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News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks has agreed to give evidence to MPs over the phone hacking scandal next week, it has been announced.

But the Commons Culture Select Committee has issued a summons to media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his son James after they said they were unavailable to attend the session. The younger Murdoch had offered to appear on August 10 instead.

It is not clear whether the committee will be able to compel the men to face questioning as they are US citizens.

In his letter to committee chairman John Whittingdale, Mr Murdoch senior said that although he was not available on Tuesday, he was "fully prepared" to give evidence to the judge-led inquiry announced by David Cameron.

"I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so," the letter said. "Having done this, I would be happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your committee."

The development came after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted Mr Murdoch should submit to a grilling by the committee if he has a "shred of responsibility".

 

The pace of Britain's economic recovery is too slow and the Government needs to do more to support business, a key lobby group has warned.

Economic growth between April and June remained positive but the recovery is fragile and facing serious risks, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

The international background has become more uncertain, with worsening debt problems in the Eurozone and concerns around the US housing market, which has hit hopes of rebalancing the UK economy toward net exports, the BCC quarterly survey found.

The BCC expects the UK economy to have grown 0.3% in the second quarter of 2011 as the services and manufacturing sector put in a "mixed" performance.

Official figures showed that the UK's economy grew by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2011, after a 0.5% decline in the final quarter of 2010, meaning the economy effectively flatlined for six months.

 

 

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's plans to limit the use of remand and reform controversial indeterminate sentences put cost-cutting before public protection, Labour has said.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said his party could not support the legislation and claimed ministers were "out of touch" with public concern over crime.

The plans leave a £140 million hole in the Ministry of Justice budget, with further uncosted proposals still to come, he said.

Mr Khan also hit out at the Bill's changes to the legal aid system, claiming the "poorest and most in need" were being hit hardest by the Government's cuts. Limiting the use of remand "undermines a vital tool judges and magistrates should have at their disposal", Mr Khan said.

He added that Labour will also "not accept plans that water down the protection given to the public by indeterminate sentences for public protection". "This Government is out of touch with public concerns on crime and justice," Mr Khan said.

Parts of Britain are set for another scorcher, but forecasters warned thunderstorms could bring the short-lived heatwave to an abrupt end.

Temperatures will hit 31C (88F) in some parts of the country, beating the highs of 28C (82F) that made Sunday the hottest day of the year so far.

But by Monday evening the hot weather could be broken by thunder and showers.

Andy Ratcliffe, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Much of England will be hot and humid again. We're looking at highs reaching about 31C (88F) in the London area.

"But there is the chance of scattered thundery showers developing, and there could be local downpours where they occur."

Although some parts of Britain will enjoy soaring temperatures, some areas will be cooler than they were on Sunday, he said.

 

Met Office staff are to share a bonus pot of around £1.3 million, it has been revealed.

The weather service, which is part of the Ministry of Defence, confirmed that its 1,800 employees are in line for the pay-out after it met or exceeded all of its targets.

That will mean an average of around £700 for each worker.

Chief executive John Hirst was awarded an annual performance bonus of £50,000 last year, taking his total pay to £225,000.

Chief scientist Julia Slingo saw her bonus rise to £25,000, with her total package worth £170,000.

 

Ministers are reportedly considering moves to crack down on the unions amid fears of a wave of crippling industrial action over public sector cuts.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude are drawing up plans that could see an end to full-time union officials receiving taxpayer-funded salaries, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

They are also looking at the possibility of legislation imposing a minimum threshold on strike ballot turnouts before industrial action can be taken, the paper said.

The prospect of such a package, described as a "last resort" by a source, comes as relations between the Government and union leaders is turning increasingly bitter over plans to reform public sector pensions.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to make a speech defending the plans which will require public sector employees to work longer and, for most, pay more into their pension pots for often less attractive benefits.

Rates of diabetes have exploded in the past three decades, meaning an estimated 350 million people in the world now have the disease.

In almost every region of the planet diabetes prevalence has risen or at best remained unchanged, according to a major international study published in a special online report by The Lancet medical journal.

The condition, caused by poor blood sugar control, can lead to heart disease and stroke and can damage the kidneys, nerves and eyes. Each year, high blood sugar levels and diabetes kill three million people worldwide.

Increasing life span and body weight are two of the strongest factors influencing diabetes rates, especially among women, say researchers. But ethnic genetic factors, nutrition in the womb and soon after birth, quality of diet and physical activity are also thought to be important.

Scientists analysed blood sugar data on 2.7 million people aged 25 and over throughout the world and used the results to estimate diabetes prevalence. They found that the number of adults with diabetes more than doubled from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008, considerably higher than a 2009 estimate of 285 million.

Across the three decades, the proportion of men with diabetes rose by 18% from 8.3% to 9.8%. The proportion of women with diabetes increased even more sharply, from 7.5% to 9.2%, an increase of 23%.

 

 

Prime Minister David Cameron said he has seen off attempts to change European laws on migration which could have stopped the UK from sending asylum seekers back to other EU countries.

The UK was backed by Germany in successfully opposing the proposals at a European Council summit in Brussels which has been dominated by plans for the bailout of the troubled Greek economy.

Mr Cameron confirmed that he has received assurances that Britain will not be called upon to contribute to EU financial support for Greece and vowed he would be "vigilant" to ensure that the UK was not sucked into the multi-billion euro bailout.

He also called on Europe to lift the red tape burden on small businesses to help the continent escape from its economic crisis. British calls for businesses with 10 employees or fewer to be exempted from most Brussels regulation have won support from several other EU states, he said.

With up to one million people believed to have fled Libya during the current unrest and tens of thousands attempting to cross from North Africa into Europe, the European Commission has floated proposals to suspend the so-called Dublin arrangements which require asylum seekers to be returned to the country through which they entered the EU.

 

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband is set to axe shadow cabinet elections in a move which is likely to cause controversy among sections of the party.

Less than a year ago Labour rejected plans to let leaders pick their own frontbench team. But Mr Miliband will formally announce proposals which would scrap the ballot - held every two years in opposition - when the National Policy Forum (NPF) meets this weekend.

The shake-up is likely to be seen as a step to impose his authority on the party.

A senior Labour source said it is time to "move on from the days of the 1980s" and become a "modern, outward-facing organisation". It is hoped the reforms will make Labour look like a party "ready for government" and end the time spent on internal campaigning.

Mr Miliband must first convince his MPs and will address them on Monday at the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). He will also ask its chairman, Tony Lloyd, to organise a debate and a vote on the proposals.

The leader is said to be "confident" of winning MPs' support but their vote is "technically indicative" and he will take the plans to Labour's conference regardless of the outcome.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander explained Mr Miliband's reasons for proposing the change, telling the BBC: "I think he wants a leadership team for the Labour Party that is focused outwards and not inwards.

 

 

HMV has been given the go-ahead for the sale of its Waterstone's book chain after the deal received the overwhelming support of shareholders.

The ailing retailer is selling the 296-store chain to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut for £53 million as it looks to secure its immediate future.

Based on votes lodged before a meeting in London, investors owning 99% of the company's shares consented to the deal. It means the transaction is on track to complete by Tuesday.

Proceeds from the move will help the company pay down some of its £170 million debt pile and buy some time as it looks to reposition the business, which has been rocked by competition from supermarkets and internet downloads.