Review of the Papers, Monday 10 September


  • Plans for the world's first personal carbon trading scheme, in which people buy and sell their rights to produce pollution, are unveiled today. The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) is piloting a project later this year to test whether personal carbon trading could work on a large scale. The idea, also called carbon rationing, is being considered by the government as a radical way to curb emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from households and consumers. Matt Prescott, who runs the RSA project, said: "Personal carbon trading is a way to bridge the gap between individual and collective action. It would be a way for the government to give people a sense of purpose in their efforts to reduce their emissions." Under the initiative, due to start in November, participants will enter details of their energy use into a computer system, which already tracks the emissions of 5,000 RSA volunteers. Each person will be allocated a cap on their carbon dioxide use, and will be forced to buy credits from others if they exceed it.
  • Home Information Packs, the controversial home selling scheme launched last month, are being plagued by teething problems, with many of the first packs having to be scrapped because they have been deemed invalid. Other packs are being held up because local councils are obstructing people conducting land surveys - a crucial part of the packs. Next week, both the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as well as the National Association of Estate Agents are expected to report that the housing market has suffered a substantial slowdown as a result of the scheme. The problems, being reported by providers, come as the scheme today rolls out to one million further homes. The packs, which cost between £300 and £600, were intended to speed up house sales and were introduced at the start of August after being postponed and watered down on more than one occasion. However, the introduction saw only homeowners selling properties that had four bedrooms or more having to pay for a HIP.
  • A government consultation on nuclear power, branded a "farce" by environmental groups, has revealed that far more people are in favour of the use of nuclear energy than against it. The results were treated with scepticism by green campaigners who pulled out of the process last week. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and the Green Alliance are among the groups accusing the government of a "public relations stitch-up". The government has already been forced to repeat the consultation after the high court ruled in February that a previous study had been "seriously flawed" and "manifestly inadequate and unfair". Now the environment coalition is considering taking the matter back to court, a move which could severely delay a decision on the future of nuclear power.
  • One of the four companies hoping to build new nuclear power plants in Britain unveiled its proposals for public scrutiny today as it was revealed that more than 90 per cent of people are worried about creating more nuclear waste. As the energy giant EDF and nuclear specialists Areva launched their proposals, the Government is in the middle of a wider consultation on whether to build such power stations to help meet Britain's future energy needs. The process appeared to be in disarray recently when invited environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, pulled out, labelling it a "PR stitch-up". Existing nuclear facilities, which are responsible for about 20 per cent of the UK's energy, are due to go "off line" over the next two decades and the consultation on whether it should form part of Britain's future energy mix is due to be completed by 10 October.
  • Gordon Brown will today try to quell union anger at the growing insecurity of the British workforce due to migration of cheap and casualised foreign labour by promising to find an "extra 500,000 British jobs for British workers". The patriotic message to be delivered in his first speech to the TUC as prime minister is also intended to head off recent moves by David Cameron to warn that the scale of recent immigration from within and outside the EU has damaged the country. In a two-pronged package Mr Brown will make it more difficult for non-EU migrants to enter the British labour force by tightening English language requirements, and offer a package of measures to fasttrack Britons on the dole queue into jobs. He will also attempt to balance a warning to public sector workers to show restraint by saying that he wants to see responsibility in the private sector boardroom.,,2165979,00.html
  • GPs will be asked to work in the evening and at weekends after the Government indicated that it is to reopen the contentious issue of out-of-hours care by family doctors. Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, will tell doctors this week that it is ludicrous that surgeries shut their doors as people leave work and that GPs, whose average salary now tops £100,000, must become more flexible and "customer orientated". He will ask Sir Ara Darzi, professor of surgery at Imperial College, London, who was appointed a health minister by Gordon Brown in July, to find a solution as part of his review of the future of the NHS. The Government is hoping to avoid a clash with GPs by using a practising surgeon to conduct the talks with doctors' leaders. But the chances of an easy resolution appeared slim yesterday, with the British Medical Association (BMA) saying that it would be expensive to overhaul a system that by eight out of ten members of the public found satisfactory. They also said it was unfair on GPs because other professionals, such as accountants, were not expected to work at weekends.
  • Pregnant women are to be offered a £120 "fruit and veg" grant to improve the nutrition of unborn babies in a scheme condemned as a gimmick by opposition parties. By 2009, all 630,000 women who become pregnant annually in England and Wales will receive the one-off payment at seven months, along with advice on maintaining a balanced diet. The "health in pregnancy" grant is intended to raise birth weights in poor areas and prevent heart disease and other problems developing later in life. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats complained that the £70m-a-year scheme - to be announced this week - would be a waste of taxpayers' money and should be targeted at women most in need of help.
  • The government is to offer a £50m sweetener to persuade up to 2,200 disabled workers at 43 state-owned Remploy factories facing closure or merger to take new jobs with Asda, Tesco and other private companies. The offer will mean that the taxpayer will subsidise every Remploy worker who takes a lower-paid job by topping up their wages to the amount they would have received from their present post. They will also be guaranteed their final-salary, index-linked pensions, holidays and sick pay. Future pay rises would also be in line with existing Remploy workers'. Many would be working alongside staff on lower pay and less generous pensions.,,2165740,00.html
  • Faith groups will today signal a new compact with the government over the promotion of social cohesion in schools, in return for state education funds. The symbolic burying of the hatchet follows a row between ministers and Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders over admissions policies last year. A document has been prepared by the Department for Children, Families and Schools and the main faith groups to promote a "shared vision" of the future. It prepares the ground for an expansion of faith schools, which already make up a third of state schools in England. Of the 6,850 state-funded faith schools, most are Church of England or Roman Catholic. There are also 37 Jewish schools, seven Muslim, two Sikh, one Seventh Day Adventist and one Greek Orthodox.,,2166017,00.html
  • References to the Queen could be taken out of British passports in a bid to make them more European, it has emerged. The new documents, which could be in place as early as 2010, would bear reference to the EU constitution in order to remind UK citizens that they are part of Europe. The first page of the British passport has historically featured the royal coat of arms with a message from the Queen beginning: "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State". The words go on to outline that the citizen has a right to travel freely and has the right to protection and assistance. Under new changes, however, it has been suggested that the coat of arms are scrapped and replaced by the EU emblem of 12 stars with the message underneath reading: "Every citizen of the Union".


  • Taxes on short-haul domestic flights, a doubling of landfill tax for business, and new requirements on supermarkets to take back unnecessarily wasteful packaging, including plastic bags, are to be proposed in an attempt to give substance to David Cameron's appeal to green voters. The giant package of taxes, regulations and incentives will see a net increase in green taxes, partly to fund previously announced plans for incentives to married families and to reduce inheritance tax. The Conservative party's quality of life report will this week propose a range of incentives to increase energy efficiency in the home, including sliding cuts in stamp duty to linked to carbon efficiency. The package will be largely neutral on nuclear power. Mr Cameron has worked hard to ensure that the 700-page package from a policy review group led by Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire ecologist, and John Gummer, has been stripped of some politically dangerous sloganising that might have alienated middle of the road voters.