Russia

Times
Theresa May is on the verge of publicly blaming Russia for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and ordering expulsions and sanctions against President Putin’s regime. An announcement could come as early as today after a meeting of the government’s National Security Council at which ministers will be presented with the latest intelligence on the Salisbury attack. Senior government sources suggested that the police and security services had established sufficient evidence to link Moscow with the nerve agent used to try to kill the former Russian double agent and his 33-year-old daughter.

Mail
Theresa May is expected to point the finger at the Kremlin for the poisoning of double-agent Sergei Skripal and unveil a package of tough sanctions as early as today. She will chair a meeting of the National Security Council where she will be updated on the investigation into the attempted nerve agent assassination of the former Russian spy. Counter-terrorism police and intelligence officers are understood to be preparing to present evidence that Moscow ordered the hit in Salisbury over a week ago.

Independent
Theresa May has come under pressure to plan strong retaliation against Russia  over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, ahead of security talks with the Cabinet and after a fresh warning to people in Salisbury. MPs and the widow of murdered dissident Alexander  Litvinenko both demanded a tougher stance against Vladimir Putin, as the finger of suspicion continued to point to a Kremlin plot. A meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Monday is expected to see senior ministers also call for an agreement to beef up Britain’s response.

Sun
THERESA May is preparing to name Russia as responsible for the chemical weapons outrage in Salisbury after confirmation from spy chiefs. The PM’s explosive move will plunge relations between London and Moscow into their worst crisis since the end of the Cold War. A key intelligence assessment of who was behind the nerve agent poisoning is being delivered to No10 overnight, to be on PM’s desk in the morning. In their report to Mrs May, The Sun has learned that MI5 and MI6 chiefs will cite the very rare substance used on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia as key evidence of the Kremlin’s involvement. It is believed to have been developed in the SVR Russian foreign spy service’s notorious Yasenevo laboratory.

Salisbury

Mail
Furious Salisbury residents have hit out at the authorities’ ‘diabolical’ public health response to the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal in their city. Former double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are still in a ‘critical condition’ in hospital after being deliberately targeted with a deadly nerve agent last Sunday. Wilthshire Police’s Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, 38, is in a ‘serious but stable condition’ after becoming infected as he investigated the attempted murders. On Wednesday public health boss Dame Sally Davies assured locals they were at ‘low risk’. But yesterday officials told anyone who went to the pub and restaurant where the Skripals were before they were found unconscious to ‘wash their possessions’ as a precaution.

Telegraph
Hundreds of people could have been contaminated by the nerve agent that poisoned a Russian double agent in Salisbury, officials have confirmed, as locals questioned why they were not warned sooner. A week after Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were left in a critical condition following an attack in the city, residents were advised to take action to protect themselves. Anyone who visited the same pub or restaurant as the pair last Sunday were told to wash their clothes immediately and clean all jewellery, mobile phones, spectacles and other items with antiseptic wipes. Staff at Zizzi’s restaurant in the city, where the couple dined shortly before falling ill, were told to destroy any clothes they had been wearing at the time and also visit their doctor for a health check.

Times
The official response to the Salisbury poisoning was described as “diabolical” after the authorities took a week to warn hundreds of people that they may have been exposed to the nerve agent. England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that anyone who visited The Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant between last Sunday lunchtime and Monday evening should wash their clothes and personal items in case of contamination. On Wednesday she had assured the public that all of the places visited by Sergei Skripal, the former double agent, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, had been “secured”.

Star
PEOPLE who visited Salisbury have been warned to immediately wash their clothing and possessions after traces of nerve agent were found various locations. Up to 500 people who visited the town’s Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant have been warned they are at risk after tests were carried out. Russian spy Sergei Skripal was found unconscious alongside his daughter Yulia on a bench outside a shopping centre after reportedly being poisoned with chemical weapons. Just hours before, the 66-year-old MI6 double agent had dined at Zizzi, where traces of the nerve agent were later found.

ITV News
Hundreds of people who passed through the area where ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter may have been poisoned by a nerve agent have been told to wash their clothes and other items as a precaution. Investigators found traces of the substance at both a Zizzi restaurant and the Mill pub in central Salisbury, both locations linked to the poisoning. The authorities issued “precautionary advice” urging anyone who had been in either venue last Sunday afternoon or Monday to clean the clothes they were wearing. Traces of the nerve agent were reportedly found on and around the table where the pair ate at Zizzi, but Scotland Yard, which is running the investigation, would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Bercow

Sky News
Theresa May has described allegations of bullying in Parliament as “concerning”, but says she retains confidence in Commons Speaker John Bercow. Downing Street said that the Prime Minister believes complaints of abuse made against MPs by staff should be “fully investigated”. It comes after BBC Newsnight published allegations against Mr Bercow, which he “utterly refutes”, and two other MPs. A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is clear that there can be no place for bullying or harassment of any kind at Westminster, and everybody should be free to work in an environment that is safe and respectful. 
“If any complaints are made, they should be fully investigated.”

Express
JOHN Bercow is expected to face a motion of no confidence from MPs today following claims of him bullying Parliamentary staff. Tory opponents of the Commons Speaker were last night discussing a fresh attempt to force him out of office. Andrew Bridgen, a Tory backbencher and long-standing critic of Mr Bercow, said either he or a colleague would table an Early Day Motion to try to begin the process. While such motions are rarely debated, they can gain momentum if backed by enough signatures. Mr Bridgen said: “I am now calling here and now for John Bercow to stand down as Speaker. Westminster has been rocked by scandals recently – sexminster – and now bullying and harassment.

Child grooming

Mail
A brutal sex gang raped as many as 1,000 young girls over 40 years in what may be Britain’s ‘worst ever’ child abuse scandal. Girls in the town of Telford, Shropshire, were drugged, beaten and raped at the hands of a grooming gang active since the 1980s.  Allegations are said to have been mishandled by authorities, with many perpetrators going unpunished, while it is claimed similar abuse continues in the area, reports the Sunday Mirror.  Home Office figures show there were 15.1 child sex crimes reported per 10,000 residents in the year to September 2015. Telford’s population is 155,000 – meaning a potential 225 victims.

Star
UP TO 1,000 girls may have been the victims of Britain’s worst-ever grooming gang — an investigation has revealed. Vulnerable children — some as young as 11 — were targeted by child abusers in the town of Telford, Shropshire, over 40 years. In a case with similarities to the grooming gang scandals of Rotherham and Rochdale, girls were groomed, drugged and raped by paedophiles — and victims warn the crimes are still happening. An investigation by The Mirror revealed that social workers knew that local girls were being abused in the 1990s, but police didn’t look into these claims for another 10 years.

Breitbart
An investigation by the 
Sunday Mirror has revealed Britain’s worst ever grooming scandal, which saw authorities paralysed for 40 years by fears of “racism” accusations as grooming gangs victimised up to a thousand girls in Telford. The left-leaning newspaper claims its 18-month investigation found “abuse on unprecedented levels”, with three women being killed when abuser Azhar Ali Mehmood burned down their home with them inside and two others dying in connection with the scandal. Social workers reportedly knew of the abuse, which saw girls as young as 11 targeted, from the 1990s, but police took ten years to launch an investigation and the authorities failed to keep tabs on suspects and perpetrators from the South Asian community fearing “racism” accusations.

Westmonster
Sex grooming gangs abused, raped and even killed young girls in the English town of Telford, according to a  Sunday Mirror investigation. They report that girls as young as 11 were targeted over a period of 40 years, with the scale of the abuse feared to be bigger than anything seen before in Britain. Those working for the Council reportedly viewed some of the abused children as prostitutes, and there was the usual politically correct nonsense when it came to abusers who were Asian. A female who was abused is quoted as saying: “I hated what was happening and my abusers made my skin crawl but I was told that if I said a word to anyone they’d come for my little sisters and tell my mum I was a prostitute.

UKIP
Today it is Telford, where revelations have revealed that hundreds of young girls have been targetted by the inaccurately named “Asian grooming gangs”. In the past it has been Rotherham, Slough, Oxford, Newcastle, where will it be next? Gerard Batten MEP, the UKIP Interim leader responded. “These horror stories out of Telford are further evidence that these rape gangs are not a local, but a national problem, with new examples being constantly uncovered. “There is a refusal on the part of the authorities to recognise that this is a consequence of Islamic ideology and to face the ghastly truths.

Second referendum

Independent
The law requires a further referendum before Brexit can go ahead, say campaigners who are mounting a legal challenge to slam the brakes on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The case will argue that the 2011 “referendum lock” introduced by David Cameron – preventing any significant change to relations with the EU without the public’s say – applies to the Brexit talks. It makes the negotiations illegal without a second referendum because the planned transition period is likely to mean a big transfer of powers to Brussels, according to the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group.

Sun
ANTI-Brexit campaigners are trying to drag David Davis to court to force a final vote on our Brexit deal. Ignoring the will of 17 million people, the Remainer group Best for Britain is trying to get a legal challenge to make them do it. They will deploy the same tactics used by campaigner Gina Miller – who successfully made the Prime Minister give MPs a vote on triggering Article 50. The new challenge rests on the 2011 European Union Act – which says that any significant changes to our relationship with the EU would be put to a public vote. They say the  transition period will breach this law – as the people won’t have a say on it.

Brexit

Express
TWO OUT of three voters say the EU is trying to bully Britain in the Brexit talks, a poll revealed yesterday. Support for quitting the bloc remains similar to the level at the historic in-or-out referendum in 2016, the survey also found. Researchers Orb International quizzed more than 2,000 adults in the latest poll about the public’s attitude towards the Brexit talks. It found that 67 per cent of voters from across the political spectrum agreed that “the EU is trying to bully the UK” in the Brussels talks about a departure deal. Thirty-one per cent of those quizzed agreed with the statement while 36 per cent strongly agreed. Data in the poll showed that 53 per cent would back quitting the EU if a second referendum on the issue were held, while 47 per cent would vote to remain in the bloc.

Telegraph
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has said the Brexit vote was “driven by nostalgia” for a world where “faces were white”. In his keynote speech to his party’s spring conference in Southport, Sir Vince said the “toxic” fall-out of the referendum is fuelling the rise of the populist right in Britain. Saying that 70 per cent of over 65s had voted for Brexit, Sir Vince said: “Too many were driven by nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink”.

Mail
Vince Cable has suggested that Brexit voters were driven by ‘nostalgia’ for a world in which ‘faces were white’. The  Liberal Democrat leader told his party’s spring conference that many older voters wanted ‘a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink’. A Brexit deal in which the EU dictated the terms of the UK’s departure would ‘create the sense of victimhood Brexiteers crave,’ he said.  In his keynote speech to the conference in Southport, Sir Vince renewed his call for a second referendum and said the divide opened up by the June 2016 vote had left the country mired in a ‘protracted, non-violent civil war’. 

Express
PRO-BREXIT Tory MP Nadine Dorries has chastised Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable for telling his fellow party members that Brexit voters wanted a Britain where “faces were white”. Sir Vince during a shocking speech at the Liberal Democrat Party conference also said the decision of the UK to leave the EU was “driven by nostalgia”. Responding to Mr Cable’s remarks, Ms Dorries tweeted: “What an arrogant and offensive man.

BBC News
Tory MPs have labelled as “wrong” and “unwise” comments made by Sir Vince Cable, that older Brexit voters were “driven by nostalgia”. The Lib Dem leader said too many older people who voted Leave longed for a world where “faces were white”. “(Sir Vince) should be trying to bring country together, not seeking to tear it apart,” cabinet minister Sajid Javid said. Tory party chair Brandon Lewis said his comments were “rude” and “offensive”. Speaking at his party’s spring conference, Sir Vince said a “nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink” had driven some older voters to Brexit.

NHS

Times
Almost all new drugs approved for NHS use do more harm than good, according to modelling adopted by the government. Saving a life with a new drug can cost about twice as much as doing the same through more staff or equipment, according to official calculations that led to calls for reform of the way the NHS pays for medicines. The Department of Health and Social Care has implicitly conceded that the cost of most cutting-edge medicines kills more people through diverting money from other NHS services than the treatments themselves save.

Times
British cancer guidance is less likely to recommend innovative drug treatments for patients than versions used in other parts of Europe, a study has found. Researchers at King’s College London evaluated clinical practice guidelines issued by different national bodies, finding that UK examples were more likely to focus on surgery, and slower to pick up on new research. Their study comes after several high-profile cases where patients have had to travel abroad for treatment. The Home Office is considering allowing a medical cannabis trial to treat Alfie Dingley, a six-year-old boy with epilepsy, who travelled to the Netherlands to take a cannabis-based medication last September.

Morning Star
THE CRISIS in the NHS is spiralling out of control with doctors warning that patients are at increasing risk while demoralised staff are “pushed to the limit.” The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents 33,000 hospital doctors, releases an annual report today exposing deterioration at almost every level of treatment. Its report is published just three days after an 85-year-old man died in an overcrowded accident and emergency unit in Northampton after a lengthy wait for treatment.

The Economy

Times
Philip Hammond will open the way for a multibillion-pound investment boost in the NHS when he announces better than expected public sector finance figures tomorrow. The chancellor is to use his spring statement to reassure Tory MPs that he is preparing to scale back austerity with significant public spending announcements in the autumn budget. However, he will warn his critics that money must still be set aside to pay down the deficit and that there will be no immediate easing of government purse strings. Mr Hammond hinted that spending on the NHS would take precedence and announced that the government was close to a productivity deal with health service staff that could see pay rises of up 6.5 per cent.

Mail
Philip Hammond yesterday cleared the way for an NHS  giveaway in the Autumn Budget as he signalled he could be ready to loosen the purse strings within months. The Chancellor ruled out extra spending in tomorrow’s Spring Statement, but said there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.  He suggested both the Ministry of Defence and NHS could get cash boosts in the Budget later this year. Mr Hammond said debt was still too high and had to be brought down.  ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel because what we are about to see is debt starting to fall after it has been growing for 17 continuous years. 

Guardian
There is light at the end of the tunnel for the UK’s public finances, Philip Hammond has said, while strongly indicating that his financial statement this week is unlikely to herald any significant reduction in austerity. In his statement on Tuesday, which will bring no changes to tax or spending, the budget having been moved to autumn, the chancellor will set out the latest financial and debt figures. It has been reported that he will give a more upbeat assessment. On Sunday Hammond said that although government debt was forecast to start falling, people should not expect an immediate loosening of the purse strings.

Armed forces

Times
Britain should spend £7 billion a year more on defence or risk a catastrophe the next time the armed forces are called upon in a crisis, a newly retired admiral has warned. Rear Admiral Alex Burton said that a fleet of anti-submarine warships was already less reliable than it should be after a shortage of money delayed the timely purchase of replacements. A reduction in repair and maintenance support for ships, coupled with a smaller fleet had meant that the Royal Navy was less able to deploy around the globe today than eight years ago, even though the threat had grown.

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