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Archive for November 2nd, 2009

Lights are going out at the Foreign Office

Telegraph: Diplomacy rivals prostitution as the oldest profession. Like street-walking, it has never enjoyed a wholly favourable reputation. Often confused with its clandestine cousin, espionage, it has for centuries been associated with deviousness and duplicity. Added to this is the outdated but stubbornly enduring image of the aristocratic diplomat, clad in pinstripes, quaffing champagne, leading the good life in a magnificent embassy.

Despite such stereotypes, other countries have traditionally held the British Foreign Office in high esteem for its pragmatism and expertise. Sadly, this reputation is now under threat. Like much of Whitehall, the Foreign Office today cannot make up its mind whether it is a service or a business. Blitzed by Labour’s targets culture and short of funds, it is punching well below its weight, when diplomacy is needed as much today as at any time in the past 500 years.

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Change law on organ donation, doctors say

Independent: Every adult in the UK would be legally required to decide whether to donate their organs after death, under a radical solution to the critical shortage of organs for transplant put forward by the country’s oldest royal medical college. The ethics committee of the 500-year-old Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has called for an examination of “mandated choice” as a means of boosting the supply of organs, the shortage of which is leading to more than 1,000 avoidable deaths a year.

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Labour’s great bank sell-off could cost taxpayers another £40bn

Guardian: Alistair Darling will need to pour up to £40bn of taxpayers’ money into the banking system if he is to fulfil a pledge to carve out three new banking players on the high street in the next four years.

A formal announcement from the chancellor on the new shape of the banking industry is expected as soon as Tuesday and will give a clearer picture of the commitment from the taxpayer needed to execute the plans imposed upon the government by Brussels.

The EU is demanding branches be carved out of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group that will be sold to new entrants and operate alongside a rejuvenated Northern Rock, creating three new banking players in an industry that was becoming dominated by a handful of high street names.

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Woman left broke by divorce payout takes fight to Supreme Court

Times: A British woman left almost penniless by divorce goes to the Supreme Court this week in a case that will test London’s reputation as the divorce capital of the world.

Sikirat Agbaje, 68, is challenging a divorce award made in her native Nigeria and upheld by the Court of Appeal in London that left her with just under £7,000.

Her former husband, Olusola, 71, a barrister to whom she was married for 40 years, took £616,000, including two properties in London.

But Mrs Agbaje, of New Barnet, North London, argues that the divorce in 2005 should have been heard in Britain, where she would be entitled to a far bigger share of the assets.

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Father of Baby RB fights hospital’s decision to turn off life support

Times: A father whose son was born with a rare neuromuscular condition will go to the High Court today to try to stop a hospital withdrawing support that keeps the child alive.

Doctors treating the one-year-old boy say that his quality of life is so poor that it would not be in his best interests to keep him alive. They say that they are supported in their action by the baby’s mother. The couple are separated.

The child, known for legal reasons as Baby RB, was born with congenital myasthenic syndrome, a muscle condition that severely limits movement and the ability to breathe independently. He has been in hospital since birth.

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Postal strike helps speeding motorists escape fines

Times: Thousands of speeding motorists may be able to escape fines and penalty points on their licences thanks to the postal strike.

In what is being seen as a test case, a High Court judge has quashed the conviction of a driver because the statutory police letter failed to arrive within the 14-day legal deadline. It had been delayed by Royal Mail industrial action.

The ruling by Lord Justice Elias could lead to a flood of refusals to pay fines by thousands of drivers whose letters were caught in the backlog caused by the strike. It could also force police forces to abandon the Royal Mail to deliver the notices.

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Bonuses for lawyers who seize criminal assets ‘risk undermining justice’

Times: Crown Prosecution Service lawyers are receiving personal bonuses linked to their success in confiscating criminal assets, The Times has learnt.

About £1.37 million has been paid in personal bonuses to staff over the past two financial years, the CPS disclosed under Freedom of Information legislation. It did not say what proportion was for hitting confiscation targets, but the disclosure will add to concern among lawyers that providing financial incentives to prosecutors could undermine the criminal justice system.

The confiscation targets are also being increased year by year: the target for this year is a total of 4,743 confiscation orders across England and Wales, with a value of £106 million.

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