The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 25 February 2012


Immigration officials did not check the details of 500,000 people entering Britain by Eurostar trains, and left unread the biometric chip in passports of people entering the United Kingdom on 14,812 occasions in the first half of 2011, according to a report by John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told Parliament that the UK Border Agency would be split in two, with the UK Border Force becoming a separate law-enforcement body. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, confirmed the controversial appointment (opposed by the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee) of Professor Les Ebdon, the vice chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, as the head of the Office for Fair Access, a quango with powers to interfere in the admission of students to universities in England. ‘Everybody looks like clones,’ Dame Vivienne Westwood, aged 70, remarked during London Fashion Week, ‘and the only people you notice are my age.’

Companies and charities are to be paid more than £2,000 for each youth with poor educational qualifications that they place in employment or education under a scheme outlined by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. After some rather synthetic accusations of exploitation, Sainsbury’s and Waterstones were among companies that withdrew from a government scheme giving young people unpaid jobs for between two and eight weeks, and Tesco decided to pay them. Much of southern and eastern England is now afflicted with drought, Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said, and the nation was told only to spend four minutes in the shower. The Royal Mail wanted to increase the price of second-class stamps from 36p to 55p.

The government received more money in January than it spent, and was on course to limit its borrowing to less than £127 billion this financial year.

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