Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

UK news

Dozens of bouquets of flowers, posters and cards were left at the gates of Kensington Palace on Friday as Princess Diana was remembered on the 15th anniversary of her death.

Tourists, well-wishers and passers-by took photos and read the tributes at the royal residence in the British capital, Diana's official home from 1981 until her death, just as they had done in far larger numbers 15 years before.

Diana died aged 36 in a car crash in a Paris road tunnel on August 31, 1997 alongside her companion Dodi Fayed, triggering an outpouring of grief from much of the British public.

Within hours, a carpet of flowers had begun to spread out in front of the palace and many Britons threw off their reserve and mourned openly.

In one of the defining moments of his time in office, then prime minister Tony Blair described her as the "people's princess", striking a chord with the grieving nation.

Fifteen years on from that day Maria Scott, 41, who travelled from Newcastle in northeast England to visit the temporary memorial, said she had made the journey every year since Diana's death.

"Diana should be remembered because she's the mother of our future king and she should never be forgotten," Scott said.

"To the country I would say this tribute means a lot and I would like to think William and Harry would like this as well, that we are remembering their mother and all of her humanitarian work as well.

"She wasn't afraid to go the extra mile for anybody."

 

Thousands of official documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster will be published for the first time this week.

The papers, some of which had been covered by the 30-year rule, come from the files of 80 organisations including the Government, South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council, the South Yorkshire coroner and the fire and ambulance services.

The families of the 96 football fans who died in Britain's deadliest sporting disaster will have the first access to more than 400,000 pages on Wednesday morning. Later that day a statement is expected to be made to MPs in the House of Commons.

A report explaining the contents of the documents will be published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been overseeing the release.

The 96 Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989 where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

A report into the disaster by Lord Justice Taylor, published in 1990, found that the main reason for the disaster was a failure of "police control".

The victims' families say it is an injustice that no individual or organisation has been held fully accountable for the disaster. They believe a Major Incident Plan was never initiated by South Yorkshire Police and fans in the Leppings Lane end were denied emergency medical attention.

 

Chancellor George Osborne has insisted there is still an economic case for Scotland to stay within the United Kingdom.

Mr Osborne entered the independence debate during a visit to Glasgow, where he gave a speech to business leaders at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Scotland dinner.

He said there is more to Unionism than "wallowing in nostalgia".

Setting out his case for a No vote in late 2014, he accused Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond of failing to provide a credible answer to his plan for a shared sterling currency union.

"Today the advocates of independence argue that Britain's value to Scotland is spent, that union is no longer in Scotland's economic interests and that those who continue to believe in Britain are wallowing in nostalgia," said Mr Osborne.

"I want to take this argument head-on. I make no apology for sharing all of the instinctive emotional attachment to Scotland's place within the UK. Our shared history and culture, distinct yet intertwined identities, a whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.

"In a world in which a separate, independent Scotland wished to pursue divergent economic policies, what mechanism could there be for the Bank of England to set monetary policy, as it does now, to suit conditions in both Scotland and the rest of the UK?

"Heads must come out of the sand" about the scale of immigration to Britain, a Conservative MP has said.

Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex, warned MPs the "stakes are indeed very high" with very difficult decisions to take against "unforgiving" timescales.

The issue of immigration was, he said, of "fundamental importance to the future of the country".

He added that a Commons debate had been chosen by the Backbench Business Committee in response to a petition launched by MigrationWatch on the Government's website last autumn, which received more than 100,000 signatures within a week.

He said: "This is a clear indicator of the very great public concern about the scale of immigration to this country."

 

The bill for MPs' expenses went up by a quarter to nearly £90 million last year, it has been disclosed.

Politicians spent the money on second homes, staff, travel and office costs - including dozens of iPads.

The figure is now only slightly lower than in the run-up to the scandal that rocked Westminster in 2009.

But the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) insisted that the rate of claims had remained "stable".

Although the total outlay for 2010-11 had been £71 million, that was misleading because of the impact of the general election.

Chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said "like for like" the rate of claims had been about the same last year, and 99% were within the rules.

Retailers failed to bask in the glow of Team GB's Olympic success last month as the sector suffered its worst sales this year, figures have shown.

Retail sales values were down by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis last month, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC). This was the lowest since November last year (excluding April, which was heavily distorted by Easter timings).

The sporting event gave a mild boost to food sales in the form of party food and drink but the net effect of the Games was minimal as lower footfall in London hit sales, it said.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, which represents some 60% of retailers, said: "It's clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items."

The research will fuel fears over Britain's economic recovery as the country struggles to emerge from the longest double-dip recession since the 1950s. The most notable impact from the Olympics was felt online, which saw growth of 4.8% in August, the lowest since the BRC started collecting data on internet sales in October 2008.

Warmer weather in the middle of August helped boost sales of food, especially party snacks such as crisps, nuts and barbecue foods. Clothing had an "unusual and rather disappointing" month, the BRC said, as womenswear retailers failed to attract customers to autumn/winter ranges.

 

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have arrived for their annual Highland Games outing.

The Braemar Gathering is held each year just a short distance from Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, where the royals spend their holidays.

Prince Philip has been at the Balmoral estate since being discharged from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on August 20 where he spent five nights receiving treatment for a recurrence of a bladder infection.

He accompanied the Queen, who is patron of the Games, to watch a series of traditional events, including the tossing of the caber and the tug of war.

The Games, held at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, take place on the first Saturday of every September and regularly attracts visitors from around the world to the village.

Last weekend, the Duke made his first public appearance since leaving hospital when he attended a church service at Crathie Kirk.

 

The Government has been rebuked by the chairman of the influential Commons Treasury Select Committee over the leaking of information ahead of the Budget.

The Treasury insisted none of its ministers or officials were responsible for the publication of policy details ahead of George Osborne's speech in March, which included the controversial decision to cut the top rate of income tax to 45p.

The nature of coalition government and the involvement of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) meant more people knew the details of the Budget in advance, the Treasury said. But Andrew Tyrie, Tory chairman of the cross-party committee, said the coalition was "no excuse" for selective leaking of policies.

In its report on the Budget, published in April, the committee recommended that the Government should review its practices for "preserving Budget confidentiality".

The Government's response to the report, which has just been released, said: "No Treasury officials, Treasury Ministers or Treasury special advisers briefed the media before Budget day about any of the most important policy announcements: which in this case means policy information regarding tax rates or tax allowances.

"The considerable media speculation in the week before the Budget can be explained by two factors. First, the need to agree major Budget measures over a week in advance in order to allow the OBR to certify policy costings. Second, the fact that the Budget policy package needs to be agreed by ministers from both political parties forming the coalition.

"These factors mean that, compared to previous governments, there are many more people who know the content of the Budget some time in advance. Additionally, the publication of the coalition's Programme for Government also means that priorities are spelt out more clearly and therefore media speculation can always be better informed.

"It is difficult to change Budget confidentiality practices without altering these two fundamental features of the coalition Government's policy framework."

 

This summer has been the wettest in England and Wales for 100 years, according to new figures.

Data released by MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, showed that 14.25in (362mm) of rain has fallen in June, July and August so far, making it the wettest summer since 1912.

MeteoGroup forecaster Nick Prebble said this summer is set to be the fourth wettest since records began in 1727.

June 2012 was the wettest since 1860, had the least sunshine since 1909 and was the coldest since 1991.

Mr Prebble said: "June was wet, dull and cold. It was pretty relentless low pressure, very unsettled weather and a thoroughly miserable month.

 

Prince Harry is to make his first public appearance since being photographed naked in a hotel suite and cheer on Paralympic athletes next week.

The prince will watch swimmers in the aquatic centre on Monday and later that day chat to sportsmen and women in the official meeting place for the country's competitors - ParalympicsGB House.

Headlines were generated around the world when pictures of Harry frolicking in the nude with an unnamed naked woman during a Las Vegas holiday emerged on a celebrity gossip website last Wednesday.

Only the Sun defied a request to UK newspapers, made by St James's Palace via the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), to respect the prince's privacy and not publish the pictures.

The tabloid's front-page image of Harry holding his genitals, and another inside of him with his bottom exposed, generated 3,600 complaints from the public to the press watchdog.

David Dinsmore, the Sun's managing editor, said the paper had "thought long and hard" about whether to use the pictures on Friday and that it was an issue of freedom of the press rather than it moralising about Harry's actions.

He told the BBC's Radio 5 Live the Sun did generally "fear" the PCC, but a decision had been made to publish the photos because of the public interest.

Harry, along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is an official ambassador of ParlympicsGB.