POLITICS
01/11/2013 05:26 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: 'Grandees Overseeing Grandees'

The five things you need to know on Friday 1 November 2013...

1) RIFKIND DEFENDS ISC

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who oversees the work of the British intelligence agencies, has defended his suitability for the role, amid accusations that he and his committee are not up to the job. During a parliamentary debate yesterday MPs questioned whether there was a conflict of interest, given the former foreign secretary might be scrutinising operations that he authorised while in government. Tory MP Douglas Carswell summed up the thoughts of some MPs with this tweet: "Is the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee aware what day of the week it is? Doubtful #GrandeesOverseeingGrandees #SW1disease."

2) SNOWDEN TO GERMANY?

Edward Snowden may be invited to Germany as a witness against the US National Security Agency, The Guardian reports. "Action is under way in the Bundestag to commission a parliamentary investigation into US intelligence service spying and a German politician met Snowden in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the matter. Hans-Christian Ströbele, the veteran Green party candidate for Berlin's Kreuzberg district, reported that the US whistleblower was prepared in principle to assist a parliamentary inquiry."

3) PHONE HACKING AFFAIR

Prosecutors will continue to lay out the case against former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson and other colleagues accused of phone hacking today, after it was yesterday revealed that the former colleagues had an affair for at least six years.

The affair between Coulson and Brooks was revealed by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC during the second day of his prosecution opening at the Old Bailey as he used it to demonstrate how close the former colleagues were. Edis read extracts from a letter Brooks sent to Coulson in February 2004, in which she declared her love for her then deputy editor Coulson.

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4) RBS SELL-OFF

George Osborne has admitted Royal Bank of Scotland is unlikely to be re-privatised before the 2015 general election as he opted for a faster run-down of the bank's toxic assets. The 81% state-owned bank will create an internal "bad bank" of £38 billion of problem loans, but sidestepped a feared full external split after a Government-commissioned review said that would be too risky and expensive. It came as RBS reported losses of £634 million in today's third-quarter results, hurt by one-off items and an additional charge of £250 million to cover mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

5) MPS VOTE FOR HS2

MPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of constructing the multi-billion new high-speed rail line known as HS2 on Thursday. 17 Tory MPs rebelled against the government on Thursday and opposed the Bill. The rebellion was not as high as the 60 that had been predicted earlier this week. Tory rebels sought to play down this prediction on the eve of the vote, noting the government Whips office had been working hard to whittle down the number. Conservatives minded to vote against the Bill were offered incentives, including more time off in exchange for their loyalty.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph: George Osborne should halt the train journey no one wants to take.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian: The Red Cross needs to reclaim its hijacked neutrality

Philip Collins in The Times: Memo to the Big Six: cut your prices now

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