A happy, secure and prosperous New Year to you, although my head tells me it's more likely to be an 'interesting' one.
Just a few stories that caught the eye but no time to blog thereon :
The policy of fighting 'child poverty' by throwing extra benefits at low-income 'families' is certainly having an effect - as the least-educated mothers opt for more children
The researchers then looked at fertility rates both before the reforms were announced and after, for a sample of 101,330 women aged between 20 and 45.
They found a large increase in the first year after the benefits were made more generous, particularly among women who had left school as soon as possible.
The results show a 15 per cent increase in the probability of having a baby in the "low education group", equivalent to an extra 45,000 births compared with 670,000 across Britain as a whole.
Overall there has been a steady rise in the birth rate since 2001, and although some of this is down to higher fertility among immigrants, even among women born in the UK it has risen from 1.68 births per woman in 2004 to 1.79 last year.
Well, even 'women born in the UK' will increasingly be the daughters of migrants. I'd love to see a geographic or ethnic split for the figures. We know already that the largest number of births are in the areas with the largest numbers of immigrants, and that the most educated women have fewest babies. This latter trend appears to have been reinforced by Labour's reforms. The full report (pdf) is here.
Surprise surprise. The massed ranks of Guardianistas in the Probation 'Service', as well as other liberal do-gooders, don't like the Government's latest vote-grabbing scheme (a scheme I agree with, while having no illusions about what's driving it).
Plans to make criminals wear high-visibility jackets while doing community punishments face being undermined by a probation service “institutionally on the side of offenders”, the Government’s neighbourhood crime adviser said.
Louise Casey said that she was afraid it would use health and safety reasons as an excuse for offenders not to wear the jackets, which will bear the words “Community Payback”. She said that it was a “no-brainer” to make offenders wear them, because they showed the public that there were consequences for criminals who were given non-custodial sentences. She said also that she wanted leaflets put through letterboxes to tell people the outcome of crimes in their area.
Ms Casey told The Times that she was astonished at the level of opposition within the probation service to the jackets idea. “[The plan] will have to be driven very, very hard, but this is just the beginning to opening up the criminal justice system. I think the other thing that will meet huge resistance is sharing information about what happens to criminals.”
She added that there was a huge gap in providing information to neighbourhoods about what had happened to suspects taken to court and the punishments handed down. If people were told more about what had happened in the courts, they would have more faith in the criminal justice system.
I didn't know HMG had tweaked the law a few years back to make it legal for bailiffs to break into your house. Where the hell were the Tories ?
Now they want the bailiffs to be able to beat you up as well
The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.
Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans. The government, which wants to crack down on people who evade debts, says the new powers would be overseen by a robust industry watchdog.
From last year - a Muslim convert to Christianity gets full police support
A British citizen who converted to Christianity from Islam and then complained to police when locals threatened to burn his house down was told by officers to “stop being a crusader”, according to a new report.
Nissar Hussein, 43, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who was born and raised in Britain, converted from Islam to Christianity with his wife, Qubra, in 1996. The report says that he was subjected to a number of attacks and, after being told that his house would be burnt down if he did not repent and return to Islam, reported the threat to the police. It says he was told that such threats were rarely carried out and the police officer told him to “stop being a crusader and move to another place”. A few days later the unoccupied house next door was set on fire.
A blog wholly devoted to the great Dalrymple
. He is published in so many places it's hard to keep track. The Skeptical Doctor is the place which does all the work, and so I forgive the American spelling.
Britons once had the right to bear arms just as did Americans. How did it disappear ?
In a salami stylee - a slice at a time. "All the way down the slippery slope
" follows the history.
It's not just the jobs that Poles flock to the UK for. While our electronics and space manufacturing sectors may not be too hot (when did anyone last buy an item of consumer electronics made in the UK ?) our thriving abortion industry is a (admittedly tax-subsidised) world leader.
Ten thousand Polish women had abortions in Britain last year, it has been reported, in procedures which are thought to have cost the NHS between £5million and £10m.
Thousands of the women are thought to have come to Britain specifically for the procedure, which is illegal in Poland.
People coming to Britain as temporary workers are given a National Insurance number, which allows them to register with a doctor and have NHS treatment.
Britain is thought to be a particularly popular destination as terminations can be carried out as late as 24 weeks into a pregnancy. In several other EU countries, abortions can not be carried out after 12 weeks.
A pill given to women under nine weeks pregnant costs the NHS about £500 while an operation necessary for those further into pregnancy costs about £1,600 including after-care.
Magistrate quits because "he recently jailed an offender for six months but saw him walking about the town just six weeks later".
Dr Soper said: 'My greatest frustration and that of my colleagues is the very early release of prisoners.'
He said virtually all offenders are released automatically halfway through their sentences, while emergency measures to tackle prison overcrowding means many have another 18 days knocked off their sentences. Yet the judges and magistrates who heard their cases have no say over their early release.
Dr Soper said magistrates considered 'very hard' how to punish criminals, and added: 'It is frustrating when that careful thought seems to be undermined. It has certainly reduced my confidence in the system.'
Community service and unpaid work have been trumpeted by ministers as punishments to help ease jail overcrowding, but Dr Soper said his own research locally showed only 60-65 per cent of offenders bothered to turn up.
Police were increasingly preferring to deal with offenders through cautions and on-the-spot fines rather than charging them and sending them to court, he said - undermining the principle of public and media scrutiny of justice.
Dr Soper said: 'It is not just minor cases they deal with - theft and violence are included and this court recently had a violent offender who had previously been cautioned by the police for causing grievous bodily harm.'
In his years as a JP, Dr Soper said, the number of courts in West Suffolk had dropped from six to three - and will soon be cut to just one.
'The idea of local justice, one of the strengths of the system, is disappearing fast,' he said.
'Now I hear that the courts budget is to be cut further, so what next?'
Blimey. When Micael Portillo, who lost his political stomach in 1997 and has since reinvented himself as touchy-feely Mr Nice Guy, says "Britain has lost the stomach for a fight" I think we should take notice.
It raises questions about the stamina of our nation and the resolve of our political class. It is an uncomfortable conclusion that Britain, with nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers and the latest generation of fighter-bombers, is incapable of securing a medium-size conurbation. Making Basra safe was an essential part of the overall strategy; having committed ourselves to our allies we let them down.
The extent of Britain’s fiasco has been masked by the media’s relief that we are at last leaving Iraq. Those who have been urging Britain to quit are not in a strong position to criticise the government’s lack of staying power. Reporting of Basra has mainly focused on British casualties and the prospect for withdrawal. The British media and public have shown scant regard for our failure to protect Iraqis, so the British nation, not just its government, has attracted distrust. We should reflect on what sort of country we have become. We may enjoy patronising Americans but they demonstrate a fibre that we now lack.
But be fair. One of the strange contradictions of NuLabs regime is the willingness to upset Muslims overseas while bending over backwards to avoid upsetting them in the UK (apart from the said overseas upsets). The retreat from Basra would at least be a mark of consistency, of bringing foreign policy into craven line with domestic, were it not for the fact that the withdrawal is almost certainly aimed at facilitating an additional troop movement into Afghanistan. Our boys will go from being blown up in under-armoured vehicles, short of body armour and helicopters, in Iraq, to being blown up in under-armoured vehicles, short of body armour and helicopters, in Afghanistan - all so that little Nooria can go to school.