U.K News in Brief

Downing Street Soothes Recession Fears
Downing Street has insisted that the U.K economy is “slowly healing” despite ongoing speculation that the country has entered an unprecedented triple-dip recession. Thursday will see the publication of the latest growth figures for the first part of the year. If GDP contracts Britain would officially have entered another recession.

Poll Shows Immigration Concerns Unfounded
A survey has shown that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants planning on moving to the U.K is lower than expected. Work restrictions for the two countries are expiring later this year, sparking fears that there would be an influx of immigrants seeking work. However the poll suggests that most wouldn’t re-locate without a job offer.

Suarez Faces Ban Over Bite
Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez has been fined by his club after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s match between the clubs. The FA are set to review footage of the incident before deciding whether to impose a retrospective ban. Suarez stayed on the field before scoring a late equalizing goal in the game, which finished 2-2.

Cameron Defensive Over Nurse Plans
Plans to reform training for student nurses have been defended by Prime Minister David Cameron. The proposals have been blasted by the Royal College of Nurses, which also expressed concern over staffing levels. Cameron has said that the NHS should focus on the “level of care” provided.

Google Hits Back at Tax Critics
Google have defended their tax record in the U.K, after facing damning criticism last year over allegedly avoiding corporation tax. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the internet giant, which has only paid £6m in corporation tax, was responsible for “billions of pounds of start-ups” in Britain.

PM to announce tougher immigration benefit controls

by Simone Hinrichsen

David Cameron made an official announcement today defining tougher controls on unemployment and housing benefits for immigrants.

The prime minister used today’s speech to caution those coming to Britain that they can no longer expect “something for nothing”.

“While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration, I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled,” the Prime Minister said.

Currently there is no limit on how long migrants from the European Economic Area – the EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – can claim unemployment benefits while looking for a job.

From 2014, arrivals from the EU be stripped of jobseekers benefits after six months unless they can prove they have been actively looking for a job and stand a “genuine chance” of finding one.

The government vows to strengthen the “range and depth” of questions in the residence test, which checks that people meet residence requirements for housing and unemployment benefits.

Cameron also targeted illegal immigration – doubling the maximum fine for companies that employ illegal workers to £20,000 – and signal action against so-called “health tourism” that could mean non-EU nationals have to prove they hold insurance before getting care.

We spoke to Bulgarian student Snezhina Marinova, who shares her views on the immigration and benefits for Bulgarian and Romanian students.

Radio: David Cameron backtracks over private meetings

As the donations-for-influence scandal rumbles, Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to reverse his position from earlier today. Mark McKinlay analysed his speech for Napier News.

Cameron pledges boost to dementia care and research

David Cameron is expected to pledge to double funding for dementia research by 2015 to £66 million.

It is hoped that this funding increase will ensure that the UK will become “the world leader for dementia research and care”. With the figure of dementia sufferers set to rise to 1 million within the next decade the cost of health and social care related to the disease is already at £23 billion per year. This figure surpasses the cost of cancer, stroke and heat disease treatment. Mr. Cameron is also expected to lay out plans to ensure that the NHS can deal with the ever increasing numbers.

The Prime minister will say that current understanding and awareness of the disease is “shockingly low” and that the government must tackle in the same way that cancer was tackled in the ’70s and AIDS in the ’80s.

Mr. Cameron will call Dementia, “One of the greatest challenges of our time is what I’d call the quiet crisis, one that steals lives and tears at the hearts of families, but that relative to its impact is hardly acknowledged.

“Dementia is simply a terrible disease. And it is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it.”

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has also revealed that a new screening programme will be launched in an effort to catch the disease in its early stages. GPs will offer patients routine memory tests, as well as existing tests for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes said the plans were “an unprecedented step towards making the UK a world leader in dementia”. Hughes added, “Doubling funding for research, tackling diagnosis and calling for a radical shift in the way we talk, think and act on dementia will help to transform lives.”

Kirsty Jardine, Awareness Manager for Alzheimer’s Scotland spoke to us about the implications of Cameron’s announcement in Scotland. Click below to listen to the full interview.


 

Scotland Dementia Stats

  • In Scotland around 7 thousand people are a diagnosed with dementia every year.
  • Dementia is most common in older people, but can affect people in their 40s or 50s or even younger. Approximately 2,500 people with dementia are under the age of 65.
  • Scotland’s population is aging, which will have a significant impact on the number of people with dementia.

3 pm news bulletin

1.30 news bulletin

Energy investment creates 800 jobs in Leith

Renewable Energy creates 800 new jobs in Leith.

By: Anna Redman

Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, has announced their plan to create around 800 jobs at a new Edinburgh plant, which will be located in Leith.

The investment in this project will be about £125m.

[Read more…]

PM appears at Party Conference in Troon

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken in Troon at the Conservative Party Conference where he discussed the independence referendum and Scotland’s role in the United Kingdom.

David Cameron, image from United Kingdom Home Office

During his speech this morning he has stated that First Minister Alex Salmond is “dithering” over the independence referendum. He said, “So my message to the First Minister is this: we’ve delivered on devolution, stop dithering about an independence referendum, start delivering your manifesto commitment, and fulfil the promise you gave to the Scottish people.”

Mr Cameron was keen to stress the importance of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, and that it is “better off in Britain.” He also stressed that the United Kingdom is a successful union and that his government has pledged a referendum with a clear choice for Scottish voters.

The Scottish Conservatives plan to launch a new group called Friends of the Union, whose aim is to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. The group will be open to anyone, not just party members.

The Prime Minister has also spoken about the impact of the recession, stating that “there are no shortcuts” in fixing the recession. He also said that “we are the only party that understands enterprise” and “the only ones who can fix society.”

He pledged that his party would continue to support the poorest in the country, despite changes to the welfare culture.

Listen to what David Cameron had to say here:

10 am news bulletin

10 am bulletin

Cameron wants more British home-owners

David Cameron has said that he aims to help more people in the UK become home-owners.

The government has launched a scheme targeting lenders, encouraging them to offer 95 per cent deposits on new build properties.

It is hoped that the scheme will provide a financial ‘cushion’ if a property falls into negative equity.

Failed UK rescue bid in Nigeria

Chris McManus, 28, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, and Franco Lamolinara have both died following an attempt by UK Special Forces and Nigerian military on Thursday.

Both engineers were abducted last May by an Islamist group in Sokoto. While David Cameron has claimed the men’s lives were in “imminent danger,” the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano,  told the Italian media “The behaviour of the British government, which did not inform or consult with Italy on the operation that it was planning, really is inexplicable.” Mr Napolitano is seeking a political and diplomatic explanation from Britain.

Reports allege that the kidnappers turned their guns on the two construction engineers before the joint British and Nigerian military operation even entered the compound. Following the operation Mr Cameron said: “The early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors”.

However, an unnamed Nigerian official from the state security service tells the story differently, suggesting the men died in the crossfire.

Italian Senator Lucio Malan told BBC Two’s Newsnight of Italy’s dissatisfaction. “It is quite uncommon that a country that is involved is not informed before. Apparently it was a very difficult situation and it might have been the best decision but it is still to be explained why the Italian authorities haven’t been informed”.

Dvaid Cameron’s repsonse: “A window of opportunity arose to try and secure their release. We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.”

Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Richard Ottaway supports the Prime Minister telling the BBC: “I can understand the concerns and frustrations of Italian politicians but I think they’ve got to accept and recognise that these are very fast-moving, delicate operations and it’s not always possible to keep politicians briefed in advance of what goes on.”

The two men were seized by gunmen in the town of Birnin Kebbi on 12 May 2011. The Foreign Office advises  against travel to some areas of Nigeria warning that there is the threat of kidnap and terrorism.

The eco-friendly week

By Sandra Juncu

"It's time to go beyond the hour" the Earth Hour organizers are telling us

Did you know that a leaking tap can fill a bath tub in less than a week, and waste as much as 1 litre of water per hour? Did you know that research has shown as much as £1 out of every £3 spent in the UK on lighting and heating homes is wasted?

These are just some of the questions being asked this week as part of a campaign to raise awareness on environmental problems and on individual alternatives for a greener future.

[Read more…]

UN authorizes military intervention in Libya

David Cameron making his speech in the British parliament

By Edoardo Zandona’

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution last night endorsing military forces to intervene against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The decision was made in an emergency meeting, after Gaddafi warned rebels in Benghazi that loyalist forces will conduct an attack to the city with “no mercy and no pity”. [Read more…]

Cameron: Passion versus duty over “The Big Society”

Speech analysis by David Walsh

Podcast by Katy Docherty and Emily Glass

‘The Big Society’ could be compared to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in many ways. It may make a loud noise with the promise of creating something, but is the new rhetoric for old fodder merely just smoke and mirrors to save face in a time of economic difficulty?

PM David Cameron is answering questions over his "The Big Society" (Image: BBC)

Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed the need for social as well as economic recovery. In his address to assembled London social entrepreneurs this morning, the Premier outlined just what his vision of “The Big Society” was. ”It is actually social recovery as well as economic recovery, and I think we need social recovery because as I’ve said lots of times in the past, there are too many parts of our society that are broken,” he explained.

Perhaps the speech was wasted on an audience who would be potentially considered core Conservative voters and those less directly affected by Cameron’s latest crusade in social politics. Preaching to the converted, and all that. Critically, Cameron needs to assert his faith in the concept on the lower sorts on the economic rungs; to Mr and Mrs Everyday whose lives will be hardest hit by a compacting economy and spending cuts, not the section of society most financially cushioned from a fall.

Stating that it was his ‘passion’, he went on to describe that reducing the budget deficit was only his ‘duty.’ Such a conflict of interest has been noted by critics of the government who have panned the concept as being “too vague”. Mr Cameron did acknowledge this in the speech this morning, saying that he agreed it was vague in the sense that there was no single initiative being rolled out nationwide but “a stream of things that need to be done.”

What exactly is “The Big Society”? In a nutshell, it is taking emphasis off central government action and empowering local communities to organise their lives more effectively and harmoniously. The bitter irony in this rhetoric is that it will be handing power to the people who are in the firing line of his double-barrel tirade in calling for people ‘act more responsibly’.

”Whether it’s broken families or whether it’s some communities breaking down or whether it’s the level of crime, the level of gang membership, whether it’s problems of people stuck on welfare unable to work, whether it’s the sense that some of our public services don’t work for us, we do need a social recovery to mend the broken society and to me that is what the Big Society is all about,” he said. If it is the handing down of power from the government to the people, would one want to be giving control to broken and lawless communities?

So, is “The Big Society” merely being ground out the the ConDem coalition policy mill to paper over the cracks in public spending? It would seem that in having to reduce the country’s budget deficit and therefore withdrawing key public services, the government believes that the public should also do it’s duty in meeting the government halfway. As he stated, government action can only ever be half of the answer and wanted to make it easier for people to volunteer in society.

What of the voluntary sector we have? Although much funding of charitable and local government-funded schemes will dry up in the current financial drought, Mr Cameron has unveiled a £100m transition fund, christened as the Big Society Bank,  to aid voluntary organisations. Critics say this is not nearly enough to help finance the number of volunteer groups in operation in the UK, many of whom have benefited from government coffers in the past.

And what will “The Big Society” mean for communities in Scotland? Well, in Edinburgh for example, £90m will be axed by the City of Edinburgh council in its budget over the next three years. Glasgow city council will need to find £101m over the next two years. In real terms, this will mean a lull in public service provision and is leaving local councils across Scotland searching for an alternative. Is David Cameron’s “Big Society” the answer?

Listen here:

April 29th – Save the date

by Simon Black

The Royal Wedding Event - April 29th 2011 Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

April 29th 2011: Not only is it Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding or the 66th wedding anniversary for Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, and the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising ending in Ireland.  It is also the crucial week before the Scottish 2011 Poll, and many feel it could pave the way for anti-monarchist politicians to hijack the wedding celebrations.

 

With the announcement that the Royal Wedding has been scheduled for April 29th 2011, it has been received with various issues and questions raised about the date which may cause further controversy for the young couple.

“It is rather unfortunate timing,” said John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University. “You are likely to see the Royal Family getting caught up in political debate.”

A wedding day is a daunting moment in any young couples relationship. Throw in the cynical British public and the verbosity of the British press and you have a party which could get out of hand. The date has been announced as a public holiday in both England and Scotland but the main problem with this inappropriate date is the suspicious political timing.

“The timing of the wedding is entirely a matter for the Royal Family. It’s their day, they should choose the date.” says Alex Salmond and Nick Clegg admits he is happy with the date and that it  “It will remind people it is good to say yes.” This further fuels the fire that the wedding date was a political move, rather than convenience.

Political issues disrupt wedding. Photograph: Reuters

A lavish wedding of this magnitude leaves the couple vulnerable to scrutiny as politicians have a ready-made soap box next April which will coincide with the May 5th Poll and media coverage. Crucial elections scheduled for the 5th May are also being affected in Northern Ireland and Wales and campaigns are beginning to postpone these elections.

Many politicians feel the Polls will go unaffected and David Cameron has ignored the postponement requests. With the fence split there is no obvious indication of what we are to expect come April but many feel the event should be regarded as history in the making.

The British are fascinated with the history of the country. From tales of Henry VIII to the legacy of Queen Victoria we love our background. Although there is a fatigue with the Royal Family in the modern world, tradition and history should still be considered a constant.

The tax payer will be accountable for the security bill, which is projected at £5m, but if the British public are happy to pay for a foreign religious head to grace our country, a historic Royal Wedding which will depict an iconic moment in the history of the country should be celebrated.

Spain and Portugal Pressure Dublin, But No Irish Bail Out Request say’s EU

by Paul Foy

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan

Portugal and Spain have called on the Irish Government to accept financial help from the EU, as countries borrowing rates suffer as a result of the Irish crisis.

Irish Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan will discuss the crisis tomorrow with his European counterparts in Brussels, and the Spanish and Portuguese are hoping that Ireland will accept the aid to protect the rest of it’s Euro Zone partners. But the European commission today confirmed that Ireland has not applied to tap the 60 billion euro rescue fund.

This goes against claims made by Fine Gael, the main opposition party at the weekend, that the government had already applied to the EU for aid.

Fine Gael’s financial spokesman, Michael Noonan said: “I’m extremely concerned. I think the reports (of an imminent bailout) over the weekend are true … I think there is European intervention underway.”

Calls to request the bail out reached fever pitch this week, as interest on Ireland’s 10 year bonds reached 9%, although this has now subsided to 8.3%. The Bank Of Spain governor, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, said he hoped that an “appropriate reaction” from Ireland would calm the markets further.

He later told reporters: “The situation in the markets has been negative due in some part to the lack of a decision by Ireland. It’s not up to me to make a decision on Ireland, it’s Ireland that should take the decision at the right moment.”

If Ireland where to tap the monetary fund, Britain could have to pay up to 7 billion, as the previous government signed an agreement the day before David Cameron was made Prime Minister, which makes Britain responsible for 13.6% of the 50 billion pound fund. This could fall directly to British tax payers, depending on how any deal were to be structured

The UK government declined to say how much an Irish rescue package could cost British taxpayers. “There has been no application (from the Irish government for emergency funding) and we won’t speculate on it,” said a spokesman for the Treasury this morning, but Prime Minister David Cameron said  Ireland was a key trading partner and its stability was very much in the country’s interests:

“If you look at the Irish economy, Ireland is an enormously important trading partner with Britain. It’s a fact that we actually export more to Ireland than we do to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined,” he told parliament.

“Now, that is a rebuke to us, we’ve got to do better with those other countries. But Ireland is an extremely important trading partner and stability in the Irish economy and success in the Irish economy is very much in Britain’s interest.”

Dublin is resisting pressure to ask for help because the bailout terms would be severe. Ireland would have to partially surrender sovereignty over its budget and could also be forced to increase its low corporation tax rate of 12.5%, a cornerstone for attracting foreign direct investment from major multinational corporations such as Dell.

The Irish Govt has funds the keep the country running until Summer 2011, which makes it unlikely that it is facing the same fate as Greece. It is probable that this time will be used to try and kick start the economy, starting with an upcoming budget in which savage cuts are expected across the board.

National news in brief

Expenses MPs to be tried

Three ex-Labour MPs involved in the expenses scandal, including Jim Devine of Livingston, have lost their final legal challenge to facing criminal trials. They had claimed they should not be tried as they were protected by Parliamentary privilege. Nigel Pleming QC, who represented Jim Devine, said had told the Supreme Court it was not “an attempt to take them above or outside the law”.

Cameron demands prosecution for violent students

David Cameron has called for the violent student protesters who attacked Conservative headquarters on Monday to be prosecuted with “the full force of the law”, while NUS Scotland President Liam Burns warned that the issues behind the protest must not be forgotten.

Child cancer death rates fall 60%

Cancer kills 60% less children than in the late 1960s, according to research from Cancer Research UK. Nearly eight out of every ten children now survive past the five-year mark with cancer, compared to less than three out of ten in 1966-70.

Harry Potter premieres in London

The red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One took place at London’s Leicester Square last night. The film adapts the first half of the final Harry Potter book, with the final part to be released in the summer of 2011.

Facebook sobriety test released

BNP Paribas Masters

Andy Murray has reaching the quarters in Paris

The Queen can heave a sigh of relief this week as, after the creation of the British Monarchy Facebook account, The Social Media Sobriety Test was launched to help users avoid posting drunk messages. The tool allows people to block themselves from using sites like Facebook if they fail a series of coordination tests.

Murray reaches French quarter-finals

Andy Murray progressed to the quarter finals of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris last night. Murray struggled through the early stages of the match, and was given a warning for throwing a ball in anger at one point, before defeating Marin Cilic 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-3.

Government Launches New Chinese Language Initiative

David Cameron on his visit to China Picture courtesy of Hindu.com

by Paul Foy

The government has announced that it is to launch a programme to train 1000 new Chinese language teachers over the next five years.

The announcement coincides with Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Beijing alongside Michael Gove MP, the Education Secretary, and a large business delegation. The trip is part of an effort to forge closer commercial ties with China.

There is a significant increase in demand for Mandarin to be taught in secondary schools in Britain, with many parents recognising China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, and seeing the language as of greater importance that the French, German and Spanish classes, traditionally offered in schools.

The shortage of Chinese language teachers is currently the most serious obstacle to meeting the rapidly increasing demand for the opportunity to learn Chinese, and the government is hopeful that the programme will be the first step towards resolving this.

Teachers will be trained up through a combination of short courses in UK universities, as well as a special summer training course at Beijing University.

The announcement comes amidst some controversy, after it was revealed that Prime Minister Cameron risks upsetting the Chinese Government, by championing the virtues of democracy and human rights in a speech he is due to give to students at Beijing University later today.

The speech, which has not be shown to, or given clearance by Chinese officials, and will unlikely be reported in the Chinese media, has been defended by those at 10 Downing St.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Cameron said : “Of course we shouldn’t be lecturing and hectoring but it is right we have a dialogue on these things,”.

In the speech, Cameron will tell the students: “All the time the government is subject to the rule of law. These are constraints on the government, and at times they can be frustrating when the courts take a view with which the government differ, but ultimately we believe that they make our government better and our country stronger.”

The British delegation caused further upset as Ministers insisted on wearing Remembrance Day Poppies at a banquet last night. Chinese officials informed the Ministers that it was inappropriate to wear the poppies, due to the opium wars. The ministers explained the significance of the poppies to Britons, and continued to wear them.

Tories playing family fortunes

By David Walsh

David Cameron has defended planned welfare cuts by calling for the country to ‘pull together‘ in his first key note conference speech since becoming PM.

The PM urged Britons to adopt ‘a spirit of activism’ as he outlined his vision for the next five years of government.

Speaking at conference, Cameron said: ‘Changing the government is not enough. We need to change how we think about ourselves and our role in society,’ adding ‘Your country needs you.’

Cameron was expected to pacify party activists following stiff opposition to child benefit cuts announced yesterday on high earner families.

David Cameron with his wife and daughter at Birmingham Moor Street Station, 5th October.

Plans to withhold benefits to more than a million wealthy families, earning more than £44,000, were described as ‘fair’ by the Premier yesterday but provoked backlash from some party activists.

In an interview with the BBC, he admitted that imposing taxes on families earning £44,000 or more was going to be unpopular but ‘it was the right thing to do.’

Saga of the “World’s Hottest Curry”

By Jennifer Flett

When your 18th birthday arrives there is a world of possibilities opened up which none too often involve infinite amounts of alcohol, but how about eating the world’s only 18 rated curry?

The Kismot Killer is the brainchild of restaurant manager Akbar Ali, 30 and his brother who concocted this fiery feast after starting local family-run Kismot restaurant three and a half years ago.

After a string of media publicity stints promoting the so far unofficial “world’s hottest curry” it is clear the idea is to feed the nations curry obsession for anyone that will rise to the challenge.

On eating the monster curry you are asked to sign a somewhat ominous disclaimer, part of which reads:

“Kismot restaurant will take no responsibility for your bodily functions after you the curry. If you die whilst eating or as a direct result of eating the curry, members of the table will share the cost of your Kismot Killer.”

The curry industry is today worth more than £3.5bn and employing well over 100,000 people. There is even an annual British Curry Awards, with this years held earlier on in the month. It has become integrated into popular society along with the kebab and fish and chips, a factor played extensively on by Ali.

Contained within the curry itself are chillies found from all over the world including the officially hottest naga chilli. It is not a Vindaloo but a completely new recipe that will see anyone who finishes their plate into the exclusive hall of fame, but few have prevailed.

When talking about the cooking process Ali said: “My mum has to leave the kitchen when my dad is cooking because of the potency of the chillies!”

Whole ranges of people have put their health on the line to take on this challenge as Ali explained;

“We’ve had boys come in all the way from India who’ve thought they could handle it, hard boys from the worst estates of Edinburgh, but not even any of the Kismot staff have been able to handle this, everyone’s reaction is the same”

Seemingly the brothers are not just stopping at mains but have also created the first chocolate nan bread, appealing to the nations other favourite food desire. The Ali brothers thought of the idea when speculating what an Indian equivalent to a deep fried Mars bar would be before finally turning it into a reality.

On the bright side the only worry with the nan is the amount of calories going into one rather than the after effects of the Killer. One Killer attemptee, Paula Cameron invited the brothers onto her show at Leith FM equipped with numerous pints of milk and water at hand to cool of , none of which were left untouched once the Ali’s had left the building.

Cameron said of the event, “I never took the milk away from my lips; my stomach physically hurts after just one mouthful!”

Again it begs the question of why people are so intrigued by this challenge, just the mere fact it is a challenge is most probably the answer. When it comes to actual edibility, this is another question. Although a few select individuals have finished their plates the intense hotness of the dish comes first and foremost and then it seems from challengers’ reports, the toilet before taste ever becomes a factor in the entire experience.

The before mentioned British Curry Awards are described as the Oscars of spice with celebrities and even politicians such as David Cameron attending the glitzy event and showcases the best Britain has to offer. Although there are some burning issues in what seems a quite lucrative business.

Founder and organiser of the awards Enam Ali said in an appeal to politicians that the curry restaurant industry has a serious skills shortage because the chefs who usually train up locally born chefs are finding it difficult to get visas in order to work in this country.

Curry is an institution in this country and the Kismot Killer and chocolate naan bread does signify a cross-over between the traditional that restaurant owners are afraid will diminish and British taste, but it may represent the next step in curry evolvement or the greatly loved dish might just remain as it is. Undoubtedly though there will always be contenders to the title.

As a family run restaurant of a modest size, the atmosphere is nice and perfectly welcoming it brings to mind what will be the next step in the Ali brothers curry saga.

Ali disclosed that they have high expectations for their invention,“We hope to have enough money to try and enter into the Guinness Book of World Records and officially become the world’s hottest curry!”

He then summed up the curry experience quite fittingly in his statement, “Anyone who tries this is a complete dunderheed!”

PM U-turns TA cuts

By Benjamin Zand

Brown and Ainsworth

Gordon Brown and Bob Ainsworth have been forced to ponder original decisions to cut TA funds (Courtesy of the Daily Mail)

Gordon Brown and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, have been forced to back track on original plans to cut £20m  from the Territorial Army budget, amid mass pressure from MPs of all parties.

The U-turn came in advance of an opposition-led Commons debate last Wednesday that threatened to see a backbench revolt reminiscent of the government’s  defeat over the rights of former Ghurkhas to remain in Britain.

The original plans were to stop TA training and coincidentally payments altogether until April, and then re-consider options from there. This left many soldiers pondering their future with the TA, who use this to either coincide with their civilian job, or as full-time employment altogether. The majority were then left with only two options, to leave or move to fully deployable Army Barracks.

‘Joining the Army full-time, and becoming a fully commissioned officer is definitely my ambition, but this is a major problem. If it stays like this I might have to leave and get another job, the Army is my long-term aim, but I’m a student first and foremost, and I need a way of paying my bills.’ said a member of the Edinburgh OTC, which although is a group B non-deployable branch of the TA, features some of the sharpest and brightest students from the likes of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University, with the majority hoping to join the Army full time.

Another expressed his sadness at potentially not receiving the correct training to become commissioned at Sandhurst, which is the British Army initial training centre, by saying it was ‘disappointing’ and ‘upsetting’.

The TA provides up to 10% of the British troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, with around 500 TA soldiers currently serving abroad, and, although the PM and MoD have decided to still allow some funding for the TA, many think the amount allocated is still not adequate, with cuts only being reduced from £20m to £17.5m. Due to this, many training exercises will still have to be cancelled, such as the ability to use live rounds, which hinders training considerably, and tank drivers only being allowed to travel 9 miles a month, which many believe to not be enough to even reach the training grounds. Drill nights will also be restricted to only one a week, and weekends to only one a month. This has lead many to believe soldiers will not be fully trained, and will not only be a risk to themselves but a liability to the people they serve with.

Another fear was that many soldiers with invaluable experience would have been forced to leave due to financial problems.

Tory leader David Cameron brandished the PM’s decisions as ‘unacceptable’ and said they ‘contradicted his pledge to ensure each soldier in Afghanistan was fully trained and equipped’. Comments like this, combined with the fierce reaction of many reservists and MPs, could be said to be a strong factor in the PM’s and MoD’s U-turn.

Gerald Howarth, shadow defence minister, said that the government’s climbdown was a victory for Cameron. “David Cameron raised this issue at PMQs two weeks ago and we welcome this climbdown from Gordon Brown,” he said.

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: “The state of the TA is much too important to be used as a political football in this way.

“It was a shocking error of judgment for the government to have contemplated this cut in the first place.”

Many prefer to applaud the Prime Minister’s decision to U-turn, praising the fact that he listened to the majority of voices and decided to make the right choice. John Reid a Labour back-bencher praised Brown for listening to the objections, saying he had taken time out from the recession and pressing European issues to listen to his concerns.

Saying “I very much welcome the fact that the prime minister has been prepared to listen to the issues and personally intervene to make sure that the Territorial Army training budget is retained,”.

Anti-fascist campaigners hit out against David Cameron

David Cameron’s controversial alliance in the European Parliament has been hit with new criticism today by an anti-fascist group.

The Conservatives switched allegiance from centre-right group the European People’s Party to the newly formed European Conservatives and Reformists in June this year.

The move caused controversy after some of its members were accused of holding extreme right-wing views.

Foreign Secretary David Milliband accused the leader of the group, Michal Kaminski, of having an anti-semetic past and the Polish MEP has been caught on film making homophobic comments.

Margaret Woods, Scottish spokesperson for Unite Against Fascism (UAF), said today: “It is utterly deplorable that someone who might be Prime Minister is consorting with these people.”

“He’s done it to appease the euro-sceptics. It hasn’t bothered his conscience too much.”

The spokesperson also highlighted Mr Cameron’s role as Head of Policy Coordination during the Conservative’s election campaign in 2005.

She pointed to the immigration polices and restrictions on traveller settlements promoted by the Tories at the time as evidence that the party’s leader was more right-wing than he appears.

“He’s not the huggable, smiley, nice person he’s pretending to be,” she said.

The Scottish Conservatives could not be reached for comment.

Gordon Brown looks to sell assets

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Courtesy of Telegraph

By Matthew Robertson

Gordon Brown, has proposed several solutions to reducing the rising budget deficit by raising £16bn from the sale of assets.

Brown’s intention  is the auction and sale of a “portfolio of non-financial assets”  held by Whitehall and local authorities over two years.

During his speech on the economy, the prime minister outlined sales which may raise £3bn, including the Tote, Dartford crossing and the student loan book. And his opposition MP’s have been quick to criticise his plans as they suggest that he will have to do much more if he hopes to be successful in his attempt to cut public spending and turn things around during this economic slump.

According to Downing Street, the sale marks the beginning of a radical assessment of what other non-core government business activities can best be done by, or in partnership with, the private sector.

Aides added that although these actions are important, a crucial force for the reduction in debt will be the restoration of strong, sustainable growth within the economy.

In April, Chancellor Alistair Darling forecast that public borrowing would reach a record £175bn over the next two years.

The funds raised will help finance new capital investment and pay down debt, Mr Brown said.

The initial offering will also include the Channel Tunnel rail link.

The government’s 33% stake in Urenco, a European consortium which supplies equipment to enrich uranium for the nuclear industry, will be offered but the PM will insist there will be no threat to national security.

The government will also look to sell surplus real estate which is part of the £220bn owned by its departments and agencies, as another way to generate income in their attempt to re-coop capital.

From the Conservative’s viewpoint the sale is “probably necessary” but “no substitute for a long-term plan”.

Leader David Cameron said: “Obviously we do need to do this, but we must make sure – as every family knows – if you sell something it can help you in the short-term, but it doesn’t actually help you live within your means in the long-term.

“So, we’ve still got to get to grips with public spending, get to grips with the deficit – and we must make sure we get good value for money”.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable felt that there was a fundamental flaw within the policy and that the government would struggle to raise the required  funds as they would be dealing in depressed markets which wouldn’t be entirely prosperous.

He said: “What worries me about the government proposal is that they’re proposing to sell off in very depressed markets, under very depressed markets for land and for shares.”

With the economy struggling, it appears that the government, lead by a defiant Gordon Brown, will leave no stone unturned in their attempts to raise the necessary, and crucial funds to get this country back to the way it was.

Scotland Swayed by Cameron’s Speech?

By Gemma Haigh and Narelle McGowan

David Cameron: Keynote Speech

David Cameron: Keynote Speech

In Conservative Leader, David Cameron’s key note speech on Thursday he spoke of his passion for the Union, but did he do enough to get the Scots on side?

Known for their anti-Tory stance Scottish people appear to have had a shift in opinion and are open to hearing what Cameron has to say.

From public opinion the following Conservative main points seem have hit home with the Scottish people.

–          Getting the troops home from Afghanistan

–          Help the poor by ‘Getting Britain Working’

–          Give the NHS back to the people

–          Ensure the Union remains in tact

–          Break the state monopoly on the provision of education

–          Get rid of ID cards and Labour’s ‘surveillance state’

–          New technologies to fight climate change

The decision of the Scottish Sun to fail to follow suit and back the Conservative Party in Scotland was of no surprise to the Scottish people: claiming that the Conservative’s are out of touch with Scotland.

However after Cameron’s speech there is a mixed reaction on the streets of Edinburgh as to whether they would consider voting Conservative.

Listen Here:

News in Brief

By Charlotte Morgenthal and Carla Simpson

UK

Baby P doctor suspended. The doctor who failed to notice Baby P’s broken back and ribs has been suspended from practising.  The General Medical Council said Dr Sabah al-Zayyat, who examined the 17 month old two days before he died, had spotted bruises on his body but did not carry out a full examination. Related Links: BBC

Scottish Water Strike. Employees of Scottish Water will start a 24 hour strike over pay at midday.  Around 802 union members are expected to walk out.  Related Links: BBC Scotland

Glasgow Council to cut 400 jobs. Scotland’s largest council is aiming to cut up to 400 jobs in the next year in a bid to save almost £23m. Related Links: BBC Scotland

House prices falling. A survey showed today that house prices fell by 0.4 percent in November. The decline is easing but house prices are still 13.9 percent lower than have been a year ago. Related Links: Reuters BBC

Cameron to address UUP. Tory leader David Cameron will address the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) at the annual conference next week. The move comes after the two parties agreed to form an elecoral pact which will see them as joint candidates in general elections. Related Links: PA

Publicans campaign against beer duty. The pub industry has launched a campaign to axe the rise in alcohol taxes.  The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) claims the recent tax increases, which adds 3p to a pint of beer and 13p to a bottle of wine, will threaten the already struggling pub industry. Related Links: PA

World

Bangkok second airport taken by protesters. Thousands of tourists will be flown out of Thailand within the next 48 hours from military bases, and other national airports according to the country’s Tourism Minister.  Anti Government protesters shut down the second, national airport in Bangkok today to stop officials trying to see Thailand’s PM Somchai Wongsawat. Related Links: BBC – Video BBC Reuters

Suicide bomb in Kabul. A suspected suicide bomber has attacked the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. At least one civillian was killed, and police say more have died. The attack happened during a Thanksgiving celebration at the embassy. Related Links: BBC

Zimbabwe education crisis. The number of Zimbabwean children going to school has fallen dramatically from 90% to just 20%, according to a senior UN relief offcial.  Catherine Bragg, speaking at a New York news conference, said teachers were not being paid and called for ‘massive’ international assistance. Related Links: BBC

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