Review of the Papers, Friday 24 August


  • The Government is likely to miss its latest target for cutting back greenhouse gas emissions by a wide margin, a report said yesterday. Instead of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020, as it pledged to do earlier this year, on current policies it will succeed in cutting them back by no more than 15 per cent, according to the Cambridge Econometrics think-tank (CE). The report also says that it is likely to miss targets for boosting electricity derived over the next decade from renewable energy sources. However, according to CE, Britain is on course to meet its internationally-binding target, under the Kyoto climate change treaty, of cutting a "basket" of six greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent by 2010. The study is a sobering damper to the optimism since the launch of the Draft Climate Change Bill last March, which proposed to make targets for cutting CO2 legally binding.
  • Record numbers of young children are being taken from their parents and adopted - sometimes unjustly - to meet government targets, it is claimed today. Each year some 1,300 babies under a month old are placed in care before adoption, compared with 500 when the Government came to power, BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts claims today. The programme is told that there are now more than 100 cases of possible miscarriages of justice in which children have been forcibly or unjustly adopted. It says that the number of parents in England who have lost their children, despite insufficient evidence that they were causing them harm, has reached record levels. One reason, according to social workers, is that they are under pressure to meet government adoption targets - in line with ministers' policy for more children in care to be adopted. At the same time, it is claimed, parents are not always given a proper chance to challenge adoptions because of the short time limit for appeals and the secrecy of the family courts. Lawyers say that hearings in private fuel parents' sense of injustice and can in some cases breed bad practice, preventing them from properly defending themselves.
  • The new Scottish executive has scrapped plans for a £100m prison to be run by the private sector in a sign of its continuing divergence from Westminster on the involvement of business in running public sector projects. Kenny MacAskill, Scotland's justice secretary, said the decision was putting public safety, not private profit, at the heart of his new prisons policy. The move marks a growing difference of strategy between England and the regions. The Ministry of Justice has just announced that two more 600-place prisons are to be built and run under the private finance initiative in London and Liverpool. In Wales, the Labour and Plaid Cymru administration says it plans to halt the use of PFI for hospital building.
  • Students at UK grammar schools outperformed their private-sector counterparts for the first time this year, grabbing a higher proportion of top GCSE grades, results revealed on Thursday. The share of pupils who attained A and A* grades also fell among pupils at fee-charging independent schools despite a strong upward trend among other schools, in particular state comprehensives. Independent schools, which enjoy a reputation for academic superiority, fell behind selective state grammar schools as 50.8 per cent of students got grade A*-A - a decline of just under one percentage point since 2005. They also slipped back slightly in the share of students getting grades A*-C, according to analysis by the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the country's exam boards.