Morning news headlines for September 2, 2013

Boris Johnson has said fresh evidence against Bashar Assad’s regime would allow the Government to go back to Parliament for a second vote on military action

Bashar Assad, Boris Johnson, John Kerry and Michael Le Vell
Bashar Assad, Boris Johnson, John Kerry and Michael Le Vell

Syria: ‘Proof justifies a new vote’

Fresh evidence against Bashar Assad’s regime would allow the Government to go back to Parliament for a second vote on military action, it was claimed as Washington announced it had proof that sarin gas was used in Syria.

London Mayor Boris Johnson became the latest figure to suggest that British forces could still be deployed following the atrocity on the outskirts of Damascus, insisting there was “no reason” why a renewed bid for parliamentary support could not still be made.

US Secretary of state John Kerry has revealed the United States has evidence of sarin gas use after testing samples of hair and blood and insisted he is confident that Congress will back military action when it is put to a vote next week.

Teenagers must master core subjects

Teenagers who fail to score decent grades in their English and maths GCSEs will have to continue studying these subjects, ministers have announced.

Under new reforms, 16-year-olds who do not get a C grade or better will be told that they must learn the two subjects until they gain the key qualifications.

The Government said that the move will help ensure that young people have a good grasp of English and maths.

Councils sell off voter information

More than 300 local authorities sold people’s names and addresses to more than 2,700 companies and individuals over five years, privacy campaigners have revealed.

According to Freedom of Information Act requests made by Big Brother Watch, councils sold the edited electoral register – made of up all those people who register to vote and do not opt-out of the edited version – to pizza shops, estate agents, lobbyists and driving schools among others.

The group calls on the Government to abolish the edited register or allow councils to offer people a permanent opt-out instead of the current system that requires people to opt out annually.

Actor on trial for sex offences

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell will go on trial today accused of a series of serious child sex offences.

The star, who plays car mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, is facing 12 charges in all, which are five counts of rape, three of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

The alleged offences relate to one complainant and are said to have taken place between September 2002 and September 2010.

Blaze destroys technology school

Five children have been arrested after a fire destroyed a school that was due to reopen tomorrow after the summer holidays.

Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College in Royal Avenue, Leyland, Lancashire, was devastated by the blaze, which broke out shortly after 4pm yesterday.

Five boys between 11 and 15 were being held on suspicion of arson, Lancashire Police said.

Mourners gather for Heaney funeral

Family and friends of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney will join dignitaries and literary figures today as Ireland bids farewell to one its most famous sons at a funeral service in Dublin.

The internationally acclaimed 74-year-old writer died unexpectedly in hospital on Friday after a short illness.

His funeral will be held at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in the south of Dublin – a city the Northern Ireland born poet made his home.

House market boost helps retailers

Britain’s housing market revival helped retailers enjoy their best sales growth for six months in August amid a surge in demand for homewares, according to new figures.

BDO’s monthly high street tracker showed like-for-like sales across the retail sector, excluding online, increased by 3.5% last month, helped by an “exceptional” performance from homewares, which saw sales rise by more than a fifth – the strongest result for six years.

The report suggested retailers were also helped as the cooler weather prompted people to hit the shops after putting off purchases amid the heatwave.

Free childcare plan to be extended

Free childcare will be extended to double the number of families on low incomes, the Deputy Prime Minister has said.

The Government has promised to bolster the handout which will be offered to 40% of parents with two-year-olds next year.

It will be available to 260,000 toddlers and families earning less than £16,190 per year who receive working tax credits.

20,000 cram into overcrowded cells

Almost 20,000 prisoners were kept in overcrowded cells last year, figures obtained by a charity have revealed.

About 19,140 prisoners on average were forced to share a cell designed for one person during the financial year 2012-13, the Howard League for Penal Reform has said.

A further 777 people were made to sleep three to a cell, when the cells are designed to accommodate only two.

Al-Sweady inquiry to hear evidence

Soldiers who were involved in a notorious battle during the Iraq war are to start giving evidence to a public inquiry into claims that British forces mistreated and unlawfully killed detainees.

The Al-Sweady Inquiry, which is examining claims that UK soldiers mistreated and killed detainees after the ”Battle of Danny Boy” in May 2004, is to start hearing evidence from military witnesses today.

The inquiry, which was ordered in 2009, started hearing oral evidence in March but has so far only heard from Iraqi witnesses and some experts.

 

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