Saturday News Review

Coulson “dossier” passed to the Crown Prosecution Service

Scotland Yard has handed prosecutors a file containing new evidence on the phone-hacking scandal surrounding David Cameron’s top spin doctor. The announcement comes less than a week after Andy Coulson was interviewed by police. The information has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will now consider it before deciding if charges should be brought. The move will increase pressure on the Prime Minister over his decision to employ Mr Coulson as his head of communications. – The Herald

Coulson under the spot light again

Scotland Yard said a dossier had been passed to specialist lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service. It is understood to contain transcripts from four police interviews with ex-employees of the newspaper, including Mr Coulson, its former editor. Clive Goodman, 49, a senior journalist on the Sunday tabloid, was sentenced to four months in 2007 for conspiracy to access phone messages involving Princes William and Harry. Glenn Mulcaire, 36, a freelance “researcher”, got six months. A Metropolitan Police inquiry was revived earlier this year following an investigation by the The New York Times which alleged that the practice was more widespread at the News of the World than previously admitted. Mr Coulson, who was editor at the time, has always insisted he did not know about or authorise the activity. Sean Hoare, a former reporter who made claims about Mr Coulson, was questioned by police under caution but not arrested. Mr Coulson was questioned as a witness earlier this month and was not under caution or arrested. Two other men have also been interviewed. Paul McMullan, who handled investigations at the newspaper, has said that illegal activity was so widespread in the newsroom that the editor must have known about it. –The Telegraph

Scotland Yard said today it had uncovered new material about phone hacking at the News of the World and had sent a file of evidence to prosecutors who will now consider if there is a strong enough case to bring criminal charges. The controversy presents a danger to David Cameron’s communications director, Andy Coulson, who was editor of the News of the World when a reporter and private investigator were convicted and jailed for hacking voice messages involving Princes William and Harry. A number of journalists have come forward to say the practice was more widespread than the tabloid has admitted and known about by Coulson, a claim that he denies. – The Guardian

Lib Dems plotted to ditch tuition fees pledge

The Liberal Democrats were drawing up plans to abandon Nick Clegg‘s flagship policy to scrap university tuition fees two months before the general election, secret party documents reveal. As the Lib Dem leader faces a growing revolt after this week’s violent protest against fee rises, internal documents show the party was drawing up proposals for Coalition negotiations which contrasted sharply with Clegg’s public pronouncements.  A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the “dead weight of debt”, a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years. In a document marked “confidential” and dated 16 March, the head of the secret pre-election coalition negotiating team, Danny Alexander, wrote: “On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part-time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches.” – The Guardian

Labour move towards graduate tax

Labour is to endorse a graduate tax as its official policy after Ed Miliband overruled Alan Johnson, the shadow Chancellor, who has expressed grave doubts about the idea. In a speech yesterday, Mr Johnson prepared the ground for a personal retreat by saying that Labour disagreed with the Coalition Government’s decision that graduates should pay all the cost of their university education under plans to allow tuition fees to rise to £9,000 a year from 2012. Mr Johnson, who introduced top-up fees as Higher Education Minister during the Blair government, is the first senior Labour figure to suggest the Opposition will come out in favour of a graduate tax since Mr Miliband became party leader in September. The issue has been discussed by the Shadow Cabinet and one member said: “We will go for a graduate tax.” Mr Miliband backed the move during Labour’s leadership election but the party is divided over it. On the day after Mr Miliband was elected, Mr Johnson advised him in an article in The Independent on Sunday: “For goodness sake, don’t pursue a graduate tax. We should be proud of our brave and correct decision to introduce tuition fees. Students don’t pay them, graduates do, when they’re earning more than £15,000 a year, at very low rates, stopped from their pay just like a graduate tax but with the money going where it belongs: to universities rather than the Treasury.” – The Independent

Tory- Lib Dem government scraps animal protection laws

Millions of hens will have their beaks mutilated; game birds will remain in cages; pigs, sheep and cows in abattoirs will lose crucial protection from abuse; badgers will be culled and lions, tigers and other wild animals will continue to perform in the big top. In a series of little-noticed moves, the Coalition has scrapped or stalled Labour initiatives to improve animal welfare some weeks before they were due to come into force. The Agriculture minister James Paice, who part-owns a farm in Cambridgeshire, has been behind most of the moves – which have infuriated welfare groups. In the latest of a series of controversial decisions, Mr Paice this week delayed by five years a ban on beak mutilations of laying hens due to come into force in January. – The Independent

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