Environment minister Michael Meacher misled parliament twice over a serious health hazard, an investigation uncovered last week.
He was given wildly inaccurate figures by the official Environment Agency on the level of deadly dioxin poisons in recycled material used to build homes. The revelations underline the dangers of the government’s drive to build more waste incinerators which produced the recycled material.
The BBC’s Newsnight looked at recycled material from an incinerator in Edmonton, north London, which had been sold to Tarmac, and used to build roads and houses across Britain.
The Environment Agency claimed it had no knowledge of the material being sold to Tarmac. It then said that when it tested the material later it contained only a minimal level of dioxins and posed no risk. Newsnight uncovered documents showing that in fact the agency had authorised the sale of the material to Tarmac.
The programme then commissioned independent tests which proved there were 60 times the levels of dioxins present that the agency had claimed. Even members of the agency board were shocked. Alan Daltons admitted, ‘I can’t trust the agency and I am a member of the board.’
Workers at an east London plant which stores recycled ash are also challenging claims that the material poses no real risk. Some workers at the Dagenham plant are having hospital tests after becoming ill. John Welsh, former site manager, says, ‘I’ve got an actual lump in my throat, inside my gullet, which the hospital have done tests on. Two other colleagues are suffering from throat problems.’
You may be tempted by ideas in the Financial Times ‘How to Spend It’ Christmas special. How about an advent calendar with a difference? Instead of chocolates as you open the doors each day there are a selection of ‘exclusive gifts’. It will set you back just £330,000.
Still not satisfied? Perhaps the South Sea Circles necklace with matching bracelet and earrings. It’s all yours for £90,800. Something for a man instead? How about the nice sets of cufflinks the Financial Times recommends, at just £2,145 a pair?
Parents and teachers may be pleased to hear the latest on Chris Woodhead. The man spent years in charge of the Ofsted schools inspectorate attacking teachers and to making children’s education a misery.
He is now out of a job after being sacked as a Daily Telegraph columnist. In nearly a year as a writer for the Tory paper Woodhead produced just 11 columns and a handful of book reviews.
The ultimate indignity came when one of Woodhead’s articles was pulled to make way for a piece by former Tory leader William Hague. Woodhead is having difficulty holding down a job. His contract at public relations firm Bell Pottinger was terminated when the firm said he was too expensive.
Fiendishly clever security types at the House of Commons have come up with a failsafe way to deal with any potential terrorist threat.
News applicants for a House of Commons pass have to fill in a questionnaire. Question number 30 is the infallible test: ‘Have you ever been involved in terrorism? If so, give full details below.’
Housing associations are pushing tenants out of any decision making, and spending huge sums in the process. The accusation came in a report by the official Audit Commission watchdog last week. Many housing associations had some form of tenant representation.
Now they are transforming themselves into ruthless businesses, and setting up new complex structures to exclude tenants from any say. ‘This is a worrying development that decreases transparency and accountability,’ says the Audit Commission.
The associations were also slammed for spending lavishly. Manchester-based Harvest spent £100,000 on its new corporate structure. Birmingham-based Prime Focus spent £70,000 just on its new corporate logo.
New Labour is still trying to con council tenants to hand their homes over to housing associations, and is still claiming there will be no loss of democratic control.
The education secretary of state, Estelle Morris, caused havoc in schools last week. Firstly she issued plans for schools to become private firms running post offices and health centres.
Her speech was then published on a government website. Many schools downloaded it to see what the government wanted. Unfortunately, along with Morris’s speech came a deadly computer virus known as Nimda, which can crash computers.
The Daily Mail was embarrassed after a crude attempt to burnish its multicultural credentials offended people. It published a long article on the life of Mohammed in a bid to show it was not anti-Muslim. Except that illustrating the piece was a large portrait of the prophet.
The Mail was forced to print in its next issue, ‘We should of course have realised that in Islam it is prohibited to portray a likeness of any prophet of god and now accept that this regrettable oversight caused offence to many of our Muslim readers.’
No danger of glasses running dry at government do’s in the coming weeks. The Foreign Office admitted last week that it has a huge stock of luxury wines, and ‘the current value is estimated to be in the region of £1.5 million’.
The 37,000 bottles average £40 each, with many considerably more. The government defended its luxury cellar as a ‘national asset’ and said it could not possibly be expected to have ‘cheap vino’.
‘If I felt my officers were going into nightclubs looking for people who were in possession of ecstasy then I would say to them, and I would say publicly, that they were wasting valuable police resources.’
COMMANDER BRIAN PADDICK, Lambeth senior police chief
‘A whole range of people buy drugs, not just cannabis, but even cocaine and ecstasy, with money they have earned legitimately. They use a small amount of these drugs, a lot of them just at weekends, and they go back to work on Monday.’
COMMANDER BRIAN PADDICK
‘The commissioner has reminded Commander Paddick that he is expected to follow and implement the Met’s policy in relation to Class A drugs, and he accepts that.’
SCOTLAND YARD statement
‘The Marines have landed and we now own a piece of Afghanistan.’
GENERAL JAMES MATTIS of the US Marines speaking this week
‘We’re deciding the exact right moment to put in around 2,000 Marines to do what they and no one else can do-search and destroy, which means find the target and kill him.’
A PENTAGON SOURCE
‘Winter is a bad time for the war in Afghanistan, but it is a good season for the war in Iraq.’
US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT
‘Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.’
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, top New York chef, on his gourmet travels around the world
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.