The papers: Health focus and spying revelations

  • 18 June 2014

Health stories seem to have captured the interest of the papers, and they certainly cover a wide area.

The Times reports that nurses will call for patients to be charged £10 a time to see their GP to deter people troubling doctors with minor ailments.

The paper says the Royal College of Nursing congress in Liverpool will be told the move would raise £1.2bn a year for the NHS.

It says fees would go against the the health service's founding principle of free care at the point of use.

But in a leading article, the Times says there is no such thing as free healthcare, and sooner or later NHS patients may have to accept this means charging for doctors' appointments.

Its front-page cartoon has a nurse at a patient's bedside, saying: "According to his notes, doctor, he's not short of a bob or two."

The Daily Telegraph says new medical recommendations have warned that the benefits of taking aspirin to combat the dangers of heart rhythm disorders are outweighed by the possible side-effects.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express says the government has unveiled a scheme to reward health trusts which reclaim money for treating EU patients - what the paper calls a new crackdown on welfare tourism.

In an editorial, the Express declares: "We should reclaim what we are owed for NHS care."

The Daily Mail leads on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's call for cosmetic surgery to be no longer available on the NHS.

The paper says he said he could understand public anger at high-profile cases of breast enlargements, dental work and slimming treatments.

Mr Hunt insisted that all decisions must be taken on "clinical need", and public money must not be used to pay for surgery just to improve someone's looks, it added.

Spy anger

The papers are full of the revelations that UK security services are legally monitoring people's activity on services such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Guardian says the government's most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored because they are "external communications".

The paper says it is the first time the government has admitted that UK citizens are deemed legitimate targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting messages.

In a comment piece, James Ball says the intelligence agencies' interpretations of the laws that underpin mass-surveillance programmes are so broad as to effectively render UK citizenship an almost irrelevant protection from government surveillance".

"To enter your house, the government needs a warrant," he writes. "You have a right against self-incrimination in police interviews. But online, through legal sophistry, such rights dissolve to nothing."

The Daily Mirror has the headline: "Spooks: We ARE spying on your Facebook."

The Mirror says a fierce row broke out after the government admitted using a loophole to monitor Facebook and Google searches because the accounts are based outside Britain.

Mr Farr's admission of mass surveillance without a warrant sparked angry reactions from privacy campaigners and MPs, says the paper.

The Times says Mr Farr's statement was made public after a legal challenge by a number of privacy and civil liberties groups - and his "rationale was roundly attacked by campaigners".

Mr Farr argued that online surveillance was needed for the protection of national security.

"Law permits snooping on everyday web use," is how the Daily Telegraph sums it up in its headline.

"Google and other web firms' largest data centres are generally found in the US and elsewhere in Europe, meaning a search in the UK is likely to involve an overseas communication," it notes.

China deals

The visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Britain generates plenty of attention and analysis.

The Times says China could design and run the next generation of British nuclear power stations after a series of deals ushered in a new era of co-operation over energy and infrastructure.

In the light of a wider package of £14bn worth of deals, Times political sketch writer Ann Treneman says: "The Chinese premier's first name is Keqiang which, when pronounced, sounds a bit like 'Ker-ching' which, really, is just about perfect."

The Guardian says China was given the chance to take a decisive stake in the next stage of Britain's energy and transport infrastructure.

But the two most controversial aspects of the deals will allow Chinese firms to own and operate a Chinese-designed nuclear power station and to build and operate rail lines in Britain, it adds.

"The double doors opened and in walked the most important man in Britain. Quickly followed by David Cameron," says sketch writer John Crace.

"It's a deal: China to run our N-plants," is the headline in the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, the Mail's Quentin Letts writes: "Prince Charles, gifted diplomat, once referred to Chinese officials as 'appalling old waxworks'. Premier Li Keqiang is an altogether sparkier figure - a far cry from Madame Tussauds."

The Daily Telegraph says China signalled its opposition to Scottish independence when Mr Li said he wanted to see a "united United Kingdom".

In yet another boost for the No campaign ahead of September's referendum, Mr Li said he wanted a "strong" union, the paper continues.

The Financial Times says Mr Li became the latest world leader to oppose Scottish independence, at a press conference intended by Downing Street to show a new warmth between him and David Cameron.

Diplomatic thaw

The Financial Times leads with a report saying the Iraqi Islamist militant group Isis has since 2012 issued annual reports outlining in numerical and geographical detail its operations.

"It is not a corporation and does not have shareholders," says the FT, "but the military success and brutality of the jihadi group surging through Iraq has been recorded with a level of precision often reserved for company accounts."

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph covers the announcement that the British embassy in Iraq's neighbour Iran is to reopen.

The paper says the move will go ahead without agreement on compensation for the damage caused by a mob almost three years ago.

The Telegraph calls it a new chapter in relations with Iran.

But it comments: "The question is not whether Mr Hague should reopen the the embassy, but whether he is doing so on the right terms. Sadly, the foreign secretary has failed to show the sort of firmness that authoritarian regimes respect."

An Independent editorial says improved diplomatic relations with Iran are a silver lining to the vast black cloud hanging over the advance of Isis.

"The return of a British embassy to Iran is a concrete sign of progress in a historically strained relationship," it says.

The Daily Mail says Britain signalled an extraordinary U-turn on Iran in a bid to halt the march of jihadi extremists in Iraq.

The move is aimed at brokering talks with Iran on helping to combat the threat posed by Isis fanatics who have swept through northern Iraq, it adds.

In an editorial, the Mail urges the foreign secretary to "keep his mind on the job" - a reference to his appearances with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, among other things.

It says: "To most of the world, it is blindingly obvious that Tony Blair, who inflamed the Middle East by invading Iraq, could hardly be worse qualified to serve as the international community's peace envoy to the region.

"Yet far from acknowledging this, Foreign Secretary William Hague defends the former prime minister's warmongering."

The Sun says the reopening of the embassy signalled a thaw in relations with Iraq.

It comments: "It is bizarre that we should be warming to our old enemy Iran. But neither nation wants Iraq to implode."