Will David Cameron's EU child-benefit plan work?

Woman pushing pushchair Image copyright AFP

It is not quite the pledge he made in his manifesto, but is David Cameron's compromise on paying child benefit to EU migrants workable?

The Conservatives won power promising: "If an EU migrant's child is living abroad, then they should receive no child benefit".

The letter from EU President Donald Tusk, setting out a possible new deal for the UK, says something rather different - such benefits could be indexed "to the standard of living in the member state where the child resides".

Rather than "no child benefit", EU migrants from poorer countries would receive less child benefit.

Opponents of the Tusk deal have been quick to suggest even this negotiated position is impractical.

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Bowie: the creative force who changed Britain

  • 12 January 2016
  • From the section UK
Flowers start to mount up by David Bowie mural in Brixton Image copyright Getty Images

The backlash starts now. A mountain of "why-oh-why"s is piling up, the collective cry of those for whom David Bowie was no more than a pretentious pop star, a weirdo with screwed-up eyes and screwed down hairdo.

There is an argument that the blanket coverage of his death has less to do with artistic merit and more to do with the teenage crush of a thousand baby-boomers who now find themselves sitting behind the desks of media power.

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Boxing Day Family Puzzler 2015

  • 26 December 2015
  • From the section Magazine
Mark Easton game image

I am delighted to present my eighth annual Boxing Day Family Puzzler - a festive quiz that rewards intuition and inspired guesswork as much as knowledge and memory.

No-one should be expected to rack their brains on Boxing Day, so in this game no-one is expected to know any of the answers.

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How a Mexican resort invented eco-tourism

  • 5 December 2015
  • From the section Magazine
Huts at Xcaret eco park Image copyright iStock

As governments meet in Paris to try to thrash out a deal for a sustainable planet, in the tropical rainforest of the Yucatan they are quietly celebrating their own sustainability anniversary.

I stumbled upon the plans for that jungle party while on a recent family holiday to Mexico. Like increasing numbers of Brits, I had saved up for a special trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, unaware that we were heading to the birthplace of "sustainable tourism". Twenty-five years ago this week, the world's first eco-park opened its gates to a new kind of visitor.

Read full article How a Mexican resort invented eco-tourism

Police cuts: Is the force drowning or shroud-waving?

  • 20 November 2015
  • From the section UK
Policeman Image copyright iStock

The warning to the home secretary that cuts to police budgets might "reduce very significantly" the UK's ability to respond to a Paris-style terror attack is seen by senior officers as a trump card in their campaign to change the chancellor's mind before next week's spending review.

It is thought George Osborne is considering reductions of around 20% in the amount spent on the police in England and Wales. That, a leaked document from a senior officer argues, is more than double what the force could withstand if it is to offer a viable response to multiple simultaneous terrorist incidents such as we saw across Paris a week ago.

Read full article Police cuts: Is the force drowning or shroud-waving?

UN attempt to decriminalise drugs foiled

  • 19 October 2015
  • From the section UK
A packet of drugs Image copyright IStock

An attempt by UN officials to get countries to decriminalise the possession and use of all drugs has been foiled, the BBC can reveal.

A paper from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been withdrawn after pressure from at least one country.

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The political power of bricks and mortar

  • 19 October 2015
  • From the section UK
Houses in a suburb of London Image copyright Getty Images

Few deny that the UK is facing a housing crisis, the subject has become a hot political topic. But the best way to solve it is still widely disputed, as national ambition confronts local anxiety and tradition.

The Prime Minister David Cameron told his party conference earlier this month that housing was the "one big piece of unfinished business in our economy" and he wanted a "national crusade" to get homes built.

Read full article The political power of bricks and mortar

Searching for the truth about child abuse

  • 7 October 2015
  • From the section UK
Dolphin Square sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many of the abuse allegations centre on Dolphin Square, near the Houses of Parliament

The title of last night's BBC Panorama programme was "The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth?".

Its answer? "We really don't know".

Read full article Searching for the truth about child abuse

Evening classes that promise to make you happy

  • 21 September 2015
  • From the section UK
Dalai Lama, July 2015 Image copyright Getty Images

The Dalai Lama has given his blessing to a new course of evening classes, available across the UK, promising to make participants happier… and the world a better place.

The eight-week course, designed by the Action for Happiness organisation, claims to be scientifically proven to increase life satisfaction, mental wellbeing, compassion and social trust.

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Have we changed our mind about asylum?

  • 7 September 2015
  • From the section UK
British front pages after a child's body is discovered in Bodrum Image copyright EPA

Our conscience has been pricked, our hearts have been softened. The tragic image of little Alan Kurdi lying dead on Europe's shoreline has, we are told, awakened Britain's generous nature.

But I'm afraid I don't believe it. I just don't think public opinion shifts like that.

Read full article Have we changed our mind about asylum?