Population increased 500,000 since 2011

A new study from Oxford University has suggested that the UK population has increased by 500,000 since 2011. The report suggests that the number of foreign born residents of the UK has now increased to around 8 million people.

Two thirds of the new immigrants to the UK are thought to have come from other European Union countries

Further information about the report can be found at the Migration Observatory.

Sir John Major calls on Labour to rule out a coalition with the SNP

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Sir John Major, the Prime Minister from 1990 until 1997, has called on Labour to rule out a coalition with the SNP. In an article published in the Daily Telegraph he wrote:

“A Labour-SNP alliance would be a lethal cocktail for the United Kingdom. The two parties loathe and distrust one another in Scotland. At Westminster, SNP minds would not be focused on the well-being of the United Kingdom, but on their own party interests.”

Major also wrote that the two parties fundamentally disagreed on the future of the union and that the SNP would want a coalition with the sole aim of breaking up the union. He added:

“The Labour leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, has proposed raising the Mansion Tax in England to fund services in Scotland. In doing so, he has opened the door for the SNP to make even more extravagant demands – which they will surely do as their price for propping up a Labour government. The resultant policy could only further penalise UK citizens outside Scotland.”

The Labour party have yet to say whether or not that they would enter a coalition although the SNP have said that they wouldn’t rule it out.

Andrew Mitchell pays £80,000 to policeman in libel trial

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Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative Party chief whip, has paid £80,000 to the police officer involved in the Plebgate incident, PC Toby Rowland.

A court ruled that Andrew Mitchell had used the word “pleb” following a dispute with police officers on Downing Street. Mitchell had denied using the word when he was told not to ride his bike through the gates.

Following the court decision that Mitchell had used the word “pleb” the police officer began legal proceedings. The £80,000 payment is in addition to the estimated £300,000 legal costs that Mitchell was forced to pay to the Sun newspaper and to the Police Federation.

Court told of phone hacking of an industrial scale at Daily Mirror

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The High Court in London has been told today that hacking took place at the Daily Mirror on “an industrial scale”.

The court heard that Dan Evans, one of the newspaper’s journalists, hacked into private messages on phones around 100 times every day from 2003 to 2004. Evans has already pleaded guilty to phone hacking but the newspaper denies the impact of the illegal operation on the claimants.

There are eight claimants in the case who claimed that their phones were hacked. The claimants are Lauren Alcorn, Robert Ashworth, Sadie Frost, Paul Gascoigne, Shobna Gulati, Shane Richie, Lucy Taggart and Alan Yentob.

The court was told that some of the messages were “deeply private” and that the phone hacking could have been going on for ten years. Many of the claimants have said that they felt that their privacy has been violated so that the newspaper could source information for stories.

The Daily Mirror’s defence team said that claimants did not suffer from long-term and life changing suffering. The paper added that it had already started a compensation fund and apologised for its actions. The below apology was also printed in the Daily Mirror a fortnight ago:

“Trinity Mirror, owner of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, today apologises publicly to all its victims of phone hacking. Some years ago voice-mails left on certain people’s phones were unlawfully accessed. And in many cases the information obtained was used in stories in our national newspapers. 

Such behaviour represented an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion into people’s private lives. It was unlawful and should never have happened, and fell far below the standards our readers expect and deserve.

We are taking this opportunity to give every victim a sincere and unreserved apology for what happened. We recognise that our actions will have caused them distress for which we are truly sorry.

Our newspapers have a long and proud history of holding those in power to account. As such, it is only right we are held to account ourselves. Such behaviour has long since been banished from Trinity Mirror’s business and we are committed to ensuring it will not happen again.”

Ed Miliband denies photo manipulation

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Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has denied allegations that a photo was manipulated or that he stood on a box in a photo with Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield. The story was first posted by the Guido Fawkes blog and followed a statement by Ed Miliband last year that:

“If you want a politician  who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me”.

The original story can be found at the Guido Fawkes blog.

Kris Hopkins confirms Greenwich Council ordered to stop weekly publication of its own magazine

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Kris Hopkins, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has confirmed that Greenwich Council will be forced to stop publishing its weekly publication ‘Greenwich Time’.

Hopkins said that there was a threat to local media and that agreement hadn’t been reached with the council. He added:

“Within the period of 14 days following the notice, as statute provides, Greenwich council has made a number of representations. These included that in the council’s view there is no evidence that its weekly newspaper has an impact on the local independent press in the area, that the proposed direction would be ultra vires, irrational, and procedurally unfair, and that in any event the council would not be able to comply with such a direction by the proposed date of 31 March 2015.”

The department for Communities and Local Government confirmed that the direction meant “not only must the council cease to publish its weekly newspaper, ‘Greenwich Time’, but it is also barred from outsourcing or contracting for the publication of any weekly newsletter, news-sheet or similar communication by a third party to whom the council may make payment.”

The publication of Greenwich Time meant that some local media outlets said that they were facing unfair competition for advertising. The council also admitted that the Greenwich Time was being signed off by the leader of the council which some opponents said questioned the impartiality of the publication.

The council has said that it will comply with its legal duties.

David Cameron condemns killing of Boris Nemtsov

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has condemned the assassination in Moscow of Boris Nemtsov who was a former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Nemtsov was killed on a public road and was known as a critic of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.

David Cameron said in a statement:

“I am shocked and sickened by the callous murder of Boris Nemtsov as he walked in the heart of Moscow last night. This despicable act must be fully, rapidly and transparently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice.

Boris Nemtsov was a man of courage and conviction. His life was dedicated to speaking up tirelessly for the Russian people, to demanding their right to democracy and liberty under the rule of law, and to an end to corruption. He did so without fear, and never gave in to intimidation. He was greatly admired in Britain, not least by his friend Lady Thatcher, who visited him in Russia and who would have been appalled by today’s news. The courage of Nemtsov’s life contrasts with the utter cowardice of his murder.

I extend my condolences to Boris Nemtsov’s family and friends. The Russian people have been deprived of a champion of their rights. Boris Nemtsov is dead. But the values he stood for will never die.”

Nemtsov had given a radio interview just hours before his death which some are saying is linked to the leadership of the increasing controversial Vladimir Putin.

Foreign Secretary says that Assad cannot be the future of Syria

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In a statement issued jointly by Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, the British and French Governments have said Bashar al-Assad does not represent the future in Syria.

“From the palace where he is hunkered down, Bashar al-Assad is not just waging a war against his own people; he is also fighting to improve his public image.

In the Western media, he is using the terror created by the extremists to present himself as a partner for us against chaos. Some appear to be swayed by this argument, saying that in the face of extremism, Assad’s injustice and dictatorship is preferable to disorder.

In reality, Assad is himself stoking injustice, disorder and extremism, and France and UK are standing firm together against all three.

This is why we should be deeply sceptical about Assad’s apparent agreement to stop shelling a civilian area of Aleppo for six weeks, brokered by the UN Envoy Staffan De Mistura. We welcome the dedication and effort of Mr De Mistura, and we all want to see a sustainable and genuine reduction in violence. But Assad’s past actions mean we cannot take his words at face value.

Assad has conducted the civil war in barbaric fashion. There is a list of war crimes and crimes against humanity, supposedly in the name of the fight against terrorism, but committed as part of a systematic regime policy.

We should not forget the use of chemical weapons, the indiscriminate use of violence against Syrian civilians, and the horrific images of torture and murder in Assad’s jails revealed to the world by the regime defector known as Caesar.

The reality is that Assad is considerably weaker than a year ago, and growing weaker still. His army is depleted, with increasing desertions by its own soldiers, and forced to recruit mercenaries from as far away as Asia. He is beholden to his regional sponsors who, like Hezbollah, are the power behind the throne in Syria.

Assad no longer controls his own country, having lost territory in the North, where the moderate opposition groups are fighting bravely. In the East, he is offering no resistance to ISIL. In the West, Al-Qaeda affiliates have set up. Assad’s own borders are infiltrated on all sides.

Proposing Assad as a solution to the extremists is to misunderstand the causes of the extremism. After 220,000 deaths and millions of displaced persons, we would be foolish to assume that a majority of Syrians would willingly agree to live under the control of their tormentor. And for us to dash their hopes of a better future for Syria without Assad would only serve to make many Syrians even more radicalised, pushing moderate people towards extremism rather than the reverse, and consolidating a jihadi stronghold in Syria.

For our own national security we have to defeat ISIL in Syria. We need a partner in Syria to work with against the extremists, and this means a political settlement agreed between the Syrian parties leading to a unity government in Syria. This will likely include parts of the existing regime structures, the National Coalition, and others with a moderate and inclusive vision for Syria, respecting Syria’s different communities. It is clear to us that Assad could not credibly be part of any such administration.

This transition would allow the Syrian people to regain hope for the future, and for us to tackle the root causes of ISIL. This is where we are focussing our political efforts. It is not an easy task, and we must all play our part in our own way. But France and the United Kingdom will spare no effort to achieve this goal.”

Denise Fowler appointed the new Housing Ombudsman

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has confirmed the appointment of Denise Fowler as the new Housing Ombudsman.

Fowler, who was previously the Deputy Legal Director at the Head of Planning Law Reform within the same department, said that:

“I am delighted to have been appointed as the new Housing Ombudsman. Effective local complaint resolution builds trust and improves landlord and tenant relationships. Obviously there are times when such consensus is not possible and we then have a responsibility to investigate complaints impartially as swiftly and efficiently as possible. I hope that I can help the organisation to continue to develop its already excellent service.”

Further information about the services offered by the office of the Ombudsman can be found at http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/.

 

Labour pledge to cut tuition fees to £6,000

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Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has pledged to cut tuition fees to £6,000 a year from the current cost of £9,000. The move, which would be introduced in 2016, would help reduce the debt faced by graduates once leaving university.

A Labour Party spokesman said:

“At the moment, people with incomes over £150,000 get tax relief on pension contributions at a rate of 45 per cent – more than twice that of basic rate taxpayers. This means that although they are only the top 1 per cent of taxpayers, they receive 7 per cent of all Pension Tax Relief. So we will make the system fairer by restricting Pension Tax Relief by £2.9 billion for those on the highest incomes.”

Vince Cable, the Business and Skills Secretary, criticised the move saying that:

“This tax on pensioners will not go to universities, it will go to the Treasury. And we know from past experience the Treasury will pocket the money and it will be used to reduce the deficit.”

Tuition fees were introduced by the Labour Government in 1998 requiring students to pay up to £1,000 a year by way of a loan which would only been repaid once they reached a certain income threshold. The fees were increased again by Labour in 2004 and then again under the coalition in 2010.