POLITICS

Five Bits Of Buried Bad News From The Last Week Of Parliament

We looked at some of the things the government would rather sweep under the carpet.

20/07/2017 17:26
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Today marks the last day of term for MPs, as Parliament prepares to break for a six-week long recess.

It’s not unusual to see governments rush out unpopular announcements quietly in written and oral statements from ministers - often cramming dozens of announcements into the final few days of business - and this summer is no exception.

Here are five bits of bad news Theresa May would rather people weren’t talking about:

1. Child refugees 

The Home Office has been under pressure for several months to reverse its decision to scrap the Dubs scheme, which was set up to allow the UK to assist vulnerable children fleeing conflict alone. 

While the government initially said it had capacity to offer 480 places - revising the figure up from the original 350 - it emerged no youngsters have been taken in the UK under the scheme this year.

In 2016, 200 children came to the country and cross-party politicians, including Yvette Cooper and Tim Farron, have this week written to the prime minister to ask her to keep the scheme open. 

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2. Pensions 

Works and pensions secretary David Gauke quietly announced the state pension age would rise by a year on the same day the BBC published details of how much it pays its star presenters.

The pension age will rise from 67 to 68 from 2037 - seven years earlier than planned - affecting everyone under 40 years of age.

Gauke denied it was an attempt by the government to bury bad news, telling the BBC: “This was planned in our grid before I was even aware the BBC presenter story was going to be put out there. It didn’t feature in our thinking.”

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3. Railways

Transport secretary Chris Grayling used his “update” to the House to reveal plans to electrify railway lines in Wales, the midlands and the north of England. 

He said the government would instead introduce faster trains with more seats and better on-board facilities, claiming it was the “biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era”.

Labour accused the Tories of “taking people for a ride”, while the Lib Dems said the decision was “a betrayal of passengers across the country”.

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4. Diversity in the courts

Figures released on the final day of Parliament show, unsurprisingly, that the majority of senior court judges are white men.

The percentage of female court judges was highest in the south east (36%), with the lowest female representation in the South West (21%). London and the Midlands had the highest representation of black and minority ethnic court judges (9% and 8% respectively), with BME representation in Wales at just 1%. 

Nationally, just 11% of magistrates identified as BME and just 4% of magistrates are under 40, compared with 86% aged over 50.  

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5. Crime statistics 

Another burst of information came from the Office of National Statistics, which published the Home Office’s crime figures between March 2016 and 2017.

They showed an overall increase in crime of 10%, with and 18% rise in violent crime, including a 20% surge in gun crime and knife offences.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The Tories have cut police officer numbers again in the latest 12 months and now there are well over 20,000 fewer than in 2010. 

“And despite promising to protect budgets, they continue to cut funding even as a senior figures in policing line up to warn they are overstretched and struggle to cope with demand.”

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