Mehdi's Morning Memo: High Speed (Trains, Not The Wind)

The five things you need to know on Monday 28 October 2013...


Alternatives to building Britain's second high-speed rail link which would instead upgrade existing lines could need 14 years of weekend closures to complete, The Guardian reports this morning. According to government backed studies published today, 2,770 weekend closures would be required to replace the intended capacity of HS2. The warning comes as the government prepares for a significant rebellion on the tory backbenches against the project when it comes up for a vote in the Commons later this week. David Cameron has indicated that Labour's support will be needed if the project is to go ahead, something which is not guaranteed.


The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports that the US National Security Agency swept up data on 60 million phone calls in Spain over the course of one month in 2012. This latest revelation comes from documents uncovered by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The El Mundo story was written by Glenn Greenwald and Germán Aranda. It comes as MEPs and German officials travel to Washington to demand answers from the Obama administration over the reports that the NSA tapped the phones of European leaders including Angela Merkel. David Cameron is due to give a statement in the Commons today about last week's European summit. He can be expected to be asked by MPs what discussions took place among EU leaders on the allegations.


Speaking of phone hacking. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson will appear at the Old Bailey today to face trial over charges linked to phone hacking and alleged corrupt payments to public officials. Both accused of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission. They are accused of conspiring with former News of the World (NOTW) head of news Ian Edmondson, the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner and others to illegally access voicemails between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...: Is this your emu?


Job-seekers in London are starting to claim the Universal Credit, as the Government's troubled flagship welfare reform programme reaches the capital for the first time.

The benefit was being rolled out for new claimants in Hammersmith, west London, where job-seekers were also required to sign a new commitment setting out what they must do in return for welfare. Hammersmith is only the fifth area to pilot the new benefit, which was initially intended to cover the whole of the UK by this month.

In 2011, the then welfare minister Chris Grayling told MPs that from October this year, "all new claims for out-of-work support would be treated as claims to universal credit". But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced in July that just six Jobcentres, including Hammersmith, would begin taking Universal Credit claims "starting from October".


The three police officers accused of giving misleading accounts of a meeting with former chief whip Andrew Mitchell as the "plebgate" scandal erupted should apologise for their actions, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has said.

Sir Hugh Orde called on Police Federation representatives Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones to apologise in the same way as the chief constables representing their forces - Warwickshire, West Mercia and the West Midlands.


@DavidJonesMP Whitehall sealed off. Blue flashing lights outside Gwydyr. Crane has collapsed onto Cabinet office.

‪@chhcalling‬ Whoever stole my copy of Microsoft Office - I will track you down.You have my Word.


Chris Huhne in The Guardian: Green taxes will ultimately cut our bills as well as saving energy

Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph: They’re playing politics with progress

Owen Jones in The Independent: The Grangemouth dispute makes it clear who really runs the country

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