30 July 2015
Week in Brief: UK NEWS
CHILD ABUSE: Cabinet Office papers have been discovered which show that the Head of MI5 wrote to the Cabinet Secretary in 1986 about an MP said to have ‘a penchant for small boys’. MI5’s concern was the security and political risks involved. The documents contain references to Leon Brittan, a former Home Secretary and EU Commissioner, Peter Morrison, an MP who was Margaret Thatcher’s private secretary for a time, William van Straubenzee, another Conservative MP, and the diplomat Sir Peter Hayman. The papers will be passed to the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse.
LABOUR: The prospect of the hard-left MP Jeremy Corbyn becoming Leader of the party has led to turmoil. Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson have said that victory for him would be a disaster for Labour. Liz Kendall has been called upon to retire from the leadership contest to ensure that Corbyn does not win but has declined to do so. Dame Margaret Beckett has described herself as a moron for being one of the 35 MPs who endorsed him originally. Further controversy has been caused by Lord Falconer, a supporter of Andy Burnham, saying that neither Yvette Cooper nor Liz Kendall were up to coping with the party. The standing of Harriet Harman, the acting Leader, has been damaged by MPs refusing to follow her recommendation that Labour support the Government’s welfare reform bill.
OVERSEAS AID: The Government’s commitment to donate 0.7 per cent of GDP to overseas aid was met for the first time in 2013 by a rushed last-minute year-end payment of £415 million (making a total of £543 million for the year) to the Global Fund, an organisation set up to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria but whose effectiveness and governance have been criticised.
NHS: The Patients Association has reported that the waiting time for seven key surgeries (such as knee and hip operations) rose to 90 days in 2014.
EUROTUNNEL: Holidaymakers and commercial traffic from the UK are suffering severe delays as Eurotunnel’s operations continue to be disrupted by migrants attempting to board its trains in Calais or hide in lorries about to travel on them and by the disorder caused by striking French ferry workers. The migrants have adopted the tactic of storming the terminal in large numbers and some are getting to the tunnel. On Monday night, 3,000 migrants are thought to have got into the Eurotunnel complex and 148 were picked up in Folkestone. Operation Stack which allows delayed lorries to park on the M20 continues. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has met her French counterpart to discuss the crisis and the UK is to pay further sums to improve security at the Calais terminal.
HOUSE OF LORDS: Lord Sewel has resigned as Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and from his position as Chairman of the Lords privileges and conduct committee (responsible for ensuring proper behaviour) after the Sun published footage apparently showing him taking cocaine in the company of two prostitutes. He is also said to have spoken critically in the film of a number of politicians including David Cameron and Tony Blair, who made him a peer. After initially refusing to resign from the Lords, he has now done so.
DEFENCE: The UK will meet NATO’s target of defence spending of 2 per cent of national income but only after including for the first time the budgets of its intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
CRIME: Paul Massey, a criminal alleged to be the Mr Big of Manchester, has been shot dead outside his house. This follows the shooting in his garden a few weeks ago of another notorious criminal, John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, who, among other things, had smelted gold stolen during the Brink’s-Mat robbery. When called to the scene of John Palmer’s murder, the police failed to realise that he had been shot.
MONEY LAUNDERING: The National Crime Agency has said that billions of pounds are being laundered through the UK and that this is affecting the London property market. This follows the disclosure that the Government tax on houses owned by companies had raised far more than expected. The Government intends to find ways to ensure that the identity is known of the beneficial owners of foreign companies owning property in the UK. From next year UK companies will have to disclose their true owners.
TOUR DE FRANCE: Chris Froome won the Tour, becoming the only Briton to have done so twice. In doing so, he survived allegations of doping, a chest infection, being spat at and having urine thrown at him.