Tony Blair has taken personal control of asylum policy, according to a Downing Street document passed to The Guardian . The confidential 'action plan' to 'deliver a radical reduction in the number of unfounded asylum applications' in Britain was drawn up by the home office for the prime minister and circulated to senior ministers in advance of a meeting chaired by Mr Blair last Wednesday. Action is also being considered against asylum seekers already in Britain. The officials admit that a home office plan to end cash-only support for asylum seekers who refuse offers of accommodation to be introduced this autumn involves a 'begging/destitution risk in London'. The Downing Street note discloses that other radical steps are under consideration, including identifying new sites in the north-west and near Stansted to build Yarl's Wood-style removal centres to detain those about to be deported.
The mother jailed for 60 days for allowing her children to play truant from school, Patricia Amos, was freed yesterday after a judge cut her sentence to 28 days. After the hearing, Keith Mitchell, leader of Oxfordshire CC, which brought the prosecution, said: 'We took the case against Mrs Amos to court. It is not the council's policy to discuss the sentence of judges. This was a case where the legislation should be applied and we applied it. If necessary we will apply it again if we have tried other measures and if there is a parent who is not getting education for a child. I hope this is a warning that we mean business. Truancy is not acceptable, children need their education and they only have one chance,' reports The Independent(p3).
- Culture secretary Tessa Jowell will today urge the Football Association to keep a pledge to consider building a national football stadium in Birmingham if much-delayed negotiations to locate the arena at Wembley fall through, reports the Financial Times (p5).
- Elected on a manifesto which promised 'the most open, accessible and inclusive style of government ever seen in the UK,' London Mayor Ken Livingstone is planning to stifle scrutiny of his£4.5bn budget by delaying the release of vital information, members of the London assembly are claiming, reports the Financial Times (p6). The row will become public today when proposals to change the budget timetable are put to the assembly's budget committee in a paper prepaped by director of finance Ann McKeel.
by assistant editor Neil Watson