The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 18 February 2012

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Bideford town council acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said at meetings, the High Court ruled. ‘A local authority has no power under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972,’ Mr Justice Ouseley said, ‘to hold prayers as part of a formal local authority meeting’, but he rejected arguments based on the European Convention on Human Rights. Abu Qatada, the Islamist extremist cleric, was released on bail and confined to his home for 22 hours a day. Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: ‘We have to find a way of making him leave. There are legal, rule-of-law ways, of achieving that.’ On a visit by seven British ministers to see the Pope, Baroness Warsi said: ‘I will be arguing for Europe to become more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity.’ Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for young people, said that school rules against boys wearing skirts could breach the Equality Act 2010.

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Britain was given a ‘negative outlook’ (meaning that there is a 30 per cent chance of its losing its AAA credit rating within 18 months) by Moody’s, the ratings agency, which said that it was exposed to ‘any further deterioration in European economic conditions’. George Osborne responded by saying: ‘We can’t waver in the path of dealing with our debts.’ Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said it showed that ‘George Osborne’s plan is not working’. The annual rate of inflation fell to 3.6 per cent in January, from 4.2 per cent the month before (measured by the CPI), or to 3.9 per cent from 4.8 (measured by RPI); a notable factor was the absence of the increase in VAT of January 2011. Unemployment rose by 48,000 to 2.67 million in the last quarter of 2011.

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