UK to act with 'urgency' over Syrian refugees says PM

 

David Cameron and Ed Miliband on UK helping Syrian refugees

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The UK will act "with the greatest urgency" in offering the "most needy people" in Syrian refugee camps a "home in our country", says David Cameron.

The prime minister told MPs he wanted to "particularly help those who have been victims of sexual violence".

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said on Tuesday torture victims, elderly and disabled people would also get priority.

The government expects the number of refugees accepted to be in the hundreds but has not set a specific target.

Syria refugee camp Germany is taking 11,000 refugees

The UK's resettlement programme is to be separate from the ongoing UN High Commissioner for Refugees scheme which has seen Germany commit to admitting more than 10,000 Syrian refugees and France take 500.

The government has been reluctant to admit any Syrian refugees to the UK, preferring to focus its humanitarian aid on refugees in the region.

But a fear of looking hard hearted and the threat of parliamentary defeat on Wednesday changed minds in Downing Street.

The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Britain had a moral responsibility to help and several hundred refugees would now be able to come.

It is not clear where the refugees will go or how long they will stay but it is expected they will get temporary visas that will be reviewed after three years.

The government is still refusing to take part in a resettlement scheme run by the UN high commissioner for refugees.

But the agency welcomed the government's offer and said it would help officials identify the most vulnerable people.

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs the UK's goal was a political settlement that would "bring an end to the violence in Syria", allowing Syrians to "return to their homes and livelihoods in peace".

But the UK had agreed with the UNHCR office in London to set up a "vulnerable person relocation scheme", which will run in parallel to the agency's own refugee scheme, with the aim of resettling those at the "greatest risk" in the UK.

The programme will focus on individual cases "where evacuation from the region is the only option", said the home secretary, and will "prioritise help for survivors of torture and women and children in need of medical care", as recommended by the UNHCR. There would also be a focus on rescuing the victims of sexual violence, Mrs May told MPs.

"This is in the spirit of the UNHCR programme but it is not technically part of it," she added, saying it would provide "greater flexibility".

She said 3,500 Syrian refugee asylum seekers were already in the UK.

Ahead of that statement Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed the move to take refugees and urged the PM to act with urgency.

Mr Cameron replied: "We will act with the greatest urgency because, when it comes to Syria, we have acted with the greatest urgency throughout.

"We have made available £600m, which makes us the second largest humanitarian donor, we provided food for 188,000 people, clean water for almost a million and medical consultations for almost a quarter of a million.

"We will be coming forward with a scheme to help the most needy people in those refugee camps and offer them a home in our country."

During exchanges in the Commons on Monday, the government faced criticism from MPs of all political parties for declining to participate in the UN-led scheme.

The deputy prime minister's announcement on Tuesday, and the PM's comments, pre-empted a Labour-led debate on the issue, where the government was facing the prospect of a Commons defeat over its refusal to sign up to the UNHCR initiative.

Syrian refugee children play at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria The UK says half of Syria's nine million population have been displaced

Mr Clegg said: "The coalition government wants to play our part in helping to alleviate the immense suffering in Syria. The £600m we have provided makes us the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid in the world.

"But as the conflict continues to force millions of Syrians from their homes, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can.

"We are one of the most open-hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.

Chart showing country pledges on Syrian refugees

"The UN High Commission for Refugees - which backs our new resettlement programme - has said the highest priority should go to women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence; the elderly; survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities, so that's who we'll target.

"Sadly we cannot provide safety for everyone who needs it, but we can reach out to some of those who need it most."

The BBC understands the refugees will be given temporary visas allowing them to stay for at least three years.

The visas will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis taking into account personal circumstances and the situation in Syria.

The UNHC's representative in the UK, Roland Schilling, said the government move was "an encouraging and important step, reaffirming the UK's commitment and contribution to international relief efforts".

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: ''It is a good thing that the government has completely reversed its position''

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government's move was a "big reversal" but that "compassion and common sense have won through".

"Vulnerable Syrian refugees, torture victims, abandoned children and those struggling to cope or survive in the camps desperately need sanctuary and Britain has a moral obligation to help," she said.

But she said the UK should be working with the UN to decide on numbers rather than setting up a "parallel programme" of its own.

Refugees fleeing Syria
Map showing the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries

The move was welcomed by MPs from all sides of the Commons, former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell saying it gave the UK flexibility to help those whose suffering had been the most "grievous".

But Conservative Brooks Newmark - an expert on Syria - said numbers should be limited and those countries not making such a big contribution to the aid effort should be taking in more refugees than the UK.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage also backed the move, saying a clear distinction must be made between genuine refugees from persecution and economic migrants.

The Refugee Council's Maurice Wren said the move had been a "long time coming" but the UK was standing up for an important principle.

And Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: "This move is long overdue but of course it's never too late to do the right thing."

 

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  • rate this
    -25

    Comment number 1296.

    I would gladly trade all of those British citizens who think our island is too small and poor for every single refugee from conflict or persecution the whole world over.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1295.

    @1257 theusualsuspects
    "Africa is a big continent"

    The last time I looked at a map,Syria was in Asia.
    What's Africa got to do with this thread ?

  • Comment number 1294.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 1293.

    "KarenZ
    It is not racism or xenophobia to say that it is not right for the UK to take refugees from Syria AND you know this. So stop making false allegations"

    You are wrong. Most reasoning behind the arguments against taking refugees ARE based on racism and xenophobia. That is not a false allegation.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1292.

    torjs99 wrote:

    as long as they return when the conflict is over.

    ---

    Will they want to return though, and if they did, what would they return to? If the footage is anything to go by, Syria is pretty much in ruins! Still, I suppose in a few years time well be coughing up another 'x' amount of millions in aid to rebuild a country which their OWN government should be paying to have rebuilt!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1291.

    1248.Fraser_Mallen
    Did we cause it? What, the civil war? No, but we did call for Assad to step down which didn't help matters.
    Did we make it worse? Yes, we armed and funded the insurgents knowing full well that the Russians would react by arming and funding the government.
    Trying to resolve it? We're still supporting the insurgents even though they are refusing to negotiate, so no, not really.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 1290.

    I have been trying to get a doctors appointment for 3 days now with a ten day wait. ( 66yr old indigenous white Brit.)
    What are we playing at. On arrival these people will be met by a top team of Translators/ Doctors/ Surgeons/ Psychiatrists/ Dentists/ etc, etc, Plus housing requirement officers, Arab chefs. Oh bugger it I'm off xxxxx

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1289.

    More billions of hard-earned taxpayers' money spent on another country's self-inflicted problems, rather than on new schools, hospitals and emergency services.

    As usual, the UK features very prominently in the aid stakes, despite its relatively small size, and refugees will take priority over the millions of people here who still try to make ends meet on a pittance and have no accommodation.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1288.

    A lot of ppl here are questioning the humanity & morals of British public as they're not happy that our Gov is spending £millions in our called democracy to help Syrians without the overall consent of the public.

    TBH I dont think we have lost our moral or humanity but we do think its wrong to spend this amount of money when our living has already suffered due to these politicians past decisions.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1287.

    It's their fault for being born in Syria. Besides, most torture victims bring it on themselves by being the wrong enthnicity or sect.

    Their neighbours in the middle east aren't doing much to help, and since those countries are clearly the benchmark of humanity (observe how they compassionately remove the burden of voting, driving and education from women) we should follow suit.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1286.

    No limit for the US, so let the US take them all.

    Make themselves useful, rather than stoking up endless wars.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1285.

    I reckon 'hundreds' of Syrian refugees are now fighting amongst themselves to make sure they are the ones who come to soft touch UK.

    This country is finished....

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1284.

    1231. batchy .."These people have to learn to do what the British people did in WW2 - stand and fight, and not run away claiming asylum!"

    Many of the Jews who couldn't get out during WW2 ended up in the ovens. How many more would have been saved then or in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda or Bosnia if we had been quicker to help.

    I pray if war tears apart our country our others will be more welcoming

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1283.

    @KarenZ What crises is happening in the UK that is comparable to what is happening in Syria? @denbo Fellow muslim countries have taken in over 2,000,000 refugees from Syria so far.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1282.

    @1259 The Genius

    If you claim to be The Genius, I would suggest you learn how to spell the word "fed". In reference to your comments about "too many foreigners", one assumes that you are directly descended from the native tribes of the UK that were here prior to the Celtic invasions.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1281.

    @ scottie1745

    Skint = massive deficit; we are very skint. We are borrowing to support essential services; but many are going without heat and are relying on food banks to survive.

    & the UK flooding is not just a matter of wet feet, damp properties & insurance claims; it is the possible loss of farmland and harvest later.

    Get out of your comfy office / city to look around.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1280.

    Here we go,the flood gates are opening again.All the people that come here will be on benefits,they won't speak English,and how on earth will the powers that be choose what people come.I've said it before,let the Arabs look after their own.I don't see the others countries over there falling over themselves.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 1279.

    Can I make a suggestion to the bleeding heart liberals on here?

    Can one of you set up a national database that you, and all your likeminded type, can sign up and volunteer your addresses to house these refugees, and the amount you are setting aside to fund their stay?

    Thanks.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1278.

    Taking in 500 looks like no problem. Each of the 500 positive people on this site can have one each to live with them as they are so sympathetic.

    They will receive nothing towards the cost of this as they are quite happy to spend their money on these people.

    We may take women and children but it is their sons and brothers who are doing the fighting and destroying the country.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1277.

    Some of the racist, nauseating comments on this thread make me ashamed to be British. These people are in dire need and we are only taking the most vulnerable. Many have said they should go to neighbouring country's. They are already in those country's in their millions and these country's can not cope. This is a humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen for a long time.

 

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    17:52: TV debates Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    Here's the BBC's Ben Wright for Radio 4 - looking at today's reaction to the ongoing debates row.

    The TV debate negotiations have run into another hurdle. After David Cameron said he would take part in debates only if the Green Party was included too the broadcasters proposed a new line-up: two debates featuring the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. But parties in Northern Ireland were furious at their exclusion - and yesterday David Cameron gave them his support, saying a "deal could be done" if they were involved too. Last week Peter Robinson, the leader of the DUP - the largest Northern Ireland Party with eight MPs at Westminster - wrote to the BBC and ITV asking them to justify their position. Now the director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, has replied to the DUP rejecting their demand to be included in the debates. It is understood Lord Hall said the decision complied with the BBC's obligations of impartiality. The DUP is considering taking legal action, as is Sinn Fein. The debate about debates seems a long way from concluding.

     
  48.  
    17:48: The Milibands The Independent
    Ed and David Miliband

    Reflecting on Ed Miliband's standing in Labour, The Independent's John Rentoul posts some statistics to remind colleagues - and readers - that "most Labour MPs and most Labour Party members are Blairites, in that they voted for David Miliband rather than for his brother". Ed Miliband won the bloc of votes from union members by some margin.

     
  49.  
    @tom_watson 17:40: Labour MP Tom Watson

    tweets: Great afternoon with @SharonStevenage and her lovely team. 99 days #countdown

     
  50.  
    17:37: NHS guidelines BBC Radio 5 live

    Roy Lilley, a former NHS Trust chairman, tells 5live the criteria for declaring a major incident had been very tight anyway and it was highly unusual for hospitals to take this step. He said that where this criteria has been made more difficult to meet, it exposes patients to an enhanced risk of being taken into a hospital that is full and perhaps not as safe as it could be. It also "places more difficulties with the ambulance services who are queuing up outside and can not unload their patients". Additionally, it puts "more pressure on social services who are already trying to find safe places to take particularly the elderly and frail".

     
  51.  
    17:33: On 'weaponising' the NHS The Mirror

    Kevin Maguire, the associate editor of the Daily Mirror, takes David Cameron to task for his outrage over the idea of "weaponising" the NHS: "The National Health Service IS is a huge political issue. David Cameron knew that when he claimed 10 years ago he wanted to be defined by the letters NHS."

     
  52.  
    17:30: Munt on fracking resignation BBC Radio 4
    Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt

    Tessa Munt, the Liberal Democrat MP who quit her government job as an aide to business secretary Vince Cable over fracking, has been explaining why she opposes her colleagues' views. She says her mind was made up when she found out a major insurer in her constituency will not insure farmers and others against the impact of fracking. "If farmers have no choice about the fact this is going to happen under their land," she told BBC Radio 4's PM programme, "I think it's utterly unfair they're then not able to insure themselves against the impact of something somebody else is doing under their land without their say so."

     
  53.  
    17:25: TV debates BBC News Channel
    Various

    BBC chief political correspondent Vicki Young sums up the current feeling on potential TV election debates by saying that the broadcasters' latest offer has left "all sorts of parties unhappy about where we are".

    While the Greens are happy to be in the debates, the Liberal Democrats are upset they have been seemingly relegated to minor party status, and Labour is worried about the presence of the SNP. Today, the DUP learned from BBC Director-General Tony Hall that it will not be invited to take part. Many parties, she adds, are unhappy the broadcasters appear to have "bent over backward" to accommodate David Cameron's conditions.

     
  54.  
    17:24: Health outcomes BBC News Channel

    More from Frank Field. He says the growth in health spending under the last Labour government was not rewarded with much better treatment. Although he praised individual members of the NHS for their work, Mr Field said that "collectively they've not delivered on the new money with increased outcomes, with more of us being treated".

     
  55.  
    17:19: NHS funding BBC News Channel
    Frank Field

    Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, tells the BBC's Gavin Esler that the NHS is in serious need of more money for health and social care, and says electoral debates over the NHS must focus on providing answers to two difficult questions: "How do we get the new money? And how do we spend the new money in driving through reforms?"

     
  56.  
    17:18: 'Politics down the pub'
    Chloe Smith's surgery flyer

    Chloe Smith, the Tory MP who won her Norwich North seat in a 2009 by-election, has taken to Twitter to advertise a 'politics in the pub' surgery where constituents can seek her help. The move echoes Nigel Farage's pub-based politics, but - unless there's a typo on her flyer - it seems she's planning on an all-nighter to win over voters...

     
  57.  
    17:09: Archive treat No 98: Robin Day v Enoch Powell Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online
    Robin Day interviewing Enoch Powell

    Robin Day crosses swords with Enoch Powell with counting under way ahead of the Conservative victory in the general election of 1970, questioning him on his links with the political left and his relationship with his party leader and new Prime Minister Edward Heath.

    Each day from now until 7 May we'll be bringing you a classic election clip from the BBC archives. We've already selected a fair few but do feel free to suggest some via email at alex.hunt@bbc.co.uk or via Twitter @bbcpolitics

     
  58.  
    17:08: NHS row Chris Mason Political correspondent, BBC News

    BBC political correspondent Chris Mason reports on the NHS row that has dominated the political news today.

     
  59.  
    17:07: TV debates: What the bookies think
    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown in the 2010 leaders' debates

    Today's fresh question-marks over the proposed TV debates aren't bothering William Hill, which has cut the odds it's offering on David Cameron not participating from 11/4 to 12/5. Spokesman Graham Sharpe says: "There is a widespread feeling that Mr Cameron would really like to find a way of avoiding taking part in the tv debates as he has the most to lose if he does so, but the humiliation of potentially being represented by an empty chair is likely to result in him ultimately taking part."

     
  60.  
    16:57: Care spending down BBC Radio 5 live

    The BBC'S Nick Triggle tells 5Live that despite government funding cuts councils on average are spending proportionally more and more of their budgets on care. However, they are struggling to keep up with an ageing population. According to BBC analysis of official figures, the average spend per person in England dropped from 12-hundred pounds in 2003 - down to around 950 pounds ten years later- that's a fall of 20 per cent.

     
  61.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    tweets: Scottish Govt announce halt to fracking in Scotland pending consultation and public health assessment

     
  62.  
    16:56: Lessons from Greece
    Alexis Tsipras

    Carl Packman at the blog Left Foot Forward is the latest commentator to discuss "what the British left can learn from Greece", after the election victory of Syriza this week.

     
  63.  
    16:51: Afternoon lobby briefing Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    The Prime Minister's spokesman updated journalists in parliament earlier this afternoon:

    • He made clear that, to the best of his knowledge, no minister is looking at plans to move Trident from Scotland to Wales, as had been reported earlier
    • He said Britain would not be changing its position on negotiating with terrorists, after Jordan suggested it would be prepared to consider swapping an Islamic State-held hostage with a terrorist
    • And on Sinn Fein, which is reportedly being courted by Labour to help prop up a potential Ed Miliband government, he said David Cameron had not changed his view on whether Sinn Fein should take its Commons seats.
     
  64.  
    @AndrewCooper__ Conservative peer and pollster Andrew Cooper

    tweets: There is no credible rationale for including Plaid Cymru in TV debates and not DUP: 3 MPs vs 8 MPs & 168,216 votes in 2010 vs. 165,394 votes

     
  65.  
    16:50: Minimum wage
    Stuart Broad

    Yesterday England cricketer Stuart Broad faced criticism for an allegedly offensive tweet he posted about the minimum wage. The sportsman's tweet read: "I've heard if you earn minimum wage in England you're in the top 10% earners in the World. #stay #humble".

    Today, Ryan Bourne from free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs argues "that the reason why so many people are so annoyed is that this factual claim simply undermines the egalitarian arguments that the rich are the cause of our woes".

    But Zoe Williams, writing in The Guardian, says it shows "Broad has just swallowed the vindictive rhetoric on the feckless poor."

     
  66.  
    16:45: Welfare cuts

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank has delivered its verdict on the coalition's welfare reforms. Despite all the fuss over universal credit, Andrew Hood and David Phillips argue, delayed implementation means the changes have been "an evolution of the system rather than a revolution". Real terms benefit spending in 2015 is exactly the same as in 2010, at £220 billion, and is only seven per cent lower than it otherwise would have been. What's to blame for this? "An ageing population, but also weak wage growth and rising private rents," they say.

     
  67.  
    16:33: TV debates BBC News Channel

    An update from Norman Smith on the TV debates saga - BBC director general Lord Hall has written to the Democratic Unionist Party rejecting their request to be included. DUP sources have reacted with anger to the decision. They say they believe it is "very difficult to justify" the BBC's decision and are considering taking legal action over the debates. A judicial review could snarl up any deal being reached, Norman Smith warns.

     
  68.  
    16:27: Election winners
    Pound coins

    May2015.com has a guide to betting on the general election, with some advice, cautionary tales, and a few striking statistics: "The two biggest bookmakers, William Hill and Ladbrokes, both had a turnover of more than £3m in the Scottish referendum."

     
  69.  
    16:27: PMQs reaction Guido Fawkes

    Simon Carr at the Guido Fawkes blog gives his verdict on today's Prime Minister's Questions - with harsh words for David Cameron, but harsher ones for Ed Miliband.

     
  70.  
    16:26: NHS funding House of Commons Parliament

    MPs have voted against Labour's opposition amendment criticising the government's funding of the NHS. The government wins with 298 votes - a majority of 70 over the opposition's 228 MPs. The Commons swiftly moves on to its next debate - on sustainable development goals.

     
  71.  
    16:24: PMQs reaction
    PMQs

    Ed Miliband's attempt to "weaponise" the NHS, as David Cameron puts it, prompts a tongue-in-cheek analysis from Politics.co.uk's Adam Bienkov of the Labour leader's performance in wielding the weapon. "Miliband was visibly angry, aggressive and yet somehow totally unintimidating as he waved his new-found weapon around," he writes. "Perhaps he'd left the safety on, perhaps it was just a replica, but either way Cameron never seemed in the slightest danger of actually being hit."

     
  72.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Bus workers in London are to stage three fresh 24-hour strikes next month in a dispute over pay, said the Unite union.

     
  73.  
    16:23: NHS funding House of Commons Parliament
    Health minister Jane Ellison

    The debate over the NHS didn't finish when Ed Miliband sat down in PMQs - in fact in the Commons it was only just starting, as MPs have spent the afternoon debating the government's health spending. Shadow minister Liz Kendall, summing up, says the coalition has been busy "wasting three years and £3bn of taxpayers' money". Jane Ellison, the Conservative health minister, says NHS funding has risen every year since 2010. She tells the Commons: "Tough decisions were taken at the beginning of this parliament to protect the NHS budget, against the advice of the Labour Party."

     
  74.  
    16:22: Shapps on the homeless LBC

    Conservative chairman Grant Shapps was also criticised by a caller, the chairman of a homeless charity, over plans to remove jobseeker's allowance from 18 to 21-year-olds. Mr Shapps, a former housing minister, says the reason people end up on the streets is "never as black and white" as people assume. He also says he would not give cash to a homeless person because he would not know how it would be spent, saying it is better to "bring them help".

     
  75.  
    16:21: Labour health policy ITN

    ITV political editor Tom Bradby tweets, alongside a video of Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham on BBC Newsnight last night: "I usually think of Andy Burnham as a smart guy, but after listening to this I have no idea what Labour policy is."

     
  76.  
    16:19: New Tory poster
    Conservative election poster showing Miliband, Salmond and Adams

    The Conservatives have released their latest campaign poster, which will be appearing on billboards shortly. It's a variation on a theme: having warned of the possibility of a Labour-SNP coalition, the Tories have now picked up on a Sinn Fein MP's claim that his party is being pursued by Labour. The Conservative poster adds Gerry Adams' face and the Sun's headline - but Labour insists their story is untrue. "We are working towards a Labour majority government and only towards a Labour majority government," a spokesman said.

     
  77.  
    16:10: Bomb threat BBC News UK
    Daithí McKay

    The BBC has learned that police in Northern Ireland are investigating reports that a bomb has been left at the home of Sinn Féin's North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay.

    An anonymous caller contacted the MLA's Dunloy office claiming a device had been left at the family home.

     
  78.  
    16:00: Defending PMQs LBC
    Grant Shapps

    Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has been defending Prime Minister's Questions during a phone-in on LBC radio. Host Shelagh Fogarty said the exchanges on the NHS were the worst she could remember. "I'm not going to pretend it's the pinnacle of political debate," Mr Shapps replied. But he pointed to the viewing figures it attracts and added that he had a five-year waiting list of constituents wanting to come and watch. "It keeps the prime minister on his or her toes," he added.

     
  79.  
    15:52: What is a major incident?
    ambulance

    David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed in the Commons over the NHS, amid a row about guidance to hospitals over when they can call a "major incident". So what exactly is a major incident?

    • An internal major incident is activated when a trust is under significant pressure that is internal to the organisation - and is not the result of an external event.
    • It is a business continuity arrangement, where a decision is taken to reduce some services to support higher priority ones.
    • A major incident is a significant incident or emergency that cannot be managed within routine service arrangements.
    • It requires the implementation of special procedures and involves one or more of the emergency services, the NHS or a local authority.

    Source: NHS England - London region

     
  80.  
    15:42: 'Weaponising' policy
    George Osborne

    Amid continuing Conservative criticism of Ed Miliband for his suggestion he would "weaponise" the NHS, Paul Waugh at PoliticsHome reports that Chancellor George Osborne apparently previously used the word "weaponise" in a political context.

     
  81.  
    15:36: The SNP halts fracking

    Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing announces a moratorium on planning consent for all fracking north of the border. He's targeting the Tories rather than Labour, calling the Conservatives' plan to remove landowners' right to object to shale gas extraction "a disgrace". By contrast, he says, the Scottish government is taking a "responsible, cautious and evidence-based approach".

    Fracking in Balcombe, southern England
     
  82.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Scotland's First Minister says she'd find it "strange" if Labour refused to deal with the SNP following the election, rpts @TimReidBBC

    and

    tweets: It follows the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls remarks yesterday in which he appeared to rule out a coalition with the Scottish nationalists.

     
  83.  
    @robindbrant Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: .@UKIP give a taster of what's to come in #ge2015 manifesto with list of 100 things they'd do - link

     
  84.  
    15:09: Afghanistan service Peter Hunt Royal correspondent, BBC News
    The Queen at the Cenotaph memorial service

    The BBC's Peter Hunt tweets that Prince Charles - and not the Queen - will attend a service in March commemorating the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. The Queen, in 2009, attended a service marking the end of combat operations in Iraq.

    Earlier today in the House of Commons, David Cameron announced the service would take place on 13 March.

     
  85.  
    15:01: Consensus collapsing? The Guardian

    George Monbiot writes in The Guardian that the rise of more left-wing parties across Europe - such as Syriza and the Scottish National Party - heralds the "sudden death of the neoliberal consensus". He claims: "If people voted for what they wanted, the Greens would be the party of government."

    Natalie Bennett and Green Party supporters
     
  86.  
    14:51: Tim Reid Political correspondent, BBC News

    Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, speaking before the apology, described Lord Wigley's remarks - comparing the Trident base on the Clyde to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz - as "offensive". Mr Carmichael said the Welsh nationalist peer's comments were offensive to those who died and to those who worked at the Faslane naval base.

     
  87.  
    14:43: PMQs reaction The Spectator

    The Spectator's political editor James Forsyth says that, with little of substance said between the party leaders, "at the end of PMQs, politics was in the same place as it was at the start" - and this suits David Cameron and the Conservatives, who are "now convinced that events are moving their way".

     
  88.  
    14:35: If I were PM... The Independent
    10 Downing Street

    The Independent is counting down the days to the general election by inviting one contributor every day to describe what he or she would do as prime minister. Political commentator John Rentoul was first up yesterday, saying he'd be like "a free-market version of Natalie Bennett".

    Today it's the turn of Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

     
  89.  
    14:31: House of Commons Parliament

    Over in the House of Commons, the debate on government spending on the NHS is - quite predictably - proving to be a tetchy session. Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter is batting for the government, but there are lots of shouts being directed at him from sedentary positions on the Labour benches.

    House of Commons wide shot
     
  90.  
    14:25: Election battlegrounds The Daily Telegraph
    David Cameron and Ed Miliband

    Over at The Telegraph, James Kirkup provides a brief summary of the issues set to dominate the election - from the NHS and the economy to housing and "Dave vs Ed".

     
  91.  
    14:22: Auschwitz comments

    Comments made by Ex-Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley (pictured) comparing the Trident base in Scotland to Auschwitz concentration camp are branded "crass" and "offensive" by Conservative former Wales Secretary, David Jones. Mr Jones, Clwyd West MP, says it is right the peer apologised, albeit in a "mealy-mouthed" way. He says it was "not appropriate at any time" to use Auschwitz to make political points, "but to say it at Holocaust memorial time is even worse".

    Ex-Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley
     
  92.  
    @TimReidBBC Tim Reid, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Nicola Sturgeon says Europe at heart of SNP election campaign - party will seek future vote that EU exit only poss if all 4 nations agree

     
  93.  
    14:14: PMQs reaction The Mirror

    At the Mirror online, Sunday People political editor Nigel Nelson sketches a frustrating bout between David Cameron and Ed Miliband: "The PM has adopted a curious habit for these sessions of late. Whatever the Labour leader asks, Mr Cameron answers an entirely different question."

     
  94.  
    14:08: NHS major incidents BBC News Channel

    Commenting on the new guidelines given in the West Midlands, former NHS Trust chairman Roy Lilley says they are "sensible but... very tough". He says it is clear the timing is to do with the forthcoming general election "because the more hospitals that go in to declaring a major emergency the more embarrassing it gets for the government". But he says it puts hospitals in a "very difficult place" as the harder it becomes to declare a major incident, the greater the "risk" in delivering services.

     
  95.  
    13:58: PMQs reaction

    Something about today's PMQs seems to have got a lot of commentators rather frustrated. Mark Ferguson of the LabourList blog tweets: "I hate having to watch PMQs. Worst part of the job. Writing about this turgid nonsense is like drowning in nonsense." Mehdi Hasan, the Huffington Post UK's political director, is just as desperate in his tweet: "Completely pointless and childish #pmqs today. Seems to get worse each week. British politics at its most dire and unappealing."

     
  96.  
    13:56: Lord Wigley's statement Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Lord Wigley has apologised for his remarks about Auschwitz. He said he was sorry if his remarks were open to misinterpretation. In a statement he said: "I am certainly sorry if my remarks were open to any misinterpretation and I apologise for any offence that has been caused. The point I was trying to make was that you can't have jobs at any cost and I reiterate that."

     
  97.  
    13:55: Apology for Auschwitz comments

    Plaid Cymru peer Lord Wigley has apologised for "any offence caused" after he compared the effects of a Trident submarine base to a Nazi death camp. Here's our story about his original comments which came on BBC Radio 4's World at One.

     
  98.  
    13:53: NHS strike in N Ireland

    A strike by NHS workers in Northern Ireland, including ambulance staff, is to go ahead tomorrow after the "failure" to match a pay offer in England, the GMB union has said.

     
  99.  
    13:48: TV debates The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Turning to the TV election debates, Lib Dem minister Simon Hughes predicts that they probably won't go ahead - but tells the World at One that the Lib Dems want them to. He says the situation has shifted from the initial proposition - which didn't allow the Lib Dems to put their case "equally" as a party of government - to a position where there are so many prospective players "it becomes a very difficult place". He adds that the Tories and Labour are now saying they're not happy unless the Northern Ireland parties are involved - but questions whether including a further three or four parties is realistic. "Honest judgement, money on it, I think probably they won't but we would like them to as long as there is fair treatment for us and others."

     
  100.  
    13:40: PMQs verdict New Statesman

    Over at the New Statesman, George Eaton judges David Cameron's "chutzpah" to have carried him over the line in this week's PMQs. "The session descended into one of the ugliest encounters yet between the two men," he writes, before notching up yet another defeat for Ed Miliband: "Most voters will notice Miliband's equivocation and the rhetorical exaggerations that Cameron provokes... the PM's ruthless form was testimony to his increasing confidence."

     

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