Review of the Papers, Thursday 13 September


  • Companies are struggling to find skilled staff as thousands leave school with a poor grasp of the three Rs, Tesco's chief executive has claimed. Low standards of literacy and numeracy among the young has left the economy exposed to competition from India and China, said Sir Terry Leahy. In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, he said many firms were forced to offer on-the-job training as a "sticking plaster" to cover for the failings of schools. His remarks follow the publication of figures showing a quarter of teenagers had almost nothing to show for 11 years of compulsory education. Last year, about 147,000 pupils failed to achieve any GCSEs higher than a grade D. This included 28,000 - almost one in 20 - who failed to gain a qualification of any kind. Sir Terry pledged that Tesco, Britain's biggest private-sector employer, would improve training standards for its 280,000 workers. But he said: "What we cannot do is act as a bandage or a sticking plaster for the failures of some parts of our education system. Too many children have been leaving school after 11 or 13 years of compulsory education without the basic skills to get on in life and hold down a job.
  • The Government is under pressure to close Britain's "health inequalities" gap amid growing public concern that the poorest people get a raw deal from the National Health Service. More than three out of four people (77 per cent) believe ministers should ensure that life expectancy rates are broadly the same nationwide, while only 13 per cent disagree, a survey suggested yesterday. Across Britain, the poorest people live for an average of 76.2 years, while the richest live for 80.4 years. Life expectancy in Manchester is 74.8 years, while in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea it is 82.4 years. Half of the population (49 per cent) believes money needs to be switched to poorer areas, according to the YouGov poll of 3,000 people carried out for the Fabian Society, the influential socialist movement with close links to the Labour Party. Forty per cent want to see a reduction or slower rise in NHS spending in more affluent areas to pay for it, and only 9 per cent favour an increase in taxes. But 35 per cent people think the "health gap" would not be narrowed by spending money, researchers found.
  • Rank and file police leaders yesterday reacted with scepticism to proposals to introduce hand-held computers for patrolling constables and "virtual courts" as part of a drive to cut bureaucracy. Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, predicted that without cash and political will many of the recommendations made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in his interim report on the future of policing would fail to become a reality. Sir Ronnie, who is the chief inspector of constabulary, identified a "culture of risk aversion" within the police that had generated a "staggering burden" of paperwork, often on the basis of the just-in-case principle, with officers afraid to use their own judgment.,,2167843,00.html
  • Drivers of company cars may be prevented from breaking the speed limit by underbonnet devices that block acceleration and gently apply the brakes, as part of proposals designed to reduce emissions and improve road safety. Businesses that agree to install the speed limiters on their fleets will be rewarded with cheaper insurance, lower fuel costs and possibly tax incentives. The Government-appointed Commission for Integrated Transport believes speed limiters would be effective even if only a small proportion of vehicles were fitted with them because other traffic would get stuck behind them. It is recommending that the four million cars operated by businesses in Britain should be targeted first, with the system introduced to other vehicles at a later stage. The commission favours an advanced form of speed limiter, known as Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), which uses a digital speed map and a satellite positioning system to ensure that the driver complies with the local limit.


  • David Cameron will finally bite the bullet on green taxes today by backing the imposition of VAT on aviation fuel on domestic flights and a new airline passenger tax linked to the carbon efficiency of the flight. The Conservative party's quality of life report, chaired by John Gummer, the former environment secretary, and Zac Goldsmith, the wealthy ecologist, will also propose a moratorium on road building, as well as call for a review on whether to build further airport runways. However, it will not rule out further runway expansion, following pressure from pro-business interests in the party. Mr Cameron is braced for criticism from the rightwing of his party, angry at the suggestion of any tax rises, amid concerns from some that green taxes are no more popular than any other tax rise. Key themes of the report will be a drive towards greater domestic energy efficiency, and a call for passengers to switch from domestic flights to railways. Some senior Conservatives such as Tim Yeo have suggested that all domestic flights could be abolished within 10 years. Today's report will suggest many of the domestic airline slots in airports could be released for international flights, and call for extra investment in high speed rail.,,2167775,00.html