Review of the Papers, Friday 14 September


  • A scathing report by MPs has condemned the "disgraceful" accommodation in which Britain's armed forces are living and said the situation can only be fuelling the retention crisis. The blunt report from the Defence Committee comes the day after the Royal British Legion said the country and the Government are failing to live up to their duty of care to servicemen and women and the time has come to honour the Military Covenant. The UK military is nearly 6,000 below full strength at a time when it is stretched to its limits in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The committee insisted that it was "unacceptable" that the Ministry of Defence had not put a clear strategy in place for tackling the issues, despite significant investment over recent years. Although they acknowledged that some newly completed accommodation for single personnel was "magnificent", major problems were identified with other sites. Chairman James Arbuthnot said: "Especially at a time when we are asking the Armed Forces to put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan, they deserve to be decently housed at home."
  • The UK must launch a programme to put British astronauts in space or risk missing out on significant scientific, economic and cultural benefits, according to a panel of leading space experts. In a report, the panel said that UK astronauts would be inspirational figures who could help to stem the decline in interest in science subjects among young people. It also trumpeted the boost that British industry would receive by being involved in international space missions. Scientists say this is a critical moment for space exploration because of the signing by 14 space agencies - including those of Britain, France, India, China and the US - of an international space collaboration in spring 2006. The Global Exploration Strategy paves the way for international cooperation leading to a return to the moon, but the UK has so far said it will stay out of the human elements of the programme. The report's authors say that is a mistake. The report was commissioned by the British National Space Centre, which coordinates UK space research. It comes before the government's review of space policy, due out in October.

Lib Dems

  • Patients needing emergency NHS treatment after becoming drunk or incapacitated by drugs would be charged under proposals yesterday from Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman. The plan is one of a series of policy shifts in a strategy paper he published before the party's annual conference in Brighton next week. Mr Lamb said: "If you get rat-arsed on a Friday night and get taken to A&E where you are foul and abusive to staff, is it right for the taxpayers to fund your life-saving treatment?" He called for wide public debate on whether the community should pay for the excesses of the individual. There was a strong case for charging drunks for stomach pumps or treatment of injuries, and pubs and clubs should also be made to contribute if their complicity could be proven. The proposals are understood to have strong support from Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem leader.,,2168855,00.html