A Bill to enable a referendum on whether voters wanted Britain to ‘remain’ in the European Union figured in the Queen’s Speech. Another Bill prohibited any rise in income tax rates, VAT or national insurance before 2020. Tenants of housing associations would be given the right to buy their homes. Provision for Scottish devolution was promised in fulfilment of the recommendations of the cross-party Smith Commission. A ‘powerhouse’ in the north was to come into being through cities being given powers over housing, transport, planning and policing. Laws on strikes would be tightened. Red tape for business would be reduced, and a new quango set up to invigilate late payment to small businesses. Apprenticeships would be encouraged and childcare expanded. The National Health Service could expect money and meddling. Police cells would no longer be used for the emergency detention of the insane. But there was no provision for the promised replacement of the Human Rights Act.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, entertained Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, to dinner at Chequers and told him that ‘British people are not happy with the status quo’ in Europe. Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France were hatching plans for a closer union for their countries in the European Union without the trouble of amending its treaties; they backed plans for a minimum corporation tax rate throughout the EU. Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, said Britain would not accept mandatory quotas for the distribution of thousands of African migrants who are now in Italy and Greece.
Labour would now support plans for an EU referendum by the end of 2017, according to its acting leader, Harriet Harman. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, plotted a Scottish veto on the United Kingdom leaving the EU: ‘We’ll propose a double majority meaning that exit from the European Union would only be possible if all four nations agreed.’ Margaret Paterson, 62, from Edinburgh, jailed for five years in 2013 for brothel-keeping and living off the earnings of prostitution, agreed to hand over £1 million of earnings from crime. The BBC ended the comedy pop music quiz Never Mind The Buzzcocks after 18 years.
Six Fifa officials were arrested in Zurish and awaited extradition to the United States. In the Polish presidential election, Andrzej Duda, the conservative challenger, defeated the incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, by 51.5 to 48.5 per cent. In Spanish regional and local elections, the ruling Popular party won most votes, but with much reduced support, which the Socialists also saw, because the left-wing Podemos protest party gained 12 per cent and the more moderate new movement Ciudadanos 6 per cent. In a referendum in Ireland to change the constitution, 1,201,607 people (62 per cent) voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against; the turnout was 60.5 per cent. Roscommon-South Leitrim was the only one of 43 constituencies to vote against. Ryanair, the Irish airline, increased annual net profits by 66 per cent to €867 millions. The Irish government agreed to sell its 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus to IAG, the owner of British Airways. Users of Twitter who attempted to raise a Mexican demon were warned they might be ‘leaving a portal open for demons to come in and out of your house as they please’.
Iraq launched an offensive against Islamic State positions in Anbar province with the help of the Popular Mobilisation (al-Hashd al-Shaabi), a coalition of dozens of Shia militias. This followed remarks by Ashton Carter, the US defence secretary, who had said that Ramadi had been captured by the Islamic State because ‘the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight’. Unicef said that of 27 suicide attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria this year, several used women bombers or girls as young as seven. More than 1,000 people died of the heat in India, where temperatures reached 118˚F. Wolf volcano on Isabela Island in the Galapagos erupted, annoying rare pink iguanas.
Russia mounted a military exercise involving 250 aircraft and 12,000 troops. Greece continued talks with creditors even though Nikos Voutsis, its interior minister, said that the repayments due in June would not be made, as money was ‘not there to be given’. Malaysia set about exhuming bodies from 139 graves, thought to be those of migrants held for ransom in jungle camps by gangs of people-traffickers. Asger Juhl, a radio presenter in Denmark, was criticised for killing a baby rabbit called Alan live on air by hitting it with a bicycle pump. CSH