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Saturday’s Papers

Conservatives

The Telegraph leads with Maria Miller expenses report: how Minister tried to bully MP watchdog.

Maria Miller issued a series of threats to Parliament’s independent standards Commissioner in an attempt to block the “irrational and perverse” investigation into her expenses claims, emails have disclosed.

A Parliamentary committee on Friday released a cache of emails sent by the Culture Secretary to Kathryn Hudson in which she threatened to make a formal complaint about the independent Commissioner. She also employed a lawyer to respond to requests for information and refused to provide documents to justify her expense claims.

Leader writer Peter Oborne also comments, implicating Sir George Young, who was  Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee. And, funny old thing, Sir George is in the adjacent constituency (NW Hampshire) to Maria Miller (Basingstoke).

The Guardian, The Mirror  and The Express also cover the story.

BBC

BBC wants you to pay TV licence fee even if you don’t own a set, as shows go on iPlayer for longer reports the Telegraph.

Householders could be required to pay the television licence fee even if they do not own a television, under proposals being discussed by the BBC. Lord Hall, the BBC’s director-general, wants to extend the £145.50 annual fee in response to the growing popularity of iPlayer, which enables viewers to watch programmes on home computers, mobile phones and tablet devices.

The news came as the BBC announced it will make programmes available to view on iPlayer for 30 days after they are first broadcast, instead of seven, later this year.

The reader comments are “illuminating”.

Scotland

The Telegraph reports that Eddie Izzard is campaigning for a No vote. But many Scottish public figures are too scared to defend the Union.

Tonight Eddie Izzard is staging a one-off show in Edinburgh in support of the No camp. “Scotland, Please Don’t Go” (tickets £25) will hopefully raise much needed funds for the Unionists’ cause. But its main purpose, says Izzard, is to give those in the rest of the UK a voice in the independence referendum even though they don’t have a vote, and offer them an “opportunity to play their part in keeping our family of nations together”.

Izzard is a brave man. It’s one thing to say “Scotland, stay with us” from the relative safety of London, as David Bowie did – and even he used Kate Moss as a go-between. It’s quite another to head here in person and expose yourself to Nationalist fury.

UKIP

The media still has it in for Nigel Farage, The Independent leading the charge with: “Sleazy playground, money launderers’ paradise, all-round basket case: A dystopian vision of Britain under the rule of Nigel Farage

It was a grey cold day in April and the clocks were not striking at all. Another bloody power outage, cursed Winston Singh as he groped his way along the Whitehall pavement in the smog. So much for the cheap-energy bonanza that the Patriotic Union government had promised once the EU “green crap” had been cleared away. President-for-Life Putin had guaranteed plentiful low-cost fuel to his most faithful ally. That would join with dirt-cheap American coal diverted from a frack-happy home market to stoke Fortress England – as it was since the second referendum of 2020 had seen Scotland depart – for ever after.

You get the drift, a parody on 1984, framed against the worst case scenarios of The Independent’s view of what UKIP’s post-Brexit policies would be.

Dan Hodges in the Telegraph follows a similar “Russian” theme with: “Nigel Farage is the new Sarah Palin, rambling on crazily about Russia

Nigel Farage has just completed a fascinating phone-in with Telegraph readers. The discussion was wide-ranging, and the Ukip leader engaged with it in his usual avuncular style. That is until the conversation turned to his professed admiration for Vladimir Putin. At which point, not to be put too fine a point on it, he fell apart.

It was like watching a rerun of Sarah Palin’s career-defining – and ending – interview with Katie Couric. Asked about her take on foreign affairs, the Republican vice-presidential candidate famously started rambling on about how she could see Russia from her home state of Alaska.

But, the Express has “Farage on Friday” to balance that bad press with: “‘We’ll start selling Nick Clegg mops, so YOU TOO can wipe the floor with him,’ says Farage”

Nigel also makes The Mirror with: “Nigel Farage on drugs: ‘‘I’ve never taken them but I think they should be decriminalised’‘.

The UKIP leader wants to see a Royal Commission to examine the pros and cons of decriminalisation as is the case in Portugal and some US states

Banking

The Independent has an exclusive on “Investment bank Lazard’s ‘cosy’ relationship with Government questioned by MPs”:

Lazard, the investment bank which advised the Government on the much criticised Royal Mail flotation, has earned millions of pounds advising Whitehall on a huge majority of the biggest state asset sales in recent years, The Independent can disclose.

The bank, whose international arm is chaired by the former business secretary, Lord Mandelson, has been the prime adviser to the Government on at least six of the present administration’s bumper state asset sales, several of them extremely controversial. They covered taxpayer-owned businesses or state contracts worth more than £11bn, including the sell-off of the Tote betting business and the government’s blood plasma service.

Bedroom Tax

We can rely on The Independent to dig up news other papers don’t have with: “New chapter in ‘bedroom tax’ saga – now councils run out of emergency funds to help worst cases

The ‘bedroom tax’ has resulted in thousands of people being “driven into destitution” as councils run out of the emergency funds set aside to rescue those worst affected. Demonstrators will gather in Cardiff, Leeds and London today to call for the abolition of the widely criticised policy, a year after it was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith.

Ministers have always maintained that those forced into hardship by the tax can apply to their council for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to help cover their rent. But The Independent can disclose that many councils had already exceeded their budget for DHPs in February, weeks before the end of the financial year on 31 March, even though the Government had increased the money available to local authorities. The Government disputes the figures.

NHS

The Guardian has a warning from NHS doctors: Patient care under threat as overworked doctors miss vital signs, expert warns.

Care of hospital patients is under threat because overworked frontline doctors are looking after so many sick people that they are missing vital signs of illness that could affect chances of survival, one of Britain’s most senior doctors warns today.

Hospital doctors are running around “like a scalded cat” trying to look after up to 70 elderly patients at a time, far more than the maximum of 20 regarded as necessary to ensure they receive proper attention, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, told the Guardian.

Doctors specialising in acute medicine are so stretched they are not able to spend the ideal minimum of 15 minutes investigating each patient’s symptoms because they have too many patients to get round in a typical seven-hour shift, he added.

Pollution

The Guardian has been on the case of the smog covering Britain the last week, but now reports that: Pollution levels fall across England and Wales after days of smog.

Pollution levels have fallen across England and Wales after several days of smog caused in part by Saharan dust, but health officials warned people to check local air quality before taking part in outdoor exercise.

London remained in the grip of moderate levels of air pollution and about 40 other areas around the country were suffering moderate to high levels, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Forecasters say that a mass of fresh air moving across the UK from the west over the weekend would lead to higher air quality, with Defra saying conditions should improve into next week. But experts warned that the UK’s underlying pollution needed urgent action.

Unusually, the Express jumps onto the same bandwagon, with an even bleaker tale to tell: “Climate change to bring years of toxic smog

THE toxic smog that smothered most of Britain this week will become more frequent in coming years, experts warned last night. A mixture of drought, development and intensive farming in North Africa could see dust storms regularly rolling across Britain.

The news comes as Britain emerges from a week of extreme pollution which triggered a surge in health complaints including asthma, sore throats and streaming eyes. Dr Robert Bryant, of Sheffield University, said population growth in African countries has prompted a rise in farming, which has increased dust in the region. He said the trend is set to continue, with air travelling to the UK more likely to carry the fine red dust which has contributed to severe pollution this week.

Housing

The Daily Mail leads with: Chinese buyers fuelling UK housing shortage: Far East speculators price Britons out of market across the country.

A huge property grab by Chinese investors is pricing UK homebuyers out of the market. Developers are increasingly selling direct to buyers in China at inflated prices, cutting out domestic purchasers altogether.

Last night, critics said such tactics threatened to further destabilise the overheating property market and deepen the housing shortage. Major British developers including Barratt Homes and Berkeley Group have opened offices in Beijing and Shanghai to cater for growing overseas demand for new-build apartments in premium city-centre locations.

Flooding

Ever wondered what happens to news stories after the crisis goes away? Well, the Daily Mail has at least returned to one story: No wonder the Somerset Levels needed dredging! Abandoned vehicles rescued from river (and some of them have been there for DECADES)

  • Eight cars were recovered from a flood drain near Bridgwater, Somerset
  • Some of the vehicles thought to have been stuck for at least 20 years
  • Environment Agency denies the cars could have impacted on flooding
  • Were discovered as dredging finally got underway on Somerset Levels
  • Rivers cleared for the first time in almost two decades following floods

 

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