Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Fire service centralised

The Fire Service is to be placed under central government control, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced in Parliament.

Currently the Fire Service is controlled in each area by the relevant local authority. The government plans to place control over pay, shift work patterns, training, and the location of fire stations in Mr Prescott's office. This could include Scotland and Wales, despite their devolved administrations.

This example of centralisation of power has appeared in response to an ongoing pay strike by the Fire Brigades Union. The government characterises the FBU pay claim as a demand for a 40% pay rise; the FBU says it just wants to return to the relative status firefighters enjoyed 20 years ago.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Tories call to limit directors' pay

Tory MP Archie Norman has published a Bill that would limit companies' severance payments to outgoing directors. Directors often negotiate contractual severance entitlements worth a year's salary or more, as a combination of their relative job insecurity and their strong bargaining position as key employees. Norman's Bill would allow Boards to wriggle out of contractual obligations by alleging unsatisfactory performance.

Britain could abandon Human Rights

Tony Blair has threatened to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government objects to Article 3, which prohibits deporting asylum seekers to countries where they face torture or execution.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Right-to-buy restricted

The Right-to-Buy scheme, under which millions of local authority tenants have escaped public housing and bought their own home, is to be restricted in an attempt to prevent profits by property speculators. The discount to market value tenants are allowed when buying their home is to be cut from £38,000 to £16,000.

Further planned restrictions include increasing to five years the length of time a tenant must occupy their home before gaining the right to buy, and increasing to five years the length of time for which the former tenant stands to forfeit the discount if they sell the property.

More draconian restrictions on resale are expected in rural areas, to protect the quantity of public housing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

"Ban big chocolate"

A leading nutritionist has called on the government to ban big chocolate bars and outlaw super-sized packets of crisps. Speaking to the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, Professor Malcolm Law likened such measures to controls on tobacco products imposed forty years ago. Details in the Evening Standard and more at the BBC.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Lecturer sacked over toy gun

A college lecturer has been sacked for allowing a student to bring a toy gun into college for a photography project, reports The Times. Doncaster College terminated Richard Browning in response to Home Secretary David Blunkett's recent attacks on replica firearms.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Replica handguns to be banned

The Home Secretary has announced legislation to make it illegal to possess a replica handgun. It is expected that an exception will be made for the theatrical profession, so that The Bill won't have to be set in Paris - a concession that was not granted to the British Olympic pistol team, who have to train abroad. The government's position on children's toy guns is currently unclear. Potentially, the decision to prosecute toys could become a matter of prosecutorial discretion.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Sony bowdlerise The Getaway

Sony have bowed to pressure from BT to cut scenes in their hit video game The Getaway that portray a gangster committing violent crimes in a stolen BT uniform. Killjoys at BT considered the game harmed their corporate image.