Review of the Papers, Tuesday 11 September


  • Thirty-year-old train carriages are being brought out of mothballs by the Government to try to ease the rail overcrowding crisis. Inter-city trains, whose heyday was the late 1970s, are making a comeback with four operators planning to reintroduce them on long-distance routes. Dozens of carriages taken out of service several years ago are being refurbished and rushed back on to the tracks to meet the soaring demand. "At one point nobody wanted to touch them, now operators are fighting over them," one source said last night. While the industry is waiting to hear where it will be able to deploy the 1,300 extra carriages that the Government promised in July for 2014, the return of the 125s is emerging as a quick fix offering thousands of extra seats. With the 125 models providing around 500 seats, they have far more capacity than some of the newer trains which replaced them - in some cases nearly twice as many seats.
  • The Ministry of Defence's 20 biggest weapons projects are £2.6 billion over budget and a total of 36 years behind schedule - six times longer than the Second World War - a damning report by MPs reveals today. The report voices concern about the massive scale of the cost over-runs and delays, and the MoD's failure to hold staff to account when things go wrong. Ministers are also accused of "massaging" the figures after claiming they had cut the costs of the 20 projects by £781 million following a review of the department's spending plans. Today's report by the Commons defence select committee says that £448 million of these "cuts" did not actually result in any saving for the taxpayer, because the money was simply transferred to other parts of the defence budget. It warns that ministers may now have to make cuts to replace this funding.
  • The architect of Gordon Brown's strategy for increasing the NHS's annual budget by £43bn over the past five years will today deliver a stinging criticism of the inadequate return the investment has yielded, the Guardian can reveal. Sir Derek Wanless, hand picked by Mr Brown to review the NHS in 2002, will say it is not yet on course to deliver the first-class healthcare system that was promised because the benefits of extra spending were eroded by poor productivity, IT delays and a worsening in the British lifestyle that is fuelling an obesity crisis. Sir Derek will warn that failure to correct these problems will leave the NHS requiring further huge injections of extra funding over the next 20 years. "Such an expensive service could undermine the widespread political support for the NHS and raise questions about its long-term future," he will say in a report for the King's Fund, an independent charitable foundation. His report also questions the value of huge, and controversial, pay rises given to GPs and consultants.,,2166528,00.html
  • British scientists involved in pioneering research to grow replacement organs in genetically modified farm animals have moved their work to the US, complaining they were being stifled by red tape. The research, led by Professor Robert Winston, the Imperial College-based fertility expert and Labour peer, stalled after government restrictions barred the work on genetically modified pigs. The team aims to modify the animals in such a way that their organs can be transplanted into humans without triggering a reaction from the immune system. If the work is successful, the animals, which have hearts and kidneys almost identical in size and shape to human ones, could provide healthy new organs for thousands of Britons on the NHS organ waiting list. "One of the biggest problems in Britain is the regulatory framework. It's been very difficult to get this sort of animal work going," Prof Winston said yesterday. "If we agree it's fundamentally ethical to use them as food, then surely the ethical principle says it's better to use them to save lives."
  • The Ministry of Defence has asked climate change experts to identify regions of the world where global warming could spark conflict and security threats. The Met Office will today announce a £12m research contract with the MoD as part of an effort to map the likely impacts of increased temperatures. The research aims to identify countries where battles could break out over increasingly scarce supplies of food and water, as well as predict the likely conditions in which British troops may have to fight in future. Roy Anderson, the MoD's chief scientific adviser, said: "The MoD has identified climate change as a key strategic factor affecting societal stresses and the responses of communities and nations to those stresses. We have a pressing need for the best available advice on future climate change and, based on these predictions, assessments of the impacts of those changes on human societies at the regional and local scale."
  • Ministers paved the way for more State-funded Muslim, Sikh and Hindu schools yesterday with a pledge to remove "unnecessary barriers" to religious groups. Ed Balls, the children's minister, said additional money would be made available to allow the hundreds of private religious schools to convert to the state sector. It is thought the move will lead to a rise in the number of religious places for Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Seventh Day Adventist and Greek Orthodox children. In a speech yesterday, Mr Balls insisted the expansion would be tempered by new rules forcing all schools to promote better race relations and understanding between religious groups. He also pledged that officials would "root out" any school guilty of using banned admissions rules such as over-complicated application forms and interviewing pupils to discriminate against certain children.  
  • Every home seller could have to HIP as soon as the end of next month. The Government has signalled that it is determined to press ahead with the roll-out of HIPs following the extension of the scheme yesterday to properties with three bedrooms or more. Despite teething problems and much hostile reaction to the packs, the Government has assured HIP providers that by the end of the year, possibly as soon as next month, every one of the 1.9 million properties that come on to the market each year will need one. The packs, which cost between £300 and £600, were intended to speed up house sales. They were introduced at the start of August after being postponed and watered down on more than one occasion.  


  • A crackdown on powerful supermarket monopolies to prevent them from throttling local shops and farmers is to be proposed this week by the Tory party in a move that will put it at odds with some of Britain's most dominant companies. The Conservatives will try to restrict the number of out-of-town supermarkets by rebalancing planning law and giving councils the powers to impose car parking fees on them. A strengthened statutory supermarket code would give farmers an opportunity to complain in confidence about the behaviour of supermarkets to an independent watchdog.,,2166498,00.html