The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 7 December 2002

A speedy round-up of the week's news

The government announced that 700 health workers and servicemen would be vaccinated against smallpox, and that it was buying more vaccine so that the whole population could be vaccinated if necessary; the action was said by the Prime Minister’s spokesman not to be in response to any specific threat. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, agreed with his French counterpart that Britain should take 1,000 Iraqis and 200 Afghans from the Sangatte Red Cross camp near Calais, which is to close on 30 December; the migrants began arriving immediately. The Fire Brigades Union cancelled an eight-day strike that was to have started last Wednesday, and their dispute was taken to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The government introduced a Hunting Bill which would outlaw hare-coursing and stag-hunting in England and Wales, but tolerate foxhunting under licence from an independent registrar; ratting and rabbiting with dogs would also be allowed. Mr Allan Leighton, the chairman of the Royal Mail, said that it could go bust unless it was allowed to increase the price of letter postage by a penny. Slam-door trains will still be in use in 2005 after a decision by the Strategic Rail Authority to delay the withdrawal of 400 trains made in the 1960s. Mr Harold Brown, butler to the late Princess Margaret, was found innocent of stealing things from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales; the prosecution case against him at the Old Bailey collapsed even before the jury was sworn in. The florist’s shop at Holt, near Wrexham, owned by Mr Paul Burrell, formerly butler to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, caught fire after a presumed arson attack. The switching on of Christmas lights at Holt, Norfolk, was sabotaged when wires were cut. Parents were prohibited from taking photographs or videoing the nativity play by children at Sundon village school, Bedfordshire, lest paedophiles made use of the images.

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