Review of the Papers, Thursday 27 September


  • Gordon Brown has vowed to close any tax loophole that benefits private equity, in an attempt to allay Labour concerns that he has been too generous to the "super-rich". The prime minister was challenged on Wednesday at the Labour conference in Bournemouth to tighten up the tax regime for private equity chiefs and non-domiciled executives, who have become targets of trade union anger. Mr Brown sidestepped the future status of so-called non-doms but said next month's pre-Budget report would deliver a verdict on whether private equity chiefs benefited from loopholes. "Whenever there is a loophole that shouldn't exist, we take action," he said during a question-and-answer session. "Sometimes it's very difficult to do so because you've got lawyers and accountants who are always trying to find these loopholes. But on this issue of private equity, I can assure you we will do so." Treasury officials confirmed work was continuing "across the piece" on tax issues relating to private equity but stressed there was no presumption that there should be any changes to the current system.
  • Health inspectors are to mount spot checks on NHS hospitals after finding hundreds of older people being treated without dignity or adequate privacy on wards across England. In a report today on conditions in 23 hospitals, the Healthcare Commission said only five complied with all the government's core standards for dignity in care. Others were found to provide degrading treatment, including making incontinent patients wear nappies and placing older women in mixed-sex bays shielded by skimpy curtains on insecure rails. The commission included Barts and the London NHS trust among eight hospitals that failed the dignity test and were issued with a formal warning. Another 10 trusts were told to make improvements, including seven of the government's flagship foundation hospitals, which were supposed to be among the best in the country. The commission appealed to patients, carers and relatives to blow the whistle whenever they have concerns about the treatment of vulnerable older people.,,2177668,00.html
  • Ed Balls pledged to give town halls a "greater strategic role" in co-ordinating schools such as business-sponsored city academies on Wednesday in a speech that appeared to depart from the Blairite emphasis on increasing choice and diversity. The most eye-catching proposal by the children's secretary was to grant the exam standards body independence from ministers to counter charges GCSEs and A-levels are becoming easier. In a less-noted passage that aides insisted was a change in emphasis not policy, Mr Balls elaborated on "putting standards before structures". Union leaders opposed to Tony Blair's push for diversity and competition hailed it as a "pretty explicit back-to-basic line that returns academies to the local authority fold". Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: "Ed Balls' welcome commitment to standards not structures I hope means that we have moved beyond the damaging debate about diversity of schools and on to finding the best way [to back] teachers and [to focus] on children's needs."
  • Home owners and "have-a-go heroes" defending themselves against burglars and muggers will have greater protection from prosecution, under an urgent review of the law to be unveiled by Jack Straw today. The move - to be announced by the Justice Secretary in his Labour conference speech - will be aimed at ensuring that those protecting themselves or their homes in a "proportionate" way will not find themselves in court. A source close to Mr Straw said last night that the plan was to reform self-defence laws in a way that "better balances the system in favour of victims of crime". "This will be aimed at ensuring that those who seek to protect themselves, their loved ones and their homes as well as other citizens have confidence that the law is on their side," the source added.


  • Boris Johnson has been nominated as the Conservative candidate to take on Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral election. The Henley MP and columnist for the Telegraph was endorsed by party leader David Cameron, who said he would be an "excellent candidate" and urged for a united party to help remove Mr Livingstone - nicknamed King Newt by his new contender - from office. "It's about time that all Londoners had the chance to vote for real change," Mr Cameron said. Although dismissed as a joker by critics, Mr Johnson has insisted he is "deadly serious" about the fight ahead that could he see him chosen London mayor after the elections in May next year. Today he thanked the London Conservative members and non-members who voted for him in the first London-wide primary run by any political party, saying that it was clear to him from touring the boroughs that "King Newt's days are numbered".;jsessionid=1GLBEGRUUN2VPQFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/09/27/nboris227.xml