Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

Home

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that average energy bills would be brought £50 lower through government intervention to reduce the obligation of energy companies to subsidise insulation. The government also said it would cut subsidies for onshore wind turbines and solar energy, and increase those for offshore wind farms. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that new arrivals from Bulgaria or Romania found to be begging or sleeping rough would be thrown out of the country and barred from returning for a year, unless they had a job. He then flew to China to further British trade. A bridge across the Thames from Temple to the South Bank, the idea of Joanna Lumley, and designed by Thomas Heatherwick, attracted government support.

The Bank of England withdrew support for the Funding for Lending Scheme, which helped lenders provide mortgages for house-buyers, lest a housing bubble should grow. The Royal Bank of Scotland said it would investigate allegations that it systematically put customers out of business for profit. Customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank found they could not make payments by card for three hours one evening. Sir George Young, 72, the Conservative Chief Whip, decided not to stand for Parliament at the next election. The South Suffolk Conservative Association decided not to reselect Tim Yeo as its candidate at the next election. A lorry trailer loaded with vodka worth £250,000 was stolen from a yard in Dumfries.


For the first time, the United Kingdom failed to figure in the top 20 placings out of 65 countries for pupil attainment in maths, reading or science, under the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment; pupils in Shanghai did best in each category. A police helicopter crashed through the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow, killing the crew of three and six others. Police investigating claims of football match-fixing in Britain by foreign betting syndicates arrested six people. Leo Cooper, the publisher, died, aged 79. Jean Kent, the film actress, died, aged 92. More than 300 Britons are fighting for jihadist movements in Syria, British security sources said. Khat, 2,560 tons of which were imported last year principally for Yemenis and Somalis, should not be classified as a Class C drug (as Theresa May, the Home Secretary had announced), the home affairs committee, chaired by Keith Vaz, said, because of a lack of evidence of its harmfulness.

Abroad

China scrambled fighter jets to investigate American and Japanese aircraft flying through its new air defence zone over the East China Sea. In the United States, the trouble-plagued healthcare website set up under President Barack Obama’s reforms was given another dose of maintenance. The 05.54 train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station, New York, was derailed near Spuyten Duyvil station and four were killed. In Bangladesh, a fire that gutted a ten-storey building where 18,000 garment workers were employed, at Gazipur, 25 miles from Dhaka, was arson, police said. Venezuela suffered widespread power cuts.

Wael Halki, the prime minister of Syria, on a visit to its ally Iran, said that government forces were winning the civil war. Perhaps 1,300 tons of chemicals from Syria’s weapons stockpile were to be destroyed before the end of the year with the help of the United States, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The United Nations said that the 1.1 million child refugees from the civil war were becoming a damaged generation. The Lebanese army took control of the city of Tripoli in Lebanon, split between Sunni opponents of the government of neighbouring Syria, and Alawite supporters of it. In Mali, the Tuareg separatist Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad ended its ceasefire. Thousands of fossilised dinosaur turds said to be 240 million years old were discovered in the province of La Rioja in Argentina.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev each day in opposition to the Ukrainian government’s refusal to sign a deal on closer links with the European Union. The Kremlin ordered the removal from Red Square in Moscow of a pavilion 90 feet wide in the shape of a Louis Vuitton suitcase. Croatians voted by two to one in a referendum against the concept of homosexual marriage, which now means a change in the constitution to prevent it. For the first time, the police of Iceland shot a man dead. China launched a lunar probe. India’s mission to Mars broke free from orbiting the Earth on its 300-day journey.     – CSH

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