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Monday papers – June 9

British Army

The Chief of the General Staff says Britain’s Army should not face further cutbacks, reports The Daily Telegraph

Britain’s Army should not face further cutbacks and restructuring after the next election, its head says today.

In an article for The Telegraph, Gen Sir Peter Wall says most of the retrenchment in Army numbers is “now behind us” and he trusts the Army’s reduced new structure “will endure”.

His comments come as ministers prepare to launch a new defence review and spending round next year which defence chiefs fear could herald deeper cuts.

Military leaders are keen for Prime Minister to halt the slide in funding by recommitting the UK to spending 2 per cent of its GDP on the military.

Sir Peter, Chief of the General Staff, pays tribute to the soldiers who fought 70 years ago in Normandy and those who have fought in Helmand more recently.

Immigration

The Daily Express reports that the UK has lost control of its borders

ONLY one in every 70 migrants suspected of being in the country illegally is arrested, Home Office figures revealed last night.

Government data handed to the Daily Express shows 28,442 were held in Britain in the past two years despite migration experts putting the total of people here without permission as high as two million.

The figures – reporting that the foreign nationals come from 159 different countries, one from nearly every nation on earth – have sparked fresh calls for Britain to quit the EU and reclaim control of our frontiers.

Critics say the problem is the result of a soft-touch approach to immigration over decades and the majority of hard-working Britons now put it as one of their major concerns.

Newly-elected Ukip MEP Tim Aker said: “It is out of control.  These arrests barely scratch the surface and show the Government’s distasteful go-home wagons were a gimmick and not a reflection they were serious about combating illegal immigration.   Tackling this epidemic would be a top priority for Ukip as we are the only party that would get back control of our borders.”

The number of suspected illegal immigrants held in the past two years accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of the total number estimated by the pressure group Migration Watch to be here without permission.

The figures, which were obtained under a Freedom of Information request, show individuals from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh account for more than half those arrested.

GPs

A Daily Mail investigation claims that a quarter of GP surgeries take a half day off a week, making it far more difficult to book an appointment.

Sick patients are finding it harder to see a doctor as many GPs close their doors during the afternoon.

A Daily Mail investigation has revealed that a quarter of surgeries shut for at least one half-day during the week while others close for up to four and a half hours for lunch.

Patients who ring at these times are either diverted to out-of-hours firms or hear a message telling them to call back.

Patients’ groups described the revelation as worrying.  They called for action to force surgeries to stay open, saying: “Woe betide you if you get sick on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.”

The lengthy closures are severely limiting the time available for appointments – when figures already suggest that two million patients have to wait three weeks to see their GP.  They are also increasing the burden on overstretched hospital A&E departments.

It is not clear why doctors need to shut their surgeries on a weekday. Some may use the time to catch up on paperwork, others may earn additional cash attending meetings, doing shifts as locums or carrying out private work. GPs are already able to opt out of working evenings and weekends under a contract negotiated in 2004 which also saw their pay soar.

The contract merely states that during the core hours of 8am to 6.30pm they must provide essential services ‘appropriate to meet the reasonable needs’ of patients.

But NHS England made it clear yesterday that surgeries should close only on ‘rare occasions’. Officials were not aware that so many surgeries close for half a day each week or take extended lunches.

EU Presidency

The Guardian reports on the Prime Minister’s planned visit to Sweden today in an effort to block an arch-federalist taking the presidency of the European Commission.

David Cameron will travel to Sweden today for talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other European counterparts about the future of the EU as he continues efforts to block Jean-Claude Juncker from taking a key Brussels job.

Foreign secretary William Hague has insisted there are other “talented candidates” for the presidency of the European Commission and stressed the need for the senior roles in Brussels to be filled by people who recognised it could not be “business as usual” in the EU.

A former prime minister of Luxembourg, Juncker is regarded in London as an arch-federalist and opponent of reform, and Hague indicated that a failure to get the “right people” into senior European roles would damage Tory hopes of renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the 28-member bloc.

In Sweden the prime minister will hold talks with his Swedish counterpart Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Dutch leader Mark Rutte and Merkel on reforms in Europe, with the candidates for the commission and its presidency also expected to be on the agenda.

Cabinet reshuffle

The Independent comments on the expected reshuffle of Cabinet colleagues by David Cameron

David Cameron is to carry out a ‘ruthless’ reshuffle within days which could see several senior and long-serving cabinet ministers lose their jobs.

The Prime Minister is expected to work on a coalition shake-up when he returns from European talks in Sweden on Tuesday evening.  Whitehall is braced for a reshuffle at the end of this week or the start of next.  Some of the ministers being considered for the sack are among the most senior ranks, and the reshuffle’s timing, coinciding with the start of the World Cup, could lead it to be dubbed “the night of the long dives”.

Senior ministers who are thought to be nervous about their position include Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the Commons; the Chief Whip, Sir George Young; the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson; Ken Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio; and the Tory chairman, Grant Shapps. Despite their bitter row, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, are unlikely to be moved or demoted, because such a switch-around would risk escalating tensions between their supporters and trigger a fresh round of bloodletting.

 

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