Newspaper headlines: 'Soaring' UK population, Chilcot report date and speaking to the police on Skype

By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News


Official projections of the UK's population are pored over in Friday's press - and the forecast there will be an increase of nearly 10 million people in the next 25 years provides most of the headlines.

The Daily Mail says the Office for National Statistics' suggestion the population will "soar" to almost 75 million people by 2039 raises questions as to how the UK will cope when many housing and public services are already overstretched.

And in its leader column, the Mail wonders whether it is being unduly apocalyptic to worry that the forecasts are "desperately conservative".

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The surge, says the Financial Times, will see Britain eventually overtake Germany to have the largest population in Europe. It will make "uncomfortable reading" for the government, which has been trying to cut annual net migration.

However, the FT quotes an economist saying the "problems you get with a rising population are easier to deal with than the problems you get with a falling population".

Citing the ONS assertion that 68% of the rise is linked to immigration, the Sun argues David Cameron needs to insist on the reintroduction of UK border controls as he renegotiates the terms of Britain's EU membership ahead of the referendum.

The Daily Express is in agreement. There is a simple solution, it says, "take back control of our borders".

Writing in the Express, UKIP leader Nigel Farage says: "We've always welcomed those from outside but the rate at which our population is growing is unlike anything we have ever experienced. The EU referendum is our golden opportunity to insert some common sense back into British politics by leaving."

The Independent angles its story on the ageing UK, the other reason given by the ONS for the rising population. Noting that one in 12 people in the UK are forecast to be over 80 by 2040, the Indy says "pressures on the NHS and care services will continue to mount steeply".

'Hurry up Chilcot'

The announcement by Sir John Chilcot that his inquiry into the Iraq War would not be published until June or July 2016 attracts much attention.

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Sir John said his report would be finished in April and then given national security checks. The Times highlights the concerns of families this will mean the finding will be "neutered" by the security services before publication.

In a leading article, the Times says hope is fading that the report will answer vital questions and assuage grief with clarity. "Unless a new urgency is injected into the process, even at this late stage, it will be remembered not as a search for truth but as a time sponge for cynical politicians."

In the Guardian, Richard Norton-Taylor says the report should provide "unprecedented insights" but it is unclear whether the delay in publication will have raised or lowered expectations about its content.

The Independent accepts "Sir John had his work cut out" since his inquiry began in 2009 but says bigger truths - that the war was illegal under international law and unnecessary - are already known.

The Daily Telegraph describes the delay as an "insult" and urges Sir John to "hurry up and publish, and, perhaps, put some of the ghosts of this war to rest".

It is the length of the report - two million words - which troubles others.

"Reading at average speed continuously for eight hours a day, this means it would take three weeks to get through it," say the Daily Mail. "What an insult to the families of our dead soldiers."

The Sun notes the report will be twice the length of the collected works of Shakespeare or the entire Harry Potter series and four times as long as Tolstoy's War and Peace. It says the entire process has shown contempt for the veterans' families and public.

Eye-catching headlines

'A cop-out'

Police cuts are in the spotlight in the Sun and Daily Mirror. Both papers splash on the news that victims of low-level crime may be asked to speak to police on Skype instead of having officers visit their home.

Other victims involved in the trial being conducted by Cambridgeshire Constabulary in Peterborough may be asked to visit a police station or speak to an officer by telephone.

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Police chiefs, says the Sun, believe the move will free up officers for neighbourhood patrols and experts say it could save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Daily Mirror reports the mixed response to the plans in Peterborough, with one resident saying it is a "cop-out... You want an officer to show empathy", while another sees it as a good way to save time.

The Mirror says the move comes as the decision to scrap Remembrance Day events in Essex, Cambridgeshire, London and Yorkshire is being blamed on a lack of policing capacity.

The Mirror says the home secretary accused critics of scaremongering when funding reductions in England and Wales were outlined but "now we are discovering the consequences".

What the commentators say...

media captionFormer trade minister Lord Digby Jones and the broadcaster Henry Bonsu join the BBC News Channel to review Friday's front pages.

Tax haven aid

In another front page story, the Daily Telegraph reports that David Cameron has launched a secret diplomatic offensive to rescue relations with Saudi Arabia. The paper says it comes amid fears the Saudi ambassador planned to leave London "in protest" after Britain cancelled a prisons contract and the Kingdom faced criticism by senior government and Labour figures over human rights.

The lead in the Times focuses on the government's surveillance bill. Police have been lobbying ministers for the power to view the internet browsing history of everyone in Britain, says the paper. Officers want telecommunications companies to retain data for 12 months, to aid both criminal and missing person investigations.

Elsewhere in the Times, the director of human rights organisation Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, says MPs must ensure any measures in the bill "defend our country's security, as well as our privacy".

And, according to the Independent, millions of pounds in UK aid money is being used to subsidise public services in overseas tax havens. Belize, Anguilla, and Panama are said to have such high poverty levels that they qualify for UK development grants. Some £45m a year in aid has reportedly been paid out to 13 countries on a tax haven "blacklist" drawn up by the European Commission.

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