Foreign Secretary reacts to Japanese Prime Minister’s comments

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Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has reacted positively to comments made by Shinzō Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, apologising for the treatment of British prisoners of war in the Second World War. The comments were made on the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender.

Hammond said in a statement:

“I welcome Prime Minister Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. I was pleased to read the reaffirmation of previous Japanese statements of apology and acknowledge Japan’s commitment, over 70 years, to peaceful development and to the rules-based international system. I welcome, as well, PM Abe’s acknowledgement of the suffering of Japanese POWs, including many thousands of Britons.

“I hope this statement will be received as a positive contribution to reconciliation between Japan and its neighbours in North East Asia”.

Kezia Dugdale elected new leader of Labour in Scotland

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Kezia Dugdale has been elected as the new leader of Scottish Labour the party has announced today.

Dugdale is 33 and has been an MSP for the Lothians region since 2001 and is currently the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

The new deputy leader of the party in Scotland is Alex Rowley who is a current MSP and was formerly an aide to Gordon Brown.

The other candidate for the party’s leadership was Ken Macintosh and the other two candidates for the party’s deputy leadership were Richard Baker and Gordon Matheson.

Tobias Ellwood condemns terrorist attack in Baghdad

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Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has condemned the attack in Baghdad which killed and injured many people. The attack took place at Jameela market in Sadr City when a refrigerator truck exploded.

The numbers of dead aren’t yet confirmed but sources at the scene suggest that at least 76 people were killed and 212 were wounded.

A local police officer said that “many people were killed and body parts were thrown on top of nearby buildings” and soon after ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In a statement Ellwood said:

“I am saddened to hear of the significant loss of life in a crowded market in Baghdad this morning, following a terrorist attack claimed by ISIL. These barbaric criminals have once again targeted a civilian area full of innocent people. My thoughts are with the families and friends of the innocent victims caught up in this attack.

The UK continues to support the efforts of the Government and the people of Iraq fight against violent extremism taking place in Iraq”.

Andy Burnham warns of dangers of Corbyn victory

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Andy Burnham has become the third candidate in the Labour leadership to warn of the dangers of electing Jeremy Corbyn, the remaining candidate for the leadership.

In an interview Burnham said:

“Think carefully before you vote and don’t make Labour a party of protest that is racked by internal divisions rather than focusing on being a proper opposition and taking on the Tories”.

Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall had both also warned of the dangers of electing Corbyn with Cooper preparing a critique of his policies and Kendall warning about the difficulties of progressing peace in Northern Ireland.

Burnham’s attacks come just a day after he said that criticisms of Corbyn were “misreading the mood of the party”.

The Daily Mirror, the only national newspaper to support Labour at the 2015 General Election, also came out in support of Andy Burnham. It said in an editorial:

“Parents fighting to put food on their table tonight do not need Labour to spend many, many years in the wilderness which followed Michael Foot’s leadership in the 1980s”.

Sir Eric Pickles is to report on electoral fraud

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Sir Eric Pickles, the former Local Government and Communities Secretary, is to lead a report to review electoral fraud and what can be done to tackle the problem

Pickles said:

“The government’s roll out of Individual Electoral Registration across Great Britain is a significant advance in creating an electoral register that is secure from fraud. It is important that we now look at other parts of the system to identify what more can be done to improve electoral integrity.

The British system is among the world’s most trusted democracies, but it is essential that it remains so. The recent election court ruling in Tower Hamlets is a wake-up call that state bodies need to do far more to stamp out corruption and restore public confidence. Financial and electoral sleaze go hand in hand – if a dodgy politician is willing to break election law, they will not hesitate to syphon off taxpayers’ money for their own ends”.

The Government said that it didn’t believe that electoral fraud was widespread but wanted to understand how much was going undetected. John Penrose, the Minister for Constitutional Reform, said:

“Most people feel British elections can be trusted to deliver whatever people have voted for. But, in a changing world, we can’t rest on our laurels. We must spot new or growing weaknesses in our election system, and fix them before they turn into a problem like Tower Hamlets. Sir Eric’s work will provide the facts we need to do this properly and, with his years of experience with local government, he’s the perfect man for the job”.

Yvette Cooper criticises Corbyn’s “old solutions to old problems”

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Yvette Cooper, one of Labour’s leadership candidates, has strongly criticised the policies of one of her rivals Jeremy Corbyn and said that he has “old solutions to old problems”.

Cooper said in her speech:

“So tell me what you think is more radical. Bringing back clause IV, spending billions of pounds we haven’t got switching control of some power stations from a group of white middle-aged men in an energy company to a group of white middle-aged men in Whitehall, as Jeremy wants? Or extending Sure Start, giving mothers the power and confidence to transform their own lives and transform their children’s lives for years to come?”.

The comments in Cooper’s speech come shortly after a plea was made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, saying that a Corbyn victory could annihilate the Labour party. The Corbyn team distanced itself from Blair’s comments saying that they wanted a positive campaign but hasn’t yet responded to the speech made by Cooper.

The other two candidates in the Labour leadership race are Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham,

Tony Blair warns that electing Jeremy Corbyn leader would be “annihilation”

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Tony Blair, the Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 and party leader from 1994 to 2007, has warned Labour members against voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the party’s leadership elections.

Blair wrote in the Guardian:

“If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation. If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even intrigued. But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they stand a hope of winning – the public mood will turn to anger. They will seek to punish us. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of our self-indulgence”.

Corbyn’s team responded to the comments by saying:

“We are keeping our campaign positive and remain focused on our policies that offer the sound economic choice of investment and growth, not the politically driven agenda of austerity and cuts preventing economic recovery”.

Other senior figures in the Labour Party are also expected to express their concerns about Corbyn’s leadership over the next few weeks. The voting will take place from 14 August to 10 September with the winner being announced on 12 September 2015.

Philip Hammond visiting China as part of Asian tour

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Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, is visiting China today for two days which marks his first visit to the country since becoming Foreign Secretary.

He is expected to talk about global security and trade issues as well as the diplomatic links between China and the UK. The visit comes as part of Hammond’s tour of several Asian countries.

Hammond said:

“Britain’s relations with China are strong and are firmly on track to becoming even stronger. It is a great pleasure to be visiting China for the first time as the British Foreign Secretary.

I look forward to meeting my Chinese counterparts to discuss our flourishing bilateral relationship and how our two countries can work with other countries to find international solutions to the world’s big problems”.

UK Unemployment rises by 25,000

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Figures released today have shown that unemployment has increased by 25,000 over the last three months. The figures released by the ONS do though show that average pay growth over the last year has increased to 2.8% excluding bonuses.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“Today’s figures show job vacancies at a near record high – evidence of the continued confidence of British businesses, and potential for further growth in the UK economy”.

On youth unemployment Duncan Smith added:

“Youth unemployment has fallen by 38,000 in the past year and has fallen by 200,000 since 2010. The number of young people claiming unemployment benefits is close to the lowest level since the 1970s. The percentage of young people under the age of 25 that have left full time education and are unemployed is down by over a third since from its peak in the recession”.

The increase in unemployment was the second consecutive quarter which is the first time in over two years.

Stephen Timms, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“The rise in unemployment for a second month in a row is worrying and shows we cannot afford to be complacent about the recovery”.

 

Birmingham City Council stops buying new books for some of its libraries

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Labour controlled Birmingham City Council has been criticised after it was revealed that some of their libraries have stopped buying new books.

The council spent nearly £200 million on a new central library in 2013 and has since then halved opening hours and made 100 staff redundant in a bid to make savings. An investment from Google meant that there has been an increase in opening hours but some local residents have queried why the old library needed to be closed.

The previous central library building was opened in 1974 and was the largest public library in Europe outside of capital cities. The library was also the second more visited in the UK with nearly 1.2 million visitors a year.

The City Council has said that it planned to spend £1 million on new books over the coming year but this represents a substantial fall on previous years.