Saturday News Review

Government plans to help poorer students “unworkable”

Government plans for poorer students to get two years’ university tuition free of charge will “not be workable” across the board, the BBC has been told. Ministers proposed that students from disadvantaged backgrounds could have one year paid by the state, matched by another from their university. Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge said such a scheme would hit some institutions harder than others. MPs have voted to raise tuition fees in England to up to £9,000 a year. Three days before MPs decided on the government’s controversial plans, ministers announced they were looking to use a £150m fund to provide a year’s free tuition for poorer students. This would then be matched by the university to provide another year’s study free of charge. The proposal was thought to have helped persuade some Lib Dem MPs to support the government. – The BBC

Chaytor jailed

David Chaytor, the first former MP to be convicted over the expenses scandal, was today sentenced to 18 months in prison. The former Labour MP for Bury North last month pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to three charges of false accounting, days before he had been due to stand trial. He faced a maximum sentence of seven years. Chaytor had admitted false accounting involving a total of £18,350. He had agreed to pay back the sum before today’s hearing at Southwark crown court. Mr Justice Saunders said a significant penalty for the 61-year-old was “the only way public faith in the system can be restored and maintained”. “The whole expenses scandal has shaken public confidence in the legislature, it has angered the public,” he said. “Chaytor only bears a small part of responsibility for that erosion of confidence and the public anger. But it is important because he has accepted his conduct was dishonest.” – The Guardian

Law-BREAKING law-maker David Chaytor is the author of his downfall, an MP brought down by greed. There’ll be little public sympathy for the Dishonourable former Member for Bury North, who was jailed for 18 months after he admitted fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in expenses. Submitting false invoices and claims for rent he never paid on homes owned by his relatives were calculated deceptions, not the accounting errors of a busy MP. Chaytor is the first former MP to be jailed since Jeffrey Archer’s imprisonment for perjury a decade ago, and a number of further prosecutions are in the pipeline, including three ex-MPs and two peers. But there are a significant number of other MPs and ex-MPs who are very fortunate not to be in the dock. The new system of expenses is far from perfect yet it’s certainly better than what went before. The legal hangover from the last Parliament is still tainting this House of Commons but every MP has a vested interest in restoring the trust in politics. – The Mirror

New questions raised over hacking

Scotland Yard has told the News of the World to supply any new information it might have on illegal interception of mobile phones by its journalists following the suspension of a senior editor at the Sunday newspaper. The police made the request as the Crown Prosecution Service was urged to explain what kind of evidence of phone hacking the police had given it when the scandal broke in 2006. Tom Watson, a Labour MP, asked the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, whether the police had been in possession of a contract between a private investigator and the newspaper, in which the investigator agreed to conduct illegal eavesdropping and phone interception aimed at celebrities and politicians. The Metropolitan Police said on Friday it had sent a letter to the tabloid newspaper asking for any additional information about phone hacking relating to the case of Ian Edmondson, its assistant editor. Mr Edmondson was suspended just before Christmas following allegations in a statement to the High Court by lawyers acting for Sienna Miller, the actress. – FT

Cameron will do no such thing. He is determined to retain the services of his press adviser Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World. But the scandal, which involves not only Cameron but also Rupert Murdoch and the Metropolitan Police, will rumble on, threatening to tarnish the Tory leader’s carefully cultivated gentleman-of-the-old-school image. It is in keeping with this image for Cameron to be seen to stick by his loyal henchman, insisting like a bishop with a wayward priest that he deserves to be given a second chance. But is that all there is to it? Coulson didn’t get where he is today without amassing a huge amount of inside information about public figures. He could well cause trouble if once sent outside the tent. For the same reason, Cameron, like all politicians, will be most reluctant to do anything to upset the police. Like Coulson, they know where a lot of bodies are buried and they to need to be kept well inside the tent. – Independent

The Metropolitan Police has written to the News of the World requesting any new material they may have in relation to alleged phone hacking after the newspaper suspended a member of staff. On Wednesday it emerged news editor Ian Edmondson had been suspended, after claims of phone-hacking in 2005-06. The allegations are believed to have been made by actress Sienna Miller. The paper has denied claims it made widespread use of hacking and said it would “co-operate fully” with police. The News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages after he had intercepted voicemails left for royal aides in 2007. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months on the same charge. The paper’s then editor Andy Coulson resigned – despite saying he had not been aware of what was going on – and is now Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications. –BBC

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