The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 25 June 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Spies will be sent out to inform upon people smoking in public places, including bus shelters and office doorways, under plans by Miss Caroline Flint, the minister for public health, who advocated ‘an intelligence-led approach to enforcing the law’. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, borrowed £8.735 billion in May, the highest amount since 1993, when such records began. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, returned from Brussels, where a summit of European Union leaders could not agree on a budget to run from 2007 to 2013; he had defended Britain’s rebate, which he had said should not be renegotiated without connected changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. ‘The rebate is an anomaly that has to go,’ he told a press conference in London, ‘but it has to go in the context of the other anomaly being changed away.’ Britain begins its six-month presidency of the EU on 1 July. At the opening of the National School of Government, a school for civil servants, Mr Blair praised a newly created quango called the Better Regulation Executive for ‘reducing the burden of paperwork for business’. Thousands of families had suffered ‘worry and distress’ because tax credit benefits had been clawed back through an inflexible computer system, according to Mrs Ann Abraham, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman. The Association of Train Operating Companies said that a 28 per cent rise in passenger numbers in the next 10 years could be met by ‘rail peak-pricing’ if road pricing were introduced too. Dr John Sentamu, a former Ugandan high court judge, was named as the new Archbishop of York. The Queen caught a cold at York racecourse, and cancelled a day’s public engagements for the first time since 2003. Thunderstorms suddenly flooded Helmsley and nearby spots in North Yorkshire.

President Jacques Chirac of France said after the collapse of the EU summit: ‘Il y a eu un moment pathétique’. He was referring not to the behaviour of Mr Blair, as suggested in the British press, but to the declaration by ‘six or seven’ poorer EU countries that they were ‘pr