Newspaper review: 'Quiz Blair' call and Miliband's migrant move

With the early editions of Britain's newspapers unable to reflect the drama of the Sydney siege, a CIA "torture" report story leads the overnight print edition of the Daily Mail.

The paper leads on the growing clamour for Tony Blair to face questions on what it calls "Britain's role in the barbaric treatment of prisoners by the US."

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Image caption Tony Blair

Alan Johnson and Yvette Cooper are among the senior Labour figures who the paper says want the former PM questioned over what the UK knew about the CIA "extraordinary rendition" programme and "black site" prisons.

Senior Conservative backbenchers David Davis and Dominic Grieve are also, like Ms Cooper, calling for a judge-led inquiry into the matter, the Mail adds.

The paper's comment column says the "unvarnished truth on torture has to emerge".

It adds that while it does not doubt the integrity of Sir Malcolm Rifkind and the Commons's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), it "does not have a proud track record of holding ministers or the security services to account."

The Daily Mirror's comment is for once in accord with the Mail's.

"Letting Parliament have a go at uncovering the truth is reasonable but should MPs fail to get to the bottom of what went on, the prime minister and home secretary should not flinch from setting up an independent inquiry.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A former CIA "black site" prison in Kiejkuty, Poland

"The US was shamed by torture revelations and sunlight is the best disinfectant here too."

The calls are not echoed in the Daily Telegraph which says in its editorial, "Staff attached to [the ISC] are already going through thousands of documents from MI6 and other agencies on whether Britain was involved, or complicit, in [torture], so it is hard to see what another inquiry would achieve.

"We have had too many judicial inquiries that have lasted too long, proved inordinately expensive and still failed to satisfy the many who have reached their own conclusions before hearing the evidence."

The Times notes the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will face parliamentary questions later on the "complicity" issue.

The Home Affairs Committee is expected to ask Mrs May if she asked for information which might "embarrass Britain" to be redacted from the US senate report into the CIA interrogation programme, the paper adds.

'Cloud on the horizon'

The Daily Mirror leads on a pledge Ed Miliband is to make today to crack down on "greedy" bosses who hire cheap foreign staff "while snubbing British staff".

The Labour leader is quoted as saying, "We are serving notice on employers who bring workers here under duress or on false terms, and pay them ­significantly lower wages.

"This new criminal offence will help ensure immigrants do not face exploitation and rogue employers are stopped from undercutting the terms and conditions of everyone else."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour says migrant workers are often lured to Britain with promises of high wages, but disappointed on arrival

The paper says the party also wants to stop recruitment agencies hiring only from abroad, if it gets into power.

A recent Mirror investigation found jobs at a warehouse in Yorkshire were being offered to workers recruited exclusively by a Polish agency, rather than being offered to locals.

Mr Miliband's plans do not impress the Daily Mail.

Its editorial says, "Since he doesn't appear to have a clue how these new rules will work, it's hard to imagine they will solve the problem of migrants driving down the wages of the native population.

"What is certain, however, is that it will take more than a few hastily-cobbled together speeches to win back working-class voters who, for years, his party sneered at for being 'racist'."

The Independent says it has learnt that Labour plan to cut down on the length of time companies can employ unpaid interns.

It says the party is to announce that it proposes to force firms to pay at least minimum wage to interns who are employed for more than four weeks.

Labour universities spokesman Liam Byrne is to say a third of graduates employed by firms have worked for them in an unpaid capacity before, and the average internship lasts three months and costs each intern £930 a month in living expenses.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Liam Byrne

"If you're from a low-income background you just can't afford to do that. The result is that the best jobs are getting locked up by those with the richest parents. That isn't right. It isn't fair. And it needs to change," Mr Byrne will continue, the paper says.

The Daily Telegraph lead in its early editions is about leaked guidance to Labour MPs not to "campaign on immigration" in the run-up to the election.

The document from the party's policy unit - which has been condemned as a "joke" by some Labour MPs - suggests the more the party makes immigration a campaign issue, the more votes it will lose.

The speech leading in the Times is one to be delivered by David Cameron, in which he will say the prospect of a Labour government is "a big black ominous cloud on the horizon" of the UK.

The paper adds, "the prime minister will conjure images of homeowners worrying about their mortgage payments under Labour if there were a financial crisis or economic shock".

It concludes, "Mr Cameron is attempting to get on the front foot after the autumn statement gave Labour and the Liberal Democrats the opportunity to mount sustained attacks on the depth of Conservative cuts".

'Life chances'

Those potential cuts are the subjects of many stories in Monday's newspapers.

The Guardian focuses on a warning from Britain's most senior policeman that future cuts "will endanger public safety" unless police forces are merged and back-room functions shared.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

The claims are made by Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who writes an article in the paper.

"We've saved hundreds of millions already, but from 2016 onwards it will be much harder," he says.

The Guardian adds that, "Police chiefs across the country fear the scale of the cuts to come could decimate neighbourhood policing, vital to preventing crime.

"Privately they fear a potential return to "1980s"-style policing, of responding to emergencies and little else."

The paper also features a story saying that the Liberal Democrats are warning that a future Conservative government could "slash" education spending by a quarter.

The claim comes from current education minister David Laws, who says that research from the House of Commons library ,"suggests a Tory government would cut about £13.3bn a year from funding from the education budget by 2020."

Such cuts he says, "would have a profound impact on the life chances of children".

The Daily Telegraph has a front-page article suggesting that hospitals and the fire service could be "outside the public sector" as the Conservatives shrink the size of the state.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Army of the future?

The suggestions come from Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude who suggests that in future, such services could be handed over to "mutual companies owned by employers and other non-state bodies".

Mr Maude, who the paper says is drawing up plans for £20bn of cuts, suggests that only defence and policing need be retained as a publicly owned arms of the state.

The minister tells the paper, "We won't make the savings that have been set out without further reductions in headcount and pay bill."

The Telegraph adds: "He said this would not necessarily spell blanket pay cuts, but suggested that it was a mistake to think the state should compete with private sector employers on pay".

Another Lib Dem warning on cuts features in the paper's inner pages.

Business Secretary Vince Cable says the Army will become "largely ceremonial" if the cuts outlined in the chancellor's autumn statement are implemented by a future government.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the military could see its budget halved by 2020, the Telegraph notes.

'Wee bit sensitive'

December is a good month for those "and finally" stories, as Monday's newspapers show.

The Daily Mail tells how jars of personalised Nutella caused a security alert at London City Airport.

The paper says security staff confiscated the chocolate and hazelnut-flavoured spread from passenger Kara Harrison after claiming that it fell foul of airliners' policy on carrying fluids, and was "a terror threat".

Mrs Harrison, who had brought the jars in Selfridges as presents for her son and a friend, burst into tears.

Image copyright RSPB
Image caption A bittern: having a good year

"I know it seems daft, but I'm feeling a wee bit sensitive at the moment because I'm pregnant, and it is nearly Christmas," she told the paper.

But it's not all bad news on the preserves front, the Daily Express says marmalade is enjoying soaring sales, thanks to its prominence in the new Paddington Bear film.

Robertson's says its Golden Shred variety has seen demand rise by 24% in a month, while other brands experienced a 22% surge.

The firm's David Atkinson says the Peruvian cartoon bear has introduced marmalade "to a whole new younger generation".

To birds and beast now, and more good news - unless you live in a swamp and value peace and quiet.

The Express says Britain's population of bitterns - known for their booming mating call - is, well, booming.

The shy wetland birds have benefited from conservation measures and are now at their highest levels in Britain's reed-beds for 150 years.

The paper notes that in 1997, only 11 male bitterns were detected in the country.

Image caption A panther: not native to Cornwall

And so to beasts, and a Sun scoop that shows that a probe costing £84,000 (in today's money) was carried out in 1995 to prove that the famous "Beast of Bodmin" was in fact, a domestic cat.

Readers of papers since the 1950s will be familiar with tales of "panthers" and "pumas" spotted on the Cornish moorland, and paw prints found in the vicinity of dead sheep.

The Sun says newly released government papers show that experts spent hours examining the evidence before staging a reconstruction proving that the legendary beast was "a black moggy about 12ins tall".

No beast then, but it could probably give you a nasty scratch!

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