understand.EU cooperation would help get better UK immigration controls, he argued.The Electoral Commission on Thursday said it was satisfied the question was easy to understand.Mr Straw said no decisions had been taken - Chinese human rights had improved but not by enough.For the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell said the UK should not ignore the need to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy.Mr Straw promised to continue to ensure the UK's budget rebate, secured in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher, was "fully justified".Mr Straw argued cooperation with European partners could bring a "level playing field" on immigration and asylum controls."
"Boothroyd calls for Lords speaker Betty Boothroyd has said the House of Lords needs its own Speaker and that peers should lead the way on reforming the upper chamber. Baroness Boothroyd, who was the first woman to be Commons Speaker, said she believed Tony Blair initiated reforms without a clear outcome in mind. "Now we have to take care of it ourselves and make the best of it," she told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost. In 1999 Labour removed all but 92 of the Lords' 750 hereditary peers. That was billed as the first stage of reform of the institution. The lord chancellor hinted further reforms could be unveiled in the next Labour manifesto. "I think we need to look very carefully at the relationship between the Lords and the Commons," Lord Falconer told BBC1's Breakfast With Frost. "How it interacts with the Commons is a very, very important issue. "We need to address the issue in the manifesto, but you will have to wait for when the manifesto comes." The lord chancellor currently has the role of House of Lords speaker. He is also head of the judiciary and a member of the Cabinet as constitutional affairs secretary. Lady Boothroyd said she believed it was unacceptable for the lord chancellor to have the role of Speaker. "I would really like to see a Speaker of the House of Lords," she said. "I don't go for the idea of somebody - a lord chancellor - who is head of the judiciary, a senior Cabinet minister and Speaker of the Lords. "I want somebody there who is going to look after that House and do a job there."
"The lord chancellor currently has the role of House of Lords speaker."I don't go for the idea of somebody - a lord chancellor - who is head of the judiciary, a senior Cabinet minister and Speaker of the Lords.Lady Boothroyd said she believed it was unacceptable for the lord chancellor to have the role of Speaker."I think we need to look very carefully at the relationship between the Lords and the Commons," Lord Falconer told BBC1's Breakfast With Frost.Betty Boothroyd has said the House of Lords needs its own Speaker and that peers should lead the way on reforming the upper chamber."I would really like to see a Speaker of the House of Lords," she said."
"Bid to cut court witness stress New targets to reduce the stress to victims and witnesses giving evidence in courts in England and Wales have been announced by the lord chancellor. Lord Falconer wants all crown courts and 90% of magistrates' courts to have facilities to keep witnesses separate from defendants within four years. More video links will also be made available so that witnesses do not have to enter courtrooms. It is part of a five-year plan to help build confidence in the justice system. Ministers say the strategy is aimed at re-balancing the court system towards victims, and increasing the number of offenders brought to justice. Launching the Department for Constitutional Affairs' plan, Lord Falconer said: "One of the top priorities will be a better deal for victims. "The needs and safety of victims will be at the heart of the way trials are managed. "Courts, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, police and victim support - all working together to ensure the rights of victims are put first, without compromising the rights of the defendant." He went on: "Giving evidence is a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you're a victim. "Yet with a will and with support it can be done." Lord Falconer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was impossible for some elderly people to go to court to give evidence. Other witnesses could be intimidated by sitting alongside defendants outside courts. "You are never going to get rid of some element of the trauma of giving evidence," he said. "But you can make people believe that the courts understand the problem, it's not some kind of alien place where they go where they are not thinking about them." The plan comes as the lord chancellor also considers allowing cameras into courts for the first time since 1925, as long as they were used for cases that did not involve witnesses. Another feature of the strategy is constitutional reform, with a government bill to set up a supreme court and a judicial appointments commission returning to the House of Lords on Tuesday. Ministers had proposed getting rid of the title of lord chancellor, but the Lords have over-ruled this. Lord Falconer said it was right for the highest court to be completely distinct from Parliament. The person in charge of the court system should not also be speaker of the House of Lords, he said, and should be the best person chosen from either House of Parliament. What they did, not what they were called, was the critical issue, he added."
"New targets to reduce the stress to victims and witnesses giving evidence in courts in England and Wales have been announced by the lord chancellor.Lord Falconer said it was right for the highest court to be completely distinct from Parliament.Lord Falconer wants all crown courts and 90% of magistrates' courts to have facilities to keep witnesses separate from defendants within four years.Lord Falconer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was impossible for some elderly people to go to court to give evidence.The plan comes as the lord chancellor also considers allowing cameras into courts for the first time since 1925, as long as they were used for cases that did not involve witnesses.The person in charge of the court system should not also be speaker of the House of Lords, he said, and should be the best person chosen from either House of Parliament."Courts, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, police and victim support - all working together to ensure the rights of victims are put first, without compromising the rights of the defendant."Launching the Department for Constitutional Affairs' plan, Lord Falconer said: "One of the top priorities will be a better deal for victims."
"Kilroy names election seat target Ex-chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk is to contest the Derbyshire seat of Erewash at the next general election. Labour's Elizabeth Blackman won the seat in 1997 and has a 6,932 majority. She says she will fight on her record "as a hard-working constituency MP". Mr Kilroy-Silk announced his plans a day after launching his new party, Veritas, the Latin for truth. The East Midlands MEP, who quit the UK Independence Party, wants his new group to "change the face" of UK politics. His choice of election constituency quashes speculation that he would stand against Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. UKIP won 31% of the vote in Erewash in last June's European elections - with Mr Kilroy-Silk among their candidates for the region. Until 1997, Erewash had been held by the Tories since 1970. Ms Blackman said she was proud of the government's achievements in the area. She declined to give her view of Mr Kilroy-Silk at this point. On Thursday, he told a London news conference that Veritas would avoid the old parties' "lies and spin". He said "our country" was being "stolen from us" by mass immigration and promised a "firm but fair" policy on immigration. Veritas says it hopes to contest most seats at the forthcoming general election but plans to announce detailed policies on crime, tax, pensions, health and defence over the next few weeks. UKIP leader Roger Knapman says he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk. Labour campaign spokesman Fraser Kemp said Veritas was joining "an already crowded field on the right of British politics". Mr Kilroy-Silk was joined in the new venture by one of UKIP's two London Assembly members, Damien Hockney, who is now Veritas' deputy leader. UKIP's chairman Petrina Holdsworth has said the group will just be a parody of the party the men have left. Mr Kilroy-Silk quit UKIP last week after months of tension as he vied unsuccessfully for the leadership of that party. He said he was ashamed to be a member of a UKIP whose leadership had "gone AWOL" after the great opportunity offered by its third place at last June's European elections. UKIP's leader, Roger Knapman, has said he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk. "He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the [European] election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," he said. UKIP officials also argue Mr Kilroy-Silk has not been "straightforward" in attacking the party he once wanted to lead."
"UKIP's leader, Roger Knapman, has said he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk."He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the [European] election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," he said.UKIP leader Roger Knapman says he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk.UKIP won 31% of the vote in Erewash in last June's European elections - with Mr Kilroy-Silk among their candidates for the region.UKIP officials also argue Mr Kilroy-Silk has not been "straightforward" in attacking the party he once wanted to lead.Mr Kilroy-Silk announced his plans a day after launching his new party, Veritas, the Latin for truth.Mr Kilroy-Silk quit UKIP last week after months of tension as he vied unsuccessfully for the leadership of that party.Mr Kilroy-Silk was joined in the new venture by one of UKIP's two London Assembly members, Damien Hockney, who is now Veritas' deputy leader.Ex-chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk is to contest the Derbyshire seat of Erewash at the next general election."
"MP's shock at long lost daughter Labour MP Stephen Pound has told of his shock and his joy on learning he fathered a daughter when he was "out of control" during the "wild" 1960s. Lucy, 36, tracked down Mr Pound after her birth mother told her he was known as "Precious" at school. Despite being told he was a "nutter who died at sea" she found a reference to Mr Pound on Friends Reunited. Lucy's mother kept her pregnancy secret and had her adopted at four weeks. Mr Pound found out about it last year. That happened when Lucy wrote to his Parliamentary office saying she believed he was her father. Mr Pound, who is now married with two other teenage children, said: "I was a nutter and I was a sailor but I wasn't dead." He said his first reaction was to wonder if he was victim of a "set-up" but he then realised all the dates fitted. "It was a pretty horrible thing with a pretty happy ending. I felt guilt in the marrow of my bones," said the Ealing North MP. "I don't blame Lucy's mother. I was pretty much out of control. I was 18 when she was conceived. It was a different time - it was pretty wild." Mr Pound says he rang Lucy as soon as he got her letter, they met up and have been in contact ever since. Describing that first meeting at London's King Cross station, he said: "The earth went from under my feet ... We were walking across the Euston Road and I took her arm to take her across and there was an immediate connection. "We were finishing each other sentences." Lucy, who was adopted by a family from Essex, wants to remain anonymous for the sake of her adoptive father and her children. Mr Pound said his wife Maggie had been fully supportive and their two children Emily, 16, and Pelham, 14 were pleased to have an older sister."
"Mr Pound, who is now married with two other teenage children, said: "I was a nutter and I was a sailor but I wasn't dead."I was 18 when she was conceived.It was a different time - it was pretty wild."Lucy, 36, tracked down Mr Pound after her birth mother told her he was known as "Precious" at school.He said his first reaction was to wonder if he was victim of a "set-up" but he then realised all the dates fitted.I was pretty much out of control.Despite being told he was a "nutter who died at sea" she found a reference to Mr Pound on Friends Reunited.Labour MP Stephen Pound has told of his shock and his joy on learning he fathered a daughter when he was "out of control" during the "wild" 1960s."
"BNP leader Nick Griffin arrested The leader of the British National Party has been arrested as part of a police inquiry following the screening of a BBC documentary. A party spokesman said Nick Griffin was arrested on Tuesday morning on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred. West Yorkshire police confirmed they had arrested a 45-year-old man from outside their area. BNP founding chairman John Tyndall was arrested on Sunday on the same charge. In July, the BBC documentary Secret Agent featured covertly-filmed footage of BNP activists. Mr Griffin is the twelfth man to be arrested following the documentary. Nine men from West Yorkshire and another man from Leicester have been arrested and freed on bail. Seven of the men had been held variously in connection with suspected racially aggravated public order offences, conspiracy to commit criminal damage and possession of a firearm. Two men, both from Keighley, were arrested in September on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage. A 24-year-old man from Leicester was detained on Monday on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred. A BNP spokesperson said Mr Tyndall, from Brighton, was arrested following a speech he made in Burnley, Lancashire, and was released on police bail."
"Mr Griffin is the twelfth man to be arrested following the documentary.A party spokesman said Nick Griffin was arrested on Tuesday morning on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred.A BNP spokesperson said Mr Tyndall, from Brighton, was arrested following a speech he made in Burnley, Lancashire, and was released on police bail.Two men, both from Keighley, were arrested in September on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.Nine men from West Yorkshire and another man from Leicester have been arrested and freed on bail."
"Cardinal criticises Iraq war cost Billions of pounds spent on conflict in Iraq and in the Middle East should have been used to reduce poverty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has said. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales made the comments on BBC Radio 4 and will re-iterate his stance in his Christmas Midnight Mass. The cardinal used a Christmas message to denounce the war in Iraq as a "terrible" waste of money. He and the Archbishop of Canterbury have both spoken out about the war. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day slot, he criticised the fact that "billions" have been spent on war, instead of being used to bring people "out of dire poverty and malnourishment and disease". The cardinal said 2005 should be the year for campaigning to "make history poverty". He added: "If the governments of the rich countries were as ready to devote to peace the resources they are willing to commit to war, that would be to see with new eyes and speak with a new voice and perhaps then others would listen to us with new ears." The cardinal will touch on this theme again on Friday night when he will tell the congregation of 2,000 at Westminster Cathedral that peace is "worth, always, striving for". "How is it that peace has not arrived?," the cardinal will ask. "How is it that there is war in Iraq, violence in the Holy Land, and the horror of pain and death amongst the poor and deprived who suffer from injustice and thus do not find peace?" "How can one wish a happy Christmas for our fellow Christians in Iraq or in the Holy Land or those who suffer in Africa unless you and I, in whatever way is open to us, say and do what makes for peace?" Both the Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams appealed for the weapons inspectors to be given more time in Iraq before the war started. Dr Williams has since criticised the government over its case for war, saying the failure to find weapons of mass destruction had damaged faith in the political system. On Friday, the Cardinal will ask the congregation to search for peace. "It is possible, it is real, it is worth, always, striving for, because of the promise of Our Saviour," he will say. "I also wish you peace in your homes because peace in your home is the beginning of peace in the homes of the community. " A spokesman said Downing Street had no comment to make. But Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he will put Africa at the top of the agenda when Britain chairs the G8 summit next year."
""How is it that peace has not arrived?," the cardinal will ask.On Friday, the Cardinal will ask the congregation to search for peace.The cardinal used a Christmas message to denounce the war in Iraq as a "terrible" waste of money.Billions of pounds spent on conflict in Iraq and in the Middle East should have been used to reduce poverty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has said.Both the Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams appealed for the weapons inspectors to be given more time in Iraq before the war started.The cardinal will touch on this theme again on Friday night when he will tell the congregation of 2,000 at Westminster Cathedral that peace is "worth, always, striving for".The cardinal said 2005 should be the year for campaigning to "make history poverty"."How can one wish a happy Christmas for our fellow Christians in Iraq or in the Holy Land or those who suffer in Africa unless you and I, in whatever way is open to us, say and do what makes for peace?""
"UKIP outspent Labour on EU poll The UK Independence Party outspent both Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the European elections, new figures show. UKIP, which campaigned on a slogan of "Say no to Europe", spent £2.36m on the campaign - second only to the Conservatives' £3.13m. The campaign took UKIP into third place with an extra 10 MEPs. Labour's campaign cost £1.7m, the Lib Dems' £1.19m and the Greens' £404,000, according to figures revealed by the Electoral Commission on Wednesday. Much of the UKIP funding came from Yorkshire millionaire Sir Paul Sykes, who helped bankroll the party's billboard campaign. Critics have accused the party of effectively buying votes. But a UKIP spokesman said Labour and the Conservatives had spent £10m between them on the last general election. "With the advantages of public money the others have, the only way the smaller parties can get their message across is by buying the advertising space," he added."
"UKIP, which campaigned on a slogan of "Say no to Europe", spent £2.36m on the campaign - second only to the Conservatives' £3.13m.The campaign took UKIP into third place with an extra 10 MEPs.But a UKIP spokesman said Labour and the Conservatives had spent £10m between them on the last general election.Much of the UKIP funding came from Yorkshire millionaire Sir Paul Sykes, who helped bankroll the party's billboard campaign."
"Parties' plans for council tax Anger at council tax rises spilled over into mass protests in 2003, when the average English bill rose 12.9%. Pensioners' protests spread - some marched, others simply refused to pay the increase. Some, such as 83-year-old Elizabeth Winkfield, said they would rather go to jail. The Audit Commission found the whole local government finance system was "fundamentally flawed" and all three of the main parties have said the system has to change. Labour says it wants to retain the property-based tax but reform it to make it fairer and says there is scope for councils to become more efficient. They say they are already helping pensioners with council tax bills, with a £100 lump sum for the over-70s and last year the government capped some local councils' budgets to keep demands down. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has said the current system is not sustainable in the long term and said there would be "radical reform". The party says this year's increases will be the lowest in a decade. A report last year looked at increasing the number of council tax bands and other forms of local taxation, such as reformed business rates, although no decisions have been made. An independent inquiry into its findings, the Lyons review, is due to report back at the end of 2005. The Tories have promised a reduction on bills for pensioners, who they say have been hardest hit by year-on-year increases in council tax. They say they can save £4bn on "government waste", of which £1.3bn could be used to cut pensioners' bills by an average of £340. It would not be means tested, say the Tories, because that would create more bureaucracy and could discourage people from saving for their retirement. Instead households where council tax payers are over 65 would get a rebate covering half their bill, up to a maximum of £500. The Tories also say they are suspicious about any proposals to revalue homes - currently graded according to their value in 1991 - because they believe seven million of homes could move up a band. The Liberal Democrats want to do away with the council tax altogether and switch to a local income tax of the kind seen in the USA, Norway and Switzerland. The rate would be set locally, but administered by the Inland Revenue which they say would save at least £300m. They say the council tax is the most unpopular and most unfair tax in Britain, because it puts a "ceiling" on what the richest pay. The party says it would aim for a £5,000 tax-free personal allowance, or a £7,000 allowance for the over-65s. After that income would be taxed up to £100,000. The Lib Dems say their plan is fairer, more efficient, has already been tested abroad and offers more accountability."
"The Tories have promised a reduction on bills for pensioners, who they say have been hardest hit by year-on-year increases in council tax.Labour says it wants to retain the property-based tax but reform it to make it fairer and says there is scope for councils to become more efficient.They say the council tax is the most unpopular and most unfair tax in Britain, because it puts a "ceiling" on what the richest pay.It would not be means tested, say the Tories, because that would create more bureaucracy and could discourage people from saving for their retirement.They say they are already helping pensioners with council tax bills, with a £100 lump sum for the over-70s and last year the government capped some local councils' budgets to keep demands down.The rate would be set locally, but administered by the Inland Revenue which they say would save at least £300m.Instead households where council tax payers are over 65 would get a rebate covering half their bill, up to a maximum of £500.The party says it would aim for a £5,000 tax-free personal allowance, or a £7,000 allowance for the over-65s.The Liberal Democrats want to do away with the council tax altogether and switch to a local income tax of the kind seen in the USA, Norway and Switzerland."
"Kilroy launches 'Veritas' party Ex-BBC chat show host and East Midlands MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk said he wanted to "change the face of British politics" as he launched his new party. Mr Kilroy-Silk, who recently quit the UK Independence Party, said "our country" was being "stolen from us" by mass immigration. He told a London news conference that Veritas - Latin for "truth" - would avoid the old parties' "lies and spin". UKIP leader Roger Knapman says he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk. Mr Kilroy-Silk promised a "firm but fair" policy on immigration and said they hoped to contest most seats at the forthcoming general election. He said Veritas would also announce detailed policies on crime, tax, pensions, health and defence over the next few weeks. Labour campaign spokesman Fraser Kemp said Veritas was joining "an already crowded field on the right of British politics". On Thursday Mr Kilroy-Silk is due to announce which constituency he will run in at the next general election - that will come amid speculation he has his sights set on Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's Ashfield seat. He was joined in the new venture by one of UKIP's two London Assembly members, Damien Hockney who is now Veritas' deputy leader. UKIP's chairman Petrina Holdsworth has said the group will just be a parody of the party the men have left. Mr Kilroy-Silk quit UKIP last week after months of tension as he vied unsuccessfully for the leadership of that party. He said he was ashamed to be a member of a UKIP whose leadership had "gone AWOL" after the great opportunity offered by its third place at last June's European elections. "While UKIP has turned its back on the British people, I shall not," he said. "I will be standing at the next general election. I shall be leading a vigorous campaign for the causes I believe in. "And, unlike the old parties, we shall be honest, open and straight." Mr Hockney also left UKIP saying Mr Kilroy-Silk would "deliver better" as the leader of a Eurosceptic party. A spokesman for UKIP called on Mr Hockney to quit the London Assembly. The party asserts that Mr Hockney "has a moral obligation, if not a legal one" to stand down. Its leader, Roger Knapman, has said he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk. "He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the [European] election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," he said. UKIP officials also argue Mr Kilroy-Silk has not been "straightforward" in attacking the party he once wanted to lead. Veritas? It's the BNP in an expensive suit! It's all well and good Robert Kilroy-Silk claiming, that 'Veritas' is a party that doesn't believe in "lies and spin", but the truth of the matter is, its completely useless, due to proportional representation, there is no chance that 'Veritas' will have any chance in claiming power, and change the two-horse race trend. In my opinion this is just a publicity stunt which has just been used as a smoke-screen for his anti-Islamism slurs which got him sacked from the television. I think that his views regarding immigration are shared by many. It really is time that the UK government ceased to be a paper tiger on this issue. In addition as an Ashfield constituent I would be more than interested in Kilroy -Silk opposing Geoff Hoon!! Good to see the parties of the right splintering in the way the parties of the left have always done. Let's hope Kilroy-Silk, UKIP and the euro-sceptic wing of the Tory Party all fade further into obscurity so we can have some truth in the debate about Europe. We benefit enormously from our membership of the EU, we need to be at the heart of Europe, leading it and driving it to where we as a country want to go, not running away from it. All mouth and trousers. A clown. Trouble is, any votes he collects may just end up helping New Labour into a third term. Whatever Kilroy-Silk and UKIP do, none of their anti-European policies have any relevance outside middle England. This new party might gain support from right-wing England, but will have little impact in Wales or Scotland. Hopefully this all this fighting within euro-sceptic parties will allow them to slip out of the way and get people voting for real political parties which address more than one issue. England needs Europe to survive and as soon as people realise this the better, we can't rely on the USA forever! At last an impetus for increasing the likely 40% turn out for the election. The electorate is disillusioned with British politics. Kilroy has one agenda - the UK - and I'll be voting for him. Both UKIP and RK-S are representatives of small-mindedness and a lack of vision for the whole of humankind. The interests of humanity and the world lie so much beyond the scope of these people's bickering that who, in the overall scheme of things, really cares about their petty tiff? Many people believe you Kilroy. You may even believe yourself but switching horses midstream and then bad mouthing the steed that got you halfway seriously diminishes your credibility. The very idea of political parties born out of such negative feelings as Euroscepticism or British Supremacy is nauseating. One can only hope the public recognise these extremists for what they are and shun them at the polls. I've always thought that Kilroy-Silk was a self-publicising, egotist and this news does absolutely nothing to alter my opinion. Brilliant, about time this country had a plausible party! Having seen the recent BBC 3 documentary and witnessed the thoroughly disgraceful chauvinistic behaviour of a number of senior UKIP figures I can well understand why Kilroy-Silk feels embarrassed to be associated with such people. Hopefully the UKIP members who are interested in the political debate will support his action. Fantastic news. Pro-Europeans now have far less to worry about from the right. The Conservatives are as confused as they have been since the mid-1990s, and the extreme anti-Europeans are fracturing themselves into splinter groups that split any votes they might get in local, European and general elections. Robert Kilroy-Silk's ego and vanity are his own (and his supporters') worst enemy. As a euro-enthusiast I could not be more delighted by Kilroy-Silk's behaviour. He took a party that was just building up a head of steam, and having exposed it to ridicule by attempting a coup-d'etat, he is now setting about the serious business of dividing it in two. The closer to straight-down-the-middle the better, as far as I am concerned, but in any eventuality, the two sceptic parties will exhaust their energies fighting each other. If every politician with ambitions to lead their party resorted to forming their own for that purpose, we'd have ballot papers a mile long! You've got to hand it to Kilroy-Silk for his sheer arrogance and supreme self-belief. Whilst not being a great fan of Kilroy I do agree with his comments about the UKIP leadership, and like him I am also leaving UKIP. I believe countless opportunities have been lost to discredit the EU and to show our people what belonging to the EU really means. The EU's comments last week about Michael Howard's plans to reform immigration show how little we govern our own country when they can turn round and say immigration is a matter for the EU and not individual member states. The sooner we leave this corrupt super-state the better Does anyone else think that it is ironic that Euro-Sceptic Kilroy-Silk has used a Latin name for his new party, rather than a 'good old British' name? Is this indicative of the man - contradictory, vain and pompous? I think Mr Kilroy-Silk has got a very good point. British politics has become too PC and as a result has no straight talking honest strong politicians. They are all interested in their own careers and not the people who put them in power. As a result I feel our democracy is being abused and I want it stopped. If Mr Kilroy-Silk lives up to half his promises he will get my vote. Honestly, who really cares? Man with tan leaves party with no plan, to set up party with no idea. As one of Kilroy-Silk's East Midlands constituents I hope those who voted for him are proud to have been taken in by such charming vacuity. I feel insulted by having him represent me in the European Parliament. UKIP tried hard to accommodate Robert Kilroy Silk, but he made it clear that only control of it would satisfy him. Someone so keen on complete control was bound to fall foul of UKIP's democratic nature. Kilroy is an able communicator and a capable politician, in exactly the way those who lead UKIP are not. He tried to make it work, but they didn't seem to want to grow up. He was left in the position of having to defend their gaffes to the media. This new party seems a logical next step for Kilroy. Good luck to the man, I say. Oh please! This is an amusing irrelevance. There is absolutely no chance of either of these parties communicating a sensible and constructive 'Eurosceptic' argument. They will play a key part in winning the country round to the idea of a reformed, more democratic, more dynamic Europe Union. Future generations will thank him for his ridiculousness. The refreshing thing about Robert is that he is open, honest and straight. What other politician can claim this. I have a suspicion that he talks for a larger part of the electorate that his critics would like. I shall be voting for him. The electorate of the East Midlands voted not for Kilroy-Silk but for the UKIP. Kilroy-Silk was made an MEP because of his position on the UKIP's party list. He has no mandate to represent the area and should resign from the European Parliament. I wouldn't write off Kilroy-Silk. While he's a clown and a one man band at the moment, he's a populist and that's always dangerous.The man clearly has an enormous ego and looking at our current political masters, that seems to be one of the factors in success. Good luck to Kilroy though I think he is doing more harm than good for both his new party and UKIP because their vote base is not strong enough for both parties to be successful and at the moment UKIP have the upper hand while Veritas are starting from square one and fighting a somewhat uphill battle. The man I once found cringe worthy on Day time TV, could well turn out to be my country's knight in shining armour. He expresses views which are now more than common amongst society today - but people are almost too scared to express them. Kilroy Silk has secured my vote, and many more like me. What's more, I look forward to the day when he claims victory, wrecks the EU, and rescues my great nation... without a hair out of place and his tan as perfect as ever! Great Stuff. The longer the UK dithers over Europe, the richer we in Ireland become, as the only English-speaking country fully committed to Europe. Oh and send us over those hard-working immigrants - our economy needs them. This is just what the Europhiles pray for. As the main Eurosceptic party, UKIP should try to resolve its differences with Kilroy to show a united front and give the UK public a serious political voice against Europe. Having multiple parties with the same view point just splits the vote further. Thank goodness that Kilroy-Silk has gone - now UKIP at least has a chance in the election! It is very sad to see the cause of Britain regaining its proper relationship with Europe damaged by this split within UKIP. Robert Kilroy-Silk could have a lot to offer. Instead we have a split party and a damaged cause. Under the present electoral system, people must work together, and small parties have no hope of representation. Last summer, UKIP achieved a major advance, partly and only partly due to Kilroy-Silk. It is a great shame this has been dissipated in in-fighting. UKIP has a wide platform of policies, not just withdrawal from the EU. This Kilroy-Silk conveniently ignores in the comments surrounding the launch of his own party. Neither the English Democrats nor the New Party were interested in letting him join them and take over their leadership speaks volumes. Veritas is the beginning of the end for Kilroy-Silk. If he believes in truth and democracy then he and the two assembly members should resign and force a by-elections to stand on their own platform rather than this backdoor approach to politics of being elected for one party then defecting to another. So UKIP was good enough for him to lead, not good enough for him to follow! Interesting that a party committed to plain speaking should have a Latin name! Every opinion poll points to an overwhelming anti-Europe feeling in this country. Kilroy-Silk could be on the verge of something huge if he can broaden his appeal beyond this one issue. He is an extremely able communicator with years of political experience. We wants quality schools, top hospitals, clean and efficient public transport, punishments that fit the crime, limited asylum, a purge on bureaucracy and less taxes. It needs courage and honesty, two qualities sadly lacking in our politicians. Kilroy-Silk may just have those very qualities. Recruit the right colleagues, Robert, and your time may have come! Well if you cannot get enough limelight being an ordinary MP then go out and start up your own Party. It's all flash and no real policy here Let's hope this is the start of both UKIP and Kilroy-Silk slipping into obscurity. Veritas? The name will doom it. But perhaps I am wrong for surely all modern schoolchildren will understand it since they do still learn Latin in the classroom do they not? The whole essence of what RKS represents is Euroscepticism, so explain to me how the too-twee label of Veritas symbolises that?"
""He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the [European] election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," he said.UKIP officials also argue Mr Kilroy-Silk has not been "straightforward" in attacking the party he once wanted to lead.Mr Hockney also left UKIP saying Mr Kilroy-Silk would "deliver better" as the leader of a Eurosceptic party.Good luck to Kilroy though I think he is doing more harm than good for both his new party and UKIP because their vote base is not strong enough for both parties to be successful and at the moment UKIP have the upper hand while Veritas are starting from square one and fighting a somewhat uphill battle.Mr Kilroy-Silk quit UKIP last week after months of tension as he vied unsuccessfully for the leadership of that party.Thank goodness that Kilroy-Silk has gone - now UKIP at least has a chance in the election!Let's hope Kilroy-Silk, UKIP and the euro-sceptic wing of the Tory Party all fade further into obscurity so we can have some truth in the debate about Europe.Mr Kilroy-Silk, who recently quit the UK Independence Party, said "our country" was being "stolen from us" by mass immigration.I think Mr Kilroy-Silk has got a very good point.Kilroy-Silk was made an MEP because of his position on the UKIP's party list.The sooner we leave this corrupt super-state the better Does anyone else think that it is ironic that Euro-Sceptic Kilroy-Silk has used a Latin name for his new party, rather than a 'good old British' name?"While UKIP has turned its back on the British people, I shall not," he said.Hopefully this all this fighting within euro-sceptic parties will allow them to slip out of the way and get people voting for real political parties which address more than one issue.Ex-BBC chat show host and East Midlands MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk said he wanted to "change the face of British politics" as he launched his new party.Good to see the parties of the right splintering in the way the parties of the left have always done.Man with tan leaves party with no plan, to set up party with no idea.The electorate of the East Midlands voted not for Kilroy-Silk but for the UKIP.Its leader, Roger Knapman, has said he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk.This Kilroy-Silk conveniently ignores in the comments surrounding the launch of his own party.UKIP leader Roger Knapman says he is glad to see the back of Mr Kilroy-Silk.As the main Eurosceptic party, UKIP should try to resolve its differences with Kilroy to show a united front and give the UK public a serious political voice against Europe.It's all well and good Robert Kilroy-Silk claiming, that 'Veritas' is a party that doesn't believe in "lies and spin", but the truth of the matter is, its completely useless, due to proportional representation, there is no chance that 'Veritas' will have any chance in claiming power, and change the two-horse race trend.Veritas is the beginning of the end for Kilroy-Silk.This new party seems a logical next step for Kilroy.UKIP's chairman Petrina Holdsworth has said the group will just be a parody of the party the men have left.Brilliant, about time this country had a plausible party!It's all flash and no real policy here Let's hope this is the start of both UKIP and Kilroy-Silk slipping into obscurity.Whilst not being a great fan of Kilroy I do agree with his comments about the UKIP leadership, and like him I am also leaving UKIP.Having multiple parties with the same view point just splits the vote further.The party asserts that Mr Hockney "has a moral obligation, if not a legal one" to stand down.Robert Kilroy-Silk could have a lot to offer.Kilroy-Silk may just have those very qualities.UKIP has a wide platform of policies, not just withdrawal from the EU.Whatever Kilroy-Silk and UKIP do, none of their anti-European policies have any relevance outside middle England.Instead we have a split party and a damaged cause.Kilroy has one agenda - the UK - and I'll be voting for him.If Mr Kilroy-Silk lives up to half his promises he will get my vote.On Thursday Mr Kilroy-Silk is due to announce which constituency he will run in at the next general election - that will come amid speculation he has his sights set on Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's Ashfield seat.Mr Kilroy-Silk promised a "firm but fair" policy on immigration and said they hoped to contest most seats at the forthcoming general election.Having seen the recent BBC 3 documentary and witnessed the thoroughly disgraceful chauvinistic behaviour of a number of senior UKIP figures I can well understand why Kilroy-Silk feels embarrassed to be associated with such people.He said he was ashamed to be a member of a UKIP whose leadership had "gone AWOL" after the great opportunity offered by its third place at last June's European elections.Interesting that a party committed to plain speaking should have a Latin name!Last summer, UKIP achieved a major advance, partly and only partly due to Kilroy-Silk.UKIP tried hard to accommodate Robert Kilroy Silk, but he made it clear that only control of it would satisfy him.British politics has become too PC and as a result has no straight talking honest strong politicians.I wouldn't write off Kilroy-Silk.The very idea of political parties born out of such negative feelings as Euroscepticism or British Supremacy is nauseating.Under the present electoral system, people must work together, and small parties have no hope of representation.Kilroy Silk has secured my vote, and many more like me.Kilroy is an able communicator and a capable politician, in exactly the way those who lead UKIP are not.Kilroy-Silk could be on the verge of something huge if he can broaden his appeal beyond this one issue.He was joined in the new venture by one of UKIP's two London Assembly members, Damien Hockney who is now Veritas' deputy leader.If he believes in truth and democracy then he and the two assembly members should resign and force a by-elections to stand on their own platform rather than this backdoor approach to politics of being elected for one party then defecting to another.So UKIP was good enough for him to lead, not good enough for him to follow!"
"Lib Dems predict 'best ever poll' The Lib Dems are set for their best results in both the general election and the local council polls, one of their frontbenchers has predicted. Local government spokesman Ed Davey was speaking as the party launched its campaign for the local elections being held in 37 English council areas. The flagship pledge is to replace council tax with a local income tax. The Tories say the Lib Dems would make people pay more tax and Labour says the party's sums do not add up. Looking to the coming elections, which are all expected to be held on 5 May, Mr Davey said: "We are going to be winning more votes and winning more seats. "I think we are going to have the best general election results and local election results we have ever had under [party leader] Charles Kennedy. "I couldn't think of a stronger endorsement of a leader.""
""I think we are going to have the best general election results and local election results we have ever had under [party leader] Charles Kennedy.The Lib Dems are set for their best results in both the general election and the local council polls, one of their frontbenchers has predicted.Local government spokesman Ed Davey was speaking as the party launched its campaign for the local elections being held in 37 English council areas."
"Prime minister's questions So who, if anyone, is playing politics with the security of the nation? Michael Howard has no doubt it is the prime minister who, he claims, is "ramming" through Parliament the controversial new anti-terror measures without proper debate. He didn't say so, but the Tories believe the prime minister is playing the fear card on this one so he can look tough in the run up to the general election And they believe Tony Blair is using the issue to suggest the Tories are soft on terrorism. Why on earth will the prime minister not simply take up the Tories' offer to extend the existing powers temporarily to allow proper parliamentary debate of the laws, he demanded. The prime minister claims this is the clearest indication that it is the Tories who are playing politics with the issue by attempting to score cheap political points in parliament. Is not the opposition against to the proposed laws "in principle", in which case delaying a decision for further debate would be pointless? What this is really about, believes Mr Blair, is the Tories spotting an opportunity to embarrass, maybe even defeat the government. And that is more important to them than national security. Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy avoided suggesting anyone was playing politics with the issue. He preferred to state that, as with other issues like ID cards, the government's immediate instinct was authoritarian. As is his habit nowadays, the prime minister was less rough with Mr Kennedy than he had been with Mr Howard - he prefers a more exasperated tone suggesting he believes the Lib Dems have, once again, just missed the point. Apart from all that, it was electioneering as usual. The very first question to the prime minister from Derby North's Bob Laxton asked him, in effect, if he would carry on the excellent policy of pouring more resources into schools. Later Birmingham's Sion Simon even went so far as to suggest the Tories were such a shower that we should have the general election now. The prime minister almost blushed. This was not the appropriate place to announce election day, he stammered. But can anyone be in any doubt that that announcement is just days away - an announcement coming in the week beginning 4 April for an election on 5 May is where the big money is in the Commons. And perhaps that simple fact alone means everyone is seen to be playing politics with just about everything at the moment."
"The prime minister claims this is the clearest indication that it is the Tories who are playing politics with the issue by attempting to score cheap political points in parliament.He didn't say so, but the Tories believe the prime minister is playing the fear card on this one so he can look tough in the run up to the general election And they believe Tony Blair is using the issue to suggest the Tories are soft on terrorism.Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy avoided suggesting anyone was playing politics with the issue.So who, if anyone, is playing politics with the security of the nation?As is his habit nowadays, the prime minister was less rough with Mr Kennedy than he had been with Mr Howard - he prefers a more exasperated tone suggesting he believes the Lib Dems have, once again, just missed the point.The prime minister almost blushed.Why on earth will the prime minister not simply take up the Tories' offer to extend the existing powers temporarily to allow proper parliamentary debate of the laws, he demanded.Michael Howard has no doubt it is the prime minister who, he claims, is "ramming" through Parliament the controversial new anti-terror measures without proper debate."
"Labour chooses Manchester The Labour Party will hold its 2006 autumn conference in Manchester and not Blackpool, it has been confirmed. The much trailed decision was ratified by Labour's ruling National Executive Committee in a break with the traditional choice of a seaside venue. It will be the first time since 1917 that the party has chosen Manchester to host the annual event. Blackpool will get the much smaller February spring conference instead in what will be seen as a placatory move. For years the main political parties have rotated between Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton. And the news the much larger annual conference is not to gather in Blackpool will be seen as a blow in the coastal resort. In 1998 the party said it would not return to Blackpool but did so in 2002. The following year Bournemouth hosted the event before the party signed a two year deal for Brighton to host the autumn conference. Colin Asplin, Blackpool Hotel Association said: "We have tried very hard to make sure they come back to Blackpool. "Obviously we have failed in that. I just hope Manchester can handle the crowds. "It amazes me that the Labour Party, which is a working class party, doesn't want to come to the main working class resort in the country." The exact cost to Blackpool in terms of lost revenue for hotel accommodation is not yet known but it is thought that block bookings will be taken at the major Manchester hotels after the official announcement."
"The Labour Party will hold its 2006 autumn conference in Manchester and not Blackpool, it has been confirmed.For years the main political parties have rotated between Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton.In 1998 the party said it would not return to Blackpool but did so in 2002.And the news the much larger annual conference is not to gather in Blackpool will be seen as a blow in the coastal resort.Colin Asplin, Blackpool Hotel Association said: "We have tried very hard to make sure they come back to Blackpool.It will be the first time since 1917 that the party has chosen Manchester to host the annual event."
"Regiments' group in poll move A regiments' campaign group is to target nine marginal Labour seats at the General Election. Save the Scottish Regiments will also field a candidate against Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram in East Kilbride. The group, which is unhappy at defence merger plans, is endorsing opposition candidates in nine seats. The marginals are Aberdeen South, Dumfriesshire, Dundee East and West, South West Edinburgh, Ochil, Stirling, East Renfrewshire and Western Isles. The campaigners unveiled a huge poster featuring Black Watch soldiers fighting the war in Iraq before they announced their election plans. Former Scots Guardsman Allan Hendry will challenge Mr Ingram. The group said it is well organised, with 350 volunteers, and will be announcing at least one other candidate later. It added that it can only be stopped from inflicting serious damage on Labour if the government reverses its plan to merge the six Scottish regiments. Scotland's only Conservative MP Peter Duncan said the Save the Scottish Regiments had done a "superb job" in fighting against defence cuts. He added: "Their actions have reflected the pride that most people in this country have in our troops, and have shown a steely determination to make Labour pay for their betrayal. "I have been honoured to speak at their rallies throughout Scotland." Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said it had received a "big boost" from the campaign's decision to endorse SNP candidates in four marginal seats. "Labour's arrogance has been their undoing. In trying to get rid of Scotland's historic regiments, Labour MPs will end up being scrapped themselves," he said. However, Labour MP George Foulkes said the campaigners would not make any difference to the outcome of the election and would not win the argument. "A serving soldier knows that what Labour is proposing is right," he said. As well as their election move, Save the Scottish Regiments will join other campaigners at a rally in London in the spring. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced last year that Scotland's regiments would be combined into a single unit. The move was part of overall Army reforms."
"As well as their election move, Save the Scottish Regiments will join other campaigners at a rally in London in the spring.Scotland's only Conservative MP Peter Duncan said the Save the Scottish Regiments had done a "superb job" in fighting against defence cuts.Save the Scottish Regiments will also field a candidate against Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram in East Kilbride.A regiments' campaign group is to target nine marginal Labour seats at the General Election.In trying to get rid of Scotland's historic regiments, Labour MPs will end up being scrapped themselves," he said.However, Labour MP George Foulkes said the campaigners would not make any difference to the outcome of the election and would not win the argument.It added that it can only be stopped from inflicting serious damage on Labour if the government reverses its plan to merge the six Scottish regiments."A serving soldier knows that what Labour is proposing is right," he said."
"Kennedy predicts bigger turnout Voters' "pent up passion" could confound predictions of a low turnout in the coming general election, Charles Kennedy has said. The Liberal Democrat leader predicted concerns over Iraq and other international and domestic issue would express themselves during the campaign. His comments come as an inquiry looks at how best to boost voter turnouts. Ex-foreign secretary Robin Cook said people were not apathetic but fed up of "pager politics" and not being heard. He, like Mr Kennedy, pointed to the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated against plans for the Iraq war. Mr Cook, who is giving evidence to the Power inquiry into voter turnout rates, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme it was not fair to blame the public who were "more interested in politics than ever before". "They are turned off by the way we do politics in Britain. There's a message there for politicians." He urged politicians to avoid negative campaigning and to "speak more from the heart". "We should be not so afraid to say what we stand for." He also criticised the cult of personality politics: "There's far too much interest in celebrities. "Politics are in danger of becoming another branch of the celebrity industry." The government has tried a number of things in an attempt to boost voter turnout, which fell to 59% in the last general election in 2001. This has included bringing in directly elected mayors to head local authorities and trialling postal voting."
"Mr Cook, who is giving evidence to the Power inquiry into voter turnout rates, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme it was not fair to blame the public who were "more interested in politics than ever before".The government has tried a number of things in an attempt to boost voter turnout, which fell to 59% in the last general election in 2001.Ex-foreign secretary Robin Cook said people were not apathetic but fed up of "pager politics" and not being heard.He also criticised the cult of personality politics: "There's far too much interest in celebrities.Voters' "pent up passion" could confound predictions of a low turnout in the coming general election, Charles Kennedy has said."They are turned off by the way we do politics in Britain."
"Council tax rise 'reasonable' Welsh councils should set their taxes at "reasonable levels" after being given an average funding increase of 6%, says the assembly government. Finance Minister Sue Essex said it was a "good deal" for local government. The £3.2bn settlement includes the "full" £7.4m from the UK Treasury announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown. But opposition parties said rebanding of council taxes would mean steep rises. In addition, £13.4m will come from the business support grant - a scheme which enables local authorities to keep part of business rates. She said where spending rises were kept to around 5% she was "confident that councils will be able to set council taxes at reasonable levels." The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) had said on the eve of the announcement said that "significant" cuts to services may still be unavoidable. After the announcement WLGA finance spokesman Bob Wellington, of Torfaen, said it was vital that rises were minimsed. "A limited amount of money has come available but this is not the answer to our problems," said Mr Wellington. "It is vital that we start now to plan for future years and accept that resources will continue to reduce while pressures on services increase." On Monday, a delegation of north Wales councils visited Ms Essex to lobby for increased funds. Ms Essex said: "I have listened to the views of local government and council tax payers and recognise the funding pressures and the concerns they have about council tax rises. "I have met a large number of local authorities in recent weeks and I am aware of the pressures on them to provide local services and keep down the level of council tax, particularly for those people to are moving up a band due to the revaluation of domestic properties." She said council taxes could be kept at reasonable levels, "even for those people who have moved up a band". The settlement includes a rise in the grant to help councils with the most deprived communities and a 16.4% rise in capital expenditure support. Ms Essex said: "This is a good deal for local government, which will allow the well-managed councils of Wales to develop their services and charge reasonable levels of council tax. It is now a matter for council leaders to manage their budgets at a local level." Plaid Cymru's local government spokesman Dai Lloyd called the announcement "hugely disappointing". He said: "Wales and its local authorities have been short changed yet again. This is not whinging as the Labour Assembly Government so often claims - it is anger." "This will mean either a massive hike in council tax, massive cuts in services provided by councils, or both." Mike German, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the assembly, claimed that one in three homes were still likely to face council tax rises due to rebanding. Mr German said: "I know from my discussions with Welsh Liberal Democrat council leaders that they are doing their utmost to keep council tax to a minimum. But the random redistribution effect of rebanding...will create a great deal of difficulty." Conservative local government spokesman Glyn Davies said that for the minister to claim that the majority of council tax payers in Wales should see very little change "is taking spin to the very verge of deception". He added: "Around a third of Welsh households have been re-valued upwards by at least one band and inevitably face increases into double figures.""
"Ms Essex said: "This is a good deal for local government, which will allow the well-managed councils of Wales to develop their services and charge reasonable levels of council tax.Ms Essex said: "I have listened to the views of local government and council tax payers and recognise the funding pressures and the concerns they have about council tax rises.She said where spending rises were kept to around 5% she was "confident that councils will be able to set council taxes at reasonable levels."Mr German said: "I know from my discussions with Welsh Liberal Democrat council leaders that they are doing their utmost to keep council tax to a minimum.Conservative local government spokesman Glyn Davies said that for the minister to claim that the majority of council tax payers in Wales should see very little change "is taking spin to the very verge of deception".She said council taxes could be kept at reasonable levels, "even for those people who have moved up a band".Welsh councils should set their taxes at "reasonable levels" after being given an average funding increase of 6%, says the assembly government.Finance Minister Sue Essex said it was a "good deal" for local government.The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) had said on the eve of the announcement said that "significant" cuts to services may still be unavoidable.But opposition parties said rebanding of council taxes would mean steep rises."I have met a large number of local authorities in recent weeks and I am aware of the pressures on them to provide local services and keep down the level of council tax, particularly for those people to are moving up a band due to the revaluation of domestic properties.""
"Stalemate in pension strike talks Talks aimed at averting national strikes over pension reforms have ended without agreement after 90 minutes. Five public sector unions met Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the Labour spring conference in Gateshead. They want the government to withdraw regulations - due to be introduced in weeks - which would raise the pension age for council workers from 60 to 65. Up to 1.4 million workers could take part in strikes earmarked for 23 March. Discussions will resume next week. A spokesman for Unison, Britain's biggest union, said after Saturday's meeting: "At least we are still talking." All sides are anxious to avoid a major confrontation in the run up to the general election, said BBC labour affairs correspondent Stephen Cape. In four days, Unison will start balloting 800,000 local government workers on strikes. Other public sector unions have pledged to follow. The five unions which met Mr Prescott want the government to withdraw these regulations. This would allow months of tough negotiations to follow, said our correspondent. But a spokesman for Mr Prescott warned that the changes to the local government pension scheme would have to go ahead in April. Privately ministers believe this will be the "less painful" option, our correspondent added. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will co-ordinate any industrial action with up to six other public sector unions. PCS leader Mark Serwotka warned last week that there could be further walkouts unless there was a government rethink. "For a government that lectures everyone on choice - choice on public service, choice on this and choice on that - isn't it ironic that they're saying to public sector workers there is no choice," he said. "If you want the pension you were promised when you started you must work for an extra five years - that is working until people drop. "In the 20th century, it's completely unacceptable." Unison's 800,000 workers, the Transport and General Workers' Union's 70,000 and Amicus' 20,000 are among those being balloted about a 23 March walkout. Mr Prescott held a private meeting with senior union figures last week. It is understood no deal was offered in that meeting but there was room for further negotiations."
"The five unions which met Mr Prescott want the government to withdraw these regulations.They want the government to withdraw regulations - due to be introduced in weeks - which would raise the pension age for council workers from 60 to 65.Five public sector unions met Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the Labour spring conference in Gateshead.Mr Prescott held a private meeting with senior union figures last week.Other public sector unions have pledged to follow.But a spokesman for Mr Prescott warned that the changes to the local government pension scheme would have to go ahead in April.PCS leader Mark Serwotka warned last week that there could be further walkouts unless there was a government rethink.The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will co-ordinate any industrial action with up to six other public sector unions.A spokesman for Unison, Britain's biggest union, said after Saturday's meeting: "At least we are still talking.""
"Labour's election love-in Peace and love have been in short supply in the Labour party in recent days. If press reports are to be believed, Alan Milburn and Gordon Brown have been at each other's throats over the contents of Labour's next election manifesto. But the pair were all smiles on Tuesday morning, as they joined John Prescott to unveil Labour's latest poster campaign. The event - at Old Billingsgate Fish Market on the banks of the Thames - was a carefully choreographed show of unity. And the surest sign yet that we are heading for a general election in the next few months. It was also one of the most bizarre photo opportunities of recent years. The first inkling something slightly odd was afoot was when - in place of the soft rock music normally chosen for such occasions - Labour's speakers crackled to life with the sound of Booker T and the MGs. Then a VW camper van trundled into view, decked out in that most mind-bending of psychedelic messages - "lowest mortgage rate for 40 years". As the side-door slid open, it looked for one glorious moment as if the Cabinet had decided to bury their differences and go on the road together, Scooby Doo-style. But, sadly, it wasn't the Cabinet who had raided the dressing-up box - just six rather ill-at-ease looking Labour students. Two were dressed as Regency dandies - to unveil a poster trumpeting "the longest period of economic growth for 200 years". Another pair of students were in a Beatle wig and Sgt Pepper jacket to highlight the "lowest interest rates since the 1960s". The remaining two were dressed in a vague approximation of disco chic to demonstrate the "lowest unemployment since the seventies". The politicians - led out by John Prescott - were soberly-suited as always. The event may have been designed to highlight Labour's economic success under Mr Brown, but there was little doubt who was in charge. The chancellor walked side-by-side with Mr Milburn, pointedly exchanging chit chat, as they approached the microphone. But it was Mr Milburn who took centre stage, speaking of the "positive campaign" the party hoped to stage in the "coming weeks and months". The mobile poster vans would "let people know Britain is working again". Mr Brown repeated the familiar mantras displayed on the posters and spoke of Labour's "shared purpose" and "united dedication". It was left to Mr Prescott to pay glowing tribute to the chancellor's record and, in a final flourish, to produce his famous pledge card, from 1997, claiming Labour has met all of its promises. The event was carefully stage-managed to underline Cabinet unity. And, more specifically, to demonstrate the "central role" Mr Brown will play in the election campaign, despite being sidelined as campaign chief in favour of Mr Milburn. But keen students of body language will have had a field day. There was much forced smiling for the cameras, but only Mr Prescott, who revels in such occasions, seemed to be truly enjoying himself. Mr Milburn made a point of turning to face the chancellor, as he spoke, nodding thoughtfully. But it was the former health secretary's final gesture, placing an arm on Mr Brown's back as they walked away from the microphones, which was perhaps the most telling. Thanks for dropping by Gordon, he might have been saying."
"The event may have been designed to highlight Labour's economic success under Mr Brown, but there was little doubt who was in charge.But it was Mr Milburn who took centre stage, speaking of the "positive campaign" the party hoped to stage in the "coming weeks and months".And, more specifically, to demonstrate the "central role" Mr Brown will play in the election campaign, despite being sidelined as campaign chief in favour of Mr Milburn.But it was the former health secretary's final gesture, placing an arm on Mr Brown's back as they walked away from the microphones, which was perhaps the most telling.There was much forced smiling for the cameras, but only Mr Prescott, who revels in such occasions, seemed to be truly enjoying himself.The event was carefully stage-managed to underline Cabinet unity.It was left to Mr Prescott to pay glowing tribute to the chancellor's record and, in a final flourish, to produce his famous pledge card, from 1997, claiming Labour has met all of its promises.It was also one of the most bizarre photo opportunities of recent years.Mr Brown repeated the familiar mantras displayed on the posters and spoke of Labour's "shared purpose" and "united dedication".But the pair were all smiles on Tuesday morning, as they joined John Prescott to unveil Labour's latest poster campaign.If press reports are to be believed, Alan Milburn and Gordon Brown have been at each other's throats over the contents of Labour's next election manifesto."
"Blair Labour's longest-serving PM Tony Blair has become the Labour Party's longest-serving prime minister. The 51-year-old premier has marked his 2,838th day in the post, overtaking the combined length of Harold Wilson's two terms during the 1960s and 1970s. If Mr Blair wins the next election and fulfils his promise to serve a full third term, he will surpass Margaret Thatcher's 11 years by the end of 2008. In 1997, Mr Blair became the youngest premier of the 20th century, when he came to power at the age of 43. The last prime minister to be installed at a younger age was Lord Liverpool, who was a year his junior in 1812. Mr Blair's other political firsts include becoming the first Labour leader to win two successive full terms in power after the 2001 Labour landslide. And the birth of the Blairs' fourth child, Leo, on 20 May, 2000, was the first child born to a serving prime minister in more than 150 years. The last "Downing Street dad" was Lord John Russell in 1848. Labour won a huge majority of 167 over the Conservatives in 2001, but Mr Blair has since been criticised by many in his own party. The war in Iraq and reforms of the health service and education system have provoked dissent from backbenchers. Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer under Mr Blair, became Britain's longest-serving chancellor of modern times in 2004. Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock said the chancellor would be best placed to take over from Mr Blair. When asked about the future leadership of the party, he told ITV Wales' Waterfront programme: "That contest is a long way away and it will occur only when the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, decides he's subscribed all he can and then wants to go. "I think that the main contender will be Gordon Brown, who is a man of virtually unmatched capability and now great experience." Both Mr Brown and Mr Blair rose to prominence when Lord Kinnock led Labour between 1983 and 1992."
"Both Mr Brown and Mr Blair rose to prominence when Lord Kinnock led Labour between 1983 and 1992.Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock said the chancellor would be best placed to take over from Mr Blair.Tony Blair has become the Labour Party's longest-serving prime minister.Labour won a huge majority of 167 over the Conservatives in 2001, but Mr Blair has since been criticised by many in his own party.Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer under Mr Blair, became Britain's longest-serving chancellor of modern times in 2004.In 1997, Mr Blair became the youngest premier of the 20th century, when he came to power at the age of 43."
"Kennedy to make temple address Charles Kennedy is set to address 2,000 people at a Hindu temple as part of an appeal to ethnic minority voters. The Liberal Democrat leader will visit the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple in Neasden, north west London. He will say Labour "can no longer lay exclusive claim to the votes of Britain's ethnic minorities". Mr Kennedy will also highlight the anger among people of "all races" over the Iraq war and call for a "balanced approach" to tackling terrorism. Saturday's speech comes days after the Lib Dems launched their ethnic minority mini-manifesto. Mr Kennedy is to tell the audience: "Many people in Britain, of all races, cultures and religions, were angry about the way we were taken to war in Iraq. "And they saw the principled stand the Liberal Democrats took at the time." He will also say that the Lib Dems want to "restore Britain's reputation on the world stage" by fighting international poverty and climate change, and protecting human rights. Mr Kennedy will say that a "balanced approach" to tackling terrorism would mean "tough measures to make Britain safe - but not at the expense of people's fundamental legal rights like has happened at Belmarsh". He will say it also means acting through the United Nations on terrorism. Mr Kennedy held talks with Tony Blair on Friday over government plans to hold terror suspects under house arrest. He said afterwards that the Prime Minister had offered some "movement" to address his concerns. The plans face trouble in the Lords if Conservative and Lib Dem opposition continues."
"Mr Kennedy will also highlight the anger among people of "all races" over the Iraq war and call for a "balanced approach" to tackling terrorism.Charles Kennedy is set to address 2,000 people at a Hindu temple as part of an appeal to ethnic minority voters.Mr Kennedy will say that a "balanced approach" to tackling terrorism would mean "tough measures to make Britain safe - but not at the expense of people's fundamental legal rights like has happened at Belmarsh".Mr Kennedy is to tell the audience: "Many people in Britain, of all races, cultures and religions, were angry about the way we were taken to war in Iraq.He will say it also means acting through the United Nations on terrorism.He will also say that the Lib Dems want to "restore Britain's reputation on the world stage" by fighting international poverty and climate change, and protecting human rights."
"Brown shrugs off economy fears Gordon Brown is to freeze petrol duty increases, fund a £1bn package to avoid big council tax rises and boost childcare and maternity leave. In an upbeat pre-Budget report, he slightly increased borrowing but insisted economic targets would be met. The chancellor also hailed the longest period of growth in UK "industrial history" but denied he was "gloating". But Oliver Letwin, for the Tories, attacked government red tape and debt, dubbing Mr Brown "Sir Wastealot". The shadow chancellor said Mr Brown's "golden rule" had "turned to dross in his hands" and said he was borrowing to spend, not invest, with predicted debt over the coming years totalling £170bn. Mr Letwin told MPs: "The tide is going out on the chancellor's credibility. He is spending, borrowing and taxing so much because he is not getting value for taxpayer's money." Vincent Cable, for the Liberal Democrats, accused Mr Brown of ducking tough choices. He said: "Last week the prime minister gave us the politics of fear; this week the chancellor has offered the economics of complacency. "There are serious challenges ahead from the falling dollar and from the rapid downturn in the UK housing market and rising personal debt. But they have not been confronted." Mr Brown rejected the Lib Dem's call to open up the government's books to the National Audit Office, saying decisions on tax and spending should be made by ministers. Some economists say his forecasts on public finances are wishful thinking. BBC economic editor Evan Davis said the figures were plausible but also a gamble. Mr Brown's insistence he was not "gloating" was a pointed rebuttal of a warning from new European Commissioner Peter Mandelson. In his speech, he set out a 10-year childcare strategy for if Labour wins the next election. It includes a £285m cash injection to extend paid maternity leave from six months to nine, with parents able to transfer leave from the mother to the father. He also promised to increase free nursery education for three and four-year-olds to 15 hours from April 2007. And funds would be provided to keep schools open from 0800 to 1800GMT to look after children while their parents were at work. Taken together, the measures would create a "welfare state that is truly family-friendly for the first time in its history", said Mr Brown. He also announced a cash hand-out for older pensioners, with payments of £50 for the over-70s as part of the winter fuel allowance. In a move ministers say should keep council tax rises below 5% next year, the chancellor said he was providing an extra £1bn for local councils. The money is expected to come from government departments such as health and education. Mr Brown said he was set to meet his two fiscal rules - to borrow only to invest and keep debt "low and sustainable" - both in this economic cycle and the next. Borrowing figures for 2003/4 are £35bn - £2.5bn less than the £37.5bn predicted in March's budget, as already announced by the Office for National Statistics. Borrowing is tipped to fall to £31bn by 2005/06 - but that is still £2bn more than Mr Brown predicted in his March budget. Inflation would be 1.75% next year and 2% in the years to follow, Mr Brown forecast. He also pledged an extra £105m for security and counter-terrorism. Business groups have welcomed efforts to improve competitiveness and invest more in skills and innovation. But there worries about the costs of more family-friendly working. Simon Sweetman, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "The proposals on maternity leave have clearly been made with a general election in mind and with little thought to the impact on small employers.""
"The shadow chancellor said Mr Brown's "golden rule" had "turned to dross in his hands" and said he was borrowing to spend, not invest, with predicted debt over the coming years totalling £170bn.Mr Brown said he was set to meet his two fiscal rules - to borrow only to invest and keep debt "low and sustainable" - both in this economic cycle and the next.In a move ministers say should keep council tax rises below 5% next year, the chancellor said he was providing an extra £1bn for local councils.Inflation would be 1.75% next year and 2% in the years to follow, Mr Brown forecast.Borrowing is tipped to fall to £31bn by 2005/06 - but that is still £2bn more than Mr Brown predicted in his March budget.Taken together, the measures would create a "welfare state that is truly family-friendly for the first time in its history", said Mr Brown.But Oliver Letwin, for the Tories, attacked government red tape and debt, dubbing Mr Brown "Sir Wastealot".Gordon Brown is to freeze petrol duty increases, fund a £1bn package to avoid big council tax rises and boost childcare and maternity leave.Borrowing figures for 2003/4 are £35bn - £2.5bn less than the £37.5bn predicted in March's budget, as already announced by the Office for National Statistics.Mr Brown rejected the Lib Dem's call to open up the government's books to the National Audit Office, saying decisions on tax and spending should be made by ministers.BBC economic editor Evan Davis said the figures were plausible but also a gamble.The chancellor also hailed the longest period of growth in UK "industrial history" but denied he was "gloating".Vincent Cable, for the Liberal Democrats, accused Mr Brown of ducking tough choices."
"UK rebate 'unjustified' - Chirac French president Jacques Chirac has called the UK's £3bn rebate from the European Union "unjustified". Speaking after a summit meeting he said unless it was put up for discussion the EU would never be able to reach agreement on its medium term finances. Earlier Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the UK was prepared to veto any bid to reduce the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984. He said it remained justified because less EU farm money came to the UK. Mr Chirac told reporters in Brussels: "One can only have a reasonable budgetary balance if we put back on the table the British cheque. It can no longer be justified. It was from the past." But a UK Government official responded: "Even with the rebate, the UK pays two and a half times more than France contributes to the EU budget. Without it we would pay 14 times as much as France. "There can be no deal on future financing which does not protect the rebate." The 25-member EU is gearing up for tough negotiations on its budget plans for the period 2007-2013, with the bloc's Luxembourg presidency hoping to strike a deal at a June summit. Earlier Conservative Graham Brady said the rebate was a "crucial test" of how firmly ministers were prepared to stand up for Britain. EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has indicated he wants the rebate to come to an end. Mr Straw said that as well as the veto over the rebate the UK wanted to keep a tight rein on national contributions. The UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden want the EU budget to be capped at 1% of member states' combined national incomes - the European Commission has urged an increase to 1.26%. Mr Straw has said the EU commission's proposal would mean a 35% hike in the budget. Shadow Europe minister Mr Brady said: "I believe it is essential that Britain keeps the rebate and I think it's a crucial test of how firmly the British government is prepared to stand up for Britain internationally in Europe. "The UK is already one of the biggest net contributors to the EU ." The foreign secretary meanwhile said the "justice" of the rebate remained. "We have one of the lowest net receipts of any EU country because of the relatively small size of our agriculture sector and its efficiency. "That continues to be the case." UK Independence Party leader Roger Knapman said the rebate was "set in stone" and there was no reason to negotiate about it. "It is extraordinary to do it at this time, just as we are becoming the biggest contributor to the EU. If we lose our rebate as well, the British taxpayer is going to be bled at such a rate that I think everyone will go off the European project." EU leaders are holding talks in Brussels on how to re-energise the sluggish European economy. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is meeting his EU counterparts to finalise a package of measures aimed at stimulating growth and boosting employment ahead of a series of referendums on the European Constitution. The plans could introduce a free market into everything from computer services to construction. Critics - including Germany and France - believe liberalisation could result in companies shifting staff to cheaper bases in Eastern Europe, undercutting large EU economies and undermining social protections. There are also concerns about the number of workers from eastern European countries who will head west, exacerbating the already high unemployment levels in Germany. Mr Straw insisted there was nothing to fear from the services directorate. "European countries overall have benefited hugely from the free market in goods," he said. "What we are now talking about is developing that market into an internal market in services." Britain's low unemployment meant there was less "neurosis" about people coming from eastern European countries. "In countries like Germany and France, where frankly because of a tighter social market they have much higher levels of unemployment, there is increasing anxiety about other people coming in," he said."
"He said it remained justified because less EU farm money came to the UK.But a UK Government official responded: "Even with the rebate, the UK pays two and a half times more than France contributes to the EU budget.Earlier Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the UK was prepared to veto any bid to reduce the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.Mr Straw has said the EU commission's proposal would mean a 35% hike in the budget.UK Independence Party leader Roger Knapman said the rebate was "set in stone" and there was no reason to negotiate about it.Mr Straw said that as well as the veto over the rebate the UK wanted to keep a tight rein on national contributions."The UK is already one of the biggest net contributors to the EU ."The UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden want the EU budget to be capped at 1% of member states' combined national incomes - the European Commission has urged an increase to 1.26%.Earlier Conservative Graham Brady said the rebate was a "crucial test" of how firmly ministers were prepared to stand up for Britain."European countries overall have benefited hugely from the free market in goods," he said.Speaking after a summit meeting he said unless it was put up for discussion the EU would never be able to reach agreement on its medium term finances.The foreign secretary meanwhile said the "justice" of the rebate remained."In countries like Germany and France, where frankly because of a tighter social market they have much higher levels of unemployment, there is increasing anxiety about other people coming in," he said.Shadow Europe minister Mr Brady said: "I believe it is essential that Britain keeps the rebate and I think it's a crucial test of how firmly the British government is prepared to stand up for Britain internationally in Europe."
"Schools to take part in mock poll Record numbers of schools across the UK are to take part in a mock general election backed by the government. Some 600 schools have already signed up for the Y Vote Mock Elections 2005 run by the Hansard Society and aimed at boosting interest in politics. Pupils in the schools taking part will learn the skills of speech writers, canvassers and political candidates. Schools Minister Stephen Twigg said engaging young people's interest was "essential" to the future of democracy. He added: said "Young people who are engaged and motivated by the political process are essential to the future health of our democracy. "The mock elections initiative provides an opportunity for pupils to develop their own understanding of how the democratic process works and why it matters. "By experiencing the election process first hand - from running a campaign to the declaration of the final result - we hope that young people will develop the enthusiasm to take part in the future." The Hansard Society, the Electoral Commission and the Department for Education and Skills are running the programme. Pupils will stand as party candidates, speech writers and canvassers. Michael Raftery, project manager at the Hansard Society, said: "The Y Vote Mock Elections for schools mirror the excitement and buzz of a real election, raising awareness of citizenship, and the benefits of active democracy." The mock votes will take place around 5 May, widely expected to be the date of the general election. Information packs, including ballot papers and manifesto guides, with elections happening in early May were sent out to the 3,000 schools invited to take part."
"Record numbers of schools across the UK are to take part in a mock general election backed by the government.Michael Raftery, project manager at the Hansard Society, said: "The Y Vote Mock Elections for schools mirror the excitement and buzz of a real election, raising awareness of citizenship, and the benefits of active democracy.""By experiencing the election process first hand - from running a campaign to the declaration of the final result - we hope that young people will develop the enthusiasm to take part in the future."The mock votes will take place around 5 May, widely expected to be the date of the general election.Some 600 schools have already signed up for the Y Vote Mock Elections 2005 run by the Hansard Society and aimed at boosting interest in politics."
"Howard backs stem cell research Michael Howard has backed stem cell research, saying it is important people are not frightened of the future. The controversial issue was a feature of the recent US presidential election, where George Bush opposed extending it. But the Tory leader argued there was a moral case for embracing science which could help victims of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Motor Neurone disease. "I believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses," he said. The use of embryonic stem cells in the UK is already allowed. Stem cells are master cells that have the ability to develop into any of the body's tissue types. Scientists hope that by growing such cells in the laboratory they can programme them to form specific tissue such as kidney, heart or even brain tissue. Mr Howard acknowledged there were genuine concerns about stem cell research. But he argued: "We mustn't be frightened of change or nostalgic about the past - we must be optimistic about the future. "Politicians must create the right framework so that the great potential of science can be harnessed for the benefit of mankind. "With the life expectancy of the average Briton now around the mid-70s, society has a responsibility to enhance the quality of people's lives as they grow older. "I know many people are concerned about stem-cell research. They are fearful of meddling with what they see as the stuff of souls. "I respect those concerns. But I also believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses like Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Alzheimer's and - as we saw in the papers today - now possibly heart problems." Mr Howard acknowledged there were "no easy answers" over such an issue but it was necessary to "have the courage to do what we know to be morally right". He added: "Of course, stem cells are still a recent discovery. More research needs to be done. But we must look at their potential in a responsible and grown-up way. The hopes of millions of people rest on what could be achieved." Former Superman actor the late Christopher Reeve was an advocate for the research after he was paralysed in a horse riding accident. Mr Howard made his remarks during a speech in Westminster to the Conservative National Women's Committee on ambitions and values."
"Michael Howard has backed stem cell research, saying it is important people are not frightened of the future.Mr Howard acknowledged there were genuine concerns about stem cell research.Stem cells are master cells that have the ability to develop into any of the body's tissue types.But I also believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses like Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Alzheimer's and - as we saw in the papers today - now possibly heart problems."Mr Howard acknowledged there were "no easy answers" over such an issue but it was necessary to "have the courage to do what we know to be morally right".He added: "Of course, stem cells are still a recent discovery."I know many people are concerned about stem-cell research."I believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses," he said.The use of embryonic stem cells in the UK is already allowed."
"Tories reject rethink on axed MP Sacked MP Howard Flight's local Conservative association has insisted he will not be its candidate at the general election. Russell Tanguay, agent for Arundel and South Downs Tories, said Mr Flight was ineligible to be a candidate and the association was seeking a substitute. The news comes despite Mr Flight's allies saying they had enough support to hold a meeting to discuss his fate. Mr Flight landed in trouble over remarks on Tory tax and spending plans. He quit as Tory deputy chairman after apparently suggesting the Tories planned extra spending cuts - but he wants to continue as an MP. Tory headquarters says he cannot stand as a Conservative candidate because he is no longer an approved candidate. Mr Tanguay backed that view on Tuesday, saying: "Howard Flight is ineligible to stand as a Conservative Party candidate. "The association is in the process of selecting a new candidate." But the local Tory chairman made similar comments on Friday and dissent continues. Two local councillors who back Mr Flight met Mr Tanguay and the local association's chairman in Arundel on Tuesday afternoon but did not comment as they left the meeting. Mr Flight says he will not stand down as a candidate unless his local party instructs him to do so at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM). The MP, who is consulting his lawyers, told BBC News: "They selected me and they, if you like, dispose of me or keep me." Mr Flight's supporters also say they have the 50 signatures needed to trigger the EGM. At a news conference, Mr Howard insisted he had played by the party's rules. The Tory leader, who argues he is ensuring honesty, said: "We do not say one thing in private and another thing in public." Labour election campaign coordinator Alan Milburn said the Tories were in "turmoil" because Mr Flight had exposed their hidden plans. The comments were not a "one-off", he said, claiming Mr Howard and other senior Tories were obsessively committed to cutting public spending. Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor said: "Whilst I disagree with Howard Flight's views, it seems extraordinary to sack somebody for telling the truth." It has also emerged Mr Howard has suspended Slough's constituency Conservative association for refusing to deselect its candidate. Adrian Hilton was abandoned after suggesting the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, under John Major's government, was an act of treason. The Catholic Herald also highlighted articles he wrote about the role of Catholicism in the European Union. Mr Hilton was chosen to fight the seat after the previous candidate, Robert Oulds, was sacked for being pictured with a range of guns and a hunting knife. Slough Conservative Association has now been placed on "support status" and is being run from Conservative campaign headquarters, says a senior party spokesman. Mr Hilton on Tuesday said he was considering taking legal action against his deposal. He said the local party had only learned of the final decision on the BBC News website on Monday evening. "There are people at Central Office who are behaving like little dictators and seemingly people who are ordinary members are being treated with contempt," he said. The party says it did try to contact the local Conservative chairman."
"Mr Flight says he will not stand down as a candidate unless his local party instructs him to do so at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).Mr Tanguay backed that view on Tuesday, saying: "Howard Flight is ineligible to stand as a Conservative Party candidate.Russell Tanguay, agent for Arundel and South Downs Tories, said Mr Flight was ineligible to be a candidate and the association was seeking a substitute.Sacked MP Howard Flight's local Conservative association has insisted he will not be its candidate at the general election.Two local councillors who back Mr Flight met Mr Tanguay and the local association's chairman in Arundel on Tuesday afternoon but did not comment as they left the meeting.It has also emerged Mr Howard has suspended Slough's constituency Conservative association for refusing to deselect its candidate.The comments were not a "one-off", he said, claiming Mr Howard and other senior Tories were obsessively committed to cutting public spending.Tory headquarters says he cannot stand as a Conservative candidate because he is no longer an approved candidate.The party says it did try to contact the local Conservative chairman.Mr Hilton on Tuesday said he was considering taking legal action against his deposal.Mr Flight's supporters also say they have the 50 signatures needed to trigger the EGM."
"Labour seeks to quell feud talk Labour's leadership put on a show of unity at a campaign poster launch after MPs criticised Tony Blair and Gordon Brown over reports of their rift. Mr Brown was joined at the launch by John Prescott and Alan Milburn, the man controversially put in charge of election planning by Mr Blair. A private meeting on Monday saw normally loyal MPs warn that feuding could jeopardise their election hopes. It follows a new book charting disputes between prime minister and chancellor. The event was the first time Mr Milburn has shared a platform with the chancellor since taking Mr Brown's traditional poll planning role. But the pair chatted amicably and Mr Brown insisted he was happy with his current campaign task. Asked about how he would deal with claims that he did not trust the prime minister, Mr Brown replied: "You can see that our record on the economy is about the British people trusting us to run the economy." He refused to comment on the new book, saying nobody should be distracted from the business of government. Mr Brown later told reporters: "Of course I trust the prime minister." Downing Street cited that comment when reporters' suggested Mr Brown had pointedly failed to deny claims he had once told Mr Blair: "There is nothing you could ever say to me now that I could ever believe". Labour's new posters say Britain is enjoying the lowest inflation since the 1960s, lowest unemployment for 29 years and the lowest mortgage rates for 40 years. They urge voters not to let the Tories take things backwards. Mr Milburn promised a poll campaign "which is upbeat, confident and above all else optimistic about the future of our country". Conservative co-chairman Liam Fox derided the photo call, saying: "The show of unity was the worst acting I have seen since Prisoner Cell Block H." Labour had broken promises by raising taxes 66 times and brought the slowest economic growth in the English-speaking world, he said. The prime minister and chancellor faced backbench discontent at Monday's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party over claims made in journalist Robert Peston's new book. Mr Blair told MPs and peers: "I know from everyone here, in Cabinet and government, nothing is going to get in the way of a unified Labour Party with a unified position and winning the third term people desperately need." Labour's Paul Flynn said the pair had had a "scorching" from MPs. On Tuesday, deputy prime minister Mr Prescott told BBC News: "They told us very clearly, it was the troops telling the leaders: get in line." The new book claims Mr Prescott hosted a dinner in November 2003 where the prime minister told Mr Brown he would stand down before the next election because he had lost trust over the Iraq war. Mr Blair then changed his mind in June 2004, after Cabinet allies intervened and amid suspicion the chancellor was manoeuvring against him, writes Mr Peston. Mr Prescott said there was a dinner but the discussions were confidential. "Of course as a waiter for 10 years I have a professional ability here," he joked."
"The new book claims Mr Prescott hosted a dinner in November 2003 where the prime minister told Mr Brown he would stand down before the next election because he had lost trust over the Iraq war.Mr Brown later told reporters: "Of course I trust the prime minister."Mr Brown was joined at the launch by John Prescott and Alan Milburn, the man controversially put in charge of election planning by Mr Blair.Downing Street cited that comment when reporters' suggested Mr Brown had pointedly failed to deny claims he had once told Mr Blair: "There is nothing you could ever say to me now that I could ever believe".The event was the first time Mr Milburn has shared a platform with the chancellor since taking Mr Brown's traditional poll planning role.Mr Blair then changed his mind in June 2004, after Cabinet allies intervened and amid suspicion the chancellor was manoeuvring against him, writes Mr Peston.Mr Prescott said there was a dinner but the discussions were confidential.On Tuesday, deputy prime minister Mr Prescott told BBC News: "They told us very clearly, it was the troops telling the leaders: get in line."But the pair chatted amicably and Mr Brown insisted he was happy with his current campaign task."
"Jack Cunningham to stand down Veteran Labour MP and former Cabinet minister Jack Cunningham has said he will stand down at the next election. One of the few Blair-era ministers to serve under Jim Callaghan, he was given the agriculture portfolio when Labour regained power in 1997. Mr Cunningham went on to become Tony Blair's "cabinet enforcer". He has represented the constituency now known as Copeland since 1970. Mr Blair said he was a "huge figure" in Labour and a "valued, personal friend". During Labour's long period in opposition, Mr Cunningham held a number of shadow roles including foreign affairs, the environment and as trade spokesman. As agriculture minister he caused controversy when he decided to ban beef on the bone in the wake of fears over BSE. He quit the government in 1999 and in recent years has served as the chairman of the all-party committee on Lords reform and has been a loyal supporter of the government from the backbenches."
"Veteran Labour MP and former Cabinet minister Jack Cunningham has said he will stand down at the next election.Mr Blair said he was a "huge figure" in Labour and a "valued, personal friend".One of the few Blair-era ministers to serve under Jim Callaghan, he was given the agriculture portfolio when Labour regained power in 1997.Mr Cunningham went on to become Tony Blair's "cabinet enforcer"."
"Peers debate Crown succession law Peers are debating proposals to change the rules governing the succession to the throne. Labour peer Lord Dubs' Succession to the Crown Bill aims to end the right of male heirs to succeed to the crown even if they have an older sister. The private member's bill would also abolish the ban on heirs to the throne marrying Roman Catholics. The Fabian Society's Sundar Katwala said the change was "long overdue" and that he expected a "warm response". The political reform group's general secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme there were some "very out-dated features" at the heart of Britain's constitution. "In 1998 the government said in principle it supported the idea of ending gender discrimination and that it would consult on how to come forward with its own measures. "We hope they are warm towards it and don't say this is the wrong time." He pointed out that it was 30 years since the sex discrimination act and urged politicians on all sides to back the bill. Mr Katwala added: "This is long overdue. Parliament will have to do it eventually, the government, and I hope all of the political parties, might think this is a very simple thing to have in their manifestos." But he acknowledged that even if the bill did win support, it was unlikely to become law because the legislative programme is likely to be squeezed by the coming general election. He said he hoped the bill would be a "gentle nudge" to the government and suggested it would "demand a response". The bill, which is in the Lords for its second reading, has been adopted by former chief whip Ann Taylor in the Commons. The rule of succession is regulated not only through descent and tradition but also by the Act of Settlement which confirmed in 1701 that it was for Parliament to determine the title to the throne."
"The Fabian Society's Sundar Katwala said the change was "long overdue" and that he expected a "warm response".He said he hoped the bill would be a "gentle nudge" to the government and suggested it would "demand a response".The private member's bill would also abolish the ban on heirs to the throne marrying Roman Catholics.The rule of succession is regulated not only through descent and tradition but also by the Act of Settlement which confirmed in 1701 that it was for Parliament to determine the title to the throne.But he acknowledged that even if the bill did win support, it was unlikely to become law because the legislative programme is likely to be squeezed by the coming general election.He pointed out that it was 30 years since the sex discrimination act and urged politicians on all sides to back the bill."
"Kennedy's cautious optimism Charles Kennedy is far too canny to make any grand claims about how his party may fare at the general election. In his 22 years in the Commons, he has seen his fair share of such claims dashed on the rocks of bitter experience and, he might say, the UK's political and electoral system. But even his caution cannot hide the fact that this is a party and a leader that believes it may well be on the way to something special in a few months' time. "Look, I have already said I am not going to put any artificial limits on our ambitions this time around," he said. He still seems to accept that the most likely outcome is another Labour victory of some sort. And his general election pitch is designed around the notion of the Lib Dems as the "real" opposition. But doesn't that lead to the jibe that his is a party actively bidding to come second? He is prepared to go this far: "A clear conclusion has been reached, including by Conservatives, that the Conservatives are not going to win this election. "Therefore the potential is there for the Liberal Democrat advance to be one of the big stories of the election, given that we have the capacity to take on Labour and win as well as take on the Conservatives and win. "This is really going to be the first modern three party UK election that we have all experienced". But haven't we been here before, with suggestions in the 1980s that Labour was finished. Won't voters looking for an alternative to Labour still naturally gravitate to the Conservatives? "The problem is that, geographically, the Conservative party has melted away in about a third of Britain. "We have supplanted them as the main alternative to Labour in whole tracts of mainland Britain. And they are a party with an ageing and declining membership base and they just do not look vibrant or vital or in touch any longer with contemporary Britain". Mr Kennedy is also eager to dispel any impression his party is the new party of the left and is likely to attract mostly disillusioned Labour voters. He insists his three headline commitments, to be financed from a 1% tax increase on those earning over £100,000 a year, will appeal right across the political spectrum. They are to replace the council tax with a local income tax, provide free long term care for the elderly and scrap student fees. He also believes being the only major party promising to increases taxes will not land him in the same trouble a similar policy did to Old Labour. "I think the tax argument has moved on a lot in British politics particularly in the context of the forthcoming general election," he said. Under a Labour government the tax burden would have to rise, while the Tories' plans to increase spending in some areas while also reducing taxes is just incredible, he claims. "We are being straightforward with people, saying you know there is likely to be an increase in the tax burden, we are only recommending one specific tax rise for the top end of income scale earners to fund three specific policies". "That is a clear cut choice for people, one I am very comfortable with and I think will distinguish us from the others". As to his own future, he is clear. If, as expected, his party increases its showing at the election, he intends to go into the next parliament "on the front foot with a view to leading it right through that parliament into the next election because I see that as the decisive opportunity for us". That last remark reflects a view gaining ground in Westminster that, if the Tories do as badly as some fear, the election after next might really see that historic breakthrough by the third party. Perhaps then Mr Kennedy will be ready to put some of the caution to one side."
"He also believes being the only major party promising to increases taxes will not land him in the same trouble a similar policy did to Old Labour.Mr Kennedy is also eager to dispel any impression his party is the new party of the left and is likely to attract mostly disillusioned Labour voters."This is really going to be the first modern three party UK election that we have all experienced".Charles Kennedy is far too canny to make any grand claims about how his party may fare at the general election.Under a Labour government the tax burden would have to rise, while the Tories' plans to increase spending in some areas while also reducing taxes is just incredible, he claims.He is prepared to go this far: "A clear conclusion has been reached, including by Conservatives, that the Conservatives are not going to win this election."I think the tax argument has moved on a lot in British politics particularly in the context of the forthcoming general election," he said.If, as expected, his party increases its showing at the election, he intends to go into the next parliament "on the front foot with a view to leading it right through that parliament into the next election because I see that as the decisive opportunity for us".That last remark reflects a view gaining ground in Westminster that, if the Tories do as badly as some fear, the election after next might really see that historic breakthrough by the third party."We are being straightforward with people, saying you know there is likely to be an increase in the tax burden, we are only recommending one specific tax rise for the top end of income scale earners to fund three specific policies"."Therefore the potential is there for the Liberal Democrat advance to be one of the big stories of the election, given that we have the capacity to take on Labour and win as well as take on the Conservatives and win."
"Howard denies split over ID cards Michael Howard has denied his shadow cabinet was split over its decision to back controversial Labour plans to introduce ID cards. The Tory leader said his front bench team had reached a "collective view" after holding a "good discussion", but admitted it was "not an easy issue". He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration. The Lib Dems have pledged to oppose the bill when it is debated next Monday. Tory sources say senior party figures had argued vociferously against the ID card scheme. Among those reported to have serious reservations over the strategy were senior shadow cabinet members David Davis, Oliver Letwin and Tim Yeo. But Mr Howard denied Mr Yeo, his transport and environment spokesman, said the plans "stink". He also said he was confident shadow home secretary Mr Davis would "set out the position very clearly" when he stands up to debate the matter next week. Mr Howard said the police had said ID cards could "help them foil a terror bomb plot in which people could lose their lives". He added: "When the police say that you have to take them seriously". He acknowledged there were "good libertarian arguments" against the cards, but said the shadow Cabinet had weighed up all the "conflicting interests" before reaching its decision. "I don't pretend that it is an easy decision but at the end of the day a decision has to be taken." He also denied he was afraid of looking "soft" on the issue, compared to Labour. The Conservatives announced their support for the government plans on Monday evening. Sources within the party told the BBC Mr Howard had always been in favour of ID cards, and tried to introduce them when he was Home Secretary. But the Tories insisted they would hold ministers to account over the precise purpose of the scheme. They said they would also press Labour over whether objectives could be met and whether the Home Office would be able to deliver them. And they pledged to assess the cost effectiveness of ID cards and whether people's privacy would be properly protected. "It is important to remember that this bill will take a decade to come into full effect," a spokesman said. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten has branded the ID scheme a waste of money and "deeply flawed". He said: "This has all the signs of Michael Howard overruling colleagues' concerns over ID cards." The chairman of the Bar Council, Guy Mansfield QC warned there was a real risk that people on the "margins of society" would be driven into the hands of extremists. "What is going to happen to young Asian men when there has been a bomb gone off somewhere? They are going to be stopped. If they haven't [ID cards] they are going to be detained." Tory ex-minister Douglas Hogg said he opposed the plans for ID cards branding them a "regressive" step which would intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens without any counterbalancing benefits. He predicted ultimately carrying the cards would become compulsory and that would lead to large numbers of Britain's ethnic minorities being stopped by police."
"Michael Howard has denied his shadow cabinet was split over its decision to back controversial Labour plans to introduce ID cards.Mr Howard said the police had said ID cards could "help them foil a terror bomb plot in which people could lose their lives".He said: "This has all the signs of Michael Howard overruling colleagues' concerns over ID cards."He also said he was confident shadow home secretary Mr Davis would "set out the position very clearly" when he stands up to debate the matter next week.He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration.Tory ex-minister Douglas Hogg said he opposed the plans for ID cards branding them a "regressive" step which would intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens without any counterbalancing benefits.They said they would also press Labour over whether objectives could be met and whether the Home Office would be able to deliver them.But Mr Howard denied Mr Yeo, his transport and environment spokesman, said the plans "stink".Sources within the party told the BBC Mr Howard had always been in favour of ID cards, and tried to introduce them when he was Home Secretary.If they haven't [ID cards] they are going to be detained."And they pledged to assess the cost effectiveness of ID cards and whether people's privacy would be properly protected."
"Ministers lose slopping out case The Scottish Executive has lost an appeal against an inmate's compensation for being forced to slop out in prison. Armed robber Robert Napier, 25, won £2,450 after he claimed he suffered an outbreak of the skin complaint, eczema, when slopping out at Barlinnie Prison. Napier said that the practice, where prisoners use buckets in their cells as toilets, breached his human rights. On Thursday, the Court of Session threw out a move by the executive to apply a more rigorous standard of proof. The executive faces more than 1,000 similar claims for damages from prisoners and former inmates. More than 310 actions have already been raised in the Court of Session and sheriff courts in Scotland. An executive spokesman said: "We will study this judgement in detail. Much has changed to address the issues raised in the Napier case, for example, slopping out has ended at Barlinnie and work in other prisons is being accelerated. "Today's judgement does not affect the outcome of other cases." Napier, a remand prisoner at the time, raised a legal challenge in 2001 under the European Convention on Human Rights, in which he sought £5,000. He was awarded compensation last April after winning his case. Executive ministers raised an appeal arguing that the standard of proof to be applied in cases alleging a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights through degrading and inhumane treatment should "be beyond reasonable doubt". This is the standard normally applied in criminal trials in Scotland. However, civil litigation is settled on the test of "a balance of probabilities". Judge Lord Cullen, sitting with Lord Osborne and Lord Hamilton, ruled that alleged human rights breaches involving degrading treatment should be dealt with on the normal civil standard. Napier's lawyer Tony Kelly believes the action will soon be followed by others. Mr Kelly said: "There are hundreds of people still undergoing slopping out, overcrowding and poor regime and those people will certainly be heartened by today's judgement." Scottish National Party Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill said that the slopping out case had been "a fiasco from start to finish". He said: "Ministers were fully aware of the state of Scotland's jails. Funds were available but they chose to ignore the problem and after this ruling I suspect we will be faced with even more claims and no doubt more payouts. "A short term executive saving has resulted in a long term public cost.""
"Executive ministers raised an appeal arguing that the standard of proof to be applied in cases alleging a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights through degrading and inhumane treatment should "be beyond reasonable doubt".An executive spokesman said: "We will study this judgement in detail.The Scottish Executive has lost an appeal against an inmate's compensation for being forced to slop out in prison.Much has changed to address the issues raised in the Napier case, for example, slopping out has ended at Barlinnie and work in other prisons is being accelerated.Napier said that the practice, where prisoners use buckets in their cells as toilets, breached his human rights.On Thursday, the Court of Session threw out a move by the executive to apply a more rigorous standard of proof.Napier, a remand prisoner at the time, raised a legal challenge in 2001 under the European Convention on Human Rights, in which he sought £5,000.The executive faces more than 1,000 similar claims for damages from prisoners and former inmates.Scottish National Party Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill said that the slopping out case had been "a fiasco from start to finish"."
"MP attacked by muggers in Kenya An MP has had more than £600 and his passport stolen after being mugged by six men in a park in Kenya. Quentin Davies, the MP for Grantham and Stamford, was attacked in a notoriously dangerous park in the capital, Nairobi. He was not hurt in the mugging on Saturday evening. Several people are being questioned over the attack. He was in Kenya before travelling to Sudan with the Parliamentary committee. Local police were said to be "surprised" he was in the area. Mr Davies, 60, said the mugging occurred 100 yards from the Nairobi Serena Hotel and equally close to the Anglican Cathedral in the centre of the city at dusk. He said in a statement: "It was a frightening experience. "Six men managed to steal up on me and grab me from behind. "I knew I had to stay very calm and passive - you cannot fight six men". He had to spend an extra 24 hours in Nairobi before rejoining the rest of the House of Commons International Development Committee in Dafur after the mugging. "Naturally, I was afraid they would use a knife or gun, though they never produced any weapon," he said. "Two of them held me from behind and two others held my legs and another one expertly rifled all my pockets.""
"He said in a statement: "It was a frightening experience.Local police were said to be "surprised" he was in the area.An MP has had more than £600 and his passport stolen after being mugged by six men in a park in Kenya.He was not hurt in the mugging on Saturday evening.He was in Kenya before travelling to Sudan with the Parliamentary committee.Quentin Davies, the MP for Grantham and Stamford, was attacked in a notoriously dangerous park in the capital, Nairobi."
"Defiant hunts put ban to the test Thousands of hunt supporters have been out on the first day of hunting in England and Wales after the ban on hunting with dogs came into force. The Countryside Alliance called on hunt supporters to meet as normal, but vowed to stay within the law. Although hunting with dogs is now a criminal offence, exercising hounds, chasing a scent trail and flushing out foxes to be shot are still legal. One anti-hunt protester was taken to hospital after a violent clash in Kent. The man suffered facial injuries after an incident involving a group of men at the end of the East Kent Hunt, near Ashford. In Wiltshire, police arrested four men under the new law suspected of hunting with dogs. The group, from South Wales and Ireland, have been released on bail but police say they may face prosecution under new poaching laws. It is believed more than 270 hunts went out on Saturday, just one day after the ban came in. They were greeted by big crowds in many areas of the country, with actor Jeremy Irons and former minister Kate Hoey among the supporters. Anti-hunt groups - such as the League Against Cruel Sports - deployed 100 monitors at hunts to check for illegal activity. Mike Hobday, from the league, said video evidence of the law being broken was to be passed onto police. "Our evidence suggests that most hunts did operate within the law, many meeting and promptly going home and others peacefully exercising their hounds or drag hunting. "However, we have received reports of what we believe is clearly illegal activity by a number of hunts across Britain." BBC correspondent Simon Hall at Postbridge on Dartmoor in the West Country said 2,000 people had turned out to welcome the hunt. And the BBC's Sarah Mukherjee, with the Beaufort Hunt in Badminton, Gloucestershire said several hundred people had gathered on foot to see the hunt, with 150 on horseback. Tom Heap, BBC rural affairs correspondent, said it appeared that hunstman had, for now, been sticking to the new rules. And while there was big turnout in support of the hunts on Saturday, he said it remains to be seen if the level of backing can be maintained. Before riding out with the hunt, former minister Kate Hoey told crowds: "We will prevail and this law will have to be overturned." Judith Moritz, in Melton Mowbray, said anti-hunt activists were out to monitor the four hunts operating in that part of Leicestershire, but were outnumbered by large crowds of followers. The Countryside Alliance said the meets would show the new law was "impossibly difficult to determine" and open to different interpretations. Chief executive Simon Hart said: "There has been hunting in England for 700 years. This [ban] may take two or three years, perhaps two or three months, to unpick. "It will be nothing more than a temporary break in normal service, as broadcasters say." Conservative family spokeswoman Theresa May said if the party was in government again it would make sure the law was repealed. Suffolk Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter, the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on rural policing, told the BBC the law would be enforced, although the police would not break up hunts. The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has so far not issued any instructions to police on how they should deal with any hunters who do violate the law. He said he would consult the director of public prosecutions and the police "in the near future" to decide what measures to take on hunting prosecutions."
"Thousands of hunt supporters have been out on the first day of hunting in England and Wales after the ban on hunting with dogs came into force.Mike Hobday, from the league, said video evidence of the law being broken was to be passed onto police.The Countryside Alliance said the meets would show the new law was "impossibly difficult to determine" and open to different interpretations.And while there was big turnout in support of the hunts on Saturday, he said it remains to be seen if the level of backing can be maintained.The Countryside Alliance called on hunt supporters to meet as normal, but vowed to stay within the law.And the BBC's Sarah Mukherjee, with the Beaufort Hunt in Badminton, Gloucestershire said several hundred people had gathered on foot to see the hunt, with 150 on horseback.In Wiltshire, police arrested four men under the new law suspected of hunting with dogs.Before riding out with the hunt, former minister Kate Hoey told crowds: "We will prevail and this law will have to be overturned."Conservative family spokeswoman Theresa May said if the party was in government again it would make sure the law was repealed."Our evidence suggests that most hunts did operate within the law, many meeting and promptly going home and others peacefully exercising their hounds or drag hunting.BBC correspondent Simon Hall at Postbridge on Dartmoor in the West Country said 2,000 people had turned out to welcome the hunt."
"Plaid MP's cottage arson claim A Plaid Cymru MP believes UK security services were involved in some arson attacks blamed on Welsh extremists. It is 25 years since the start of 12 years of fire-bombings, attributed to a shadowy group known as Meibion Glyndwr. Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd has suggested the security services could have been involved, with the intention of discrediting the nationalist vote. Ex-Welsh Office Minister Lord Roberts of Conwy denied security services were involved. In March this year, North Wales Police reopened the case, saying materials kept during their investigations would be examined to find whether it would yield DNA evidence. Meibion Glyndwr - which means "sons of Glyndwr" - began burning property in December 1979 in protest at homes in rural Wales being sold as holiday cottages to people from England. The group was linked to most of the 220 or so fire-bombing incidents stretching from the Llyn Peninsula to Pembrokeshire. The campaign continued until the early 1990s. Police were accused in some quarters of targeting anyone who was a nationalist. Although one man, Sion Aubrey Roberts, was convicted in 1993 of sending letter bombs in the post, the arson cases remain unsolved. As a solicitor, Elfyn Llwyd represented Welsh singer Bryn Fôn when he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the arson campaign. Fôn was released without charge . But now, as MP for Merionnydd Nant Conwy and Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Leader, Mr Llwyd has argued that some of the terror attacks may have had the involvement of the security services and not Meibion Glyndwr. He believes that elements of the British security services may have carried out renegade actions in order to discredit Plaid Cymru and the nationalist vote ahead of elections. The claim is made in an interview for BBC Wales' Maniffesto programme to be shown on S4C on Sunday. Mr Llwyd said that the sophistication of many of the devices used in the attacks compared to the crude nature of many others, suggests a degree of professionalism which could only have come from individuals who knew exactly what they were doing. He said: "What I'm saying is that the role that they took wasn't the appropriate one, i.e. like an agent provocateur and perhaps interfering and creating a situation where it looked like it was the nationalists that were responsible." The programme also heard from Lord Roberts of Conwy, who was a Welsh Office minister at the time. He denied that the security services played any improper role. Mr Llwyd's theory has also been questioned by Plaid Cymru's former President, Dafydd Wigley. He accepted that the fires damaged Plaid Cymru's public image but believed that the security services had their hands full at the time with the IRA and animal rights activists. - Maniffesto can be seen on S4C on Sunday, 12 December, at 1200 GMT."
"But now, as MP for Merionnydd Nant Conwy and Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Leader, Mr Llwyd has argued that some of the terror attacks may have had the involvement of the security services and not Meibion Glyndwr.Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd has suggested the security services could have been involved, with the intention of discrediting the nationalist vote.Ex-Welsh Office Minister Lord Roberts of Conwy denied security services were involved.A Plaid Cymru MP believes UK security services were involved in some arson attacks blamed on Welsh extremists.He believes that elements of the British security services may have carried out renegade actions in order to discredit Plaid Cymru and the nationalist vote ahead of elections.He denied that the security services played any improper role.The programme also heard from Lord Roberts of Conwy, who was a Welsh Office minister at the time.He accepted that the fires damaged Plaid Cymru's public image but believed that the security services had their hands full at the time with the IRA and animal rights activists.Police were accused in some quarters of targeting anyone who was a nationalist."
"Blair 'damaged' by Blunkett row A majority of voters (68%) believe the prime minister has been damaged by the row over David Blunkett's involvement in a visa application, a poll suggests. But nearly half those surveyed said Mr Blunkett should return to Cabinet if Labour won the next election. Some 63% of respondents in the Sunday Times poll thought his former lover - Kimberly Quinn - acted vindictively and 61% that he had been right to resign. YouGov polled a weighted sample of 1,981 voters online on 16-18 December. Mr Blunkett resigned as Home Secretary on Wednesday after an inquiry uncovered an e-mail showing a visa application by Mrs Quinn's former nanny had been speeded up. Sir Alan Budd's inquiry also found Mr Blunkett's account of events had been wrong. Almost a quarter (21%) of those polled for the Sunday Times said he should return to the Cabinet straight after the election. One in four said he should be back in the Government's top ranks within a year or two while 39% opposed a comeback. Three-quarters said Mr Blunkett was right to go to court for the right to see Mrs Quinn's son - whom he says he fathered - and just 14% voiced sympathy for Mrs Quinn. A total of 53% of those polled said they had sympathy for Mr Blunkett, with 40% saying they did not. Forty-three per cent thought Mr Blunkett had done a good job as home secretary and 17% disagreed. Meantime, 32% said Mr Blair was a good prime minister and 38% disagreed. A majority, 52%, said Chancellor Gordon Brown had done a good job and just 16% disagreed. A second poll for the Independent on Sunday found that support for all political parties remained largely unchanged after the Blunkett controversy. Labour lead the Conservatives by 39% to 34% with the Liberal Democrats on 19%. CommunicateResearch interviewed 401 people before David Blunkett's resignation and 601 afterwards. Some 82% said Mr Blunkett had set a good example by wanting to take responsibility for the child he says is his, but 42% backed his legal action compared to 45% who thought it was unbecoming. Thirty per cent said the affair showed Mr Blunkett could not be trusted as a minister while 63%, disagreed."
"A total of 53% of those polled said they had sympathy for Mr Blunkett, with 40% saying they did not.But nearly half those surveyed said Mr Blunkett should return to Cabinet if Labour won the next election.Meantime, 32% said Mr Blair was a good prime minister and 38% disagreed.Thirty per cent said the affair showed Mr Blunkett could not be trusted as a minister while 63%, disagreed.Forty-three per cent thought Mr Blunkett had done a good job as home secretary and 17% disagreed.Some 82% said Mr Blunkett had set a good example by wanting to take responsibility for the child he says is his, but 42% backed his legal action compared to 45% who thought it was unbecoming.Three-quarters said Mr Blunkett was right to go to court for the right to see Mrs Quinn's son - whom he says he fathered - and just 14% voiced sympathy for Mrs Quinn.Almost a quarter (21%) of those polled for the Sunday Times said he should return to the Cabinet straight after the election."
"Anti-terror plan faces first test Plans to allow Home Secretary Charles Clarke to place terror suspects under house arrest without trial are set for their first real test in Parliament. Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour MPs are poised to vote against the plans. Mr Clarke says the powers are needed to counter terror threats. Opponents say only judges, not politicians, should be able to order detention of UK citizens. The government is expected to win Wednesday's vote in the Commons, but faces a battle in the House of Lords. The Prevention of Terrorism Bill was published on Tuesday. It proposes "control orders", which would mean house arrest in the most serious cases, and curfews, electronic tagging and limits on telephone and internet access for other suspects. The two opposition parties are particularly worried that the control orders would initially be imposed on the say-so of the home secretary, rather than a judge. Tory shadow home secretary David Davis warned of the potential for miscarriages of justice, like the Guildford Four - for which Tony Blair recently apologised - as a result of the pressure on politicians to lock up terror suspects. "Those pressures would be much more for a politician than they would on a judge and that's why we have serious concerns abut that approach," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Mr Clarke says he does not intend to use the house arrest powers now - even for the 11 current terror detainees. He also said that any decision he made would be reviewed by a judge within seven days. The foreign terror suspects currently detained are mostly held at London's Belmarsh prison. They are held under laws which the Law Lords have ruled break human rights rules - and which are due to expire on 14 March. The new powers, designed to replace the existing laws and meet the Law Lords' concerns, would apply to British as well as foreign terror suspects. Critics say that giving politicians the power to deprive UK citizens of their freedom is the biggest attack on civil liberties for 300 years. Opposition MPs are also angry they will have only two days - Wednesday and next Monday - to debate the new plans before they pass to the House of Lords. But the government says the existing powers run out soon so must be replaced urgently. In a rare move, the Tories and Lib Dems have jointly tabled a motion opposing the new bill, saying the house arrest plans are "excessive". It argues decisions should be taken on a higher standard of proof and the plan "wrongly infringes the right to liberty" by failing to bring terrorists to trial where there is evidence. Mr Davis told Today: "It gives a minister, for the first time in modern history, the right to detain without trial, without showing the evidence and indeed, in some respects, almost the allegation against the individual concerned." He questioned why there was "such a rush" to introduce the legislation when Mr Clarke had indicated he was not planning to use the house arrest powers straight away. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "We believe it should be the judge that takes decisions, not politicians." Mr Clarke said the security services and police backed his measures and it would be "rash and negligent" to ignore their advice. Nobody should doubt that terrorists at home and abroad wanted to attack the UK and its interests, he argued."
"Mr Clarke says he does not intend to use the house arrest powers now - even for the 11 current terror detainees.Plans to allow Home Secretary Charles Clarke to place terror suspects under house arrest without trial are set for their first real test in Parliament.Mr Clarke says the powers are needed to counter terror threats.He questioned why there was "such a rush" to introduce the legislation when Mr Clarke had indicated he was not planning to use the house arrest powers straight away.The new powers, designed to replace the existing laws and meet the Law Lords' concerns, would apply to British as well as foreign terror suspects.In a rare move, the Tories and Lib Dems have jointly tabled a motion opposing the new bill, saying the house arrest plans are "excessive".The two opposition parties are particularly worried that the control orders would initially be imposed on the say-so of the home secretary, rather than a judge.It proposes "control orders", which would mean house arrest in the most serious cases, and curfews, electronic tagging and limits on telephone and internet access for other suspects.Opposition MPs are also angry they will have only two days - Wednesday and next Monday - to debate the new plans before they pass to the House of Lords.Mr Clarke said the security services and police backed his measures and it would be "rash and negligent" to ignore their advice."
"Brown ally rejects Budget spree Chancellor Gordon Brown's closest ally has denied suggestions there will be a Budget giveaway on 16 March. Ed Balls, ex-chief economic adviser to the Treasury, said there would be no spending spree before polling day. But Mr Balls, a prospective Labour MP, said he was confident the chancellor would meet his fiscal rules. He was speaking as Sir Digby Jones, CBI director general, warned Mr Brown not to be tempted to use any extra cash on pre-election bribes. Mr Balls, who stepped down from his Treasury post to stand as a Labour candidate in the election, had suggested that Mr Brown would meet his golden economic rule - "with a margin to spare". He said he hoped more would be done to build on current tax credit rules. He also stressed rise in interest rates ahead of an expected May election would not affect the Labour Party's chances of winning. Expectations of a rate rise have gathered pace after figures showed house prices are still rising. Consumer borrowing rose at a near-record pace in January. "If the MPC (the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee) were to judge that a rate rise was justified before the election because of the strength of the economy - and I'm not predicting that they will - I do not believe that this will be a big election issue in Britain for Labour," he told a Parliamentary lunch. "This is a big change in our political culture." During an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Balls said he was sure Mr Brown's Budget would not put at risk the stability of the economy. "I don't think we'll see a pre-election spending spree - we certainly did not see that before 2001," he said. His assurances came after Sir Digby Jones said stability was all important and any extra cash should be spent on improving workers' skills. His message to the chancellor was: "Please don't give it away in any form of electioneering." Sir Digby added: "I don't think he will. I have to say he has been a prudent chancellor right the way through. Stability is the key word - British business needs boring stability more than anything. "We would say to him 'don't increase your public spending, don't give it away. But if you are going to anywhere, just add something to the competitiveness of Britain, put it into skilling our people'. "That would be a good way to spend any excess." Mr Balls refused to say whether Mr Brown would remain as chancellor after the election, amid speculation he will be offered the job of Foreign Secretary. "I think that Gordon Brown wants to be part of the successful Labour government which delivers in the third term for the priorities of the people and sees off a Conservative Party that will take Britain backwards," Mr Balls told Today. Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to name the date of the election, but most pundits are betting on 5 May."
"But Mr Balls, a prospective Labour MP, said he was confident the chancellor would meet his fiscal rules.During an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Balls said he was sure Mr Brown's Budget would not put at risk the stability of the economy.Mr Balls refused to say whether Mr Brown would remain as chancellor after the election, amid speculation he will be offered the job of Foreign Secretary.Mr Balls, who stepped down from his Treasury post to stand as a Labour candidate in the election, had suggested that Mr Brown would meet his golden economic rule - "with a margin to spare"."We would say to him 'don't increase your public spending, don't give it away.Ed Balls, ex-chief economic adviser to the Treasury, said there would be no spending spree before polling day.He also stressed rise in interest rates ahead of an expected May election would not affect the Labour Party's chances of winning."If the MPC (the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee) were to judge that a rate rise was justified before the election because of the strength of the economy - and I'm not predicting that they will - I do not believe that this will be a big election issue in Britain for Labour," he told a Parliamentary lunch."I think that Gordon Brown wants to be part of the successful Labour government which delivers in the third term for the priorities of the people and sees off a Conservative Party that will take Britain backwards," Mr Balls told Today.His assurances came after Sir Digby Jones said stability was all important and any extra cash should be spent on improving workers' skills."
"Kennedy questions trust of Blair Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has said voters now have a "fundamental lack of trust" of Tony Blair as prime minister. He said backing his party was not a wasted vote, adding that with the Lib Dems "what you see is what you get". He made his comments at the start of a day of appearances on Channel Five in a session on The Wright Stuff programme. Questions from callers, a studio audience and the show's presenter covered Lib Dem tax plans, anti-terror laws and immigration. Mr Kennedy said during his nearly 22 years in Parliament he had seen prime ministers and party leaders come and go and knew the pitfalls of British politics. "1983 was when I was first elected as an MP - so Tony Blair, Michael Howard and myself were all class of '83 - and over that nearly quarter of a century the world has changed out of recognition," he said. "We don't actually hear the argument any longer: 'Lib Dems, good people, reasonable ideas but only if we thought they could win around here - it's a wasted vote'. "You don't hear that because the evidence of people's senses demonstrates that it isn't a wasted vote." But he said Mr Blair had lost the trust of the British people. "There is a fundamental lack of trust in Tony Blair as prime minister and in his government," he said. "What we've got to do as a party - what I've got to do as a leader of this party - is to convey to people that what you see is what you get." Mr Kennedy also used his TV appearance to defend his party's plans to increase income tax to 50% for those earning more than £100,000, saying it would apply to just 1% of the population. He said the extra revenue would allow his party to get rid of tuition and top-up fees, introduce free personal care for the elderly and replace the council tax with a local income tax. Mr Blair has already spent a day with Five and Michael Howard is booked for a similar session."
"Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has said voters now have a "fundamental lack of trust" of Tony Blair as prime minister.He said backing his party was not a wasted vote, adding that with the Lib Dems "what you see is what you get".But he said Mr Blair had lost the trust of the British people."There is a fundamental lack of trust in Tony Blair as prime minister and in his government," he said.Mr Kennedy said during his nearly 22 years in Parliament he had seen prime ministers and party leaders come and go and knew the pitfalls of British politics.Mr Blair has already spent a day with Five and Michael Howard is booked for a similar session."
"UK pledges £1bn to vaccine effort UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has offered £960m ($1.8bn) over 15 years to an international scheme aiming to boost vaccination and immunisation schemes. In a speech, he called for action to reach the 2000 Millennium Declaration goals of halving global poverty and tackling child mortality rates. Mr Brown has just returned from a tour of African nations. The £1bn commitment is part of a five-point plan on debt relief, trade, aid, education and health. The chancellor was speaking at an event jointly organised by the UK's Department for International Development and the UN Development Programme on Wednesday. Mr Brown welcomed news that the Bill Gates Foundation and Norway are joining up to put an extra £0.53bn ($1bn ) into the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi). Britain, France, Gavi and the Gates Foundation have drawn up proposals to apply the principles of the International Finance Facility (IFF) to the area of immunisation. That could see donors making long-term, legally binding financial commitments which can then be used as collateral for raising extra funds from international capital markets. As well as pledging £960m over 15 years to the immunisation IFF, Britain urged other donors to contribute. If Gavi could increase its funding for immunisation by an extra £4bn ($7.4bn) over 10 years, then an extra five million lives could have been saved by 2015 and five million thereafter, Mr Brown argued. Campaign groups including Friends of the Earth, the World Development Movement, and War on Want said UK government policy on free trade was a major barrier to fighting poverty. War on Want's John Hilary said: "Compassionate rhetoric cannot disguise the reality of the government's neo-liberal policies. "As long as Mr Blair and Mr Brown continue to push free trade and privatisation on developing countries, more and more people will be pushed deeper into poverty, not lifted out of it.""
"Mr Brown welcomed news that the Bill Gates Foundation and Norway are joining up to put an extra £0.53bn ($1bn ) into the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi).UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has offered £960m ($1.8bn) over 15 years to an international scheme aiming to boost vaccination and immunisation schemes.If Gavi could increase its funding for immunisation by an extra £4bn ($7.4bn) over 10 years, then an extra five million lives could have been saved by 2015 and five million thereafter, Mr Brown argued."As long as Mr Blair and Mr Brown continue to push free trade and privatisation on developing countries, more and more people will be pushed deeper into poverty, not lifted out of it."Britain, France, Gavi and the Gates Foundation have drawn up proposals to apply the principles of the International Finance Facility (IFF) to the area of immunisation.Campaign groups including Friends of the Earth, the World Development Movement, and War on Want said UK government policy on free trade was a major barrier to fighting poverty."
"Army chiefs in regiments decision Military chiefs are expected to meet to make a final decision on the future of Scotland's Army regiments. A committee of the Army Board, which is made up of the most senior defence figures, will discuss plans for restructuring regiments on Monday. The proposals include cutting Scotland's six single-battalion regiments to five and merging these into a super regiment. The plans have faced stiff opposition from campaigners and politicians alike. The committee's decision must be ratified by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is expected that it will be made public next week. When ministers announced a reorganisation of the Army it drew a question mark over the futures of the Black Watch, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. In October, the Council of Scottish Colonels proposed the merger of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers into a single battalion. Under their vision, it would be one of five in the new super regiment. The proposals to either merge or amalgamate the six regiments into a super regiment sparked a political outcry, with Labour backbenchers and opposition politicians opposing the plan. They felt the timing was insensitive because the Black Watch was in the frontline in Iraq, suffering casualties. The Save the Scottish Regiments campaigners were so angered they threatened to stand against Labour at the next general election. Speaking ahead of the expected Army Board meeting, a spokesman said: "The government and the Army Board have spent the past four months attempting to trick serving soldiers and the public into thinking their planned changes for the Scottish regiments are for the good of the Army and for that of the serving soldier. "They are very much not for the good and will destroy Scotland's regiments by moulding them into a single super regiment which will lead to severe recruitment problems, a loss of local connections to those regiments and a loss to Scotland of an important part of her heritage and, most importantly, her future - the regiments are the envy of armies around the world." An alternative blueprint had been put forward by Labour MP Eric Joyce, who proposed going ahead with the merger while preserving the other regiments. For a brief time, there was speculation the prime minister might consider the plan, but that now seems unlikely. Speaking in Scotland last week, Mr Blair said the aim was to preserve tradition but introduce a more effective structure and hinted that a super regiment was likely. He said: "They don't want to get rid of the history or the traditions of the regiment or the local connections - far from it, all they want to do is make sure they can transfer people easily across regiments and deploy them more flexibly." The prime minister said he hoped campaigners' concerns would be taken into account but the need for effective change had to be paramount."
""They are very much not for the good and will destroy Scotland's regiments by moulding them into a single super regiment which will lead to severe recruitment problems, a loss of local connections to those regiments and a loss to Scotland of an important part of her heritage and, most importantly, her future - the regiments are the envy of armies around the world."The proposals to either merge or amalgamate the six regiments into a super regiment sparked a political outcry, with Labour backbenchers and opposition politicians opposing the plan.The proposals include cutting Scotland's six single-battalion regiments to five and merging these into a super regiment.Speaking in Scotland last week, Mr Blair said the aim was to preserve tradition but introduce a more effective structure and hinted that a super regiment was likely.A committee of the Army Board, which is made up of the most senior defence figures, will discuss plans for restructuring regiments on Monday.Speaking ahead of the expected Army Board meeting, a spokesman said: "The government and the Army Board have spent the past four months attempting to trick serving soldiers and the public into thinking their planned changes for the Scottish regiments are for the good of the Army and for that of the serving soldier.Under their vision, it would be one of five in the new super regiment.He said: "They don't want to get rid of the history or the traditions of the regiment or the local connections - far from it, all they want to do is make sure they can transfer people easily across regiments and deploy them more flexibly.""
"Borders rail link campaign rally Campaigners are to stage a rally calling for a Borders rail link which was closed in 1969 to be reopened. They will mark the 36th anniversary of the line closure, which ran from Edinburgh through the Borders and on to Carlisle, with a walk at Tweedbank. Anne Borthwick, of Campaign for Borders Rail, said reopening the Waverley Line would restore the area's prosperity. MSPs are considering the reintroduction of passenger rail services through Midlothian to the Borders. Campaigners have said that reopening the Waverley Line, which could cost up to £100m, would be a huge economic boost for the Borders. In 2000, Borders Council said the area's economy had suffered since the closure. Ms Borthwick said the lobby group was determined to keep the pressure on the Scottish Executive. "We are hoping that many people will join us in a march to mark the 36th anniversary of the closure of the Waverley Line," she said. "Campaign for Borders Rail is the biggest independent lobby group in Scotland and we have been lobbying tirelessly for the reinstatement of rail services to the Borders and eventually to Carlisle. "We believe that it is time for the Scottish Executive to commit to the first phase of the project by pledging to fund the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in the first instance and then investigate extending the line in the future." Ms Borthwick said reopening the line would be a prosperous move and protect the character of the Scottish Borders. A study in 2000, which was commissioned by the executive, Scottish Borders Council, Midlothian Council and Scottish Borders Enterprise, found that a half-hourly service from Tweedbank to Edinburgh could cover its operating costs. It also found that a half-hourly service from Gorebridge to Edinburgh could cover operating costs and that a freight railway joining the West Coast Main Line at Longtown could also be reinstated."
"Anne Borthwick, of Campaign for Borders Rail, said reopening the Waverley Line would restore the area's prosperity.Ms Borthwick said reopening the line would be a prosperous move and protect the character of the Scottish Borders.Campaigners have said that reopening the Waverley Line, which could cost up to £100m, would be a huge economic boost for the Borders.A study in 2000, which was commissioned by the executive, Scottish Borders Council, Midlothian Council and Scottish Borders Enterprise, found that a half-hourly service from Tweedbank to Edinburgh could cover its operating costs.They will mark the 36th anniversary of the line closure, which ran from Edinburgh through the Borders and on to Carlisle, with a walk at Tweedbank."Campaign for Borders Rail is the biggest independent lobby group in Scotland and we have been lobbying tirelessly for the reinstatement of rail services to the Borders and eventually to Carlisle."
"MSPs hear renewed climate warning Climate change could be completely out of control within several decades, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is warning a committee of MSPs. Experts are giving evidence on the subject to the Scottish Parliament's environment committee. Officials believe nuclear energy and wind farms may be better options than trying to tackle global warming. Solutions suggested by conservationists include reducing internal UK air travel and boosting electric trains. The evidence is part of the committee's inquiry into the impact of climate change in Scotland. Sepa is attempting to curb global warming gases, as pollution from transport emissions increases. Ecologists are warning MSPs that Scotland may have to accept "significant intrusion" from wind farms. It is likely also that nuclear power will be needed for possibly several decades. Sepa predict that the two methods will remain as energy sources until climate change is under control. Experts studying the seas off Scotland's west coast have already forecast more devastating weather of the type which caused havoc across the country last month. They predicted that damaging storms will become more frequent. Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands and Southampton have been looking at wave heights in the Atlantic over the last nine years. The project was conducted jointly by the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute network, and the Southampton Oceanography Centre. Scientists carried out a series of studies, including the use of satellites to assess wave heights in the seas around the west coast and the Hebrides."
"Climate change could be completely out of control within several decades, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is warning a committee of MSPs.The evidence is part of the committee's inquiry into the impact of climate change in Scotland.Sepa predict that the two methods will remain as energy sources until climate change is under control.Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands and Southampton have been looking at wave heights in the Atlantic over the last nine years.Officials believe nuclear energy and wind farms may be better options than trying to tackle global warming.Experts are giving evidence on the subject to the Scottish Parliament's environment committee."
"UK's 'useless' quangos under fire The UK has 529 quangos financed with billions of pounds of taxpayers' cash - many of which are useless or duplicate each other's efforts, a report claims. Essential Guide to British Quangos 2005 author Dan Lewis said at least 111 of the appointed bodies had been set up since Labour won power in 1997. He urged a limit on the number of quangos that could be set up by any individual government department. Tories and Lib Dems welcomed the report and called for a "slimming down". Conservative deregulation spokesman John Redwood said: "The research endorses our policy of destroying unwanted and unnecessary quangos, and slimming down the rest. "A Conservative government will axe 162 quangos, as part of its drive for more efficient and more accountable government." Lib Dem spokesman Ed Davey meanwhile said instead of the "bonfire of quangos" New Labour had promised, there had been an "explosion" of them. "For over two decades, under both Tory and Labour governments, these unaccountable agencies have mushroomed. "Liberal Democrats would abolish many, merge others, and make any that remain properly accountable." Labour representatives were unavailable for comment. The quango guide follows last year's government-commissioned Gershon Report which recommended significant cuts in bureaucracy across the public sector. Mr Lewis wants a public inquiry into regional development agencies which cost £1.8bn a year - cash he says which "appears to be almost entirely wasted". As well as a departmental limit on quangos he also wants a statutory five-year limit on any such body with executive powers. He also listed what he dubbed the nine "most useless quangos". They were the British Potato Council, the Milk Development Council, the Energy Savings Trust, Agricultural Wages Committees, the Wine Standards Board, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Football Licensing Authority, Investors in People UK and the Economic and Social Research Council. Mr Lewis branded the existence of the 60-employee Potato Council, set up in 1997 to research and promote overseas potato markets, "surprising". He said the £80m spent annually on the Energy Savings Trust, which promotes renewable energy, would be better spent on eight million boiler jackets for British homes. And he argued it was "absurd" to charge farmers for Agricultural Wages Committees, which set working and wage standards in the industry, when many were prepared to take advantage of immigrant labour prepared to work for £1 an hour. "If a football team can afford to pay £27m for Wayne Rooney, why should the taxpayer - not all of whom like football - be forced to fund the Football Licensing Authority to the tune of over £1.1m a year?" Mr Lewis asked. The report is published by the Efficiency in Government Unit - a joint effort by right of centre think tanks the Economic Research Council and the Centre for Policy Studies. It says before a new public body is set up, an assessment should be made whether its proposed role is already carried out by an existing charity or other private organisation."
"Essential Guide to British Quangos 2005 author Dan Lewis said at least 111 of the appointed bodies had been set up since Labour won power in 1997.They were the British Potato Council, the Milk Development Council, the Energy Savings Trust, Agricultural Wages Committees, the Wine Standards Board, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Football Licensing Authority, Investors in People UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.Mr Lewis branded the existence of the 60-employee Potato Council, set up in 1997 to research and promote overseas potato markets, "surprising".Lib Dem spokesman Ed Davey meanwhile said instead of the "bonfire of quangos" New Labour had promised, there had been an "explosion" of them.He urged a limit on the number of quangos that could be set up by any individual government department.Conservative deregulation spokesman John Redwood said: "The research endorses our policy of destroying unwanted and unnecessary quangos, and slimming down the rest.Mr Lewis wants a public inquiry into regional development agencies which cost £1.8bn a year - cash he says which "appears to be almost entirely wasted".The UK has 529 quangos financed with billions of pounds of taxpayers' cash - many of which are useless or duplicate each other's efforts, a report claims."A Conservative government will axe 162 quangos, as part of its drive for more efficient and more accountable government.""
"Commons hunt protest charges Eight protesters who stormed the House of Commons chamber during a debate on the Hunting Bill have been charged with disorderly conduct. The men were arrested in September after bursting into the chamber causing a hunting ban debate to be halted. Those charged included Otis Ferry, the 22-year-old son of rock star Bryan Ferry and Luke Tomlinson, 27, a close friend of princes William and Harry. They were charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, police said. Five of the eight men held an impromptu news conference outside Charing Cross Police Station on Monday evening, after the charges were formerly put to them. The men's solicitor Matthew Knight, said that at no time had it occurred to the men that they were committing a criminal offence. "There is no offence of trespassing in the House of Commons - it is not a criminal offence," he said. "If Parliament wanted to make entering the House of Commons chamber on foot a criminal offence it should have done so, but it can't do so retrospectively. "We are not prosecuted for that. We are prosecuted for a Public Order Act offence. We are not guilty of it." They will appear at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on 21 December, a police spokesman said. Otis Ferry, a former Eton pupil and joint leader of the South Shropshire Hunt, said: "I have no regrets. "We have done nothing wrong beyond the obvious which was to stand up for our rights and not act like a sheep like the rest of the country." One of the men, David Redvers, 34, from Hartpury, Gloucestershire, said he and the other seven protesters would plead not guilty to the charges. The other protesters are John Holliday, 37, a huntsman from Ledbury, Herefordshire, Robert Thame, 34, who plays polo with Princes Charles in Team Highgrove, auctioneer Andrew Elliot, 42, from Bromesberrow, near Ledbury, point-to-point jockey Richard Wakeham, 34, from York, and former royal chef Nick Wood, 41. The 15 September protest came on the same day as a huge pro-hunting demonstration in Parliament Square. Four of the men ran out from behind the speaker's chair while another wrestled past a doorkeeper from a different entrance. The five tried to confront MPs before they were bundled out of the chamber and later led away handcuffed by police. Three others had been intercepted by security staff as they tried to join the five in the chamber. Speaker Michael Martin later said the men had used a forged letter to gain access to the House of Commons and had been helped to get close to the chamber by a parliamentary pass holder. In November, the use of the Parliament Act meant a total ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales. However, many pro-hunt activists remained defiant after the law was passed, saying they would ignore the ban and continue to hunt. Last week, the Countryside Alliance said more than 250 hunts would meet legally the day after the ban on hunting with dogs comes into force. The alliance said the 19 February meets would show the new law was "impossibly difficult to determine" and open to different interpretations."
"They were charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, police said."There is no offence of trespassing in the House of Commons - it is not a criminal offence," he said.One of the men, David Redvers, 34, from Hartpury, Gloucestershire, said he and the other seven protesters would plead not guilty to the charges.We are prosecuted for a Public Order Act offence.Last week, the Countryside Alliance said more than 250 hunts would meet legally the day after the ban on hunting with dogs comes into force.Speaker Michael Martin later said the men had used a forged letter to gain access to the House of Commons and had been helped to get close to the chamber by a parliamentary pass holder.The men's solicitor Matthew Knight, said that at no time had it occurred to the men that they were committing a criminal offence."If Parliament wanted to make entering the House of Commons chamber on foot a criminal offence it should have done so, but it can't do so retrospectively.Eight protesters who stormed the House of Commons chamber during a debate on the Hunting Bill have been charged with disorderly conduct.The men were arrested in September after bursting into the chamber causing a hunting ban debate to be halted."
"Tory leader quits legal position David McLetchie has resigned from his post as a partner in a legal firm following criticism over his dual role. The Scottish Conservative leader had insisted that his legal work with Tods Murray did not influence the causes he supports. But on Friday he said: "I have tendered my resignation as a partner with immediate effect." Mr McLetchie had received advice from Holyrood officials about what details he needed to declare. Labour said he had "cleverly" not asked about paid advocacy. A Tory spokesman "totally refuted" any wrongdoing. Mr McLetchie received advice from the clerk to the standards committee after concern over him signing a parliamentary motion questioning expansion plans for Edinburgh Airport. The MSP had been a partner for Tods Murray which has a client opposing the development. Mr McLetchie did not have a complaint made against him, but when concerns were raised he sought guidance from the standards committee to clarify his position. He was advised to exercise judgement to avoid the perception of a conflict and said he had done nothing wrong. Explaining his reason for quitting the post, Mr McLetchie said: "I have been greatly concerned by the recent publicity surrounding my association with Tods Murray. "However, I have no wish to see a similar situation arise again. "To avoid any misconceptions in the future and be mindful of the good name of Tods Murray and the confidentiality to which its clients are entitled, I have brought forward the date of my retirement from the firm which would otherwise have happened later this year. "I am proud to have been a part of Tods Murray for the last 29 years and wish it well in the future." Labour MSP Christine May had said Mr McLetchie was "very clever" to ask the clerk to consider his conduct in respect of section 5 of the code. "He was almost bound to get the answer he wanted from this enquiry since he stands accused of breaching section 6, the section on paid advocacy," she said. Section 5 of the members interest order legally obliges MSPs to declare registrable interests before taking part in related parliamentary proceedings "where the interest would prejudice or give the appearance of prejudicing their ability to participate in a disinterested manner". However, MSPs' Code of Conduct "recognises a wider definition" of parliamentary proceedings, including a non-statutory requirement to make a declaration in relation to written notices, such as motions. But a letter from Holyrood's Chamber Office chief Ken Hughes also made clear that Mr McLetchie did not need to list any of the clients for whom he worked as a solicitor. Commenting on Mr McLetchie's decision to stand down, a Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: "This should mean Mr McLetchie doesn't breach the paid advocacy rules in future. "However it doesn't change the fact that there should be a full investigation into whether he has done this in the past." Scottish National Party Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr McLetchie of failing to properly serve his constituents. Ms Sturgeon said: "I think this whole episode has been very damaging for Mr McLetchie and I'm sure he will be reflecting on it." She added that she thought that the Tories were an irrelevant party so she would not "lose any sleep over it". Peter Misselbrook, executive partner of Tods Murray said Mr McLetchie had been considering retirement later in the year. He added: "David has decided that this announcement should be made now and we fully understand and appreciate his reasons for doing so.""
"Peter Misselbrook, executive partner of Tods Murray said Mr McLetchie had been considering retirement later in the year.Commenting on Mr McLetchie's decision to stand down, a Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: "This should mean Mr McLetchie doesn't breach the paid advocacy rules in future.Explaining his reason for quitting the post, Mr McLetchie said: "I have been greatly concerned by the recent publicity surrounding my association with Tods Murray.Labour MSP Christine May had said Mr McLetchie was "very clever" to ask the clerk to consider his conduct in respect of section 5 of the code.Ms Sturgeon said: "I think this whole episode has been very damaging for Mr McLetchie and I'm sure he will be reflecting on it."The MSP had been a partner for Tods Murray which has a client opposing the development.Scottish National Party Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr McLetchie of failing to properly serve his constituents.Mr McLetchie had received advice from Holyrood officials about what details he needed to declare.Mr McLetchie received advice from the clerk to the standards committee after concern over him signing a parliamentary motion questioning expansion plans for Edinburgh Airport.Mr McLetchie did not have a complaint made against him, but when concerns were raised he sought guidance from the standards committee to clarify his position.David McLetchie has resigned from his post as a partner in a legal firm following criticism over his dual role."
"Howard unveils election platform The Conservatives would stand up for the "forgotten majority", Michael Howard pledged as he unveiled the first part of the Tory election manifesto. The Tory leader argued there was a mass of people whom he says feel let down by Tony Blair and who share Tory values. In the foreword to the manifesto, he promises to focus on restoring order, trying to lower taxes and giving power back to the people. Labour says the document offers only a return to a "failed Tory past". The Liberal Democrats say the Conservatives cannot win what they predict will be a three-party contest. Campaigning activity is accelerating ahead of the general election, which is widely tipped for May but could be any time before June 2006. Labour on Monday postponed a launch of election posters because of the Asian tsunami disaster. Mr Howard published the introduction to the Tory manifesto. Other chapters will follow in coming weeks. In a speech in Northamptonshire, he said the "forgotten majority" made up the backbone of Britain. They were people who were saving for their first home or their retirement, working hard and accepting their responsibilities. He says in the manifesto foreword: "They have been forgotten, neglected and taken for granted by Mr Blair." Saying Britain must change direction, Mr Howard argues government is too big and cannot continue "down the path of ever rising taxes". He promises to ensure frontline professionals, parents and patients make the key decisions rather than Whitehall "bureaucrats". And he says the Tories would get a grip on crime, immigration and disorder. "The decline of responsibility and the proliferation of so-called 'human rights' have left us in a moral quagmire, unable to get a grip on rising crime and disorder," he says. Mr Howard says he will produce a Timetable for Action so people can hold him to account but on issues like taxation he has so far only published options, not specific plans. Mr Howard told BBC News: "I'm determined to lower taxes but I'm also determined not to make any promises I can't keep." The Tories were unveiling material months ahead of the expected election because they needed time to make voters aware of their policies, he said. He was asked if Tory support for the government on Iraq and identity cards had given the Lib Dems the chance to portray themselves as the opposition to Labour. Mr Howard argued the only test for his policies was whether they were best for Britain. It had nothing to do with putting "clear blue water" between himself and his opponents. Labour's election slogan will be: "Britain's working, don't let the Tories wreck it again". Campaign coordinator Alan Milburn accused the Tories of "launching Thatcherism in instalments" while Labour helped the hard working majority of families. Lib Dem president Simon Hughes said his party had set out its election stance in September. "The Liberal Democrats will ask the British people for support this year as the party with the policies best able to deliver freedom and fairness and to restore trust," he said."
"The Conservatives would stand up for the "forgotten majority", Michael Howard pledged as he unveiled the first part of the Tory election manifesto.Mr Howard published the introduction to the Tory manifesto.The Tory leader argued there was a mass of people whom he says feel let down by Tony Blair and who share Tory values.He says in the manifesto foreword: "They have been forgotten, neglected and taken for granted by Mr Blair."Mr Howard argued the only test for his policies was whether they were best for Britain.Mr Howard says he will produce a Timetable for Action so people can hold him to account but on issues like taxation he has so far only published options, not specific plans.And he says the Tories would get a grip on crime, immigration and disorder.The Tories were unveiling material months ahead of the expected election because they needed time to make voters aware of their policies, he said.Labour says the document offers only a return to a "failed Tory past".Labour's election slogan will be: "Britain's working, don't let the Tories wreck it again".Saying Britain must change direction, Mr Howard argues government is too big and cannot continue "down the path of ever rising taxes"."
"Pakistani women 'must not hide' Hiding women away in the home hidden behind veils is a backward view of Islam, President Musharraf of Pakistan has said during a visit to Britain. He was speaking to the BBC's Newsnight programme a few hours before visiting the Pakistani community in Manchester. "My wife is travelling around. She is very religious but she is very moderate," said General Musharraf. It comes after Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain said some Pakistanis should integrate more. Dr Maleeha Lodhi said people could not expect others to listen to their grievances if they isolated themselves. Gen Musharraf told the BBC: "Some people think that the women should be confined to their houses and put veils on and all that and they should not move out - absolutely wrong." The Pakistani president was also asked whether he thought the war on terror had made the world less safe. "Yes, absolutely. And I would add that unfortunately we are not addressing the core problems, so therefore we can never address it in its totality," he said. "We are fighting it in its immediate context but we are not fighting it in its strategic long-term context. "It is the political disputes and we need to resolve them, and also the issue of illiteracy and poverty. This combined are breeding grounds of extremism and terrorism." On Monday the Pakistani president met Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, on his first official visit to London. He is due to visit the Pakistani community in Manchester on Tuesday afternoon. The Mirror newspaper said on Tuesday it had been handed a sensitive dossier outling the details of Gen Musharraf's visit to Britain. The paper said the document had been found in a London street by a member of the public. It said the dossier contained details about his movements and also confidential police radio channels, call signs and codes. Speaking in London on Monday, Gen Musharraf said al-Qaeda was "on the run" in Pakistan. But standing next to Mr Blair he added that it was crucial to tackle the "core of what creates terrorists, what creates an extremist, militant environment which then leads on to terrorism". "That is the resolution of political disputes." Mr Blair said the two leaders had talked about Afghanistan, the wider war on terror, the situation in the Middle East and the ongoing dispute over Kashmir. "We agreed that in Afghanistan there is some cause for optimism about the progress that has been made there," said Mr Blair. "In respect of Iraq, we agreed that whatever the issues of the past, the important thing now is to see the strategy through and ensure that Iraq is capable of becoming a stable and democratic state.""
"Speaking in London on Monday, Gen Musharraf said al-Qaeda was "on the run" in Pakistan.Hiding women away in the home hidden behind veils is a backward view of Islam, President Musharraf of Pakistan has said during a visit to Britain."We agreed that in Afghanistan there is some cause for optimism about the progress that has been made there," said Mr Blair.The Mirror newspaper said on Tuesday it had been handed a sensitive dossier outling the details of Gen Musharraf's visit to Britain.She is very religious but she is very moderate," said General Musharraf.Mr Blair said the two leaders had talked about Afghanistan, the wider war on terror, the situation in the Middle East and the ongoing dispute over Kashmir.The paper said the document had been found in a London street by a member of the public.It said the dossier contained details about his movements and also confidential police radio channels, call signs and codes.It comes after Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain said some Pakistanis should integrate more.On Monday the Pakistani president met Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, on his first official visit to London."
"Lib Dems target the student vote Students can decide the fate of MPs in some seats at the next election, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has claimed. The party says the votes of students can win it 27 new seats at the poll. The figures assume all students will vote in their university town. In fact, some may vote where the parents live. The Lib Dems say scrapping university fees wins them student support. But the Tories would also end fees and Labour says both would cap people's ambitions. The Lib Dems have named the 14 seats where there are enough students to take the Lib Dems from second place to beat Labour, and the 13 where they could go from second to beat the Tories. Launching his campaign to win students' votes at the London School of Economics, Mr Kennedy urged students to "make their mark". He underlined Lib Dem plans to scrap university fees and reintroduce maintenance grants of up to £2,000. He said: "Top-up fees put students off university, especially those from a poorer background. "And is it really right that so many young people are starting out in life with mortgage-style debts hanging round their necks?" Mr Kennedy also said students want action on the environment and see the Iraq war, which his party opposed, as a defining issue. Labour has pushed through plans to let universities charge fees of up to £3,000 a year, with the poorest students eligible for non-repayable support of up to £3,000. Ahead of Mr Kennedy's launch, a Labour spokesperson said: "Like the Tories, the Liberal Democrats would restrict access to higher education and put a cap on aspiration, closing the door to students with good grades and restricting their life ambitions. "They are committed to abandoning Labour's targets of getting 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds going into higher education and under Lib Dem plans students would even have to study near home." The Conservatives say they would abolish university tuition fees and instead offer large student loans at commercial rates of interest. They say the Lib Dem policy would leave universities wholly dependent for their income on the "goodwill" of the chancellor. Shadow education secretary Tim Collins is on Thursday setting out a new scheme of vocational grants for 14 to 16-year-olds to tackle what he says are "crippling skills shortages". The Lib Dem analysis of the difference students could make to its election chances is based on all students being registered to vote near their university, not in their home towns. Although the expected 5 May election would be during term time, students can vote by post. The Electoral Commission and National Union of Students are worried students in halls of residence can find it hard to register to vote. Some hall wardens are reluctant to register students because of data protection fears - but students can get themselves registered. If the election is on 5 May, voters need to register by 11 March. - The seats where the Lib Dems say student votes can swing the election for them are: Bristol West, Cardiff Central, Leeds North West, Cambridge, Manchester Gorton, Sheffield Central, Oxford East, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, Liverpool Riverside, Holborn and St Pancras, Oldham East and Saddleworth, Manchester Withington, Islington South and Finsbury, Birmingham Yardley, Surrey South West, Taunton, Orpington, Haltemprice and Howden, Eastbourne, Isle of Wight, Dorset West, Bournemouth East, Wells, Canterbury, Cities of London and Westminster, Bournemouth West, Westmorland and Lonsdale."
"The Lib Dems say scrapping university fees wins them student support.The Lib Dem analysis of the difference students could make to its election chances is based on all students being registered to vote near their university, not in their home towns.The party says the votes of students can win it 27 new seats at the poll.The figures assume all students will vote in their university town.Although the expected 5 May election would be during term time, students can vote by post.The Conservatives say they would abolish university tuition fees and instead offer large student loans at commercial rates of interest.He said: "Top-up fees put students off university, especially those from a poorer background.Some hall wardens are reluctant to register students because of data protection fears - but students can get themselves registered.Labour has pushed through plans to let universities charge fees of up to £3,000 a year, with the poorest students eligible for non-repayable support of up to £3,000."They are committed to abandoning Labour's targets of getting 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds going into higher education and under Lib Dem plans students would even have to study near home.""
"MPs tout Lords replacement plan A group of MPs has tried to raise the pressure on Tony Blair over reform to the House of Lords by publishing a detailed blueprint for change. The cross-party group has unveiled a draft bill proposing a smaller second chamber in which 70% of members would be elected. MPs and peers have failed to agree on reform since 1999 when 600 hereditaries lost their seats. The group says it can win support for removing the last 92 hereditaries. The government postponed plans to remove the remaining hereditary peers because they said they were unlikely to succeed after opposition in the Lords. Tony Blair has argued. there needs to be consensus on reforms. There have been suggestions there will be proposals for changing at least the powers of the Lords in Labour's manifesto. But the all-party group, including Tories Ken Clarke and Sir George Young, Labour's Robin Cook and Tony Wright and Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler, is confident its plan would win support from a "large majority". And they list former Conservative leader William Hague and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock as supporters of the plans. The group says the British public and a clear majority of MPs support replacing the Lords with a largely-elected second chamber. Their plan would see the House of Lords being renamed the Second Chamber of Parliament, and its members would be known as MSCPs. There would be 385 MSCPs, including 270 elected members, 87 appointed members and 16 bishops. They would serve for between 12 and 14 years. Mr Cook said holding elections for MSCPs on the same day as those for MPs might help motivate the electorate and increase voter turnout. He added: "Over the last year I have seen many statements from senior figures of this government insisting the public must have the right of choice. "What could be more important than a choice of the people who sit in our Parliament?" The group believes pressure is growing for change and the government's current position is unsustainable. It wants all three main parties to include a commitment to a "largely democratic" second chamber in their manifestos. Mr Clarke said the issue "went to the heart of reforming the health of the British political system". And Mr Tyler said the prime minister's view that there was no agreement on the shape of the future of the Lords was flawed. "The problem, I think, in the prime minister's mind is there doesn't appear to be a consensus that includes him," he said. "We are providing a consensus". The Elect the Lords Campaign said the draft bill was an important contribution to the debate. "We believe this draft bill is detailed enough to form the basis of closer parliamentary scrutiny," said co-ordinator Peter Facey. "In lieu of any other such clear proposals, the government must permit that to happen.""
"Their plan would see the House of Lords being renamed the Second Chamber of Parliament, and its members would be known as MSCPs.The group says the British public and a clear majority of MPs support replacing the Lords with a largely-elected second chamber.The cross-party group has unveiled a draft bill proposing a smaller second chamber in which 70% of members would be elected.A group of MPs has tried to raise the pressure on Tony Blair over reform to the House of Lords by publishing a detailed blueprint for change.The Elect the Lords Campaign said the draft bill was an important contribution to the debate.The government postponed plans to remove the remaining hereditary peers because they said they were unlikely to succeed after opposition in the Lords.But the all-party group, including Tories Ken Clarke and Sir George Young, Labour's Robin Cook and Tony Wright and Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler, is confident its plan would win support from a "large majority".And Mr Tyler said the prime minister's view that there was no agreement on the shape of the future of the Lords was flawed."The problem, I think, in the prime minister's mind is there doesn't appear to be a consensus that includes him," he said.The group says it can win support for removing the last 92 hereditaries.There would be 385 MSCPs, including 270 elected members, 87 appointed members and 16 bishops."
"Blair ready to call election Tony Blair seems certain to end weeks of phoney war on Monday and announce there will be a general election on 5 May. The date has been pencilled into the diaries of politicians and political journalists for many months and, despite occasional panics that the prime minister was on the verge of calling a snap poll, it has not shifted. Over the weeks, there have been any number of signs that 050505 was going to be the day Mr Blair would go for an historic third term. And the calling of a special political cabinet meeting has only added to the belief that the announcement is imminent. The prime minister and his campaign boss Alan Milburn have already insisted the election will be fought on the economy and what they claim is a stark choice between Labour's stability and investment against Tory cuts and boom and bust. And Chancellor Gordon Brown has stepped into the front line of the campaign - to the relief of many of his supporters in Westminster - to underline that economic message. And it is certain one of the big arguments at the centre of the election battle will be around the big parties' tax and spend policies. During the phoney campaign, Labour got into trouble over its central claim that Michael Howard was planning £35 bn cuts in public services. The prime minister found himself struggling to explain how a smaller, slower increase in spending planned by the Tories compared to Labour's plans was a cut. And it looked like the Labour campaign - which was already being criticised for being thrown into defensive mode by Mr Howard on issues such as immigration and health - was on the rocks. Then deputy Conservative Chairman Howard Flight was reported to have suggested Mr Howard was secretly planning even bigger "cuts". He was sacked for his gaffe, but the damage had been done and the faltering Labour campaign was back on track. A second central argument will be over taxation, with the Tories claiming the Chancellor has to fill a black hole at the centre of his finances and will be forced to raise taxes if Labour wins again. Mr Brown slaps that aside, claiming his forecasts are accurate and that previous claims of looming economic disaster have proved inaccurate. As usual, the Liberal Democrats will have to fight to get their voice heard over the sounds of battle between the two big parties. But leader Charles Kennedy believes he has set out a distinctive manifesto with plans for a tax rise for the wealthiest to finance extra spending and the abolition of the council tax in favour of a local income tax. Other issues are certain to play a part - immigration and asylum, the war on Iraq, law and order and education, for example. But, as ever, it will be the economy that will almost certainly decide the outcome. And, whatever that outcome, 2005 is set to be a far more lively, even bitter campaign than 2001's non-event."
"And it looked like the Labour campaign - which was already being criticised for being thrown into defensive mode by Mr Howard on issues such as immigration and health - was on the rocks.During the phoney campaign, Labour got into trouble over its central claim that Michael Howard was planning £35 bn cuts in public services.He was sacked for his gaffe, but the damage had been done and the faltering Labour campaign was back on track.Then deputy Conservative Chairman Howard Flight was reported to have suggested Mr Howard was secretly planning even bigger "cuts".The date has been pencilled into the diaries of politicians and political journalists for many months and, despite occasional panics that the prime minister was on the verge of calling a snap poll, it has not shifted.And it is certain one of the big arguments at the centre of the election battle will be around the big parties' tax and spend policies.A second central argument will be over taxation, with the Tories claiming the Chancellor has to fill a black hole at the centre of his finances and will be forced to raise taxes if Labour wins again.The prime minister and his campaign boss Alan Milburn have already insisted the election will be fought on the economy and what they claim is a stark choice between Labour's stability and investment against Tory cuts and boom and bust."
"Abortion not a poll issue - Blair Tony Blair does not believe abortion should be an election issue, arguing it is a matter for individual conscience. The prime minister's spokesman set out Mr Blair's view after the top Catholic in England and Wales backed Michael Howard's stance on abortions. The Tory leader supports a reduction in the legal limit from 24 weeks to 20 and has said current rules are "tantamount to abortion on demand". The prime minister has made it clear he has no plans to the change the law. Mr Blair's spokesman said: "The Catholic church has a well-known position on this issue and it was one of many issues the Cardinal mentioned and therefore it should be seen in that context." His words came as Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, backed Mr Howard's stance and distanced himself from Labour. In a statement, he said abortion was a "very key issue", saying: "The policy supported by Mr Howard is one that we would commend, on the way to a full abandonment of abortion." Cardinal O'Connor claimed Labour had "developed" the notion that it was the natural party of Catholics, but he said: "We are not going to suggest people support one particular party." The Family Planning Association says a reduction would particularly affect young women who often seek help later. More than 180,000 women in England and Wales had terminations last year, of which fewer than 1% were carried out between 22 and 24 weeks. In the Cosmopolitan interview Mr Howard said: "I believe abortion should be available to everyone, but the law should be changed. "In the past I voted for a restriction to 22 weeks and I would be prepared to go down to 20." All three main parties say the issue is one for each MP's conscience, rather than one where there is a party-wide policy. Mr Howard stressed his views were his personal views. Shadow home secretary David Davis said he understood Mr Howard had been signalling that a Conservative government would allow a Commons vote on the issue. Mr Blair and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also gave their views during interviews, conducted as part of the magazine's "High Heeled Vote" campaign. Mr Blair, who last year denied he planned to join his wife and four children in the Catholic faith despite regularly taking communion, said abortion was a "difficult issue". "However much I dislike the idea of abortion, you should not criminalise a woman who, in very difficult circumstances, makes that choice. "Obviously there is a time beyond which you can't have an abortion, and we have no plans to change that although the debate will continue." Mr Kennedy said he had previously voted for a 22-week limit but medical advances mean "I don't know what I would do now". The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Reverend Peter Smith, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the church merely wanted people to "reflect on issues in light of the gospel" before voting. Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, asked: "What is the benefit to women, or to the potential child, of forcing a woman to have a baby?" Anti-abortion group the Pro-Life Alliance "congratulated" Mr Howard on his new stance, but said it did not go far enough."
"In a statement, he said abortion was a "very key issue", saying: "The policy supported by Mr Howard is one that we would commend, on the way to a full abandonment of abortion."Mr Blair's spokesman said: "The Catholic church has a well-known position on this issue and it was one of many issues the Cardinal mentioned and therefore it should be seen in that context."Mr Blair, who last year denied he planned to join his wife and four children in the Catholic faith despite regularly taking communion, said abortion was a "difficult issue".In the Cosmopolitan interview Mr Howard said: "I believe abortion should be available to everyone, but the law should be changed.Shadow home secretary David Davis said he understood Mr Howard had been signalling that a Conservative government would allow a Commons vote on the issue.Mr Kennedy said he had previously voted for a 22-week limit but medical advances mean "I don't know what I would do now".Anti-abortion group the Pro-Life Alliance "congratulated" Mr Howard on his new stance, but said it did not go far enough.The Tory leader supports a reduction in the legal limit from 24 weeks to 20 and has said current rules are "tantamount to abortion on demand".The prime minister's spokesman set out Mr Blair's view after the top Catholic in England and Wales backed Michael Howard's stance on abortions.Mr Howard stressed his views were his personal views."
"New foot and mouth action urged A senior Tory MP has criticised agriculture department Defra's "lackadaisical" approach to planning for a future foot and mouth outbreak. Public accounts committee chairman Edward Leigh was giving his reaction to a report by a government watchdog on lessons to be learnt from the crisis. The National Audit Office said Defra had improved its capacity to deal with future livestock disease outbreaks. But Mr Leigh said the department was "dragging its heels". That comment referred to the setting up of a scheme to share any future compensation costs with industry. He also said Defra had been "dreadfully slow" in paying some of its bills dating from the foot and mouth crisis. The outbreak, which began in 2001, led to the slaughter of 6.5 million animals, devastated many farms and rural businesses, and is estimated to have cost the UK up to £8bn. "Four years after the outbreak, Defra is yet to begin its planned review of some of its contractors' costs, and £40m of invoices remain unpaid," Mr Leigh said. Mr Leigh also pointed out that the introduction of an IT system to help control future outbreaks had been delayed. In November it emerged European Commission compensation amounted to just over a third of the money the UK government had hoped to get as reimbursement for the billions lost through the foot and mouth crisis. Ministers had hoped to get £900m from the European Union Vet Fund to help with animal slaughter and other costs but in the end was granted £349m. That was because the UK had valued the culled animals at between "two and three times" the commission's assessment of their likely market value. National Audit Office chief Sir John Bourn said a new compensation scheme was now being looked at. On the issue of the unpaid invoices, Sir John said Defra had paid 97% of the £1.3bn submitted by contractors since 2001, "but has not agreed a final settlement with 57 contractors pending the results of its investigations". Mr Leigh said being "better prepared" would also help avoid the need for "mass funeral pyres which provided an unsettling images of the 2001 outbreak". A Defra spokesman said: "We welcome the report. It acknowledges the progress the department has made since 2001 - particularly on contingency planning and our improved capacity and preparedness for combating another major disease outbreak. "However, the department is aware that there are some areas requiring further work and we are working to resolve them as soon as is practicable.""
"But Mr Leigh said the department was "dragging its heels"."Four years after the outbreak, Defra is yet to begin its planned review of some of its contractors' costs, and £40m of invoices remain unpaid," Mr Leigh said.The National Audit Office said Defra had improved its capacity to deal with future livestock disease outbreaks.Mr Leigh said being "better prepared" would also help avoid the need for "mass funeral pyres which provided an unsettling images of the 2001 outbreak".He also said Defra had been "dreadfully slow" in paying some of its bills dating from the foot and mouth crisis.Mr Leigh also pointed out that the introduction of an IT system to help control future outbreaks had been delayed.National Audit Office chief Sir John Bourn said a new compensation scheme was now being looked at.A Defra spokesman said: "We welcome the report."
"Kelly trails new discipline power Teachers could get more powers to remove unruly pupils from classes under a "zero tolerance" drive, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has suggested. Ms Kelly told the BBC progress had been made against severely disruptive children but parents were still worried about lower level problems. The minister also confirmed she received "spiritual support" from the Catholic movement Opus Dei. But she denied her faith meant she would refuse key government jobs. The Conservatives have made school discipline one of their five priority areas in the run-up to the next general election. Ms Kelly is expected to announce her plans on the issue in the next fortnight. She told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost: "It is really important to support head teachers and teachers in tackling disruption in the classroom. "We have made huge progress on the really difficult cases, the pupils who have severely disruptive behaviour. "But quite rightly what teachers are concerned about and what parents are concerned about is that this lower level disruption that goes on in the classroom now is tackled. "I would like to see the teacher being able to remove disruptive children from the classroom completely and have either alternative provision within the school or indeed off the school and may be working together with other schools in a particular area to provide that provision." It is thought the plans may distinguish between excluding pupils from schools and taking them out of mainstream classes. Head teachers can currently exclude pupils who commit or threaten violence in school, who sexually abuse pupils or other people, who sell illegal drugs or who have persistent and malicious disruptive behaviour. Ms Kelly entered the Cabinet last month in the reshuffle forced by the resignation of the then Home Secretary David Blunkett. Her links to Opus Dei, which means "Work of God" in Latin, have provoked controversy. Critics say the organisation, which adheres strictly to Catholic teachings, is secretive and elitist but its members reject such claims. Asked if she was a member of the group, Ms Kelly said: "I do have spiritual support from Opus Dei and that is right. "But those are private spiritual matters and I'm sure you'll respect that politicians are entitled to a private life." She categorically denied reports that her beliefs on issues such as contraception would make her refuse to serve as a health or international development minister. Her collective responsibility as a Cabinet minister meant she also took responsibility for policies in those areas, she argued. The government has yet to issue its official response to the Tomlinson review, which recommended absorbing existing exam qualifications into a diploma. Ms Kelly said reforms should build on GCSEs and A-levels. Her comments did not impress Tory shadow education secretary Tim Collins. "Ruth Kelly wants to ditch the Tomlinson report on exam structures but has absolutely no idea what to put in its place," he said. "She also talks of improving discipline but cannot make her mind up how. This is an all talk agenda that lets down children, teachers and parents.""
"Asked if she was a member of the group, Ms Kelly said: "I do have spiritual support from Opus Dei and that is right.Ms Kelly told the BBC progress had been made against severely disruptive children but parents were still worried about lower level problems.The minister also confirmed she received "spiritual support" from the Catholic movement Opus Dei.Ms Kelly is expected to announce her plans on the issue in the next fortnight.Ms Kelly said reforms should build on GCSEs and A-levels.Teachers could get more powers to remove unruly pupils from classes under a "zero tolerance" drive, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has suggested."I would like to see the teacher being able to remove disruptive children from the classroom completely and have either alternative provision within the school or indeed off the school and may be working together with other schools in a particular area to provide that provision."Head teachers can currently exclude pupils who commit or threaten violence in school, who sexually abuse pupils or other people, who sell illegal drugs or who have persistent and malicious disruptive behaviour.She told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost: "It is really important to support head teachers and teachers in tackling disruption in the classroom.Ms Kelly entered the Cabinet last month in the reshuffle forced by the resignation of the then Home Secretary David Blunkett."
"'Debate needed' on donations cap A cap on donations to political parties should not be introduced yet, the elections watchdog has said. Fears that big donors can buy political favours have sparked calls for a limit. In a new report, the Electoral Commission says it is worth debating a £10,000 cap for the future but now is not the right time to introduce it. It also says there should be more state funding for political parties and candidates should be able to spend more on election campaigning. There were almost £68m in reported donations to political parties in 2001, 2002 and 2003, with nearly £12m of them from individual gifts worth more than £1m. The rules have already been changed so the public can see who gives how much to the parties but the report says there are still public suspicions. The commission says capping donations would mean taxpayers giving parties more cash - something which would first have to be acceptable to the public and shown to work. "While we are not in principle opposed to the introduction of a donation cap, we do not believe that such a major departure from the existing system now would be sensible," says its report. If there was to be a cap, it should be £10,000 - a small enough amount to make a difference but which would have banned £56m in donations between 2001 and 2003. Even without changes the commission does urge political parties to seek out more small-scale donations and suggests there should be income tax relief for gifts under £200. It also suggests increasing state funding for parties to £3m so help can be extended to all parties with at least two members in the House of Commons, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly. And it suggests new ways of boosting election campaigning, seen as a way of improving voter turnout. All local election candidates should be entitled to a free mailshot for campaign leaflets, says the watchdog. And there should be a shift in the amount of money allowed to be spent at elections from a national level to a local level to help politicians engage better with voters. The report suggests doubling the money which can be spent by candidates, while cutting national spending limits from £20m to £15m. The commission also says the spending limits for general elections should cover the four months before the poll - as happens with other elections. Electoral Commission chairman Sam Younger said: "There is no doubt that political parties have a vital role to play in maintaining the health of our democracy and for this they need to be adequately resourced. "Our research has shown that people want to be more informed about party politics and that they want politicians to be more visible and accessible. "The public are reluctant for the state to fund parties but at the same time are unhappy with large private donations." He called for a wider public debate on party funding to find the consensus needed for radical changes to the current system."
"It also says there should be more state funding for political parties and candidates should be able to spend more on election campaigning.A cap on donations to political parties should not be introduced yet, the elections watchdog has said.The commission says capping donations would mean taxpayers giving parties more cash - something which would first have to be acceptable to the public and shown to work.Even without changes the commission does urge political parties to seek out more small-scale donations and suggests there should be income tax relief for gifts under £200.There were almost £68m in reported donations to political parties in 2001, 2002 and 2003, with nearly £12m of them from individual gifts worth more than £1m.The rules have already been changed so the public can see who gives how much to the parties but the report says there are still public suspicions.In a new report, the Electoral Commission says it is worth debating a £10,000 cap for the future but now is not the right time to introduce it.The commission also says the spending limits for general elections should cover the four months before the poll - as happens with other elections."
"Sainsbury's Labour election gift Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has made a £2m donation to the Labour Party for its General Election fund. It is the latest hefty donation to the party by the billionaire - he has contributed more than £10m since 1999. David Sainsbury said he was pleased to give cash to a party that had the "vision" to deliver economic prosperity and better public services for Britain. General Secretary Matt Carter said it was "a fantastic gift" that would help Labour "fight and win the election". "Through the generosity of David Sainsbury and other Labour supporters, Labour will be campaigning hard to take Britain forward and to stop the Tories taking us back," Mr Carter said. Lord Sainsbury added: "I am pleased to be able to make this contribution to the general election funds of the Labour Party because I believe that they are the only party that has the vision to deliver both economic prosperity and better public services for Britain." The 64-year-old latest donation follows a £2.5m gift to the party in 2003. Lord Sainsbury was created a life peer in 1997, a year before he was appointed as minister for science."
"Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has made a £2m donation to the Labour Party for its General Election fund.Lord Sainsbury added: "I am pleased to be able to make this contribution to the general election funds of the Labour Party because I believe that they are the only party that has the vision to deliver both economic prosperity and better public services for Britain."David Sainsbury said he was pleased to give cash to a party that had the "vision" to deliver economic prosperity and better public services for Britain.The 64-year-old latest donation follows a £2.5m gift to the party in 2003."
"Police chief backs drinking move A chief constable has backed the introduction of 24-drinking, saying police had a responsibility to ensure people could benefit from a law change. However, Norfolk police chief Andy Hayman also warned that a great deal of preparatory work was still needed. "I don't subscribe to the views of some of my colleagues who are coming out and objecting to it," he said. His comments come after the Liberal Democrats backed Tory demands that the government's plans be put on hold. Andy Hayman said he did not agree with politicians and senior police officers who have objected to the plans, which come into force on 7 February. "I feel that is a premature position to be taking," he said. Among those who have criticised the plans are the UK's top policeman Sir John Stevens. The Metropolitan police chief said last week that the plans for 24-hour drinking should be re-examined because of a binge drinking "epidemic". However, Mr Hayman said: "It would be totally unacceptable in my view for a chief constable to say, 'I'm very sorry'. He said that police should make sure that responsible people who wanted a change could benefit from more liberal legislation. "My view is that I have got a responsibility to create an environment where that can happen, " he said. However, he believes a lot of preparatory work is still needed to be done by police, local authorities and the drinks industry before the nation was ready for 24-hour drinking. But he is confident problems in the early days can be "ironed out". He believed the majority of people favoured this law change and "we have to accept that lifestyles are changing". But aspects such as transport, and basic things such as making sure public toilets are open all night had to be taken into account. Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended the Licensing Act, saying it is wrong to deny people the relaxed hours enjoyed elsewhere in Europe because of a "tiny minority" of violent binge drinkers. A six-month transitional period starts on 7 February during which time venues can apply for extended licences. The Conservatives have called for 24-hour drinking to be shelved until the problems of binge drinking are solved. On Monday, the Lib Dems also called for a delay. Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "It would clearly be prudent to allow the police and local authorities more time to prepare for flexible drinking hours." Chief constable Mr Hayman acknowledged that binge drinking did cause problems. "If you come to Norwich on a Friday or Saturday night you will see things going on that will you make you feel ashamed. "However, I want industry to succeed in Norwich and I want Norwich to be the recognised nightspot of East Anglia. "There is no way I want to say we cannot manage it or police it. We can.""
"The Metropolitan police chief said last week that the plans for 24-hour drinking should be re-examined because of a binge drinking "epidemic".A chief constable has backed the introduction of 24-drinking, saying police had a responsibility to ensure people could benefit from a law change.He said that police should make sure that responsible people who wanted a change could benefit from more liberal legislation.However, Mr Hayman said: "It would be totally unacceptable in my view for a chief constable to say, 'I'm very sorry'.Andy Hayman said he did not agree with politicians and senior police officers who have objected to the plans, which come into force on 7 February.The Conservatives have called for 24-hour drinking to be shelved until the problems of binge drinking are solved.Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "It would clearly be prudent to allow the police and local authorities more time to prepare for flexible drinking hours."However, he believes a lot of preparatory work is still needed to be done by police, local authorities and the drinks industry before the nation was ready for 24-hour drinking.Chief constable Mr Hayman acknowledged that binge drinking did cause problems.However, Norfolk police chief Andy Hayman also warned that a great deal of preparatory work was still needed."
"Blair and Blunkett Sheffield trip Tony Blair is to join Home Secretary David Blunkett in a visit to Sheffield on Thursday. Mr Blunkett's conduct is being looked at to establish whether he abused his position in relation to his ex-lover. The Parliamentary standards watchdog is looking at his decision to give Kimberly Quinn free rail tickets. He is also being investigated over the visa application of Mrs Quinn's ex-nanny. The visit to Sheffield will be seen as a show of unity by Mr Blair. On Wednesday during Prime Minister's Questions, Tory leader Michael Howard went on the offensive over comments Mr Blunkett is alleged to have made in a new biography. He is understood to have made a series of criticisms about his Cabinet colleagues from the prime minister down. Mr Howard said Mr Blunkett had complained he had inherited a "giant mess" when he took over at the Home Office from Jack Straw, now foreign secretary. The Tory leader went on: "He doesn't stop there: he thinks the culture secretary's weak; he thinks the trade secretary doesn't think strategically and he thinks the education secretary hasn't developed as expected. "He says the prime minister doesn't like being told the truth and the chancellor - no doubt the prime minister will agree with this - is a bully." Mr Blair retorted voters remembered the record of a government and no comments by politicians. The home secretary has already admitted he was wrong to give the two first class tickets, given to him as an MP, to Mrs Quinn and has since paid the £180 back. He has apologised for "a genuine mistake" and says he will write to the watchdog to answer further questions. The rail tickets are meant to help MPs' spouses get between Westminster and their constituencies. After his inquiry, Parliamentary watchdog Sir Philip Mawer will report to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, the group of MPs who will recommend to the full House of Commons what action - if any - should be taken against Mr Blunkett. The separate inquiry by ex-senior civil servant Sir Alan Budd is investigating whether the home secretary helped fast-track a bid by Mrs Quinn's nanny, Leoncia Casalme, to stay in the UK. Last week, Mr Blunkett won the first round of a High Court battle with Mrs Quinn for access to her son. Mr Blunkett declined to comment about his own position, saying the inquiry was under way and the High Court had stressed his right to privacy did not affect his job in improving security and stability. Downing Street has stressed Mr Blair's support for the home secretary."
"Mr Howard said Mr Blunkett had complained he had inherited a "giant mess" when he took over at the Home Office from Jack Straw, now foreign secretary.Downing Street has stressed Mr Blair's support for the home secretary.On Wednesday during Prime Minister's Questions, Tory leader Michael Howard went on the offensive over comments Mr Blunkett is alleged to have made in a new biography.Last week, Mr Blunkett won the first round of a High Court battle with Mrs Quinn for access to her son.Tony Blair is to join Home Secretary David Blunkett in a visit to Sheffield on Thursday.The home secretary has already admitted he was wrong to give the two first class tickets, given to him as an MP, to Mrs Quinn and has since paid the £180 back.Mr Blunkett declined to comment about his own position, saying the inquiry was under way and the High Court had stressed his right to privacy did not affect his job in improving security and stability.The visit to Sheffield will be seen as a show of unity by Mr Blair."
"Terror powers expose 'tyranny' The Lord Chancellor has defended government plans to introduce control orders to keep foreign and British terrorist suspects under house arrest, where there isn't enough evidence to put them on trial. Lord Falconer insists that the proposals do not equate to a police state and strike a balance between protecting the public against the threat of terrorism and upholding civil liberties. But thriller writer Frederick Forsyth tells BBC News of his personal response to the move. There is a mortal danger aimed at the heart of Britain. Or so says Home Secretary Charles Clarke. My reaction? So what? It is not that I am cynical or just do not care. I care about this country very much. But in the 66 years that I have been alive, there has not been one hour, of one day, of one month, of one year, when there has not been a threat aimed at us. My point is, the British have always coped without becoming a dictatorship. We have coped with fear without becoming a state based on fear; we have coped with threat without turning our country into a land of state threat. But that is what the Blair government now seeks to do - create a tyranny to defend us from the al-Qaeda tyranny. I was born on 25 August, 1938. The mortal threat back then was a scruffy little Austrian called Adolf Hitler. A week after my first birthday, the threat had become reality. We were at war. My father wore a uniform for five years. After 1945 we yearned for peace at last. But in 1946 Winston Churchill told us - from the Baltic to the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across Europe. Behind the Iron Curtain, another genocidal psychopath, another threat. Josef Stalin triggered the Cold War, with the Berlin blockade in 1948. My whole generation was blighted by it. We were threatened by the nuclear holocaust, the nuclear wind, the nuclear winter. We built shelters that would have sheltered nothing. We spent our treasure on weapons instead of hospitals. We took silly precautions. Some fought it; some marched futilely against it. Some pretended it was not there. The Cold War lasted 43 years, but we remained a parliamentary democracy. By the early seventies it was terrorism as well. Al Fatah, Black September, Red Brigades, but most of all for us the IRA and the INLA. Thirty more years; 300 policemen and women, over 600 soldiers, more than 3,000 civilians dead, but we won because even IRA bombs could not force us to become a tyranny. That was why the tyrants lost. Civil rights were infringed as little as humanly possible. Evidence had to be taken in secret to protect covert sources; yes , and one judge, no-jury courts had to be instituted when juries were terrorised. Informants had to be given immunity from their own crimes to win the bigger battle. But habeas corpus did not die; right of appeal was not abolished. Now the threat is Islamic fundamentalism. Its leaders want to destroy our society; so did the IRA. It is based and funded abroad; so was the IRA. It has sleeper fanatics inside our society; so did the IRA. It is extremely hard to penetrate with our agents; so was the IRA. The prime movers are not easy to bring to trial; neither were the IRA. But we did. And without becoming a tyranny. Now the Blair government proposes the law system of fascism and communism. The citizen can be arrested and held without charge or trial, not even on the careful consideration of an experienced judge, but the whim of a political activist called a government minister. To be protected from terror the government says, we must become a tyranny. But a tyranny is based on the citizen's terror. This is not victory; this is defeat before a shot is fired. An interesting article - its good to see widening participation in the debate - but I suggest we move one step further. Our own bombs and bullets will can only shatter peace, because invading foreign nations, imprisoning the innocent and 'hunting' in the 'shadows' cannot destroy an evil of the mind, and hatred within the heart. Rather than focusing upon effect, we should consider the cause, because terrorism does not begin with bombs. Why not try a foreign policy of compassion, it can only enhance our democracy, and share our freedom. I agree with Frederick Forsyth. We really can't deal with terrorism by turning Britain into a fascist state. What we really need is more honesty from our security services and our politicians. If they do not have evidence to bring these people to trial, there probably isn't any. Our security services, behave like the detective who having decided that a certain person is guilty, rakes over all kinds of obscure and flimsy evidence to try and prove it, while the real villain gets away. Remember there were no WMD in Iraq. Just because a person may have made some stupid and naive decisions in life does not make them a terrorist. In this overly 'politically correct' society, it is good to see someone like Mr. Forsyth speak out. Yes, there has been oppression by the British government in the past, and overstepping the mark in places like Ireland, but yes, we are still a democracy where it is rare to be arrested without charge/trial etc. (apart from a number of prisoners in Belmarsh goal, for example).This country signs up to human rights, and then pretends that they only apply to the people with nothing to fear, the innocent people (defined by whom?). When ID cards become mandatory, the data collected will not be protected by the Data Protection Act, and will be readily available to people like GCHQ, with no control by the person whose ID is being checked. The threat now is new. You cannot compare the threats of past years with now. Forsyth says 3000 died over 30 years or terrorism; 3000 people died in one morning in NY on September 11th 2001. The threat today is that terrorists will acquire nuclear or biological technology. A Kilo of Semtex will flatten a building, a Kilo of plutonium will flatten a city. You now have a combination of people who will perform terrorist acts with technology that is rapidly becoming accessible. I agree, the government is probably encouraging a degree of mass-hysteria and talking up the threat; but talking-down the threat and doing nothing is unacceptable too. The problem with this issue is not that it isn't important, but the fact that in general we Brits can be so politically apathetic some times, that we will just let this go without telling the government no. However, as the nation that gave the world the common law and a true sense of the rights of individual liberty I hope this will prove to be one step too far. As somebody of Chinese origin, I can say that this country used to be a good place to migrate and start a new life. Whilst life wasn't perfect, we could make better for ourselves. Now we are riddled with red tape and be told what we can or cannot do. We have to be politically-correct and we are not allowed to have beliefs or opinions. We have a Prime Minister who spends too much time meddling in US politics and affairs which have little to do with the lives of British Citizens at home or abroad. Mr Forsyth has done a good job in voicing his opinions. Let's hope the BBC doesn't get gagged for letting people express their views. The people have the right to know and the BBC's role is to Inform, Educate and Entertain... I agree. Terrorists intend to spread fear but in reality it is the government which has spread the fear, by its constant publicising of the this invisible enemy so dangerous that we must allow them to ride roughshod over our rights and liberties. In the end, the very thing we seek to protect is what we are giving up in the name of safety from this invisible enemy. The terrorists have already won. I absolutely agree with Frederick Forsyth. Yes we have to defend ourselves against terrorism but existing laws seem to be more than adequate. The idea that the "new terrorism" demands new powers is erroneous. The evidence of any real terrorist capability in the UK is scant. Ricin, for example, is a dangerous poison but it is not a weapon of mass destruction. What is really worrying is the enthusiasm of Mr Blair and his government for authoritarian reactions and attempts to manipulate the electorate through fear. If the government has its way with ID cards, tracking and so on then totalitarianism has won and as such it then matters little whether we give in to the terrorists demands or not. We will have lost the precious freedom which Bush and Blair constantly tells us we have and that they seek to bring to others. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Forsyth. I am shocked at the ease with which this government is prepared to wipe out a major portion of the liberties that British people have enjoyed for centuries - the right not to be deprived of our liberty without a trial in open court. That goes right back to Magna Carta, and ordinary people have spilled their blood to enforce that right against governments who thought they "knew best". When you look at today's Britain, you realise George Orwell was only wrong about one thing: the date. Frederick Forsyth puts it beautifully. The government is seeking to introduce a police state. The new powers of home internment without trial follow a pattern which includes the introduction of surveillance via compulsory ID cards and the linking of data bases, together with the un-British idea that we will have to swear allegiance to the state at the age of 18 years. We are sleep-walking into this. Wake up! An interesting view but missing two crucial facts of this new threat: 1) If these terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction they WILL use them without fear of Mutually Assured Destruction that kept the cold war in a state of tense balance. These people will use devastating force against us without fear of ANY consequence. 2) The terrorists are prepared to use suicide bombers which means they could kill innocent people on the London Underground and we could do very little to stop it. Because these terrorists are potentially SO deadly, we have to come up with new, tougher responses. It will be a little late in the day when people outside London wake up one morning to find out that London has been nuked. We won't have much of a society left to debate ! He's correct in most of what he says. Mind you he does seem to have forgotten that disgraceful internment policy in Northern Ireland which probably caused many idealistic if misguided young Catholics to join the IRA. Administrative detention of Muslims could have a similar effect now. Surely we the public would be better protected if the security services, rather than alerting a suspect terrorist by placing them under house arrest (and for how long?)They were to place suspect terrorist under surveillance and maybe acquire sufficient evidence to prosecute or even better prevent a terrorist attack. I don't usually have much time for Mr Forsyth's largely right wing views but this time he has got it spot on. There is no doubt that there are terrorist organisations who would like to do harm to the U.K. but it is very doubtful whether al-Qaeda is a global organisation co-ordinating this. The rise of surveillance cameras, ID cards, the plan to charge for road use by tracking every vehicle at all times, this is the stuff of nightmares. Add to this this new legislation which effectively means that the protection of the law will be removed from anyone at the whim of the Home Secretary, and I genuinely wonder what sort of world my two children will inherit. Where will this end. As it stands terrorists do not need to attack the U.K. it's government will soon have it's people terrorised more that they could very achieve with a few bombs. Mr Forsyth has expressed exactly what my gut fears and reservations were about this proposed legislation, but could not verbalise. Thank you. Mr Forsyth seems to forget that killings in the Troubles occurred on both sides of the religious divide and was carried out by killers from both sides. He also forgets basic Human Rights were suspended then as now. Experienced Judges sat over some of the greatest miscarriages of justice during those times. For very little return and maximum alienation. These laws and the emphasis on the Islamic threat will just do the same. Forsyth is wrong. The nature of the current threat is new. It is no longer to our armed forces, as the Soviet threat in the Eastern bloc was. It is to you and I. The terrorist aim to kill indiscriminately. The best comparison is therefore the blitz, 1941. At this time, let us not forget, suspects (foreign and British were routinely rounded up and interned for the duration of the war, without any complaints from the public. We must not forget we are at war. I'd say that that the likelihood of an attack by a sleeper cell of fundamentalist lunatics against a major UK target is a "When" not an "If" probability. I'll bet any money you like that the day after any such attack Freddie Forsyth will be saying that the government didn't do enough to protect the UK. People like Forsyth can only see one side of any argument and for him it is the side that is opposite New Labour and Tony Blair. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Forsyth. The very reason this country has been such a wonderful place to live, is under attack, not from terrorists, but from this government. The perpetuation of the perceived terrorist threat is not because of what the 'alleged' terrorists are doing, but from our own government. I believe what this government is doing, is, at the very least, highly questionable and at worst, sinister. At what point will they feel they have enough control over every single person in the British Isles; when we are all tagged and monitored constantly? Our freedom is being craftily and surreptitiously whittled away by this government and we are gaining nothing. It should be of great concern to everyone. I am slightly older than Mr Forsyth and therefore have lived through the same history as him. I am against a police state and would not like to think that I lived in one. I think that the attack on Iraq made the international situation worse and may have provoked further acts of terrorism. How true. There are extremely worrying parallels between Britain now and Germany during the 30's. I never thought it would be so easy to take over a country from within. Mr Forsyth has forgotten one key point; the terrorists who threaten Britain today are well aware that Hitler, Stalin, and the IRA all failed. As a result modern day terrorists are willing to do things their predecessors did not. That does not mean that the civil liberties of modern Britain must be eroded to counter the threat; that should always be the absolute last resort. But to meet the new threat, to defeat the sinister fanaticism of today's terrorists, we may need to do things a little differently. Let us hope not. Frederic Forsythe's comments seem to me to be a well-thought-out analysis of why we (human society as a whole, and Britain in particular) should resist the temptation to over-protect through fear. It is this fear which enables terrorists to succeed in the end, and terrorists can come in all forms, as Mr. Forsythe's opening comments suggest. I am reminded of a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson. "A nation that limits freedom in the name of security will have neither." The government are faced with an incredibly difficult task, and have made a policy to deal with it. It's all very well criticising that policy, but if Mr Forsythe can't draw on his years of experience to offer an alternative, I say 'So what?' to his opinions. Frederick Forsyth's rhetoric is absurd and his conclusions laughable. He distorts reality to serve his own prejudice against New Labour. This government seeks to balance protection of our democracy with minimum loss of civil rights. It is Frederick Forsyth who is the extremist, because he does not appreciate the need for balance. I rarely find myself agreeing with My Forsyth, but in this instance I think he is correct. The rule of law must prevail, civil liberties are worth defending. If the government can hold 'suspects' without charge or trial, what's next? I agree absolutely. By introducing fascist type laws we loose the moral high ground in our fight against terror. Our democratic system is not perfect, but as Churchill points out it is "better than all the others that have been tried". Terrorist attacks will take place but for many reasons we should take that personal risk in return for personal freedom. I do not usually agree with Mr. Forsyth, but he is spot on here. The single biggest threat we face is that of a government dedicated to acting illegally and manipulating international and national law to suit its own purpose. Totalitarianism always requires an outside threat, justifying a range of extraordinary powers leaders want. The British government is a far greater threat that and terrorist organisation. Although, in principle I agree with him, Frederick Forsyth fails to address one key point- al-Qaeda attacks (though obviously there have been none yet in the UK) seek to kill the maximum number of people. The IRA wanted to limit the death toll of their attacks so as to maintain support among the republican movement. Yes, I agree with Mr. Forsyth's views. I do not believe the government's plans are justified. There is over reaction to and the negative influence of the US President's interpretation of democracy and freedom. He uses the same arguments that were current before the WWII, the Wars to "liberate" Iraq, Afghanistan with Syria and Iran to come. We are leaving a poor inheritance for the future generations. Mr Forsyth is a wonderful writer and should keep his fiction where it belongs. The British Government is not going down the road that Mr Forsyth suggests. Sadly comments such as his will make a lot of people believe that they are governed by people who are fast becoming tyrants instead of being genuinely committed to stopping tyranny, even if the method employed to do that is at the moment alien to the British people who have lived in a democracy protected by Tony Blair and others of like mind who, Mr. Forsyth seems to be putting along side the 'scruffy little Austrian.' Thomas Hobbes would be smiling in his grave at Labour's propositions. Like New Labour, he called himself a libertarian. Like New Labour, he believed he was promoting the people's best interests. But as Forsythe criticises this government, Hobbes has been criticised by most subsequent philosophers for arguing his way into the hands of the totalitarians. Simply put, he argued that in favour of the ultimate liberty - the liberty to live - man should be prepared to surrender all other liberties to a supreme sovereign, as protection against his fellow, barbaric, man. Hobbes has been roundly condemned by posterity, and rightly so. I hope New Labour suffers the same treatment. I agree with Mr Forsyth's views. The governments approach is totally against the spirit of British democracy. They must not be allowed to get away with it. Of course Frederick is wrong about Britain winning the war against the IRA and he's wrong too about the country not becoming a tyranny. Has he forgotten about shoot to kill, torture, internment without trial, collusion with loyalist death squads etc? My background is somewhat similar to Freddie's so I am persuaded to agree with many of his sentiments. We can have no moral justification for imposing our system of government on anyone while we are systematically depriving our own citizens of basic individual and collective freedoms. Whilst the principle of keeping potential terrorists under house arrest might seem superficially attractive, it is, unfortunately, also the first step towards totalitarianism. Who is to decide whom is a suspect? Why should we believe them? Who can have faith in the honesty, integrity, and competence of our intelligence services and politicians in light of the events of recent years? What is to stop false denunciations? What of those falsely accused who will lose their careers? Who will support their families? Will their children still go to school? It smacks to me of the methods of Nazi Germany, Stalin's Russia, Ceausescu's Romania - the list goes on. It looks as if a new dark age is coming. I see that opinion on Mr Forsyth's remarks are divided. The problem I see is that those who support imprisonment without trial believe it will never happen to them or their family, only to people they don't like or are scared of. But history has shown that if you have laws like that, they always get abused by those in power. After all, today you may be scared of the same people as those in power but someday those in power may be scared of you! And that day, you'll be the one imprisoned without the chance of justice. Our laws are such that you cannot just be imprisoned at the whim of our police forces, you have to be shown to be deserving of it. If we imprison people without trial for an indeterminate period, we are no better that those we are fighting. I never thought it possible for me to agree with a single word uttered by Frederick Forsyth, but I'm in wholehearted agreement with him on this one. We, as a nation are in grave danger of being duped by pro US propaganda, which of course also means we'll inherit most, if not all of their total paranoia, and allow our governments, of any political persuasion incidentally, to gradually, and insidiously, impose a police state by well tried & tested back door methods. I grieve for the future of my children, it's no wonder they're adamant they don't ever want any of their own. This government, with much fanfare, signs us up to the European Convention on Human Rights but now wants to introduce indefinite house arrest without trial. This puts it on a par with the government of Burma. Like many of your respondents, I wouldn't usually think of Mr Forsyth as someone whose views I share, but in the instance of opposing Charles Clark's proposals for house arrest, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Forsyth/ I agree with Mr Forsyth. Just look at the facts - our government (along with the US) invaded another sovereign country (Iraq) by selecting intelligence that backed it's case based on fear. The facts turned out to be very different. If individuals are treated in the same distorted way, then we've done ourselves more damage than any terrorist organisation could with bombs. We become animals too. I agree in many ways with what Mr Forsyth has said - if we are to be respected and have influence within the world we must be seen to be walking the walk as well as talking the talk - how can we accuse countries such as Zimbabwe and Burma of human rights abuses when we are locking up people who may be totally innocent, it is hypocrisy of the highest order. Mr Forsyth links "Islamic fundamentalism" to the new "threat". However it appears that he has misunderstood the term "Islamic fundamentalism". It should be pointed out that a Muslim who adheres to the true fundamentals of the Qur'aan and the teachings of the last Prophet Muhammad is an Islamic Fundamentalist. This person does not commit suicide in any shape or form, nor does she/he kill innocent women, men and children. This person is self-reflective and constantly tries to better her/his actions by being good to others. The people who Mr Forsyth labels the new "threat" are those who do not follow the correct teachings of Islam. They have arrived at their own interpretations and assumptions with regards their actions. On top of that, they claim to be following Islam in its true form! I accept that the intentions of these policies are to make Britain a safer place but I cannot think of a single example from history where doing this sort of thing has ever made any difference - in Northern Ireland internment certainly didn't achieve anything - the bombings didn't stop, and it could be argued that all it achieved was to just supply the IRA with yet more angry and resentful republicans willing to take up arms against the British. Being eight years older than Frederick Forsyth and a survivor of the Blitz on London, it is easy to agree with him, he is absolutely spot on. During the IRA bombings there were massive explosions in Canary Wharf, to the right of where I write this, and also to the left in the City of London. Notwithstanding these and the attempted and nearly successful assassination attempts on Prime Minister Thatcher in Brighton and on later occupants of 10 Downing Street, there was no retaliatory blitz on Belfast or Dublin as there has been on Afghanistan and Iraq. Even when England was in true peril in 1940 apart from some detentions there were no wholesale derogation of habeas corpus and the like. We have to see off these latest attempts on our liberties including ID cards, which Winston Churchill decided had to go since, he said, the average Bobby on the beat could not be relied on to not be tempted to take undue advantage against the citizen going about their lawful activities (incidentally I can still remember my old ID card number). Hence it is clear that the far too great police state powers set for the statute books have to be resisted and neutered. What can I add to Mr. Forsyth's eloquently put arguments... except applause! Well done that man for standing up and being counted in the "war against tyranny"."
"Mr Forsyth links "Islamic fundamentalism" to the new "threat".The people who Mr Forsyth labels the new "threat" are those who do not follow the correct teachings of Islam.Mr Forsyth has forgotten one key point; the terrorists who threaten Britain today are well aware that Hitler, Stalin, and the IRA all failed.The British government is a far greater threat that and terrorist organisation.The perpetuation of the perceived terrorist threat is not because of what the 'alleged' terrorists are doing, but from our own government.Like many of your respondents, I wouldn't usually think of Mr Forsyth as someone whose views I share, but in the instance of opposing Charles Clark's proposals for house arrest, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Forsyth/ I agree with Mr Forsyth.The British Government is not going down the road that Mr Forsyth suggests.I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Forsyth.Sadly comments such as his will make a lot of people believe that they are governed by people who are fast becoming tyrants instead of being genuinely committed to stopping tyranny, even if the method employed to do that is at the moment alien to the British people who have lived in a democracy protected by Tony Blair and others of like mind who, Mr. Forsyth seems to be putting along side the 'scruffy little Austrian.'I do not usually agree with Mr. Forsyth, but he is spot on here.An interesting view but missing two crucial facts of this new threat: 1) If these terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction they WILL use them without fear of Mutually Assured Destruction that kept the cold war in a state of tense balance.The threat now is new.I agree with Frederick Forsyth.As it stands terrorists do not need to attack the U.K. it's government will soon have it's people terrorised more that they could very achieve with a few bombs.I agree in many ways with what Mr Forsyth has said - if we are to be respected and have influence within the world we must be seen to be walking the walk as well as talking the talk - how can we accuse countries such as Zimbabwe and Burma of human rights abuses when we are locking up people who may be totally innocent, it is hypocrisy of the highest order.Mr Forsyth has done a good job in voicing his opinions.The Lord Chancellor has defended government plans to introduce control orders to keep foreign and British terrorist suspects under house arrest, where there isn't enough evidence to put them on trial.If the government has its way with ID cards, tracking and so on then totalitarianism has won and as such it then matters little whether we give in to the terrorists demands or not.People like Forsyth can only see one side of any argument and for him it is the side that is opposite New Labour and Tony Blair.I agree, the government is probably encouraging a degree of mass-hysteria and talking up the threat; but talking-down the threat and doing nothing is unacceptable too.We have coped with fear without becoming a state based on fear; we have coped with threat without turning our country into a land of state threat.I absolutely agree with Frederick Forsyth.Although, in principle I agree with him, Frederick Forsyth fails to address one key point- al-Qaeda attacks (though obviously there have been none yet in the UK) seek to kill the maximum number of people.Yes, there has been oppression by the British government in the past, and overstepping the mark in places like Ireland, but yes, we are still a democracy where it is rare to be arrested without charge/trial etc.In this overly 'politically correct' society, it is good to see someone like Mr. Forsyth speak out.Mr Forsyth has expressed exactly what my gut fears and reservations were about this proposed legislation, but could not verbalise.I'll bet any money you like that the day after any such attack Freddie Forsyth will be saying that the government didn't do enough to protect the UK.I am shocked at the ease with which this government is prepared to wipe out a major portion of the liberties that British people have enjoyed for centuries - the right not to be deprived of our liberty without a trial in open court.It is this fear which enables terrorists to succeed in the end, and terrorists can come in all forms, as Mr. Forsythe's opening comments suggest.The very reason this country has been such a wonderful place to live, is under attack, not from terrorists, but from this government.This government, with much fanfare, signs us up to the European Convention on Human Rights but now wants to introduce indefinite house arrest without trial.To be protected from terror the government says, we must become a tyranny.2) The terrorists are prepared to use suicide bombers which means they could kill innocent people on the London Underground and we could do very little to stop it.The threat today is that terrorists will acquire nuclear or biological technology.What is really worrying is the enthusiasm of Mr Blair and his government for authoritarian reactions and attempts to manipulate the electorate through fear.The problem I see is that those who support imprisonment without trial believe it will never happen to them or their family, only to people they don't like or are scared of.I agree with Mr Forsyth's views.I accept that the intentions of these policies are to make Britain a safer place but I cannot think of a single example from history where doing this sort of thing has ever made any difference - in Northern Ireland internment certainly didn't achieve anything - the bombings didn't stop, and it could be argued that all it achieved was to just supply the IRA with yet more angry and resentful republicans willing to take up arms against the British.The nature of the current threat is new.But in the 66 years that I have been alive, there has not been one hour, of one day, of one month, of one year, when there has not been a threat aimed at us.Yes, I agree with Mr. Forsyth's views.But to meet the new threat, to defeat the sinister fanaticism of today's terrorists, we may need to do things a little differently.Of course Frederick is wrong about Britain winning the war against the IRA and he's wrong too about the country not becoming a tyranny.Being eight years older than Frederick Forsyth and a survivor of the Blitz on London, it is easy to agree with him, he is absolutely spot on.)They were to place suspect terrorist under surveillance and maybe acquire sufficient evidence to prosecute or even better prevent a terrorist attack.It will be a little late in the day when people outside London wake up one morning to find out that London has been nuked.Forsyth says 3000 died over 30 years or terrorism; 3000 people died in one morning in NY on September 11th 2001.But that is what the Blair government now seeks to do - create a tyranny to defend us from the al-Qaeda tyranny.I never thought it possible for me to agree with a single word uttered by Frederick Forsyth, but I'm in wholehearted agreement with him on this one.I am slightly older than Mr Forsyth and therefore have lived through the same history as him.These laws and the emphasis on the Islamic threat will just do the same.Forsyth is wrong.If the government can hold 'suspects' without charge or trial, what's next?That does not mean that the civil liberties of modern Britain must be eroded to counter the threat; that should always be the absolute last resort.The government is seeking to introduce a police state.That goes right back to Magna Carta, and ordinary people have spilled their blood to enforce that right against governments who thought they "knew best".Mr Forsyth seems to forget that killings in the Troubles occurred on both sides of the religious divide and was carried out by killers from both sides.Like New Labour, he believed he was promoting the people's best interests.Just look at the facts - our government (along with the US) invaded another sovereign country (Iraq) by selecting intelligence that backed it's case based on fear.These people will use devastating force against us without fear of ANY consequence.Frederick Forsyth puts it beautifully.Terrorists intend to spread fear but in reality it is the government which has spread the fear, by its constant publicising of the this invisible enemy so dangerous that we must allow them to ride roughshod over our rights and liberties.The mortal threat back then was a scruffy little Austrian called Adolf Hitler.Mr Forsyth is a wonderful writer and should keep his fiction where it belongs.The governments approach is totally against the spirit of British democracy.I am against a police state and would not like to think that I lived in one.But history has shown that if you have laws like that, they always get abused by those in power.The single biggest threat we face is that of a government dedicated to acting illegally and manipulating international and national law to suit its own purpose.Now the threat is Islamic fundamentalism.I don't usually have much time for Mr Forsyth's largely right wing views but this time he has got it spot on.It is Frederick Forsyth who is the extremist, because he does not appreciate the need for balance.This government seeks to balance protection of our democracy with minimum loss of civil rights.The problem with this issue is not that it isn't important, but the fact that in general we Brits can be so politically apathetic some times, that we will just let this go without telling the government no.The citizen can be arrested and held without charge or trial, not even on the careful consideration of an experienced judge, but the whim of a political activist called a government minister.Now the Blair government proposes the law system of fascism and communism.At this time, let us not forget, suspects (foreign and British were routinely rounded up and interned for the duration of the war, without any complaints from the public.The new powers of home internment without trial follow a pattern which includes the introduction of surveillance via compulsory ID cards and the linking of data bases, together with the un-British idea that we will have to swear allegiance to the state at the age of 18 years.If we imprison people without trial for an indeterminate period, we are no better that those we are fighting.Because these terrorists are potentially SO deadly, we have to come up with new, tougher responses.The idea that the "new terrorism" demands new powers is erroneous.You now have a combination of people who will perform terrorist acts with technology that is rapidly becoming accessible.However, as the nation that gave the world the common law and a true sense of the rights of individual liberty I hope this will prove to be one step too far.It is based and funded abroad; so was the IRA.This puts it on a par with the government of Burma.Thirty more years; 300 policemen and women, over 600 soldiers, more than 3,000 civilians dead, but we won because even IRA bombs could not force us to become a tyranny.The terrorists have already won.Like New Labour, he called himself a libertarian.(apart from a number of prisoners in Belmarsh goal, for example).This country signs up to human rights, and then pretends that they only apply to the people with nothing to fear, the innocent people (defined by whom?).Surely we the public would be better protected if the security services, rather than alerting a suspect terrorist by placing them under house arrest (and for how long?And without becoming a tyranny.When you look at today's Britain, you realise George Orwell was only wrong about one thing: the date.But as Forsythe criticises this government, Hobbes has been criticised by most subsequent philosophers for arguing his way into the hands of the totalitarians.It has sleeper fanatics inside our society; so did the IRA.Just because a person may have made some stupid and naive decisions in life does not make them a terrorist.You cannot compare the threats of past years with now.Our freedom is being craftily and surreptitiously whittled away by this government and we are gaining nothing.I agree.If they do not have evidence to bring these people to trial, there probably isn't any.Lord Falconer insists that the proposals do not equate to a police state and strike a balance between protecting the public against the threat of terrorism and upholding civil liberties."
"At a glance: Tory health checks The UK' opposition Conservatives have unveiled plans to introduce health checks for immigrants if they win the General Election. Here's a guide to the plan: People coming to live and work in Britain from outside the EU. If they plan to stay six months or more and are from a country with lots of TB, they would have to have a chest x-ray and further tests if appropriate. All people from outside the European Union who want to stay a year or more will have to undergo a full medical. Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and HIV. A positive test for TB would automatically mean visa applications being turned down. All other conditions would be dealt with on a case by case basis. People would have to prove they have an acceptable standard of health and are unlikely to be a danger to public health in the UK, or impose significant costs or demands on the NHS. They would also, if appropriate, have to be able to undertake the work or study they applied to come here for. People coming to Britain for less than six months would not be medically tested unless they intended to work in health care, childcare or teaching. Children and pregnant women wanting to live in Britain permanently would not have to have a chest X-ray for TB. Under 16s would not face tests for hepatitis and HIV. The Tories say people fleeing persecution will not be denied sanctuary in Britain because of poor health. However, they will undergo health checks to ensure they receive the right medical treatment and do not spread infectious diseases. They claim government figures show that TB in England has increased by 25% over the last 10 years and that nearly two-thirds of people with the disease were born overseas. They also believe there should be stricter controls over who comes into Britain to ensure they are not a public health risk. They say the plans will protect access to the NHS. Applicants will be tested in their home country. Only asylum seekers will be tested in the UK once their refugee status is established. Home Office Minister Des Browne says the Government already routinely checks people for TB if they come into the UK for six months or more from high-risk countries. Recent medical checks were carried out on 175,000 people at Heathrow Airport and 10,000 at Gatwick. From those tests, about 100 infectious cases of TB were found. The Tories say 47 other countries across the world impose requirements of this kind. The party has looked at the way the system is operated in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Tory proposals are "quite closely modelled" on the New Zealand system. Labour claims the policy is little more than a "desperate attempt to catch up with Labour's five-year plan" for immigration and asylum, which was published last week. This says health screening for TB will be targeted on applicants from high-risk areas before they are given entry clearance. Those who are diagnosed with the disease would then need to seek treatment at home before being allowed to enter the UK. The Liberal Democrats have warned Labour and the Tories they were "in danger of pandering to prejudice rather than challenging it"."
"If they plan to stay six months or more and are from a country with lots of TB, they would have to have a chest x-ray and further tests if appropriate.People coming to Britain for less than six months would not be medically tested unless they intended to work in health care, childcare or teaching.People would have to prove they have an acceptable standard of health and are unlikely to be a danger to public health in the UK, or impose significant costs or demands on the NHS.Home Office Minister Des Browne says the Government already routinely checks people for TB if they come into the UK for six months or more from high-risk countries.The Tories say people fleeing persecution will not be denied sanctuary in Britain because of poor health.Under 16s would not face tests for hepatitis and HIV.Children and pregnant women wanting to live in Britain permanently would not have to have a chest X-ray for TB.Here's a guide to the plan: People coming to live and work in Britain from outside the EU.A positive test for TB would automatically mean visa applications being turned down.This says health screening for TB will be targeted on applicants from high-risk areas before they are given entry clearance.Those who are diagnosed with the disease would then need to seek treatment at home before being allowed to enter the UK.They claim government figures show that TB in England has increased by 25% over the last 10 years and that nearly two-thirds of people with the disease were born overseas."
"Citizenship event for 18s touted Citizenship ceremonies could be introduced for people celebrating their 18th birthday, Charles Clarke has said. The idea will be tried as part of an overhaul of the way government approaches "inclusive citizenship" particularly for ethnic minorities. A pilot scheme based on ceremonies in Australia will start in October. Mr Clarke said it would be a way of recognising young people reaching their voting age when they also gain greater independence from parents. Britain's young black and Asian people are to be encouraged to learn about the nation's heritage as part of the government's new race strategy which will also target specific issues within different ethnic minority groups. Officials say the home secretary wants young people to feel they belong and to understand their "other cultural identities" alongside being British. The launch follows a row about the role of faith schools in Britain. On Monday school inspection chief David Bell, accused some Islamic schools of failing to teach pupils about their obligations to British society. The Muslim Council of Britain said Ofsted boss Mr Bell's comments were "highly irresponsible". The Home Office started work on its Community Cohesion and Race Equality Strategy last year and the outcome, launched on Wednesday, is called 'Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society'. It is aimed at tackling racism, exclusion, segregation and the rise in political and religious extremism. "It represents a move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to focus on specifics within cultural groups," said a Home Office spokesman. "It is not right to say that if you are from a black or ethnic minority group you must be disadvantaged." The spokesman highlighted specific issues that affect particular communities - for example people of south Asian origin tend to suffer from a high incidence of heart disease. "It is about drilling down and focusing on these sorts of problems," the spokesman added. Launching the initiative Mr Clarke said enormous progress had been made on race issues in recent years. He added: "But while many members of black and minority ethnic communities are thriving, some may still find it harder to succeed in employment or gain access to healthcare, education or housing. "This strategy sets out the government's commitment to doing more to identify and respond to the specific needs of minorities in our society." Some 8% of the UK population described themselves as coming from a non-white ethnic minority in the 2001 Census. The Downing Street Strategy Unit in 2003 said people from Indian and Chinese backgrounds were doing well on average, often outperforming white people in education and earnings. But those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean origin were significantly more likely to be unemployed and earn less than whites, it said. The Home Office wants more initiatives which try to promote a sense of belonging by encouraging young people to take part in voluntary work. The programmes are designed to support the citizenship lessons already taking place in schools."
"Britain's young black and Asian people are to be encouraged to learn about the nation's heritage as part of the government's new race strategy which will also target specific issues within different ethnic minority groups.Citizenship ceremonies could be introduced for people celebrating their 18th birthday, Charles Clarke has said.Mr Clarke said it would be a way of recognising young people reaching their voting age when they also gain greater independence from parents."It represents a move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to focus on specifics within cultural groups," said a Home Office spokesman.The Downing Street Strategy Unit in 2003 said people from Indian and Chinese backgrounds were doing well on average, often outperforming white people in education and earnings.The Home Office wants more initiatives which try to promote a sense of belonging by encouraging young people to take part in voluntary work.Officials say the home secretary wants young people to feel they belong and to understand their "other cultural identities" alongside being British."It is not right to say that if you are from a black or ethnic minority group you must be disadvantaged."Launching the initiative Mr Clarke said enormous progress had been made on race issues in recent years.The spokesman highlighted specific issues that affect particular communities - for example people of south Asian origin tend to suffer from a high incidence of heart disease."
"Brown in appeal for Labour unity Gordon Brown has made an appeal for unity after reports claimed Mr Blair went back on a pledge to stand down before the next general election. The chancellor would not comment on the reports, but insisted he would not be "diverted or distracted" from tackling the challenges faced by the country. His only "motivation" was to ensure Labour was re-elected, he insisted. Mr Blair earlier dismissed the claim he had reneged on a promise to stand aside for Gordon Brown as old news. According to a new book, Brown's Britain by Sunday Telegraph journalist Robert Peston, Mr Blair went back on a pledge to make way for Mr Brown after Cabinet allies intervened in June 2004. In an interview with BBC One's Breakfast with Frost, Mr Blair said: "I've dealt with this six months ago. I said then you don't do deals over jobs like this - you don't. "What both of us are actually concentrating on are the issues that concern the country." In a separate interview with BBC political editor Andrew Marr, Mr Brown said: "It's very important that we all do what we can in a unified way to ensure the election of a Labour government. "I think it is very important to stress that that is the motivation that I have. "That is my purpose in politics, and that is what every day I seek to do. And I am not going to be diverted or distracted, nor is Tony Blair, by newspaper stories or books or rumours or gossip. "The only reason why we are in government is to get on with the job in a unified way to deal with the challenges facing this country." Mr Brown also said he had discussed the general election campaign with the prime minister on Saturday and pledged to play his part as he had been asked to do. But Mr Peston said the pair had "mutual animosity and contempt" for each other and that Mr Blair had decided in November 2003 he would quit because he felt he had lost voters' trust because of the Iraq war. He then changed his mind in June 2004, following intervention from allies in the Cabinet and the suspicion that the chancellor was deliberately manoeuvring against him, according to the book. Andrew Marr said: "This is enormously damaging. Gordon Brown knows it as well as Tony Blair. "I think the relationship is genuinely, privately, very poor indeed. Things are very difficult." He added: "Lots of ministers believe Tony Blair will attempt to move Gordon Brown out of the Treasury after the election. "That depends on whether there's still a Labour government and their majority." Senior MPs are expected to raise concerns about the latest reports of infighting at the regular meeting of Labour backbenchers on Monday. Health Secretary John Reid said those fuelling such reports were damaging Labour's re-election chances and would not be easily forgiven. Fresh speculation of a rift recently followed Mr Blair and Mr Brown's separate responses to the Asian tsunami. These rumours were fuelled by Mr Blair's decision to hold his monthly media conference at the same time as a long-planned speech by Mr Brown on UK plans to tackle global poverty with a new "Marshall Plan" for Africa. There was speculation the pair were trying to outdo each other's response to the disaster. But the prime minister said he had discussed these claims with the chancellor and dismissed them as a "load of nonsense". Tory leader Michael Howard accused the prime minister and Mr Brown of"squabbling like schoolboys". Liberal Democrat parliamentary chairman Matthew Taylor said the personal ambition of Mr Blair and Mr Brown was "getting in the way of good government"."
"In a separate interview with BBC political editor Andrew Marr, Mr Brown said: "It's very important that we all do what we can in a unified way to ensure the election of a Labour government.Liberal Democrat parliamentary chairman Matthew Taylor said the personal ambition of Mr Blair and Mr Brown was "getting in the way of good government".According to a new book, Brown's Britain by Sunday Telegraph journalist Robert Peston, Mr Blair went back on a pledge to make way for Mr Brown after Cabinet allies intervened in June 2004.But Mr Peston said the pair had "mutual animosity and contempt" for each other and that Mr Blair had decided in November 2003 he would quit because he felt he had lost voters' trust because of the Iraq war.Mr Brown also said he had discussed the general election campaign with the prime minister on Saturday and pledged to play his part as he had been asked to do.Gordon Brown has made an appeal for unity after reports claimed Mr Blair went back on a pledge to stand down before the next general election.Mr Blair earlier dismissed the claim he had reneged on a promise to stand aside for Gordon Brown as old news.Fresh speculation of a rift recently followed Mr Blair and Mr Brown's separate responses to the Asian tsunami.In an interview with BBC One's Breakfast with Frost, Mr Blair said: "I've dealt with this six months ago.Gordon Brown knows it as well as Tony Blair.He added: "Lots of ministers believe Tony Blair will attempt to move Gordon Brown out of the Treasury after the election.Tory leader Michael Howard accused the prime minister and Mr Brown of"squabbling like schoolboys"."
"MPs issued with Blackberry threat MPs will be thrown out of the Commons if they use Blackberries in the chamber Speaker Michael Martin has ruled. The £200 handheld computers can be used as a phone, pager or to send e-mails. The devices gained new prominence this week after Alastair Campbell used his to accidentally send an expletive-laden message to a Newsnight journalist. Mr Martin revealed some MPs had been using their Blackberries during debates and he also cautioned members against using hidden earpieces. The use of electronic devices in the Commons chamber has long been frowned on. The sound of a mobile phone or a pager can result in a strong rebuke from either the Speaker or his deputies. The Speaker chairs debates in the Commons and is charged with ensuring order in the chamber and enforcing rules and conventions of the House. He or she is always an MP chosen by colleagues who, once nominated, gives up all party political allegiances."
"MPs will be thrown out of the Commons if they use Blackberries in the chamber Speaker Michael Martin has ruled.The use of electronic devices in the Commons chamber has long been frowned on.The Speaker chairs debates in the Commons and is charged with ensuring order in the chamber and enforcing rules and conventions of the House.The £200 handheld computers can be used as a phone, pager or to send e-mails."
"Straw to attend Auschwitz service Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will visit Auschwitz for the 60th anniversary of the former Nazi concentration camp's liberation, it has been announced. Prince Edward will also join the UK delegation in Poland for National Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January. Between 1.1 and 1.5 million people, mainly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz. The Tories said they were glad Mr Straw had been "shamed" into going, having earlier criticised the decision to send a lower-ranking official. Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram said: "I am glad the foreign secretary has finally been shamed into representing Britain at this important act of commemoration. "Once again this government has shown crass insensitivity until it has been forced by public opinion into doing what it should have done in the first place." In Britain, the Queen and Prince Philip will lead the nation's commemoration at a service in Westminster Hall, London. The Queen will also host a reception for holocaust survivors at St James's Palace. Altogether, some six million people, mainly Jews, perished in the Holocaust. The Queen's grandson, Prince Harry, sparked outrage earlier this week after photographs of him wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party emerged. The prince, 20, apologised, but critics have called for him to go to Auschwitz for the commemoration of the Soviets' 1945 liberation of the camp. Prince Harry should see for himself "the results of the hated symbol he so foolishly and brazenly chose to wear", Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center said."
"Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram said: "I am glad the foreign secretary has finally been shamed into representing Britain at this important act of commemoration.Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will visit Auschwitz for the 60th anniversary of the former Nazi concentration camp's liberation, it has been announced.The prince, 20, apologised, but critics have called for him to go to Auschwitz for the commemoration of the Soviets' 1945 liberation of the camp.Between 1.1 and 1.5 million people, mainly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz.Altogether, some six million people, mainly Jews, perished in the Holocaust."
"MPs to debate 'euthanasia laws' MPs are preparing to debate a bill which critics claim would legalise euthanasia "by the back door". The bill would give legal force to "living wills", where people say they want medical treatment withheld if they become severely incapacitated. The Mental Capacity Bill has broad support from charities who say it would give better safeguards over treatment. But Christian groups say it could mean doctors withholding food and fluids even if they think it inappropriate. Ministers insist the Mental Capacity Bill - for England and Wales - would not change laws on assisted suicide and contains a presumption in favour of preserving life. The bill would establish a legal presumption that everybody can make decisions about their own treatment unless proved otherwise. It would allow people to give somebody the power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf, which could be challenged by doctors. Critics fear it could allow "killing by omission" through withdrawing treatment. An amendment to the bill - specifically preventing decisions that would bring about death - has been tabled by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. Ninety one MPs have signed a petition backing the amendment. MPs could vote on it later on Tuesday, during the bill's report stage debate. The Bill will then go to a third reading and be debated in the Lords, before becoming law. The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) and Lawyers' Christian Fellowship (LCF) said the Mental Capacity Bill would allow euthanasia by the "back door". Peter Saunders of the CMF said it believed advance refusals should be only advisory, not legally binding. "CMF is concerned that patients will make unwise and hasty advance decisions to refuse food and fluids without being properly informed about the diagnosis and the expected course their illness will take," he said. The LCF's Andrea Williams said there were "too many loopholes that could be abused by unscrupulous doctors". Ex-Labour minister Frank Field told BBC Two's Newsnight programme there was a danger people would feel under pressure to "do away" with themselves so relatives could inherit their assets. Constitutional Affairs Minister David Lammy said laws affecting 750,000 people with dementia needed updating. Mr Lammy told BBC News Labour MPs would not get a free vote as the law was being strengthened, not changed. "We are against euthanasia, we are against assisted suicide but we are in a situation now where people can make living wills and that has the force of the common law," he said. "Doctors are saying they want more clarity. Patients are saying they want more clarity." The Making Decisions Alliance, which includes the Alzheimer's Society, Age Concern, Mencap and the National Autistic Society, said misunderstandings over the bill had to be cleared up. "It will not change the current law on euthanasia and will actually provide a series of better safeguards when decisions are made for people who lack capacity," the alliance said in a statement. The British Medical Association also backs the bill, saying it just gives incapacitated people the same rights as others. Debate on legalising euthanasia has intensified in the UK because of cases like that of motor neurone patient Diane Pretty. She died two years ago after losing a legal battle to allow her husband to help her commit suicide."
"The bill would give legal force to "living wills", where people say they want medical treatment withheld if they become severely incapacitated.The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) and Lawyers' Christian Fellowship (LCF) said the Mental Capacity Bill would allow euthanasia by the "back door".It would allow people to give somebody the power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf, which could be challenged by doctors.The Mental Capacity Bill has broad support from charities who say it would give better safeguards over treatment."We are against euthanasia, we are against assisted suicide but we are in a situation now where people can make living wills and that has the force of the common law," he said.MPs are preparing to debate a bill which critics claim would legalise euthanasia "by the back door".The bill would establish a legal presumption that everybody can make decisions about their own treatment unless proved otherwise."It will not change the current law on euthanasia and will actually provide a series of better safeguards when decisions are made for people who lack capacity," the alliance said in a statement.Ministers insist the Mental Capacity Bill - for England and Wales - would not change laws on assisted suicide and contains a presumption in favour of preserving life.The British Medical Association also backs the bill, saying it just gives incapacitated people the same rights as others.An amendment to the bill - specifically preventing decisions that would bring about death - has been tabled by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith."
"'Super union' merger plan touted Two of Britain's big trade unions could merge to form a "super union" of two million members. The move by Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) would be a seen as a bid to carry more weight with ministers and employers. Amicus has 1.2 million members and the TGWU has 800,000. Any merger would have to be approved by the unions' executives and their membership. It is understood meetings will be held on Wednesday about the proposal. Along with the GMB and Unison, the TGWU and Amicus worked closely together in the last year to hammer out a 56-point deal with Labour's leadership over equality at work, holidays and pensions - the Warwick Agreement. Both unions are remaining tight-lipped about the merger rumours, but one insider pointed out to the BBC News website that "nobody is denying suggestions a merger could be on the agenda" when the two unions' executives hold their meetings on Wednesday. Amicus's executive was due to meet in any case although the TGWU is holding specially scheduled talks."
"Both unions are remaining tight-lipped about the merger rumours, but one insider pointed out to the BBC News website that "nobody is denying suggestions a merger could be on the agenda" when the two unions' executives hold their meetings on Wednesday.The move by Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) would be a seen as a bid to carry more weight with ministers and employers.Any merger would have to be approved by the unions' executives and their membership.Amicus has 1.2 million members and the TGWU has 800,000."
"Blair pledges unity to Labour MPs Tony Blair has sought to reassure Labour backbenchers that nothing will stand in the way of the party's bid for a third term in power. Mr Blair was speaking to MPs amid fresh rumours of a rift with Gordon Brown. A new book says the prime minister went back on a pledge to Mr Brown to stand down before the next general election. The chancellor has said he is focused on winning the poll and is due to join election supremo Alan Milburn for a Labour poster launch this week. Mr Blair told the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Monday: "I know from everyone here, in Cabinet and government, nothing is going to get in the way of a unified Labour Party with a unified position and winning the third term people desperately need." The prime minister and his chancellor arrived within seconds of each other and seemingly in good spirits at the start of the meeting which lasted around an hour. A new book, Brown's Britain by Sunday Telegraph journalist Robert Peston, says Mr Blair went back on a pledge to make way for Mr Brown after Cabinet allies intervened in June 2004. It has caused a new wave of concern among Labour MPs gearing up to defend their seats in an election, widely expected to be held in May, and several members are understood to have lined up to express their discontent at the PLP meeting. Health Secretary John Reid earlier warned that Labour members would not easily forgive anybody fuelling damaging speculation. He told BBC News: "Those who co-operate or inspire these books, in my view, have to know that, whatever the short-term political or personal advantage that they think they might secure, they always do it by damaging the record, the unity and the re-election chances of the Labour Party and the government." Mr Blair on Sunday dismissed claims of broken promises, saying: "I've dealt with this six months ago. I said then you don't do deals over jobs like this - you don't." In a separate BBC interview, Mr Brown said he and the prime minister would not be distracted by "gossip". "It's very important that we all do what we can in a unified way to ensure the election of a Labour government," he said. On Monday, Mr Blair's spokesman said: "The prime minister is determined that he will get on with the business of government because he believes that what people want." Mr Brown says he discussed the election campaign with Mr Blair on Saturday and promised to play his part. Mr Peston said the pair had "mutual animosity and contempt". Mr Blair had decided in November 2003 he would quit because he felt he had lost voters' trust because of the Iraq war. He had then changed his mind in June 2004, following intervention from Cabinet allies and suspicion that the chancellor was manoeuvring against him. Mr Brown allegedly said he could no longer believe anything Mr Blair told him. Conservative co-chairman Liam Fox likened the two men to "self-obsessed schoolboys". Liberal Democrat parliamentary chairman Matthew Taylor said their personal ambition was "getting in the way of good government". Ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock said Mr Blair and Mr Brown could only deal with the media frenzy by continuing to say they would not allow a row to damage Labour or British interests. He told BBC Radio Five Live that Mr Brown would never encourage any kind of insurrection or coup."
"Mr Brown allegedly said he could no longer believe anything Mr Blair told him.Ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock said Mr Blair and Mr Brown could only deal with the media frenzy by continuing to say they would not allow a row to damage Labour or British interests.Mr Brown says he discussed the election campaign with Mr Blair on Saturday and promised to play his part.In a separate BBC interview, Mr Brown said he and the prime minister would not be distracted by "gossip".A new book, Brown's Britain by Sunday Telegraph journalist Robert Peston, says Mr Blair went back on a pledge to make way for Mr Brown after Cabinet allies intervened in June 2004.Mr Blair told the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Monday: "I know from everyone here, in Cabinet and government, nothing is going to get in the way of a unified Labour Party with a unified position and winning the third term people desperately need."A new book says the prime minister went back on a pledge to Mr Brown to stand down before the next general election."It's very important that we all do what we can in a unified way to ensure the election of a Labour government," he said.On Monday, Mr Blair's spokesman said: "The prime minister is determined that he will get on with the business of government because he believes that what people want."Mr Blair was speaking to MPs amid fresh rumours of a rift with Gordon Brown."
"Correction agency plans dropped Plans to create a single correctional agency for Scotland have been scrapped. The Scottish Executive will not now merge the Scottish Prison Service with local authority social work criminal justice departments. The National Correctional Agency would have provided a 'one-stop' justice system but has been abandoned in the wake of stiff opposition. Instead, Scottish councils and the prison service will be compelled to work more closely to cut reoffending. The plan was to ensure offenders were monitored by the same body during and after prison, preventing many from being lost in the system and helping more of them to stop reoffending. Scotland's reoffending rate is high, with more than 60% of prisoners reconvicted within two years of release from jail. This is leading to an ever-expanding prison population and the executive wants to tackle the problem. Ministers thought merging the prison service with the council-controlled criminal justice social work departments, which provide community sentences, might have provided an answer. However, following a consultation on the idea, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson has decided to drop the plans. Instead, Ms Jamieson will change the law to help produce a closer working relationship between both elements of the justice system. She will announce the move in her Criminal Justice Plan on Monday, aiming to "break down the barriers between what happens in prison and what happens in the community". The new measures will place a new statutory duty on the SPS to work with local authorities and others in area partnerships. A national advisory board on offender management will also be created to advise Ms Jamieson on the SPS's role and performance in reducing reoffending. The minister said: "Better joint working will help prisons play a much stronger role in ending reoffending behaviour and in particular help address the revolving door of reoffending that sees offenders entering prison for short periods during which little is done to address the behaviour that brought them there. "Communities who are paying the price for this reoffending - both in terms of crime and in terms of prison costs - expect better. "It costs the taxpayer £35,000 a year to provide each prison place and that cost is increasing. "Taxpayers who suffer the consequences of crime also end up paying for keeping those people in prison. "Therefore, as we continue to invest in the service, it is only right that we seek to ensure that that service becomes more accountable to the public it serves, to ministers and to parliament.""
"The Scottish Executive will not now merge the Scottish Prison Service with local authority social work criminal justice departments.Instead, Scottish councils and the prison service will be compelled to work more closely to cut reoffending.Ministers thought merging the prison service with the council-controlled criminal justice social work departments, which provide community sentences, might have provided an answer.The minister said: "Better joint working will help prisons play a much stronger role in ending reoffending behaviour and in particular help address the revolving door of reoffending that sees offenders entering prison for short periods during which little is done to address the behaviour that brought them there."Communities who are paying the price for this reoffending - both in terms of crime and in terms of prison costs - expect better.The plan was to ensure offenders were monitored by the same body during and after prison, preventing many from being lost in the system and helping more of them to stop reoffending.She will announce the move in her Criminal Justice Plan on Monday, aiming to "break down the barriers between what happens in prison and what happens in the community"."It costs the taxpayer £35,000 a year to provide each prison place and that cost is increasing."
"Tory 'stalking horse' Meyer dies Sir Anthony Meyer, the Tory backbencher who challenged Margaret Thatcher for the party leadership in 1989, has died. He was 84, had been suffering from cancer for many months, and died at his London home. That failed "stalking horse" leadership challenge made it easier for Michael Heseltine to mount his own bid. That in turn paved the way for John Major to move into 10 Downing Street, after the second ballot. Meyer's constituency party, Clwyd North West, which he had represented as an MP for more than 20 years, deselected him as a result of that challenge. Sir Anthony John Charles Meyer was born on 27 October, 1920. Educated at Eton, and at New College, Oxford, he served in the Scots Guards from 1941 to 1945 and was wounded in tanks in Normandy. He worked under Edward Heath on Europe at the Foreign Office and subsequently won the Eton and Slough seat for the Tories in 1964 - by 11 votes. Labour regained the seat two years later, and Meyer had to wait until 1970 before he could re-enter Parliament. His prospects of a front bench slot remained remote because he tended to defy the party line."
"Sir Anthony Meyer, the Tory backbencher who challenged Margaret Thatcher for the party leadership in 1989, has died.Sir Anthony John Charles Meyer was born on 27 October, 1920.He was 84, had been suffering from cancer for many months, and died at his London home.Educated at Eton, and at New College, Oxford, he served in the Scots Guards from 1941 to 1945 and was wounded in tanks in Normandy."
"Economy focus for election battle Britain's economic future will be at the heart of Labour's poll campaign, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said. He was speaking after Cabinet members held their last meeting at No 10 before the expected election announcement. He said voters would recognise that Labour had brought stability and growth, and would continue to do so. Meanwhile the Tories outlined their plans to tackle "yob culture" and the Lib Dems gave more details about their proposals to replace council tax. Earlier the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to all three parties urging them not to fight the election by exploiting people's fears. In an open letter, he called on them not to turn the election into a competition about who can most effectively frighten voters about terrorism, asylum, and crime. He said they should concentrate instead on issues such as the environment, international development and the arms trade, family policy, and the reform of the criminal justice system. Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: "We have fought a very positive campaign. I think he will want to look quite carefully at what Jack Straw said about Michael Howard." In a speech to the Foreign Policy Centre Mr Straw said of the Tory leader: "He is clever, fluent and tactical, but he is not wise. "He lacks strategy and good judgment, and his quick temper and impetuosity too often get the better of him." The Foreign Secretary told the BBC: "I was making the observation that because of Michael Howard's impetuosity you can get lurches of policy." Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor said: "People are already really turned off by the kind of campaign the others are fighting and you will see us putting emphasis on some of these huge issues facing the world, particularly the environment." Labour's focus on the economy as their key message - came on the day a new report was published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, suggesting that household incomes have fallen for the first time in more than a decade. The IFS says the drop partly reflects measures announced in what it called the Chancellor's tax-raising Budget of 2002. The Treasury dismissed the research as "complete rubbish". Party election supremo Alan Milburn said the apparent drop in average incomes was because self-employed people had been affected by a "world downturn" which hit their profits. Since 1997, the reported average take-home income had "risen by 20% in real terms" if you took out the self-employed, Mr Milburn told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Mr Brown also dismissed the figures insisting that the "typical family" has been much better off under Labour."
"Party election supremo Alan Milburn said the apparent drop in average incomes was because self-employed people had been affected by a "world downturn" which hit their profits.Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: "We have fought a very positive campaign.The Foreign Secretary told the BBC: "I was making the observation that because of Michael Howard's impetuosity you can get lurches of policy."In a speech to the Foreign Policy Centre Mr Straw said of the Tory leader: "He is clever, fluent and tactical, but he is not wise.Britain's economic future will be at the heart of Labour's poll campaign, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.I think he will want to look quite carefully at what Jack Straw said about Michael Howard."Mr Brown also dismissed the figures insisting that the "typical family" has been much better off under Labour.He said they should concentrate instead on issues such as the environment, international development and the arms trade, family policy, and the reform of the criminal justice system."
"Clarke faces ID cards rebellion Charles Clarke faces his first real test as home secretary on Monday with a possible backbench rebellion over the controversial ID cards bill. Up to 30 Labour MPs could oppose the scheme during a Commons debate. Mr Clarke, who took on the post on Thursday after David Blunkett quit, has rejected calls to "pause" on the bill. Tory leader Michael Howard also faces a possible rebellion after deciding to back identity cards. The Liberal Democrats oppose the plans. Mr Clarke, writing in The Times, accused some critics of "liberal woolly thinking and spreading false fears" by claiming ID cards would erode civil liberties. He writes that it is actually a "profoundly civil libertarian measure because it promotes the most fundamental civil liberty in our society - which is the right to live free from fear crime and fear". Mr Clarke is expected to try and win over opponents to the scheme by saying officials who secretly accessed information they were not allowed to see would face up to two years in jail. He is also expected to cut the £85 cost of the card and passport, for the elderly and those on lower incomes. Mr Howard last week said his front bench team had reached a "collective view" to back ID cards after holding a "good discussion", but admitted it was "not an easy issue". He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration. But former shadow attorney general Bill Cash said there was still "very deep" disquiet about the plan among senior Tories. He told BBC Radio 4's Today the government was "intensely authoritarian" and was creating "increasingly a Big Brother society". Critics argue that introducing the cards would be a costly scheme with no specific aim. Ministers say it would help the fight against terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime. But opponents say that similar schemes in other countries have not prevented attacks like the Madrid rail bombing. On Sunday, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy repeated his call for a "pause" in considering the legislation. He told BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that Mr Clarke had a "real opportunity" on Monday following the departure of Mr Blunkett. "If you were running a family or a business would you have the second reading of the Identity Cards Bill tomorrow or would you pause to reflect and see what you might do about it in the New Year? "That is the sensible way to go about it but I think this government has got itself so much into tram lines now that it is not behaving sensibly at all." The first cards would be issued in 2008 and, when he was introducing the bill, Mr Blunkett suggested Parliament could decide in 2011 or 2012 whether to make it compulsory for everybody to own the cards, although not to carry them. The new bill would also create new criminal offences on the possession of false identity documents."
"The first cards would be issued in 2008 and, when he was introducing the bill, Mr Blunkett suggested Parliament could decide in 2011 or 2012 whether to make it compulsory for everybody to own the cards, although not to carry them.Mr Clarke, writing in The Times, accused some critics of "liberal woolly thinking and spreading false fears" by claiming ID cards would erode civil liberties."If you were running a family or a business would you have the second reading of the Identity Cards Bill tomorrow or would you pause to reflect and see what you might do about it in the New Year?Mr Clarke is expected to try and win over opponents to the scheme by saying officials who secretly accessed information they were not allowed to see would face up to two years in jail.Charles Clarke faces his first real test as home secretary on Monday with a possible backbench rebellion over the controversial ID cards bill.Mr Clarke, who took on the post on Thursday after David Blunkett quit, has rejected calls to "pause" on the bill.Critics argue that introducing the cards would be a costly scheme with no specific aim.The new bill would also create new criminal offences on the possession of false identity documents.He had decided to support the plans as the police said they would help fight terror, crime and illegal immigration."
"Anglers 'could face prosecution' Anglers and fishermen could find themselves prosecuted under plans to crack down on animal cruelty, a committee of MPs has warned. Sloppy wording of the draft animal welfare bill could leave anglers facing court even though it was not intended, the environment select committee said. The MPs said they were "concerned" the government had not consulted directly on its plans to improve animal welfare. They raised complex and emotive issues which needed to be resolved, MPs said. They called for a "cast-iron guarantee" that the government consults on any plans to regulate animal industries like pet fairs and game bird rearing. The draft bill seeks to modernise and improve animal welfare legislation, and intends to protect "kept animals" and "companion" animals by setting up a "duty of care". In addition to maintaining existing cruelty offences, it creates an offence of neglect by keepers who fail to protect the animals for whom they are responsible. The bill would allow animal welfare officers to intervene to prevent harm to an animal as well as outlawing "mutilation" of animals - unless it can be demonstrated to be in the animal's best interest. The environment select committee made 101 recommendations after hearing evidence from 51 organisations and individuals. One was a call to amend the bill so that prosecutions against those engaged in fishing were not inadvertently encouraged - even if they were to later fail. "We accept that neither commercial fishing nor recreational angling should fall within the remit of the of the draft bill and we therefore support the government's intention to exempt fishing as an activity." But the committee said an amendment was needed to ensure cases were not brought. "However, in exempting fishing, the government should be careful to ensure that those persons who catch fish are not given 'carte blanche' to inflict unnecessary suffering in the course of pursuing this activity," the committee added. The committee also said some legal protections for animals were downgraded by the bill, such as the law on abandonment of animals which "would be significantly weakened". MPs urged the government to redraft clauses relating to the prosecution of cruelty offences. This was because as it stood the draft bill would allow certain acts that should be prosecuted - such as unnecessary suffering caused to an animal through neglect, or unnecessary mental suffering - to go unpunished. Committee chairman Michael Jack said: "Any change in the law as it affects animals always arouses powerful emotions and great public interest. "This draft bill is no exception. My committee welcomes the development of an approach to animal welfare which doesn't just wait for a problem to occur but enables action to be taken to protect animals before irreversible suffering takes place." But Mr Jack said the bill "very much had the feel of a 'work in progress', and urged the government to guarantee that "an obligation to consult will be enshrined in law" before it extended legislative plans to areas such as pet fairs, circuses and game bird farms. "The government must work hard to take the rough edges of its initial proposals before the bill is introduced to Parliament," he added."
"The committee also said some legal protections for animals were downgraded by the bill, such as the law on abandonment of animals which "would be significantly weakened".Sloppy wording of the draft animal welfare bill could leave anglers facing court even though it was not intended, the environment select committee said.The MPs said they were "concerned" the government had not consulted directly on its plans to improve animal welfare.The draft bill seeks to modernise and improve animal welfare legislation, and intends to protect "kept animals" and "companion" animals by setting up a "duty of care".The bill would allow animal welfare officers to intervene to prevent harm to an animal as well as outlawing "mutilation" of animals - unless it can be demonstrated to be in the animal's best interest.My committee welcomes the development of an approach to animal welfare which doesn't just wait for a problem to occur but enables action to be taken to protect animals before irreversible suffering takes place."Anglers and fishermen could find themselves prosecuted under plans to crack down on animal cruelty, a committee of MPs has warned.This was because as it stood the draft bill would allow certain acts that should be prosecuted - such as unnecessary suffering caused to an animal through neglect, or unnecessary mental suffering - to go unpunished.Committee chairman Michael Jack said: "Any change in the law as it affects animals always arouses powerful emotions and great public interest."
"Parliament's record of scandal In a locked room at the heart of Parliament there is a hive of scandal. Sex, betrayal and custody of children are all there in this affair but this time it has nothing to do with the recent troubles of David Blunkett or Boris Johnson. Few realise that Westminster in effect has its own divorce den. For sprinkled among 12 floors of archives are blow-by-blow accounts of marital break-ups - and now you can search what's there online. Until 1857, the only way in England to get a full divorce which allowed re-marriage was to obtain an Act of Parliament by proving adultery or life-threatening cruelty. The legacy is pages of testimonies used in the hearings, dating back to 1670, all recorded among the 325,000 items which fill the 12 floors of the parliamentary archives in Parliament's Victoria Tower. Most people researching their family history want to discover some tale of illicit love. This gives them the chance. Divorce by Parliament was an expensive process open really only to the rich but the records also include the testimony of maids, butlers and coachmen about their masters and mistresses. Among the records is the story of Jane Campbell, the first woman ever to divorce her husband. That happened in 1801 after she had discovered her husband, Edward Addison, had committed adultery with her sister Jessy. A transcript of evidence from Jessy's maid, Amelia Laugher, shows her telling how Addison frequently passed by her on the way to the room where she had just put her mistress naked to bed. It must have been a killer blow to Addison's case - he had already fled abroad rather than pay the £5,000 damages ordered by a civil court. As well as making divorce history, Jane Campbell won custody of her children - unusual for a woman at the time. But divorces are by no means the only documents in the archives which hold personal details of people often far removed from politics and Parliament. There are the protestation returns from 1642 - lists of the Protestants who pledged to "maintain the true reformed Protestant religion". There are details of foreign nationals made British citizens by act of Parliament, including composer George Frideric Handel in 1727. And the mass of private bills which, for example authorise the building of railways and roads, contain both the names and addresses of those involved and testimonies giving people a unique perspective on how their ancestors opposed them. Tax bills may be an extra source for pedigree hunters - the longest stretches for about 300m and is longer than the Palace of Westminster itself, listing the names of appointed tax collectors. This wealth of material has long been open to the public at the House of Lords Record Office, with visitors able to phone ahead when they want to view particular items in the search room. But now five years of work has produced an online catalogue. David Prior, assistant clerk of the archives, says the catalogue opens up new possibilities for research. "Before, you just could not do it, you faced trawling through pages and pages of printed material," he says. Mr Prior sees the changes as part of a wider revolution in archives generally. "The archive profession may look fairly staid but is in an enormous period of change, mainly motivated by the potential of IT, which is opening up all sorts of vistas for us," he says. The archives do, of course, hold records of high (and low) politics too for both Houses of Parliament, including copies of all acts passed since 1497 - the oldest dealing with the employment of workers in the woollen industry in Norfolk. Records for the Commons only date back to 1834 - anything earlier was wiped out by the fire which destroyed most of the Parliament buildings in 1834. But that still leaves some of the most important documents of UK political history - parts of the Bill of Rights from 1689, the death warrant for Charles I, the private papers and diaries of major politicians such as David Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law. There is also the 1606 act establishing 5 November as a thanksgiving day - the year after the Gunpowder Plot. That document is likely to feature in the exhibition the archives will put on next year as part of a series of events across London to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' conspiracy. As Mr Prior remarks as we walk by shelf after shelf of vellum (parchment made from goat's skin): "All human life is here.""
"But divorces are by no means the only documents in the archives which hold personal details of people often far removed from politics and Parliament.Divorce by Parliament was an expensive process open really only to the rich but the records also include the testimony of maids, butlers and coachmen about their masters and mistresses.Until 1857, the only way in England to get a full divorce which allowed re-marriage was to obtain an Act of Parliament by proving adultery or life-threatening cruelty.The archives do, of course, hold records of high (and low) politics too for both Houses of Parliament, including copies of all acts passed since 1497 - the oldest dealing with the employment of workers in the woollen industry in Norfolk.Among the records is the story of Jane Campbell, the first woman ever to divorce her husband.As well as making divorce history, Jane Campbell won custody of her children - unusual for a woman at the time.Mr Prior sees the changes as part of a wider revolution in archives generally.The legacy is pages of testimonies used in the hearings, dating back to 1670, all recorded among the 325,000 items which fill the 12 floors of the parliamentary archives in Parliament's Victoria Tower.Few realise that Westminster in effect has its own divorce den.This wealth of material has long been open to the public at the House of Lords Record Office, with visitors able to phone ahead when they want to view particular items in the search room.There are details of foreign nationals made British citizens by act of Parliament, including composer George Frideric Handel in 1727.For sprinkled among 12 floors of archives are blow-by-blow accounts of marital break-ups - and now you can search what's there online.That document is likely to feature in the exhibition the archives will put on next year as part of a series of events across London to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' conspiracy."
"Opposition grows to house arrests The Conservatives have expressed "serious misgivings" about government plans for keeping UK and foreign terror suspects under house arrest. Michael Howard said he would not back the Home Secretary's plans for "control orders" which include home detention. "I do not believe that anyone should be deprived of their liberty on the say so of a politician," he said. The Lib Dems also oppose the proposals, but ministers insist they are proportionate to the terror threat. The government proposed the idea and a range of other new powers after the laws lords said current detentions without trial broke human rights laws. New Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has backed the control orders, saying: "I'm sorry. It is a dilemma, but there is only one choice." But Mr Howard said: "We have serious misgivings about both their effectiveness in protecting life and their consequences for the British way of life." He argued that people accused of terrorist offences should be brought to trial and be held in prison - not at home - while they await trial. Mr Howard said he feared "internment without trial creates martyrs" and could be "a very effective recruiting sergeant" for terrorists". His party plans to move an amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill next week that would give a judge responsibility for assessing evidence and ensuring a balanced case is presented to the court. He called on the prime minister to "enter into constructive discussions" with his party to find a "better way forward". Controversy over the issue continues after a foreign terror suspect held in the UK without trial or charge since December 2001 was freed from jail. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said there was not enough evidence to keep the Egyptian man, known only as C, certified as a terrorist suspect. On Monday, the legal team for two Algerian suspects being held without trial told a court the men did not want bail if it meant being put under house arrest. Most of the terror suspects are detained at Belmarsh Prison in London. The Liberal Democrats say they also oppose house arrests and questioned the human rights implications of the measure. Home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's a matter of principle for us that we can't have a situation where the Home Secretary is able to impose house detention now on UK nationals as well as foreign nationals." The Lib Dems believe the Home Secretary should allow phone tapping evidence in prosecutions. "We think there could be a role for some form of control order - tagging, surveillance, limitation on use of mobile phones - but not with the Home Secretary's say so. That must be done with a proper judicial process, a judge involved in making those decisions," said Mr Oaten. Mr Clarke has rejected that idea saying intercept evidence is only a small part of the case against terror suspects and could put the lives of intelligence sources at risk. He said prosecutions were the government's first preference and promised the powers would only be used in "serious" cases, with independent scrutiny from judges."
"Michael Howard said he would not back the Home Secretary's plans for "control orders" which include home detention.Home Secretary Charles Clarke said there was not enough evidence to keep the Egyptian man, known only as C, certified as a terrorist suspect.The Conservatives have expressed "serious misgivings" about government plans for keeping UK and foreign terror suspects under house arrest.Mr Clarke has rejected that idea saying intercept evidence is only a small part of the case against terror suspects and could put the lives of intelligence sources at risk.Controversy over the issue continues after a foreign terror suspect held in the UK without trial or charge since December 2001 was freed from jail.Mr Howard said he feared "internment without trial creates martyrs" and could be "a very effective recruiting sergeant" for terrorists".The government proposed the idea and a range of other new powers after the laws lords said current detentions without trial broke human rights laws.On Monday, the legal team for two Algerian suspects being held without trial told a court the men did not want bail if it meant being put under house arrest.But Mr Howard said: "We have serious misgivings about both their effectiveness in protecting life and their consequences for the British way of life."The Lib Dems believe the Home Secretary should allow phone tapping evidence in prosecutions."
"Hague 'given up' his PM ambition Former Conservative leader William Hague says he will not stand for the leadership again, having given up his ambition to be prime minister. Mr Hague, 43, told the Daily Telegraph he would now find a life dominated by politics too "boring" and unfulfilling. Mr Hague, who stepped down after his party's 2001 election defeat, does not rule out a return to the front bench. He also told the paper he hopes to remain MP for Richmond, North Yorks, and start a family with wife Ffion. Mr Hague, who recently had published the biography of William Pitt the Younger, also said he wanted to continue writing books and speech-writing. He told the newspaper: "I don't know whether I will ever go back on to the front, but don't rush me." Asked if he would stand for the leadership again, Mr Hague replied: "No. Definitely not." His determination to stay away from a central role will disappoint some senior Conservative members, who say the party needs him. Tim Collins, the shadow education secretary, said last week it would be a "huge boost" to the party if Mr Hague returned to the front bench. Mr Hague became an MP at 27 and Leader of the Opposition at 36. He said: "I feel fortunate that, by the age of 40, I had crammed in an entire political career. "I had been in the Cabinet and been leader of the party, so now I can branch out into other things...it is a very liberating feeling." Mr Hague added that he may have misjudged his own ambition to be prime minister. "Maybe I wasn't as driven by politics as I thought I was," he said."
"Mr Hague became an MP at 27 and Leader of the Opposition at 36.Tim Collins, the shadow education secretary, said last week it would be a "huge boost" to the party if Mr Hague returned to the front bench.Asked if he would stand for the leadership again, Mr Hague replied: "No.Mr Hague, 43, told the Daily Telegraph he would now find a life dominated by politics too "boring" and unfulfilling.Mr Hague added that he may have misjudged his own ambition to be prime minister.Former Conservative leader William Hague says he will not stand for the leadership again, having given up his ambition to be prime minister."
"Kilroy-Silk quits 'shameful' UKIP Ex-chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk has quit the UK Independence Party and accused it of betraying its supporters. The MEP said he was ashamed to have joined the party, which he labelled as a "joke". He plans to stand in the next general election but refused to confirm he is setting up a new political party called Veritas - Latin for truth. UKIP leader Roger Knapman said he would "break open the champagne", adding: "It was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'." However, he did say the ex-chat show host had been "quite useful initially". "He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the (European) election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," Mr Knapman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Mr Knapman rejected the idea Mr Kilroy-Silk posed a threat to UKIP and queried why he had failed to confirm rumours he was starting a new political party. Mr Kilroy-Silk explained his reasons to his East Midlands constituents at a meeting in Hinckley, Leicestershire. His decision came as UKIP officials began a process which could have triggered Mr Kilroy-Silk's expulsion. It marks the end of his membership of UKIP after just nine months. It began with a flood of publicity which helped UKIP into third place in last June's European elections but became dominated by rancour as he tried to take over the party leadership. Mr Kilroy-Silk accused his fellow UKIP MEPs of being content with growing fat "sitting on their backsides" in Brussels. He told BBC News 24: "I tried to change the party, I nagged all the way through the summer to do things, to get moving because I thought it was criminal what they were doing, it was a betrayal." Mr Kilroy-Silk also told Sky News there was "masses of support" for him to form a new party - something he has yet to confirm will happen. UKIP won 12 seats and 16.1% of the vote at the European elections on the back of its call for the UK to leave the European Union In his speech, Mr Kilroy-Silk says the result offered UKIP an "amazing opportunity" but the party's leadership had done nothing and "gone AWOL". There were no policies, no energy, no vision and no spokespeople, he said. "The party is going nowhere and I'm embarrassed with its allies in Europe and I'm ashamed to be a member of the party," said Mr Kilroy-Silk. He said his conviction in Britain's right to govern itself had not changed. He would continue that campaign outside UKIP when he contested the general election in an East Midlands constituency. Reports of his new party plans have prompted a formal complaint to UKIP's disciplinary committee for bringing the party into "disrepute". On Thursday, the party challenged Mr Kilroy-Silk to stand down as an MEP so voters can get a genuine UKIP candidate."
"Mr Knapman rejected the idea Mr Kilroy-Silk posed a threat to UKIP and queried why he had failed to confirm rumours he was starting a new political party."He has remarkable ability to influence people but, sadly, after the (European) election it became clear that he was more interested in the Robert Kilroy-Silk Party than the UK Independence Party so it was nice knowing him, now 'goodbye'," Mr Knapman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.On Thursday, the party challenged Mr Kilroy-Silk to stand down as an MEP so voters can get a genuine UKIP candidate."The party is going nowhere and I'm embarrassed with its allies in Europe and I'm ashamed to be a member of the party," said Mr Kilroy-Silk.Mr Kilroy-Silk also told Sky News there was "masses of support" for him to form a new party - something he has yet to confirm will happen.The MEP said he was ashamed to have joined the party, which he labelled as a "joke".Ex-chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk has quit the UK Independence Party and accused it of betraying its supporters.UKIP won 12 seats and 16.1% of the vote at the European elections on the back of its call for the UK to leave the European Union In his speech, Mr Kilroy-Silk says the result offered UKIP an "amazing opportunity" but the party's leadership had done nothing and "gone AWOL".Mr Kilroy-Silk accused his fellow UKIP MEPs of being content with growing fat "sitting on their backsides" in Brussels."
"Sayeed to stand down as Tory MP Tory MP Jonathan Sayeed is to stand down on the grounds of ill health. The decision comes after Mr Sayeed survived an attempt to de-select him in a row over allegations he had profited from private tours of Parliament. The Mid-Bedfordshire MP had denied a claim that he was paid for guiding visitors around the Palace of Westminster. Conservative leader Michael Howard has now accepted the MP's resignation, it has been announced. Mr Sayeed was suspended from Parliament for two weeks last month after the Commons standards and privileges committee said his conduct had fallen "well below the standards expected". The Conservative Party had already been withdrawn the whip for a month. But his constituency association voted against a move to deselect him, with Mr Sayeed winning 173 of the 299 votes. After the vote, Mr Sayeed said only a fifth of association members had voted against him and he intended to get on with winning the election. But the vote prompted constituency association president Sir Stanley Odell to resign in protest. The Standards and Privileges Committee inquiry was launched after the Sunday Times alleged English Manner Limited charged clients for access to Westminster through Mr Sayeed. Mr Sayeed had denied the claims, saying the suspension was "unjust and wrong" but he made an "unreserved" apology to MPs in the Commons chamber. He insisted that the committee's report had contained a "few errors of fact". Mr Sayeed has been MP for Mid-Bedfordshire since 1997. He represented Bristol East from 1983 to 1992."
"Mr Sayeed has been MP for Mid-Bedfordshire since 1997.But his constituency association voted against a move to deselect him, with Mr Sayeed winning 173 of the 299 votes.After the vote, Mr Sayeed said only a fifth of association members had voted against him and he intended to get on with winning the election.Mr Sayeed had denied the claims, saying the suspension was "unjust and wrong" but he made an "unreserved" apology to MPs in the Commons chamber.Mr Sayeed was suspended from Parliament for two weeks last month after the Commons standards and privileges committee said his conduct had fallen "well below the standards expected".The Standards and Privileges Committee inquiry was launched after the Sunday Times alleged English Manner Limited charged clients for access to Westminster through Mr Sayeed."
"Blunkett sorry over murder plan David Blunkett has apologised to MPs after the Home Office announced "prematurely" via press release a review of murder laws. The home secretary confirmed the review was to get under way in the wake of a Law Commission report which branded the current murder law as "a mess". He said the review would look at partial defences to murder, including provocation and at mandatory sentences. The Home Office has already said the review will begin next year. On Wednesday, a Home Office spokeswoman said the terms of reference for the review had not been established but it was likely to include only England and Wales. News of the review was released because it was thought Mr Blunkett would make the official announcement in a Commons debate on Wednesday. But the announcement never came, with the home secretary saying the debate had never reached that stage. Amid opposition anger, Mr Blunkett had to answer an emergency question in Parliament on Thursday. He said he had taken steps to ensure the incident was not repeated. Shadow home secretary David Davis welcomed his "gracious apology" and the review itself. But he argued the minister should have volunteered a formal statement instead of having to be "dragged" to face MPs. In its report, the Law Commission said it had found wide support among criminal justice professionals for an end to the mandatory life sentence for murder. The panel suggested different kinds of murders could be "graded" to recognise the seriousness of the offence. But the Home Office said mandatory life sentences would not be abolished and argued courts already had flexibility. The commission, an independent body including two judges, a senior barrister and sentencing experts, had been asked to consider reforms to the defence of provocation in murder cases. But it said its proposals were unlikely to work without a far wider review of the law. Results of a consultation exercise showed 64 respondents out of 146 - among them 21 judges - believed a mandatory life sentence for every murder was "indefensible and should cease". A key question was whether one category should continue to cover all types of murder from mercy killings to serial or contract killings. The commission found support for the idea of grading murders so that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offence. But speaking after the report was published, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "Murder is the most serious of crimes and we have no intention of abolishing the mandatory life sentence. "Where an offender is convicted of murder, the court must pass a life sentence." The commission also recommended tightening the law so that the provocation defence cannot be used in cases where someone has killed for revenge, such as a jealous husband who murders an unfaithful wife."
"But speaking after the report was published, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "Murder is the most serious of crimes and we have no intention of abolishing the mandatory life sentence.The home secretary confirmed the review was to get under way in the wake of a Law Commission report which branded the current murder law as "a mess".In its report, the Law Commission said it had found wide support among criminal justice professionals for an end to the mandatory life sentence for murder.But the Home Office said mandatory life sentences would not be abolished and argued courts already had flexibility.He said the review would look at partial defences to murder, including provocation and at mandatory sentences.David Blunkett has apologised to MPs after the Home Office announced "prematurely" via press release a review of murder laws.The Home Office has already said the review will begin next year.On Wednesday, a Home Office spokeswoman said the terms of reference for the review had not been established but it was likely to include only England and Wales.Results of a consultation exercise showed 64 respondents out of 146 - among them 21 judges - believed a mandatory life sentence for every murder was "indefensible and should cease"."
"CSA 'could close', says minister Ministers would not rule out scrapping the Child Support Agency if it failed to improve, Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson has warned. But he said replacing the controversial CSA would be "the nuclear option". A report by the Commons work and pensions committee called for the agency to be wound up unless it improved its service within weeks. Chairman Sir Archy Kirkwood said: "If the agency cannot be rescued, then it must be replaced." The committee reached its conclusions after it found that nearly 250,000 cases have yet to be processed. It warned that it could be five years before the CSA was "fit for purpose", describing it as "a failing organisation" and "in crisis" with parents facing payment delays and inaccurate maintenance calculations. The report urged the CSA to draw up contingency plans, including the "abandonment option", to be presented to Parliament by Easter, in case the CS2 computer system could not be made to work. And responding to calls for the agency to be scrapped, Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I certainly wouldn't rule out the nuclear option of moving to a completely new system. "But I think the select committee would agree with me we would only do that when we were absolutely convinced that this system just isn't going to work." The MPs launched their inquiry into the CSA's performance after it became clear that, despite the introduction of a simpler system of calculating maintenance payments for new cases in 2003, a backlog of claims was building up. The MPs found the £456m system from American IT giant EDS was "nowhere near being fully functional and the number of dissatisfied, disenchanted and angry customers continues to escalate". Faced with the committee's criticism, the government has suspended its plan to cut the agency's staff by 25%. The CSA has been surrounded in controversy since its introduction in 1993 to assess and enforce child support payments by absent parents. It is currently chasing outstanding payments of more than £720m, while a further £947m has been designated as "unrecoverable". Michelle, a mother of twins, said she had not received a penny of the £57 a week she should be receiving from her ex-partner and had faced an "on-going battle" with the CSA. Her forms have twice been lost in the post, she said. "I don't receive correspondence, I don't receive phone calls, I have to chase them all the time," she said. Theresa May, Tory shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "We have got to find a way that's going to ensure those payments get through to the people who are due them." The agency's former chief executive Doug Smith quit last autumn claiming he was "seriously disappointed" with its performance. The committee said the National Audit Office should investigate why the EDS system had gone so badly wrong. It blamed the agency's senior management for a "multitude of problems" within the agency, including for an apparent lack of training of frontline staff."
"But he said replacing the controversial CSA would be "the nuclear option".Ministers would not rule out scrapping the Child Support Agency if it failed to improve, Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson has warned.The committee said the National Audit Office should investigate why the EDS system had gone so badly wrong.The report urged the CSA to draw up contingency plans, including the "abandonment option", to be presented to Parliament by Easter, in case the CS2 computer system could not be made to work."But I think the select committee would agree with me we would only do that when we were absolutely convinced that this system just isn't going to work."The MPs launched their inquiry into the CSA's performance after it became clear that, despite the introduction of a simpler system of calculating maintenance payments for new cases in 2003, a backlog of claims was building up.Theresa May, Tory shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "We have got to find a way that's going to ensure those payments get through to the people who are due them."The CSA has been surrounded in controversy since its introduction in 1993 to assess and enforce child support payments by absent parents.A report by the Commons work and pensions committee called for the agency to be wound up unless it improved its service within weeks."
"Hewitt decries 'career sexism' Plans to extend paid maternity leave beyond six months should be prominent in Labour's election manifesto, the Trade and Industry Secretary has said. Patricia Hewitt said the cost of the proposals was being evaluated, but it was an "increasingly high priority" and a "shared goal across government". Ms Hewitt was speaking at a gender and productivity seminar organised by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). Mothers can currently take up to six months' paid leave - and six unpaid. Ms Hewitt told the seminar: "Clearly, one of the things we need to do in the future is to extend the period of payment for maternity leave beyond the first six months into the second six months. "We are looking at how quickly we can do that, because obviously there are cost implications because the taxpayer reimburses the employers for the cost of that." Ms Hewitt also announced a new drive to help women who want to work in male dominated sectors, saying sexism at work was still preventing women reaching their full potential. Plans include funding for universities to help female science and engineering graduates find jobs and "taster courses" for men and women in non-traditional jobs. Women in full-time work earn 19% less than men, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The minister told delegates that getting rid of "career sexism" was vital to closing the gender pay gap. "Career sexism limits opportunities for women of all ages and prevents them from achieving their full potential. "It is simply wrong to assume someone cannot do a job on the grounds of their sex," she said. Earlier, she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we are talking about here is the fact that about six out of 20 women work in jobs that are low-paid and typically dominated by women, so we have got very segregated employment. "Unfortunately, in some cases, this reflects very old-fashioned and stereotypical ideas about the appropriate jobs for women, or indeed for men. "Career sexism is about saying that engineering, for instance, where only 10% of employees are women, is really a male-dominated industry. Construction is even worse. "But it is also about saying childcare jobs are really there for women and not suitable for men. Career sexism goes both ways." She added that while progress had been made, there was still a gap in pay figures. "The average woman working full-time is being paid about 80p for every pound a man is earning. For women working part-time it is 60p." The Department for Trade and Industry will also provide funding to help a new pay experts panel run by the TUC. It has been set up to advise hundreds of companies on equal wage policies. Research conducted by the EOC last year revealed that many Britons believe the pay gap between men and women is the result of "natural differences" between the sexes. Women hold less than 10% of the top positions in FTSE 100 companies, the police, the judiciary and trade unions, according to their figures. And retired women have just over half the income of their male counterparts on average."
"Ms Hewitt also announced a new drive to help women who want to work in male dominated sectors, saying sexism at work was still preventing women reaching their full potential."But it is also about saying childcare jobs are really there for women and not suitable for men.Earlier, she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we are talking about here is the fact that about six out of 20 women work in jobs that are low-paid and typically dominated by women, so we have got very segregated employment.Women in full-time work earn 19% less than men, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).The minister told delegates that getting rid of "career sexism" was vital to closing the gender pay gap."Career sexism limits opportunities for women of all ages and prevents them from achieving their full potential."Career sexism is about saying that engineering, for instance, where only 10% of employees are women, is really a male-dominated industry.Plans include funding for universities to help female science and engineering graduates find jobs and "taster courses" for men and women in non-traditional jobs.Plans to extend paid maternity leave beyond six months should be prominent in Labour's election manifesto, the Trade and Industry Secretary has said."The average woman working full-time is being paid about 80p for every pound a man is earning.For women working part-time it is 60p.""
"Brown visits slum on Africa trip Chancellor Gordon Brown has visited Kenya's biggest shantytown as he opened a week-long visit to Africa. Mr Brown's trip is designed to highlight how the UK wants to make Africa's problems a priority of its chairmanship of the G8 this year. He will see an HIV/Aids orphanage in Tanzania and a women's credit union in Mozambique before chairing a meeting of the Commission for Africa in Cape Town. At slums in Narobi on Wednesday, he said education needs had to be tackled. Speaking outside the Olympic Primary School, Mr Brown said: "It is simply not acceptable in the modern age for the rest of the world to stand by and have hundreds of millions of children not getting the chance at education." He pointed to international plans to invest $10bn for education in Africa over the next decade. The school is on the edge of Kibera, where 800,000 live often in huts made of mud, scrap metal and cardboard. Mr Brown's aides say he wants to find out more about the Kenyan Government's education policies, which included introducing free primary education in early 2003. The chancellor has already unveiled proposals for a G8 aid package which he has likened to the Marshall Plan used by the United States to rebuild Europe after World War Two. The trip follows claims of infighting between Mr Brown and Tony Blair detailed in a new book. Conservative leader Michael Howard is expected to seize on those reports at prime minister's questions at 1200 GMT on Wednesday."
"Speaking outside the Olympic Primary School, Mr Brown said: "It is simply not acceptable in the modern age for the rest of the world to stand by and have hundreds of millions of children not getting the chance at education."Mr Brown's aides say he wants to find out more about the Kenyan Government's education policies, which included introducing free primary education in early 2003.He pointed to international plans to invest $10bn for education in Africa over the next decade.At slums in Narobi on Wednesday, he said education needs had to be tackled.Chancellor Gordon Brown has visited Kenya's biggest shantytown as he opened a week-long visit to Africa."
"Brown names 16 March for Budget Chancellor Gordon Brown will deliver his Budget to the House of Commons on 16 March, the Treasury has announced. The Budget, likely to be the last before the General Election, will be at about 1230 GMT on that Wednesday, just after Prime Minister's question time. The annual event is when the chancellor outlines the government's taxation and broader economic predictions. The Tories say it is likely the Budget will contain measures to attract votes. The election is expected on 5 May. Next month's Budget will be Mr Brown's ninth since Labour came to power in 1997. If a May election is called, there could be as little as 18 days between the Budget and the announcement of a date for the election. A shortened Finance Bill would have to be rushed through Parliament with all-party support to allow the Government to continue collecting revenue. The full Finance Bill, with the Budget measures in it, would then be returned to the Commons after the election, if Labour secures another term in office. Tory shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin said: "We can be sure of two things: the Budget will contain measures to attract votes, and it will not contain the £8 billion of tax rises which independent experts say are inevitable if Labour wins the election." As Mr Brown announced the Budget date in a short ministerial statement, accountancy firm Ernst & Young urged him to put politics aside and focus on the long-term requirements of the economy. "In the Budgets that were given immediately before the last six elections, taxes were cut by the incumbent chancellor and, in many cases, taxes were increased soon after the election result," said Aidan O'Carroll, E&Y's UK head of tax."
"The full Finance Bill, with the Budget measures in it, would then be returned to the Commons after the election, if Labour secures another term in office.If a May election is called, there could be as little as 18 days between the Budget and the announcement of a date for the election.Tory shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin said: "We can be sure of two things: the Budget will contain measures to attract votes, and it will not contain the £8 billion of tax rises which independent experts say are inevitable if Labour wins the election."The Budget, likely to be the last before the General Election, will be at about 1230 GMT on that Wednesday, just after Prime Minister's question time.The Tories say it is likely the Budget will contain measures to attract votes."
"Labour MPs' fears over squabbling If there is one thing certain to stiffen the spines of Labour MPs it is the prospect of losing their seats at a general election. And it was largely that fear that led to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown being read the riot act during a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party. The views expressed by both backbenchers and Labour peers over the claimed squabbling between the two men starkly demonstrated the widely-held view within the Labour party that the two most powerful figures in the government are jeopardising the next election. As one hugely-disgruntled backbencher said before the meeting: "It is time they realised it's not just my seat they are threatening but if they go on like this they could put the election in doubt." It is a sentiment that is now running throughout the Labour benches with MPs eager to underline the message to their leaders to stop the squabbling and get on with the job at hand. As Paul Flynn said: "What has deeply upset the party is in this time of all times, when we wanted to come together, we wanted to lead on the global issues, to change politics for the next decade, the whole thing was wrecked by a piece of childishness by the two main people in the party, two people we greatly respect." Stephen Pound echoed the message, saying: "We know that the one thing that could entirely jeopardise what we are trying to achieve, not for the Labour Party but for this country, is the appearance of division. We remember the 1980s". They backed the suggestion that unless the squabbling stopped, the people briefing on behalf of the two men would be "named and shamed". The dressing down appears to have done the trick, with Mr Brown joining his alleged rival Alan Milburn - who the prime minister put in charge of election planning in Mr Brown's stead - and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at an election poster launch. But the effect of all this is to have achieved two things. Firstly, nobody is attempting to suggest any more that the stories of the rift between the chancellor and the prime minister are fictions created by the media and authors. Even Mr Prescott admitted that, had he still been a backbencher, he would have been giving Mr Blair and Mr Brown the same message. Secondly it has also underlined the view that the election campaign has, to all intents and purposes, kicked off. But whether the telling off and the subsequent change in behaviour by the two men will do any good - or can even be sustained through the campaign - remains to be seen. Even as the MPs were expressing their fears it emerged that, while Mr Brown is in Africa for a week, the prime minister is to deliver a keynote speech on election themes for a third term. And he is expected to repeat his recent insistence that the next manifesto will be "New" Labour through and through. Similarly, some were pointing out that the chancellor, during the election poster launch, once again refused to deny the claim that he told the prime minister he could never trust anything he said. None the less, what some believe now is that the effect of the warnings from the backbenchers will actually be to silence the Brown camp, effectively strengthening the prime minister's hand. For example, will those Brownite briefers suggest their man is unhappy at the prime minister's timing or subject matter, as may have been the case in the past? What all seem agreed on, however, is that this sniping simply cannot be allowed to go on through the election campaign. Mind you, we have heard similar pledges before."
"The views expressed by both backbenchers and Labour peers over the claimed squabbling between the two men starkly demonstrated the widely-held view within the Labour party that the two most powerful figures in the government are jeopardising the next election.The dressing down appears to have done the trick, with Mr Brown joining his alleged rival Alan Milburn - who the prime minister put in charge of election planning in Mr Brown's stead - and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at an election poster launch.Even as the MPs were expressing their fears it emerged that, while Mr Brown is in Africa for a week, the prime minister is to deliver a keynote speech on election themes for a third term.If there is one thing certain to stiffen the spines of Labour MPs it is the prospect of losing their seats at a general election.Similarly, some were pointing out that the chancellor, during the election poster launch, once again refused to deny the claim that he told the prime minister he could never trust anything he said.As one hugely-disgruntled backbencher said before the meeting: "It is time they realised it's not just my seat they are threatening but if they go on like this they could put the election in doubt."As Paul Flynn said: "What has deeply upset the party is in this time of all times, when we wanted to come together, we wanted to lead on the global issues, to change politics for the next decade, the whole thing was wrecked by a piece of childishness by the two main people in the party, two people we greatly respect."Even Mr Prescott admitted that, had he still been a backbencher, he would have been giving Mr Blair and Mr Brown the same message.None the less, what some believe now is that the effect of the warnings from the backbenchers will actually be to silence the Brown camp, effectively strengthening the prime minister's hand."
"Abbas 'will not tolerate' attacks Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not tolerate attacks such as last Friday's suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. In an interview ahead of a meeting in London to discuss Palestinian reforms, Mr Abbas said such attacks were against Palestinian interests. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was exerting "a 100% effort" to end the violence, Mr Abbas added. The attack, which killed five, was the first of its kind since he took office. Mr Abbas confirmed Israel shared information with the PA in the hunt for the organisers of the attack. The Israeli government refuses to accept Syria's denials that it was implicated in the nightclub bombing. Israeli officials gave an intelligence briefing to foreign ambassadors on Monday, explaining Syria's alleged involvement. British foreign minister Jack Straw said there had been a "continuing stream" of information suggesting Palestinian militant groups were operating from within Syria. In an email interview in the British newspaper the Independent, Mr Abbas said: "We believe peace is possible now and we are ready to negotiate with Israel to reach a true and lasting peace based on justice and international legitimacy." He added: "We have an opportunity and it would be irresponsible if we, the Israelis, or the world allow it to slip away." Tuesday's meeting on Palestinian reform is being hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Also due to attend are US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, World Bank officials and foreign ministers from 23 European and Arab countries. The conference was a "vital step" in renewing the peace process, Mr Straw said. "It's a high-level attendance, which reflects the sense of momentum and opportunity created by recent events," he added. A spokesman for Mr Blair said the Prime Minister expected the conference to discuss "a comprehensive, co-ordinated and, above all, practical work plan for both the Palestinian Authority and the international community". Israel will not attend, but is said to be closely watching the outcome."
"In an interview ahead of a meeting in London to discuss Palestinian reforms, Mr Abbas said such attacks were against Palestinian interests.The Palestinian Authority (PA) was exerting "a 100% effort" to end the violence, Mr Abbas added.A spokesman for Mr Blair said the Prime Minister expected the conference to discuss "a comprehensive, co-ordinated and, above all, practical work plan for both the Palestinian Authority and the international community".Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not tolerate attacks such as last Friday's suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.The conference was a "vital step" in renewing the peace process, Mr Straw said.British foreign minister Jack Straw said there had been a "continuing stream" of information suggesting Palestinian militant groups were operating from within Syria.Mr Abbas confirmed Israel shared information with the PA in the hunt for the organisers of the attack."
"The memory driving Brown's mission The memory Gordon Brown says keeps returning to him - the one that he says is burnt into him - is that of a 12 year-old girl, whose parents died of Aids, and who is HIV positive herself. Mr Brown seems haunted by her eyes, desolate of all hope. And then he talks of those eyes that do inspire optimism: an extraordinary performance by schoolgirls of Kenya's largest slum, advancing with crowded menace, flicking their hips in a manner almost as disturbing, before the finale of a clenched fist salute and shout of "free education - free education for all". Mr Brown's message generally, that compassion must become action before that hope is squandered. But he is such a pivotal figure in British politics, it is almost impossible not to ask him why he is doing this. His answer, in part, is because of the missionaries that used to come to his father's church. Ever since, he says, Africa has been important to him. I've absolutely no doubt whatsoever this is heartfelt. But he also believes it is time for the world to see a new Gordon Brown. Not the dull, reassuring bank manager but a man driven by a moral passion - and it just so happens the Labour Party feels an awful lot happier ridding the world of debt than ridding the world of dictators. There's also a sense of liberation. If Mr Blair won't allow him to run the election campaign then he can at least pretend it was all getting tedious and he'd much rather be out examining social problems in the raw. It also goes some way to solving one of the overarching problems for all politicians of all parties: scepticism sliding into cynicism about politics itself. If he can help the world's poor just a little, then it shows politics isn't worthless. But is his vision for Africa too grand? Can poverty in the continent really be halved? Brown replies that no one thought the Berlin Wall would ever come down either. He's still got to overcome - not only the reluctance of other finance ministers in the world - but also the cynicism of experts who wonder whether debt relief will just be squandered by governments that just won't in the end spend wisely."
"But he also believes it is time for the world to see a new Gordon Brown.It also goes some way to solving one of the overarching problems for all politicians of all parties: scepticism sliding into cynicism about politics itself.Brown replies that no one thought the Berlin Wall would ever come down either.Mr Brown seems haunted by her eyes, desolate of all hope.He's still got to overcome - not only the reluctance of other finance ministers in the world - but also the cynicism of experts who wonder whether debt relief will just be squandered by governments that just won't in the end spend wisely.Ever since, he says, Africa has been important to him.The memory Gordon Brown says keeps returning to him - the one that he says is burnt into him - is that of a 12 year-old girl, whose parents died of Aids, and who is HIV positive herself.But he is such a pivotal figure in British politics, it is almost impossible not to ask him why he is doing this."
"Act on detention ruling, UK urged The government must act quickly on the Law Lords' ruling that detention of foreign terror suspects without trial is unlawful, Mary Robinson has said. The former UN commissioner for human rights and Irish president told Radio 4's Today the government's response would be scrutinised internationally. "It would be very troubling if the government did not accept the judgement and then work within it," she said. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said detainees will not be freed at present. Speaking to Parliament on his first day in office as home secretary following David Blunkett's resignation, Mr Clarke said: "I will be asking Parliament to renew this legislation in the New Year. "In the meantime, we will be studying the judgement carefully to see whether it is possible to modify our legislation to address the concerns raised by the House of Lords." Mrs Robinson said the Law Lords' ruling was "in line with international legal opinion" and praised their "very decisive" eight to one majority. "What the Law Lords did was acknowledge the role of the government, but say that there had been a disproportionate use, that it amounted to executive detention and it was discriminatory because it didn't apply to British citizens," she said. Mrs Robinson warned that a lack of action by the British government could lead to further action in legal arenas such as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. "If the government were not to accept this ruling then there is further redress, including possible damages for the individuals who could claim that the government either was tardy or was resisting the implications of the judgement of the Law Lords." She said a meeting of the Club of Madrid - a group of former world leaders - to be held in the Spanish capital on the March anniversary of the train bombings there would probably discuss the ruling and its implications. "I have no doubt that this judgement will be looked at, both as a very positive step in clarifying the law and restating the fundamental principles, but also the response of the British government will be under quite a clear international scrutiny there." The detainees took their case to the House of Lords after the Court of Appeal backed the Home Office's powers to hold them without limit or charge. The government opted out of part of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a fair trial in order to bring in anti-terrorism legislation in response to the 11 September attacks in the US. Any foreign national suspected of links with terrorism can be detained or can opt to be deported. The Law Lords said the rules were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as they allowed detentions "in a way that discriminates on the ground of nationality or immigration status". The case was heard by a panel of nine law lords rather than the usual five because of the constitutional importance of the case."
"The government must act quickly on the Law Lords' ruling that detention of foreign terror suspects without trial is unlawful, Mary Robinson has said."If the government were not to accept this ruling then there is further redress, including possible damages for the individuals who could claim that the government either was tardy or was resisting the implications of the judgement of the Law Lords.""What the Law Lords did was acknowledge the role of the government, but say that there had been a disproportionate use, that it amounted to executive detention and it was discriminatory because it didn't apply to British citizens," she said.Mrs Robinson said the Law Lords' ruling was "in line with international legal opinion" and praised their "very decisive" eight to one majority.The Law Lords said the rules were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as they allowed detentions "in a way that discriminates on the ground of nationality or immigration status"."It would be very troubling if the government did not accept the judgement and then work within it," she said.Mrs Robinson warned that a lack of action by the British government could lead to further action in legal arenas such as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."
"Visa row mandarin made Sir John The top civil servant at the centre of the David Blunkett visa affair has been knighted in the New Year Honours. Sir John Gieve was Home Office permanent secretary during the saga which ended with Mr Blunkett quitting. He and other civil servants were criticised for failing to recall how the visa for Mr Blunkett's ex-lover's nanny came to be fast-tracked. The outgoing head of the troubled Child Support Agency Doug Smith also earns an honour in the New Year's list. Mr Smith, 57, whose retirement was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Smith in November, is made a Commander of the Order of Bath. Both men were giving evidence to a Commons committee on the computer difficulties facing the agency, which left thousands of single parents without any maintenance payments, when the announcement was made. The knighting of Sir John, 54, will be received with astonishment by opposition politicians. The Liberal Democrats said it "beggared belief" he and fellow officials could not remember how Leoncia Casalme's application for indefinite leave to remain went from Mr Blunkett's office to the head of the Immigration and Nationality Department. Meanwhile, the Conservatives accused officials of a "collective failure" of memory. But Sir Alan Budd, who led an inquiry into the affair, said he had no reason to believe anyone involved had deliberately withheld information. Downing Street defended the decision to honour both men, with a spokesperson saying: "You have to look at their whole career." Sir John was made permanent secretary in April 2001 following a Civil Service career which dates back to 1974. He has also worked in the Treasury and the Department of Employment. A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said of Mr Smith's honour: "The award reflects all that he has achieved in a Civil Service career, principally in the Inland Revenue, spanning over 40 years - not just his role as chief executive of the Child Support Agency. "In his career he has personally led a number of successful major change programmes." Mr Smith is set to stay on at the CSA until March. Less controversial will be the knighthoods for Derek Wanless and Mike Tomlinson, who undertook major government reviews on health and education respectively. Former NatWest chief executive Mr Wanless, 57, has delivered not one but two major reports on the NHS. Ex-chief inspector of schools Mr Tomlinson, 62, has recommended replacing A-Levels and GCSEs with a new diploma system in a shake-up of the exams system."
"A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said of Mr Smith's honour: "The award reflects all that he has achieved in a Civil Service career, principally in the Inland Revenue, spanning over 40 years - not just his role as chief executive of the Child Support Agency.Sir John Gieve was Home Office permanent secretary during the saga which ended with Mr Blunkett quitting.Sir John was made permanent secretary in April 2001 following a Civil Service career which dates back to 1974.Mr Smith, 57, whose retirement was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Smith in November, is made a Commander of the Order of Bath.Former NatWest chief executive Mr Wanless, 57, has delivered not one but two major reports on the NHS.The top civil servant at the centre of the David Blunkett visa affair has been knighted in the New Year Honours."In his career he has personally led a number of successful major change programmes."The Liberal Democrats said it "beggared belief" he and fellow officials could not remember how Leoncia Casalme's application for indefinite leave to remain went from Mr Blunkett's office to the head of the Immigration and Nationality Department."
"Jowell confirms casino climbdown Tessa Jowell has announced plans to limit the number of new casinos in the UK to 24, in a move branded a "humiliating retreat" by the Tories. It puts an end to plans for up to 40 super casinos, originally outlined in the government's Gambling Bill. Instead there will be a cap of eight new casinos in each size category - small, medium and large. The Culture Secretary said the move showed she listened to critics who feared an explosion in gambling. But Conservative shadow culture secretary John Whittingdale said the way the government had handled the bill was a "shambles". "This announcement is a further humiliating retreat by the government. "Instead of the initial intention of the gambling bill, to liberalise the rules governing gambling, the bill now imposes a more restrictive regime than exists at present." Shares in British casino operators London Clubs International, Rank Group and Stanley Leisure, who had been hoping the bill would pave the way for a big expansion in smaller casinos, fell by between 10 and 25% following the announcement. Ms Jowell's deputy, Richard Caborn, said the government had adopted a cautious approach to the issue, and responded to the concerns raised. "Limiting the number of regional casinos to eight in the first phase is a cautious move that will allow us to test the impact of a new kind of casino on the levels of problem gambling," he said. "We also believe it's right to apply this same level of caution to small and large casinos." He added that local authorities would still be able to stop new casinos coming to their areas. Church groups welcomed the limit on the number of casinos. Salvation Army spokesman Jonathan Lomax said: "The proliferation of these casinos on high streets across the country was a real concern and the [three year] trial period, which we think should last at least five years, will enable research into the potentially severe social consequences of an increase in hard and addictive forms of gambling." But British British Casino Association Chairman Penny Cobham said her members were "outraged" by the decision, which followed a campaign in the Daily Mail newspaper. "There was never going to be a massive explosion of casinos. Talk of a casino on every High Street was just a scaring tactic.""
""Limiting the number of regional casinos to eight in the first phase is a cautious move that will allow us to test the impact of a new kind of casino on the levels of problem gambling," he said.Tessa Jowell has announced plans to limit the number of new casinos in the UK to 24, in a move branded a "humiliating retreat" by the Tories.Shares in British casino operators London Clubs International, Rank Group and Stanley Leisure, who had been hoping the bill would pave the way for a big expansion in smaller casinos, fell by between 10 and 25% following the announcement.But Conservative shadow culture secretary John Whittingdale said the way the government had handled the bill was a "shambles".Instead there will be a cap of eight new casinos in each size category - small, medium and large.The Culture Secretary said the move showed she listened to critics who feared an explosion in gambling.It puts an end to plans for up to 40 super casinos, originally outlined in the government's Gambling Bill."
"Wales 'must learn health lessons' The new health minister for Wales says there are lessons to learn from England in tackling waiting lists. Dr Brian Gibbons, on his first full day in the job after Jane Hutt was sacked, admitted "big challenges" but insisted the "essentials" were in place. But both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats said Dr Gibbons needed to change policy. Meanwhile Ms Hutt defended her record, saying waiting times and lists were "only 10% of the health agenda. Dr Gibbons, who was a GP in Blaengwynfi, in the Upper Afan Valley, before becoming AM for Aberavon, said NHS staff wanted a period of consolidation after "tremendous change and reform". One of the biggest problems which had faced Ms Hutt during her five-and-a-half years as the assembly's first health minister was the length of waiting lists in Wales. In November the British Medical Association said NHS staff were "weeping with despair" as figures showed 311,000 people were waiting for treatment in Wales, up by 2,400 on the previous month. In the same month lists in England were at their lowest for 17 years, with 856,600 people waiting for treatment. Dr Gibbons told Radio Wales: "There is no doubt that, in managing waiting lists, England has done a lot of very very useful work, and we do need to learn from that." But he said the NHS in Wales also needed to create a healthier population rather than respond only to ill health, and a balanced view of priorities was important. "We do need a consistent across-the-board approach, recognising the patients' experience of how they use the service is going to be, at the end of the day, the main test of how the service is working." He said NHS staff wanted a period of consolidation after "tremendous change and reform". Later, Dr Gibbons praised the work of Ms Hutt, saying he "agreed with everything she's done" to change the health service in Wales. Dr Gibbons said he accepted there was a problem, but his job now was to build on the foundations put in place by his predecessor. He also acknowledged that until the waiting list issue was sorted out, the rest of the assembly government's health policy would be overshadowed. Opposition members and some Labour MPs had long called for Ms Hutt's removal after sustained criticism over extended hospital waiting times. First Minister Rhodri Morgan told BBC Wales he had agreed with Ms Hutt in 2003 that she would not be health minister in the run-up to the 2007 elections. "She's been doing the job for five years and eight months and, apart from Nye Bevan himself, (architect of the NHS), I don't think anybody has ever done the job for so long." Mr Morgan said he had only told Ms Hutt of the reshuffle on Monday morning, and said the NHS in Wales was Dr Gibbons' "baby" now. In response to Dr Gibbons' comments, Ieuan Wyn Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group in the assembly, said: "It is apparent that this reshuffle by the first minister was just changing the deckchairs on a sinking Titanic." Kisrty Williams, for the Lib Dems, added: "If the underlying policy is going to continue, then changing the minister will serve no purpose, other than to deflect flak from Labour's MPs," she said. Meanwhile Ms Hutt said she hoped "that the people of Wales would benefit from my investment of the past five years and eight months" Asked about waiting lists, she said that waiting times and lists were "only 10% of the health agenda" and that the Welsh Assembly Government had "turned the corner" on the issue."
"Mr Morgan said he had only told Ms Hutt of the reshuffle on Monday morning, and said the NHS in Wales was Dr Gibbons' "baby" now.Meanwhile Ms Hutt said she hoped "that the people of Wales would benefit from my investment of the past five years and eight months" Asked about waiting lists, she said that waiting times and lists were "only 10% of the health agenda" and that the Welsh Assembly Government had "turned the corner" on the issue.One of the biggest problems which had faced Ms Hutt during her five-and-a-half years as the assembly's first health minister was the length of waiting lists in Wales.Later, Dr Gibbons praised the work of Ms Hutt, saying he "agreed with everything she's done" to change the health service in Wales.Dr Gibbons, who was a GP in Blaengwynfi, in the Upper Afan Valley, before becoming AM for Aberavon, said NHS staff wanted a period of consolidation after "tremendous change and reform".Dr Gibbons said he accepted there was a problem, but his job now was to build on the foundations put in place by his predecessor.Dr Gibbons told Radio Wales: "There is no doubt that, in managing waiting lists, England has done a lot of very very useful work, and we do need to learn from that."First Minister Rhodri Morgan told BBC Wales he had agreed with Ms Hutt in 2003 that she would not be health minister in the run-up to the 2007 elections.Meanwhile Ms Hutt defended her record, saying waiting times and lists were "only 10% of the health agenda."
"Brown's poll campaign move denied The government has denied reports that Gordon Brown is preparing to oust Alan Milburn as Labour's election supremo. Work and pensions minister Alan Johnson said it was wrong to suggest the chancellor would usurp Mr Milburn, adding they would "work as a team". A report in the Sunday Business claimed Mr Brown has been asked to take charge of media strategy, while Mr Milburn would move to a behind-the-scenes role. Labour has always maintained Mr Brown would have a central campaign role. But many Labour backbenchers are said to be dissatisfied with the way election campaigning has gone and have said they wanted to see the chancellor take a bigger role. Some commentators say the Tories have grasped the initiative, putting Labour on the back foot, having to respond to Conservative policy announcements. These claims follow various opinion polls which suggest the Tories have been gaining on Labour. Party strategists are believed to want to bring Mr Brown to centre-stage having seen support rise, in private polling, after his Budget last week. But another report in the Sunday Telegraph claims Mr Milburn is unwilling to allow any new role for the chancellor to come at his expense. Mr Johnson told BBC News: "Gordon Brown will play a central role in any election campaign. "They were wrong when they said Milburn was ousting Brown and they're wrong now if they are saying Brown is ousting Milburn. We work as a team." Mr Milburn has repeatedly said the chancellor was key to the campaign and dismissed claims of a rift. Neither Downing Street nor the Labour Party would comment directly on the reports."
"Labour has always maintained Mr Brown would have a central campaign role.Work and pensions minister Alan Johnson said it was wrong to suggest the chancellor would usurp Mr Milburn, adding they would "work as a team".A report in the Sunday Business claimed Mr Brown has been asked to take charge of media strategy, while Mr Milburn would move to a behind-the-scenes role.Mr Milburn has repeatedly said the chancellor was key to the campaign and dismissed claims of a rift.Mr Johnson told BBC News: "Gordon Brown will play a central role in any election campaign.But another report in the Sunday Telegraph claims Mr Milburn is unwilling to allow any new role for the chancellor to come at his expense."
"UK heading wrong way - Howard Tony Blair has had the chance to tackle the problems facing Britain and has failed, Michael Howard has said. "Britain is heading in the wrong direction", the Conservative leader said in his New Year message. Mr Blair's government was a "bossy, interfering government that takes decisions that should be made by individuals," he added. But Labour's campaign spokesman Fraser Kemp responded: "Britain is working, don't let the Tories wreck it again". Mr Howard also paid tribute to the nation's character for its generous response to the Asian quake disaster. The catastrophe was overshadowing the hopes for the future at this usually positive time of the year, Mr Howard said. "We watched the scenes of destruction with a sense of disbelief. The scale, the speed, the ferocity of what happened on Boxing Day is difficult to grasp. "Yet Britain's response has shone a light on our nation's character. The last week has shown that the warm, caring heart of Britain beats as strong as ever." He went on to reflect on the values that "most Britons hold dear". Looking ahead to the coming general election, he pledged to "turn these beliefs into reality" and set out the choices he says are facing Britain. "How much tax do people want to pay? Who will give taxpayers value for money, the clean hospitals and good, disciplined schools they want? "Who can be trusted to get a grip on the disorder on our streets and the chaos in our immigration system?" Mr Blair has failed to tackle these problems, he claimed, saying he has the "wrong solution" to them. "The result is big government and higher taxes eroding incentives, undermining enterprise and denying people choice. "Worst of all, it is a government that has wasted people's money and failed to tackle the problems families face today." The Tories, he said, can cut crime and improve public services without asking people to pay more taxes. "We can have progress without losing what makes Britain great - its tolerance, the respect for the rule of law, the ability of everyone to fulfil their potential. "We simply need to change direction. The election will give Britain the chance to change." This is the record Mr Blair will have to defend in the coming months, he said, urging voters to hold him to account. But Labour spokesman Mr Kemp said: "It would be more appropriate for this message to come out on 1 April, not 1 January." "Let us never forget that when Michael Howard was in government Britain suffered mass unemployment, 15% interest rates, record home repossessions, and the introduction of the poll tax. "With Labour Britain is working. Rather than alluding to false promises Michael Howard should be starting 2005 with an apology to the British people for the misery that the government, of which he was a member, inflicted upon the country."
"Tony Blair has had the chance to tackle the problems facing Britain and has failed, Michael Howard has said.The election will give Britain the chance to change."Mr Blair has failed to tackle these problems, he claimed, saying he has the "wrong solution" to them."Let us never forget that when Michael Howard was in government Britain suffered mass unemployment, 15% interest rates, record home repossessions, and the introduction of the poll tax."Britain is heading in the wrong direction", the Conservative leader said in his New Year message."With Labour Britain is working.The catastrophe was overshadowing the hopes for the future at this usually positive time of the year, Mr Howard said.This is the record Mr Blair will have to defend in the coming months, he said, urging voters to hold him to account."Worst of all, it is a government that has wasted people's money and failed to tackle the problems families face today."The last week has shown that the warm, caring heart of Britain beats as strong as ever."But Labour spokesman Mr Kemp said: "It would be more appropriate for this message to come out on 1 April, not 1 January.""
"Tsunami 'won't divert Africa aid' UK aid to help the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster will not take much needed relief from Africa, Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised. Mr Blair told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost show the money spent on the tsunami would not "invade" the money Britain wanted to spend on Africa. Questioned about the disaster, he said his faith in God had not been shaken. He added he would give new figures on the number of tsunami-related British deaths to the Commons on Monday. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday that about 440 Britons were either dead or missing in the disaster. Mr Blair told Sunday's programme: "Since Jack Straw gave those figures a couple of days ago they haven't moved a great deal, which should give us some hope that we are beginning to reach the peak of the numbers. But we just can't be sure. "It is just an immensely difficult job to get absolutely accurate figures, all countries are struggling with this." He said the £50 million originally allocated from the Department for International Development was now "well on the way" to being spent. But the exact allocation could not be clarified until the World Bank had completed its assessment of the needs of the countries affected. Within the next few weeks a clearer picture would emerge of the long-term costs of reconstruction, he added. But he pledged that Africa - which sees a "preventable" tsunami-size death toll every month from conflict, disease and poverty - would not be neglected. As Britain takes up its presidency of the G8 group of leading nations, Mr Blair said ministers had a big agenda for Africa. "For the first time we have a plan that won't just deal with aid and debt but will also deal on issues of governance within African countries and conflict resolution," he said. "A lot of the problems in Africa come from conflict, that again are preventable, but only with the right systems in place.""
"As Britain takes up its presidency of the G8 group of leading nations, Mr Blair said ministers had a big agenda for Africa.Mr Blair told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost show the money spent on the tsunami would not "invade" the money Britain wanted to spend on Africa."For the first time we have a plan that won't just deal with aid and debt but will also deal on issues of governance within African countries and conflict resolution," he said.But he pledged that Africa - which sees a "preventable" tsunami-size death toll every month from conflict, disease and poverty - would not be neglected.UK aid to help the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster will not take much needed relief from Africa, Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised.Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday that about 440 Britons were either dead or missing in the disaster."
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