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Commander Adrian  K M Pierce Royal Navy



The naval chief in charge of a nuclear-powered submarine which ran aground on a shingle bank has been relieved of his command.

HMS Astute was on sea trials last month when it became stuck off the coast of Skye and ended up marooned for several hours.

Navy officials confirmed that Andy Coles, 47, lost his command of the submarine on Friday.

He will remain with the Royal Navy and is to be given another post.

A final decision has still to be made about whether Commander Coles will face a court martial over the incident.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: "From yesterday, November 26, he was removed from command of HMS Astute. He's going to continue with the Royal Navy. He will be reappointed to another post. It's an internal administrative matter between Commander Coles and his senior officers."

The spokesman said it was not known what the new post will be. He added that a new commanding officer of HMS Astute will be appointed in the near future.

The vessel ran aground on the west coast of Scotland on October 22. It was freed by the evening when the tide began to rise.

However, it is understood HMS Astute was damaged after a collision with the coastguard tug the Anglian Prince, which was sent to free it.

The submarine returned to its base at Faslane on the Clyde three days after the incident.


Around 140,000 local authority jobs are expected to be axed in the next year because of spending cuts, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association had predicted that 100,000 posts would go across England and Wales after Chancellor George Osborne set out the broad framework for public spending in the June budget.

But the association said that the Government's decision to front load a large proportion of the cuts into the first year, rather than allow councils to spread them evenly over the four years of the spending review, was likely to lead to more jobs being lost.

The "unexpected severity" of the first-year cuts means councils will have to trim their budgets by an average of 11% in 2011/12, said the LGA.

Some authorities will also have to deal with the "difficult impact" of the loss of the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, which channelled £450 million to different parts of the country.

The LGA called on the Government to ease the effect of reductions in next month's local government finance settlement so that councils could spread the cuts more evenly over the next four years.

National officer Brian Strutton said: "Local government frontline services will be badly damaged by 140,000 job losses predicted by LGA for next year. The Tory/Liberal Government has taken an almighty gamble with people's livelihoods by cutting public spending instead of putting the priority on growth and getting the unemployed back to work. It is not possible to deflate the economy back to growth and a balanced budget."

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: "The local government finance settlement is due shortly and will be announced in a statement to Parliament. We are not going to pre-empt that statement and any commentary ahead of formal publication is pure speculation and in this case scaremongering.

"We are working towards delivering a settlement that will help to protect frontline services and the LGA would be well placed to focus their efforts on working with councils to do the same."

A Whitehall source said the Government believed councils could protect frontline services, especially if they cut "non jobs" and tackled high salaries among senior officers.

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A new Tory peer has criticised the Government's child benefit cuts - saying they give the poor more incentive to have children than the better-off.

Former party vice-chair Howard Flight told London's Evening Standard that taking the benefit away from top taxpayers would mean they were "discouraged from breeding".

"But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible," he told the newspaper.

The remarks were swiftly rejected by Downing Street.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said: "He is not a member of the Government, he is not a frontbencher, he does not speak for the Government and we do not agree with his comments."

Mr Flight was named just days ago by Mr Cameron as one of several new additions to the Tory ranks in the House of Lords - where he is yet to take his seat.

The ex-MP was forced to resign as vice-chairman after being taped before the 2005 general election suggesting the Tories had secret spending cut plans.

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Whitehall sign; Crown copyright


The Government has deferred a decision on replacing intercity express trains on the rail network.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond also announced that news about the extent of electrification on the Great Western route would not be released until the new year.

The Government did say, however, that there would be 2,100 new rail carriages on the network by May 2019 to help overcrowding on the busiest services.

The Intercity Express Programme (IEP) - to replace Intercity 125 high-speed trains - was halted by the Labour government earlier this year and an independent review was set up which reported to the new Government in June.

The Government said it is now looking at two options - a revised bid from the original preferred bidder Agility, a consortium led by Japanese company Hitachi; and an alternative for a fleet of all-electric trains.

The Government said it would continue to assess these two alternatives, "alongside a consideration of the extent of electrification on the Great Western route" and would make a further statement in the new year.

Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I made the decision that we must carry on investing in the railway, we can't stand still. If we want growth to continue, we have to invest in our transport infrastructure."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "Today's announcement is classic political smoke and mirrors.

"Key infrastructure developments like the intercity fleet have been kicked deep into the long grass and even the carriage procurement numbers have been dressed up to look better than they are with long-term projects mangled up with the urgent replacements required to keep pace with current demand.

"The reality is that the inflation-busting fare increases kick in within weeks while the infrastructure and upgrade works we need to drag the UK's railways out of the slow lane are light years away. The profits of the train companies are ring-fenced while the services to passengers are left to rot."

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Nick Clegg has urged students to call off planned demonstrations over tuition fee rises - telling them the Government's policy would benefit less-well-off youngsters.

The Deputy Prime Minister suggested they should instead be protesting about the "scandalously" high proportion of pupils from the schools he and David Cameron attended getting places at Oxbridge.

A fresh wave of protests against increases in university tuition fees will be held on Wednesday, with a series of occupations, rallies and marches by student activists.

The Liberal Democrats have been at the centre of the storm after ditching a General Election pledge to oppose fee rises - and eventually abolish them - as part of the coalition deal.

A delegation of students is to deliver a letter to the Lib Dem leader as part of the protests, which says "no amount of twisted reasoning" can hide the fact the party lied to young voters.

"We call on you to withdraw Lib Dem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed," it says.

But Mr Clegg used a high-profile speech to insist he would defend the policy and told the students to "listen and look before you march and shout".

In fact, the coalition's proposals were "even fairer" than the graduate tax preferred by the National Union of Students, he said in the annual Hugo Young Lecture in central London.

"On higher education, I want to be crystal-clear: I will defend the Government's plans for reforming the funding of universities, even though it is not the one I campaigned for," he said.

"It is not my party's policy, but it is the best policy given the choices we face."

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The Government has been defeated in the Lords after peers voted 235 to 201 (majority 34) to restrict ministers' powers to abolish quangos.

It was the coalition's second Lords defeat in seven days and the fifth in 16 Lords divisions since the general election.

The amendment to the Public Bodies Bill was tabled by Liberal Democrat QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill, but the division was called by Labour peers and crossbench QC Lord Pannick when Lord Lester tried to withdraw it.

The highly controversial Bill gives ministers wide-ranging powers to abolish, merge or modify hundreds of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations following the Government's recent review of such so-called "arm's-length bodies".

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for the Government, sought to reassure critics by tabling a series of amendments to the proposed powers.

But they failed to satisfy peers, among them former lord chief justice crossbencher Lord Woolf, who accused ministers of treating some of the quangos "in a cavalier way".

The previous Government defeat was on the Identity Documents Bill last Wednesday, when peers voted by 220 to 188 (majority 32) to allow people who had bought a soon-to-be abolished ID card to claim a £30 refund.

On Friday the Government announced the creation of an additional 54 peers, 27 of them Tories and 15 Liberal Democrats, but it will be several weeks before they begin to take their Lords seats.

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A police officer accused of raping vulnerable women has been convicted of six counts of misconduct in a public office.

Pc Stephen Mitchell was found guilty of the charges by a jury of six men and six women after 21 hours and 16 minutes deliberation at Newcastle Crown Court. He was cleared of six counts of misconduct and one of assault. Verdicts are yet to be reached on two charges of rape, three indecent assaults and one of misconduct.

Mitchell, 42, of Glasgow, stared straight ahead as the guilty verdicts, each by a majority of 10 to two, were read out.

The Northumbria Police officer was cleared of three counts of rape, two indecent assaults and two counts of misconduct in a public office at the court on Friday. He had denied all charges, claiming that the 16 women who made complaints against him were liars.

During a five-week trial, the prosecution said Mitchell preyed on heroin addicts, shoplifters and a disabled teenager by offering them help while in custody at Pilgrim Street police station in Newcastle city centre, then demanding sexual favours afterwards.

He had a hold over one woman for three-and-a-half years, even trying to keep her on heroin after she had quit, which only ended when she went into hiding after he raped her in handcuffs at her home, the court heard.

Others were flattered then propositioned while still in custody with a view to beginning sexual relations later, the jury was told.

Mitchell claimed the women colluded against him after a rumour which he said had been made up by one claimant was picked up by others in the close-knit criminal fraternity. The officer claimed: "These people will grab any opportunity they can."

The jury will be sent out for a fifth day of deliberation on Wednesday morning. Mitchell was remanded in custody.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton have named the day - Friday, April 29, next year at Westminster Abbey.

St James's Palace said their wedding - including the costs of the church service, music, flowers, decorations reception and honeymoon - would be paid for by the Royal family and the Middleton family. The public will pay for associated costs like security.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Prince William, said the couple chose Westminster Abbey for its "staggering beauty", 1,000-year Royal history and intimacy despite its size.

He told reporters in a briefing at St James's Palace: "The venue has long associations with the Royal family - it is in many ways the Royal family's church - and of course with Prince William personally."

The abbey was also the venue of William's mother's funeral. As a 15-year-old boy the Prince walked behind the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales as it was led to the imposing church in September 1997.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said those planning the nuptials were very conscious of Britain's precarious finances: "All parties involved in the wedding, not least Prince William and Miss Middleton, want to ensure that a balance is struck between an enjoyable day and the current economic situation."

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said William and Miss Middleton were "completely over the moon" about their engagement: "I've never seen two happier people, which is absolutely fabulous to work in that sort of environment."

"They're now getting stuck into organising their wedding. They are very much in charge of the arrangements for the big day. They're giving us and the Household office very firm direction indeed."

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton added: "We know that the world will be watching on April 29, and the couple are very very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best."

William has requested that as far as possible members of the armed forces involved in the wedding should be drawn from those already on ceremonial duties to ensure personnel are not taken off operations or training.


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MP Bob Russell has tabled a Commons motion criticising the BBC over a drama which showed bullying among UK troops in Afghanistan


An MP has tabled a Commons motion attacking the BBC for broadcasting a TV drama which he claimed denigrated the bravery and professionalism of servicemen and women at a time when thousands are deployed in Afghanistan.

Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for the garrison town of Colchester, Essex, accused the BBC of "a deplorable lack of judgment" in showing the play, Accused, by writer Jimmy McGovern, which depicts bullying by British troops in Afghanistan.

He criticised BBC director-general Mark Thompson for failing to agree to a formal request not to broadcast the programme by chief of the defence staff General Sir Peter Wall.

Sir Peter described it as being "deeply offensive" and "distasteful" to those serving in Afghanistan. He added that the drama was "misleading and inaccurate".

Mr Russell, who has twice visited British troops serving in Helmand Province, called on the Government "to lodge a formal protest with the BBC for its denigration of the bravery and professionalism of members of HM armed forces, particularly at a time when thousands of them are deployed on active service in Afghanistan".

The BBC has defended the programme, which was broadcast on Monday evening.

A spokeswoman said: "It has been made clear that Accused is a work of fiction. It is in no way an attempt to denigrate the servicemen and women of the British Army."

McGovern has also stood by his script, saying he had "the greatest respect" for British troops and it was not his intention to slur British soldiers.



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More than 60 eco vehicles – some not seen on UK roads before – completed the first RAC Brighton to London Future Car Challenge this weekend (Saturday, November 6).

A reverse of the traditional veteran car run from London to the seaside town, the inaugural event, organised by the motoring group, was a glimpse into the motoring future for spectators and participants alike. 

The entrants started in the morning from Madeira Drive, Brighton, in the presence of Richard Farleigh, former Dragons’ Den panelist. Many of those who take part are well-known motoring celebrities – such as Quentin Willson (TV presenter), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd Drummer and avid car collector), Don Wales (UK Electric Land Speed Record holder) and Paddy Hopkirk and David Richards (rally drivers). Cars entered into the fuel efficiency challenge included UK debutant, the Toyota Highlander FCHV fuel cell car, the electric Nemesis sports car, Proton Exora hybrid, Toyota Auris hybrid, Gordon Murray Designs’ T.25 City electric car, Volkswagen’s Golf Blue-e-Motion electric, Mercedes-Benz’s Vito Taxi electric, Honda’s hybrid CR-Z and the range-extended Vauxhall Ampera.

The event, which judged entrants not on speed but on how low their energy use was over the course was split into three categories – Electric, Hybrid and Internal Combustion Engine. Within each category, entries were measured in various modes for the energy used during the drive to the finish line at Pall Mall, London. The winners were then selected according to their energy use, with the Volkswagen Blue-e-Motion, drive by Jim Holder of What Car? magazine selected as the overall winner .

Each of the 17 category winners received an engraved Royal Automobile Club trophy and the overall winner received the coveted Royal Automobile Club Gold Medal. There was also an award for the best private entry and each classified finisher received a Club medal and certificate.

Overall winner, Jim Holder said: "It’s been a fantastic event. Volkswagen UK is delighted and a little surprised to have won overall, as am I. This car does not go into production for another two years so it was wonderful to win on its UK debut. I think the whole event shows just what the motoring industry can achieve."