Review of the Papers, Tuesday 18 September


  • Fifteen government departments and agencies, including Whitehall's biggest spenders, face the threat of legal action for failing to carry out their duties under race equality legislation, according to a final report from the Commission for Racial Equality to be published later this week. The CRE, which is to be wound up in two weeks' time after 30 years of race equality work in Britain, has "named and shamed" the departments involved and urgently written to the Cabinet Office detailing its "deep concerns about the widespread non-compliance" around Whitehall, despite the fact that they have had more than five years to meet standards. The CRE has asked its lawyers to start legal action against 15 government departments and agencies, including the Cabinet Office, health, education, agriculture, local government, trade and industry, defence, the Home Office and the Foreign Office. Among the few that escape censure are the Treasury, work and pensions, international development and the justice ministry. The CRE says it expects its successor, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, to continue with legal action. The CRE's final monitoring report seen by the Guardian cites as one glaring example its own sponsoring agency, the Department of Communities and Local Government, that has not yet collected records on the ethnic background of 58% of its staff.,,2171485,00.html  
  • Middle-class parents risk being priced out of independent schools as fees have risen by almost 40 per cent in five years, according to a new study. Parents already sacrifice holidays abroad and expensive cars to send their children to independent schools, says the study by Mtmconsulting, a business consultancy that specialises in the education sector. Almost one in 10 have even re-mortgaged their house to help pay fees. The report says that if the independent sector "fails to curb the ever-rising cost" of school fees, pupil numbers will start to fall. It warns that working-class families and single parents - who make up 14 per cent of those sending children to independent schools - will be hardest hit. If current trends persist, five per cent of those parents will no longer be able to afford an independent education in the next five years - equivalent to 31,000 children. Any downturn in the economy may lead to further losses, particularly among the middle class, adds the report.  

Lib Dems  

  • Far-reaching proposals to transform Britain into a carbon-neutral economy within 40 years won overwhelming backing from the Liberal Democrat rank and file yesterday. Delegates at the party's annual conference in Brighton approved a series of measures, including plans to remove petrol-driven cars from the roads by 2040, invest billions in the railways and pour resources into renewable power to give Britain a network of non-carbon emitting electricity generators. But an attempt by some delegates to lift the party's historic antipathy to new nuclear power stations was rejected, despite claims that the nuclear option was needed to prevent a greater reliance on gas and coal-fired plants. Chris Huhne, the party's environment spokesman, declared: "Do we want a world where the wind whips the tiles from our roofs, fells trees that have grown for generations, where it rains four inches in a day, the same as a normal month; rain that fills up the gutters and drains and sewers? We are tearing up nature by the roots." He insisted he was not advocating a fall in living standards, adding: "My green vision for Britain is not about hair shirts but wholesome living. Far from being a bad life, the greening of Britain will be better, like the reformed smoker who can taste and smell again.