Review of the Papers, Wednesday 12 September


  • The country's top police officer will today urge a new blitz on red tape and form-filling after the first review of policing for a generation. Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, is expected to blame excessive bureaucracy for keeping police from front-line duties. Sir Ronnie, a former chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was asked in the spring to draw up plans to reduce red tape and recommend which of the dozens of forms might be scrapped. He has spent the last five months taking evidence from officers across the ranks in England and Wales.  Ministers are concerned that despite record sums spent on policing and the highest number of officers in history, there are fewer on the beat. Opinion polls consistently show that the public feels less safe because of the lack of visible policing. Successive home secretaries have promised to slash red tape but police officers continue to complain that they cannot do their jobs because of targets. Sir Ronnie's report is expected to identify whether officers are ''over-interpreting'' Government practice guidelines.  
  • Children's health campaigners accused the government's School Food Trust yesterday of watering down new regulations aimed at providing healthier drinks in schools after succumbing to pressure from the food industry. In a U-turn, the trust has agreed to allow children to drink additive-laden "combination" drinks - which combine water, fruit juice and/or milk - in school canteens, rather than restricting them to the nutritionally superior "pure" drinks initially proposed. The revelation was made by the Children's Food Campaign, which also warned that plans for a voluntary code of practice to regulate the use of additives in school drinks would lead to overwhelming influence by the food industry. The School Food Trust is justifying the use of flavoured and sweetened milk drinks in particular as a way of getting children to drink more milk to boost calcium levels. The move by the trust - set up to improve the nutritional standards of food and drinks in schools after the TV campaign by the chef Jamie Oliver - comes as the government finds itself under pressure to restrict, and in some cases ban, artificial additives in children's products.,,2167140,00.html  
  • Alan Johnson, the health secretary, will begin a sustained political effort today to improve the nation's health "from the womb to the tomb". Responding to criticism from Sir Derek Wanless, Gordon Brown's adviser, disclosed in the Guardian yesterday, he will make the promotion of healthier lifestyles his department's top priority. Campaigns to tackle the increasing levels of obesity and alcoholism, which are driving thousands of people towards an early grave, will be aimed at deprived areas where life expectancy is lowest.,,2167070,00.html  
  • Rogue employers convicted of exploiting migrant workers will face being banned from recruiting any more staff from abroad, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, promised yesterday. She also told the Trades Union Congress that the immigration service would, in future, advise new migrant workers about their employment rights, including the value of a joining a trade union. The promise to take a tougher approach on the enforcement of penalties against firms that employ illegal migrants came as Ms Smith named Professor David Metcalf, a London School of Economics industrial relations expert, as the first chairman of the migration advisory committee.,,2167302,00.html
  • Scotland's "subsidy" from the Treasury should be reviewed amid growing anger over the amount English taxpayers are having to pay to fund services north of the border, the Scottish Labour party's new leader says today. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Wendy Alexander, a close ally of Gordon Brown, said there was a case for changing the Barnett Formula, which gives Scots around £1,500 more a year per head in terms of public spending than their English counterparts. She said its future needed to be reconsidered in the light of "anxieties" that Scottish ministers did not have to raise the money they spent - especially "as we are about to be the beneficiaries of the largest public spending settlement that we have ever had". The impression that Scots are getting a better deal on public services has increased since Ms Alexander's opponents, the Scottish National Party, gained power in May.
  • Ministers appealed to parents not to take family holidays during school terms yesterday as government figures showed these now accounted for roughly one in 10 school days missed by children. Most absences were approved by headteachers, but even these could damage pupils' educational progress, it was alleged, as opposition parties attacked Labour's record on school attendance. Truancy rates in secondary schools rose last year, preliminary figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families suggested, with the government's prized semi-independent academies having a worse record than traditional comprehensives. Ministers said overall attendance had improved since Labour came to power. Heads had been more rigorous about the absences they allowed and tougher in recording unauthorised absences.,,2167007,00.html


  • The Conservative Party will announce proposals tomorrow for council tax discounts to be offered to households which recycle the most rubbish. "As for green taxes, I accept that, by using them as stealth taxes, Gordon Brown has given them a bad name. I'm determined that the Conservative approach will be different. With my government, any new green taxes will be replacement taxes, not new stealth taxes. We will raise green taxes, and use the proceeds to reduce taxes elsewhere. That is the right direction for the environment and it's the right direction for our economy."
  • The Conservatives are promising to act to stop rural villages becoming preserves of the middle class and middle aged by offering incentives for landowners to provide land for development on the guarantee that it is only offered to local people and families. A proposal entitled Localhold will be included in the Conservatives' quality of life report due to be published tomorrow, potentially the most politically controversial report of the six policy commissions ordered by David Cameron 18 months ago.,,2167158,00.html

Lib Dems

  • The Liberal Democrats have been voted the greenest of the three main political parties in an audit by Britain's environmental groups published today. But the nine groups have warned that Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats all have work to do before they can claim to match their rhetoric on the environment with hard policies. How Green Are Our Parties? The Green StandardReport concludes that none of the parties is yet committed to the policies and action on the scale required to meet the range and urgency of the environmental threats facing the world. The Liberal Democrats, regarded as the party with the most long-standing commitment to the environment, come out on top despite efforts by the two biggest parties to catch up. But today's report is bad news for David Cameron, who has made the environment a symbol of his attempt to change the image of the Conservative Party. Despite his efforts, the Tories are rated behind the two other parties.