Review of the Papers, Wednesday 22 August


  • The true economic benefits of the Heathrow expansion have been vastly exaggerated, according to an independent investigation into the White Paper on the third runway. The claim of a potential £7.8bn benefit to the economy, used by the Department of Transport to justify the growth of the airport, was described by investigators as "overestimated", while the financial benefits to the UK were found to be questionable by the independent consultancy Colin Buchanan, whose inquiry was commissioned by the Green Party. The 2003 White Paper that provided much of the basis for justifying Heathrow's expansion described the "strong economic benefits" of a third runway. Yet according to the independent investigation shown to The Independent, many of the figures used in the report were overestimated. Vastly different assumptions on the economic value of passenger time savings were used in the report than are normally applied to assess transport benefits. If the report had applied the usual cost to transport for "value of time", the estimated benefits would have come out 40 per cent lower.
  • Foundation trusts, the government's flagship in-house providers of National Health Service care, are sitting on a near £1bn cash mountain. They are reluctant to invest it in new services for patients because they are unclear what the rest of the NHS wants to buy, according to Monitor, their regulator. The 59 foundation trusts that had been in business longest had cash balances worth £995m, Monitor said on Tuesday as it published its review of the sector's plans for the current year. That is close to 10 per cent of the £10.2bn turnover they had last year. It is money the free-standing businesses have built up as the NHS as a whole struggled to re-balance its books last year. But it is cash that is neither being spent on current services nor invested in new ones.
  • More than 10,000 trainee doctors could find themselves without posts within weeks as medical campaigners warn of a new junior doctors crisis. The deadline to fill 22,000 NHS training posts was extended until Oct 31, but with 33,000 applicants, there are renewed warnings that thousands could lose out. Junior doctors who do not get a post under the Medical Training Application Service face taking non-training jobs, emigrating or leaving the NHS. Ministers have created 1,000 extra training posts that will be allocated after Oct 31 to unsuccessful candidates who are especially qualified. But critics have said that many doctors who have already been assigned training posts have found their salaries have been cut or that they are overqualified.
  • The number of failed asylum seekers removed from Britain has fallen to its lowest level for five years as immigration staff step up efforts to meet the prime minister's target of deporting 4,000 foreign prisoners by the end of the year, the Home Office admitted yesterday. The annual asylum and immigration figures published yesterday show that removals of failed asylum seekers are now running at the rate of 1,000 a month and are short of the government's own target. A total of 6,780 failed asylum seekers, excluding dependants, were removed in the first six months of this year compared with 10,345 over the same period in 2006. The Home Office said this highlighted the Border and Immigration Agency's commitment to remove the most dangerous people first, with a record 2,784 foreign national prisoners deported in the last financial year to April 2007.,,2153648,00.html
  • The government's troubled implementation of home information packs suffered another setback last night after it emerged that some mortgage lenders are refusing to accept a crucial part of the reports. Solicitors, mortgage lenders and even some Hips providers warned that many homebuyers would have to pay at least another £200 for their own local authority searches because those provided in the home sellers' pack cannot be trusted. Buyers need to conduct the searches before purchase to establish whether a property faces any planning constraints and complies with planning regulations. The most common problems they reveal are extensions built without planning permission or enforcement orders that have not been complied with.,,2153624,00.html
  • The Labour party raised a much-needed £5m in political donations from April to June, with a clutch of large gifts from wealthy business figures, including a gambling entrepreneur, but it remains heavily in debt. Labour's tally was a boost to Gordon Brown as he considers the option of a snap general election, but it was outstripped by the Conservatives, who received £6.3m in the second quarter, according to figures from the Electoral Commission published yesterday. Although Labour continues to rely on the trade unions, which collectively gave £2.65m or just more than half the party's total, its depleted coffers were swollen by large individual donations. The biggest single donor to Labour was Mahmoud Khayami, an Iranian-born industrialist, who gave £510,000.


  • David Cameron's autumn offensive against threatened ward closures in 29 NHS hospitals across England ran into serious trouble last night after a Conservative MP argued that services in his local hospital were not at risk from restructuring. The Conservative leader stuck to his guns as local hospital officials in other areas also insisted that their own services were not at risk, or that reorganisation plans were either still in discussion or had been satisfactorily completed. Labour went further than Henry Bellingham, Tory MP for North West Norfolk, in claiming that at least eight of the 29 hospitals named in Mr Cameron's list faced no threat to popular local maternity services or to accident and emergency departments. Others had state-of-the-art facilities being constructed nearby, party sources said.,,2153635,00.html
  • David Cameron last night called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped outright for the first time amid mounting anger that the controversial law had allowed the killer of the head teacher Philip Lawrence to escape deportation. The Conservative leader accused the Government of being "blind" to the Act's failings as it emerged that Home Office officials still regarded Italian-born Learco Chindamo as a threat to the public. Mr Cameron's call came on a day of high emotion as Mr Lawrence's widow, Frances, said the legislation, which was adopted by the Labour Government in 2000, was "rotten at the core".;jsessionid=3JN31YYWB2WDFQFIQMGSFFOAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/08/22/nlawrence122.xml
  • A political battle erupted over the London mayoral elections on Tuesday, after a Brownite pressure group launched a ferocious attack on Boris Johnson, the likely Tory candidate. Mr Johnson responded by accusing Ken Livingstone, the Labour incumbent, of "desperation". Compass, a left-of-centre group, issued a dossier on Mr Johnson, using extracts from the high-profile MP's journalistic features and political speeches to brand him as a rightwing candidate. The group argued that Mr Johnson's bumbling public persona, honed through chat show appearances, masked Thatcherite views that conflicted with the modernising, softer stance adopted by David Cameron. "His buffoonery conceals a hard-line rightwing set of views - a type of Norman Tebbit in clown's uniform," Compass said. It argued that the Tory leader's endorsement of a Johnson mayoral campaign would "destroy the false image Cameron has spent the last 18 months trying to create".
  • David Cameron's Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion was advised against standing in the next election because of fears that voters were not ready for two ethnic-minority candidates to stand against each other, she has disclosed. Sayeeda Warsi, who was made a peer during Mr Cameron's reshuffle after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, had been considering whether to stand again in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, where she was defeated by 4,615 votes by another Muslim candidate, Shahid Malik, at the 2005 election. In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Baroness Warsi has revealed how a discussion with local Conservative officials made her think twice about standing again. She said that in a discussion with the local Conservative party chairman, he had said: "You're the best candidate we have ever had. You would have made a fantastic MP for this town but at the moment, maybe because of the way that this community is, it still needs a bit of time on both sides." He then added: "Maybe the white community is not ready for two ethnic [minority] candidates again and also the Muslim community needs to take a long, hard look at itself."

Lib Dems

  • The Liberal Democrats would raise taxes on the most polluting cars to up to £2,000 a year as part of a package of measures designed to combat global warming, The Times has learnt. The tenfold increase in vehicle excise duty for the worst offending cars would provide a "real incentive" for consumers to switch to more environmentally-friendly cars, the party's climate change group has said. The Lib Dems propose that zero carbon vehicles should pay no road tax, and claim their plans would ensure that road transport emits no carbon by 2050. The policy is part of a series of measures to be presented during party conference in an attempt to regain the initiative on the environment from the Conservatives. It is likely to be adopted as party policy after a vote at next month's conference in Brighton. The policy document, Zero Carbon Britain, claims the Liberal Democrats would ensure that Britain was carbon-neutral by 2050.