Thursday, July 02, 2009


Consumers will need to pay more for energy if the UK is to have any chance of developing the technologies needed to tackle climate change, according to a group of leading scientists and engineers. In a Royal Society study to be published today, the experts said that the government must put research into alternatives to fossil fuel much higher among its priorities, and argued that current policy in the area was "half-hearted".

"We have adapted to an energy price which is unrealistically low if we're going to try and preserve the environment," John Shepherd, a climate scientist at Southampton University and co-author of the report said. "We have to allow the economy to adapt to higher energy prices through carbon prices and that will then make things like renewables and nuclear more economic, as carbon-based alternatives become more expensive."

Shepherd admitted higher energy costs would be a hard sell to the public, but said it was not unthinkable. Part of the revenue could be generated by a carbon tax that took the place of VAT, so that the cost of an item took into account the energy and carbon footprint of a product. This would allow people to make appropriate decisions on their spending, and also raise cash for research into alternatives. "Our research expenditure on non-fossil energy sources is 0.2% of what we spend on energy itself," said Shepherd. "Multiplying that by 10 would be a very sensible thing to do. We're spending less than 1% on probably the biggest problem we've faced in many decades."

He said that the priority should be to decarbonise the UK's electricity supply. Measures such as the government's recent support for electric cars, he said, would be of no use unless the electricity they used came from carbon-free sources.

Though the creation of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was a good move, Shepherd said: "We've had a lot of good talk but we still have remarkably little in the way of action." He cited the recent DECC proposals on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an example. The department plans to legislate that any new coal-fired power station must demonstrate CCS on a proportion of its output. Once the technology is proven, a judgment made by the EnvironmentAgency around 2020, power plants would have five years to scale up to full CCS.

Shepherd said the proposals were not bold enough. "Really, it needs to be 'no new coal unless you have 90% emissions reductions by 2020'. That is achievable and, if that were a clear signal, industry would get on and do it. It's taken a long time for that signal to come through and now that it has, it's a half-hearted message."

A spokesperson for DECC argued that its proposed regulatory measures were "the most environmentally ambitious in the world, and would see any new coal power stations capturing at least 20-25% of their carbon emissions from day one".

Ed Miliband, energy and climate change secretary, said that a white paper due next month will lay out how Britain will source its energy for the coming decades. "This white paper will be the first time we've set out our vision of an energy mix in the context of carbon budgets and climate change targets. We have identified ways to tackle the challenges – we will need a mix of renewables, clean fossil fuels and nuclear and we're already making world-leading progress in those areas. It's a transition plan, a once in a generation statement of how the UK will make the historic and permanent move to a low-carbon economy with emissions cut by at least 80% in the middle of the century."

The Royal Society report will argue that energy policy has been too fragmented and short-term in its outlook, with a tendency to hunt for silver-bullet solutions to climate change. "That really isn't the case. What we need is a portfolio of solutions, horses for courses," said Shepherd.


Chiropractic: A brave scientist and an epic court battle: How Britain's libel laws are threatening free speech

With his round, John Lennon-style specs and nerdish good looks, physicist Simon Singh is an unlikely hero. As one of the country's most acclaimed science writers, he has spent much of his 45 years cloistered in his Home Counties study penning Number One bestsellers on mathematical conundrums, code-breaking and the Big Bang theory. Turning his hand to alternative medicine, last year he published a book called Trick Or Treatment? that included a chapter on the history of chiropractic therapy (the manipulation of the spine to realign the back), which was invented by grocer and spiritual healer Daniel David Palmer in 1890s America.

Inspired by the 'miraculous' recovery of a deaf man whom he treated by manipulating or 'racking' his back, Palmer said that 95 per cent of all diseases are caused by trapped vertebrae. Suddenly, the therapy (which takes its name from the Greek word for hand) became a near-religion, with Palmer boasting he was a successor to Christ and Mohammed. He even practised vigorous 'racking' on his own children, which led to him beingrrested and jailed for cruelty. Palmer's ideas caught on and, in 1925, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) was set up and several clinics opened specialising in the treatment. Chiropractors were able, it seemed, to cure a myriad of ailments and began to broaden their therapies. Recently, the association has said that even children suffering from colic, eating problems, ear infections and asthma can be helped.

However, many in the traditional medical profession view the therapy with deep suspicion. Though the General Medical Council and the Royal College of General Practitioners advocate its use - especially for back pain - some scientists say there is no evidence that chiropractic spinal manipulation is better than other forms of back massage. This has led to widespread debate in the medical world, with some doctors refusing to refer patients to chiropractors, claiming the treatment does not work and can even cause harm.

In his book, Dr Singh questioned whether chiropractors could really achieve the results they claim. Later, in a column in the Guardian newspaper, he went further, saying the therapies for children were 'bogus'. Unsurprisingly, he came under an avalanche of criticism and the BCA demanded an apology and a retraction. When it received neither from Dr Singh, it decided to sue him personally for libel.

Dr Singh's battle serves as a frightening example of what happens when a ruthless body tries to crush anyone who questions its power or expertise. The ensuing row has also shone a light on English libel law, raising the question of whether it acts as a barrier to critical comment and public debate.

On Singh's side are some of the country's most illustrious and influential luminaries of science, the legal profession and showbusiness. They include former Government chief scientist Sir David King, the geneticist Steve Jones, biologist Richard Dawkins, leading QC Baroness Kennedy, the actors Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais, and comedian Harry Hill (a former doctor).

Pitted against them is the BCA, which won the preliminary round with a judgment last month in the Royal Courts of Justice by Mr Justice Eady, the country's most senior libel judge, who is responsible for a series of controversial rulings. Justice Eady's critics accuse him of creating, almost single-handedly, a privacy law in Britain as a result of his interpretations of the 1998 Human Rights Act, in which he invariably seems to give more weight to privacy than to freedom of expression.

Most notably, Justice Eady ruled in a case involving Formula One boss Max Mosley that it was wrong for the News of the World to expose his liking for sadomasochistic orgies with paid 'professional dominatrices', saying: 'I accept that such behaviour is viewed by some people with distaste and moral disapproval, but in the light of modern rights-based jurisprudence that does not provide any justification for the intrusion on the personal privacy of the claimant.'

In another high-profile case, he stopped a cuckolded husband selling his story to the Press about a sporting celebrity who had seduced the husband's wife. Adulterers, said the judge, deserve privacy like anyone else. Via a succession of such rulings, the judge has built up a formidable body of case law upon which public figures can rely when they wish to gag newspapers or publishers. As a result, an increasing number of foreigners have succeeded in using the English courts to launch defamation cases, even if they - or their claims - have little to do with this country. Indeed, so serious has this problem become that the U.S. Congress - worried about the freedom of expression of Americans - is passing legislation to provide its citizens with immunity from British libel courts.

No doubt Simon Singh bore all this in mind when the libel case against him started last month. But as he explained this week: 'The hearing was supposed to last a day and a half. The idea was to have a preliminary ruling on the "meaning" of my article, so that I would know exactly what I would have to defend at the subsequent full trial. 'However, Mr Justice Eady suddenly stopped everything and said he had made up his mind already. It was all over in a morning. 'First, he decided that my article on the Guardian's comment pages was fact and not comment. 'Second, he said that it contained "the plainest allegation of dishonesty...and accused them (the BCA) of thoroughly disreputable conduct". 'In other words, according to his ruling, my article said the BCA was deliberately dishonest in promoting fake treatments as a matter of fact. 'This is unfortunate. Although I feel that chiropractors are deluded and reckless, I was not suggesting that they are dishonest.'

Of course, Singh and his supporters (who believe that free speech - the very cornerstone of British democracy - is at stake) are furious. His position is made worse by the fact that, under English law, anyone accused of libel is deemed guilty until proven innocent, unlike the defendant in a criminal case, where the burden of proof is the other way round. This means that he must prove the accuracy of his comments, as opposed to the chiropractic association proving that he is wrong.

As he says: 'It falls to the unfortunate defendant to prove before the court, often at considerable expense, that their statement was accurate. Also, fighting a defamation action in a London court costs many, many times the average for the rest of Europe. 'This has the effect of turning the legal system into a high-stakes poker game in which having good cards is not enough.'

Dr Singh is applying to the Court of Appeal in the hope that Mr Justice Eady's judgment can be challenged. If he loses that application, he plans to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming under Article 10 that his own freedom of expression has been infringed.

Meanwhile, 10,000 people have signed a petition backing him. Jonathan Heawood, director of English PEN, a charity promoting literature and human rights, says: 'You know there's something badly wrong with the libel law when a serious scientific writer is dragged through the courts for something he didn't even mean to say.' He explains that Simon Singh's only mistake was not to define clearly what he meant by bogus. 'He did not distinguish between " ineffective" and "fraudulent" treatments, both of which might equally be termed "bogus". The real culprit here is the rich English language and the arcane law of libel.'

The former Government scientist Sir David King adds: 'It is ridiculous that a legal and outdated definition of a word has been used to hinder and discourage scientific debate. We must be able to fairly and reasonably challenge ideas without the fear of legal intimidation. This sort of thing only brings the law into disrepute.'

Professor Richard Dawkins, the eminent biologist and controversial atheist author of The God Delusion, says: 'The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned.'

Moreover, Singh is not alone in holding sceptical views about the work done by chiropractors. A few weeks ago, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a chiropractor who claimed he could treat children suffering from colic and learning difficulties.

Singh's backers have also lodged a formal complaint against each chiropractor working in Britain whom they perceive to be in breach of the advertising code over the treatment of children. Five hundred complaints have been sent to the General Chiropractic Council in the past few weeks. And, in a clear sign that the industry is worried, it emerged this week that another professional body representing chiropractors - the McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA) - has emailed its members saying they must beware of calling themselves 'doctors' if they are not properly qualified. The email adds: 'Remove all the MCA patient information leaflets, or any leaflets of your own, that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems at your clinic. DO NOT USE until further notice.'

In what is clearly a response to the Singh case, members of the MCA have also been ordered to close down their websites to protect themselves from a 'witch-hunt'. Even so, the Mail has discovered that some chiropractors are still continuing to advertise treatments for children. For example, a quick search on Google reveals the website of a busy clinic in the South of England proclaiming: 'A spinal check-up could be one of the most important of your child's life. With a healthy spinal column, a child's body can better deal with sore throats, ear infections, stomachaches, fevers and the hundred-andone other problems that often make up young life.'

As for the BCA, it is to continue the libel case against Singh. It has declared: 'In the course of this litigation, the BCA has disclosed to the courts a plethora of medical evidence showing that the treatments work and that the risk associated with the treatments is minimal, if, indeed, there is any risk at all. 'Dr Singh stated that the BCA promotes treatments that are positively dangerous. He cannot justify his stance and has not made any attempt to do so. Therefore, an apology continues to be sought, along with damages and costs.'

So what of the future for Dr Singh? He has already spent £100,000 of his own money to defend himself in the ill-fated High Court hearing that lasted just three hours. If he is not allowed to appeal, damages again him will be announced and could run into thousands of pounds more. No wonder he observes bitterly: 'There is something fundamentally wrong with libel laws that have such a chilling effect on journalists, whether they write about science or anything else. 'Even large publishers are intimidated by the huge expense of fighting a libel battle. Articles that should be defended are dropped, and articles that should be written are shelved before they are even published because of potential defamation action.'

Singh, who lives in Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, with his journalist wife, says: 'If I lose my case, it will only further discourage other journalists - or anyone else - from criticising individuals and organisations in relation to matters of public interest.'

He is not an easy opponent. He has a brilliant mind, has won an MBE for his services to science and is receiving determined support from a growing phalanx of experts, politicians, scientists, lawyers and celebrities. In this contest - which has gone well beyond the world of Daniel David Palmer's original 'racking' cure in 1895 - he is unlikely to go away quietly. As he says: 'I still believe my article was reasonable, fair and important in terms of informing parents about the lack of evidence relating to chiropractic treatment for some childhood conditions. I am determined to continue.'

Simon Singh may be a surprise figurehead for such an epic battle, but he won't stop until he has guaranteed that the principle of free speech - which is something about which judges such as Justice Eady seem remarkably nonchalant - remains at the very heart of our British way of life.


Canterbury is sufficiently gay, council inspectors rule

One of Britain's most historic cities, Canterbury, has been told it is sufficiently gay – after a complaint sparked a two-month investigation costing thousands of pounds.

A government watchdog decided that Canterbury in Kent does enough to promote homosexual culture, rejecting a complaint by local activists. The Local Government Ombudsman – who asked for the city's council to provide evidence of how it supported the gay community – said it was satisfied the pink pound was being catered for.

As part of the investigation, the council had to prove its inclusiveness by giving details of "touring plays and musicals, for example, which would be of interest to the LGBT community". And it had to show that it had "put forward suggestions for small events that it might help fund, as well as proposals for other events such as exhibitions".

Rob Davies, spokesman for the council, said: "Obviously we're delighted with the outcome of the investigation. "We feel we do a great deal for the gay community in Canterbury and we have always tried to support various gay events and promotions." "But at the same time it is not the duty of any council to set up a gay bar – that's not what councils do."

The two-month investigation began at the end of April after a letter was sent from two representatives of Pride in Canterbury. Chairman Andrew Brettell lodged a formal complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman claiming his initial letter to the council in November fell on deaf ears. Mr Brettell, in his 60s, said last month: "We do not believe the council want a thriving LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in our city. The impression I get is that the council just doesn't want to know.

"I get the feeling it is precious because Canterbury has a cathedral and history. I think they think the gay community will turn it into Sodom and Gomorrah."


British teachers to be fired under new classroom licence plan

A good start -- but expect very weak-kneed enforcement

Teachers will need a licence to enter the classroom and face being banned if they cannot renew it every five years, the Government said yesterday. The radical move, in a White Paper put before the Commons yesterday, will be widely seen as an attempt to weed out incompetent teachers and to stop bad teachers being shunted from school to school. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, indicated that he expected some teachers to fail their renewal. “It may be that we will discover some teachers who do not make the grade, and some who aren’t relicensed,” he said.

Newly qualified teachers would get a licence to teach from September. All teachers returning to the profession will go through the process from September next year, and supply teachers will be targeted after that. Eventually all teachers will need a licence.

Experts have estimated that more than 20,000 teachers are not fit to do their jobs, with one or two in each school. Heads privately complain that it is virtually impossible to sack poorly performing teachers. Only ten teachers, out of a workforce of 500,000, have been fired for incompetence since 2001. Teaching unions attacked the plan for licences, saying that teachers already faced numerous accountability measures.

Mr Balls indicated his intentions in the Children’s Plan published in December 2007, in which he called on the General Teaching Council to root out teachers whose “competence falls to unacceptable low levels”.

Under the licence scheme, head teachers would provide written accreditation for teachers every five years, vouching for their ability, and the General Teaching Council would conduct an annual audit of about 5 to 10 per cent of teachers. The licence would go hand in hand with entitlement to professional development so that teachers could keep up with the latest teaching methods and technology.

Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Teachers’ capacity and practice are persistently under review. It is not clear to me that head teachers will welcome an additional responsibility to relicense their teachers every five years.”

The licence was one of several radical reforms announced by Mr Balls in the White Paper. These include report cards, which will grade schools from A to F across a range of measures, including academic performance, children’s wellbeing and parental satisfaction.

Local authorities will also be forced to consult parents about whether they are happy with schools, and set out a plan of action if the results are negative. Parents will have to sign up to the school’s behaviour rules and reiterate this commitment each year. If it is breached, they could face a courtimposed parenting order or a fine.


At last, the truth about "asylum seekers" going straight to the head of the line for British welfare-housing

The Government's announcement yesterday that they are handing councils new powers to give local people priority on the waiting list for social housing is a clear admission that they have been misleading us over the huge impact of immigration on housing. For years, they have been in total denial, refusing even to discuss how immigration has affected the supply of housing. Now, at last, they have acknowledged that this is an issue which must be tackled. Supply of social housing has fallen far behind the demand for it because waiting lists have grown by over 60 per cent in just six years.

One major reason for this is the number of asylum seekers who have been granted asylum - or other forms of protection which entitle them to remain in Britain - and offered social housing. Politicians frequently assure us that asylum seekers do not get social housing. This is true up to a point, as they are given private rented accommodation at public expense while their cases are decided. But as soon as they are granted permission to stay, they can go on the housing lists. Astonishingly, over the past ten years the Government has granted more asylum seekers permission to stay in Britain than they have actually built social housing for. So, inevitably, the waiting lists have got ever longer.

This is not to suggest that we should not provide housing to genuine refugees. But surely the Government should have provided for the extra housing demand that their own policies have generated.

So who on these bulging lists actually gets a council house? Currently, it is decided on the basis of 'need' which, in turn, is heavily influenced by family size. And once granted residence, a migrant or an asylum seeker can bring over his entire family and thereby move up the priority list.

Of course local working people have seen this happening for years in their own communities. They know perfectly well that the Government have not been telling the whole truth - but few were prepared to listen.

But a major study called 'The New East End', published in 2006, revealed the true extent of the problem. The researchers from the Young Foundation looked at what had happened in Bethnal Green in London's East End over the past generation. They found that the Whitehall concept of 'need' had, in practice, favoured Bangladeshi workers who were beginning to bring over their families.

Young British workers with smaller families were pushed out to Essex, away from their roots and away from their parents, who stayed put in their council houses in East London. The outcome was that family and social bonding between Bangladeshi families was strengthened - while the traditional working-class family structure of the British workers, especially the role of grandmothers, was severely weakened. The researchers found that the white working class were seething with resentment.

The Government rushed to assure their supporters that there was no truth in any of this, insisting that it was all down to scare tactics. Taking advantage of local resentment, the BNP started making inroads. In contrast to the major parties, they were willing to speak frankly about the issue - even if their solutions were distasteful. But when, in May 2007, the local MP, Margaret Hodge, remarked publicly on the advances the BNP was making in the local elections and suggested something should be done about it, she was jumped on by the Left of her party and told to shut up.

A report was subsequently commissioned by the then Commission for Racial Equality which conveniently concluded that there was no evidence that newly arrived migrants were being allocated housing in preference to UK-born people. But that was to dodge the real issue. The rules for allocating social housing might have been administered scrupulously. But it was the system itself that was unfair. Little or no credit was given for the length of time people had been waiting for housing, nor for the strength of their ties to the locality.

As a result, white working class people were indeed being leapfrogged by new arrivals with large families. That is the background to yesterday's announcement. Only now have the Government been forced into long-overdue action because their own supporters are deserting them in droves. But it is not just social housing that has been coming under such pressure because of immigration. All housing has been affected - yet the Government refuse to acknowledge this, let alone discuss it.

All over the country, despite deep opposition, planning authorities have been told how many more houses they must build. They have no idea how much of this is caused by immigration - and nor do the local residents. But Migrationwatch dug out the figure from the last line of the last table of a technical paper produced by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - and, astonishingly, it is nearly 40 per cent of all new homes.

This figure comes from the government predictions of new households which are issued every two years. The latest set shows that 252,000 households will be formed every year until 2031. They also show that without immigration, there would be only 153,000 households. In other words 99,000 households, or 39 per cent, will be caused, not by existing immigrants, but by future immigrants and their families.

Put another way, that is a requirement for a new home every five minutes for new immigrants over the next 23 years. This is an astronomical number. No wonder the Government avoid any discussion of it. As we face the most serious financial crisis for two generations and as the Government find themselves virtually broke, one has to ask, who is going to pay for all this? That is another subject the Government do not wish to discuss.


Diet claim: Eating food with a high water content, like soup, can help reduce your calorie intake

Another stupid theory put forward without testing. I have no dobt that people will habituate to such a diet and end up eating larger quantities. See the article following this one

It gives a whole new, and rather more healthy meaning to the liquid lunch. Eating food with a high water content could be the key to losing weight. Nutritionists believe that dishes such as rice, pasta, soups and stews, appear to keep you feeling fuller for longer. But the liquid must be part of the food. Drinking a glass of water while you eat will not have the same effect, said the British Nutrition Foundation.

The theory is based on studies which showed that although somebody will eat different foods on different days, the weight of food consumed will hardly vary. This means that if we eat foods that are just as bulky but contain fewer calories, we should feel just as full.

Water-rich foods tend to be low in calories or have a low energy density, a BNF conference heard. A spokesman said: 'Studies have shown that people tend to consume the same weight of food each day but not necessarily the same amount of energy or calories. 'So it is possible to trick ourselves into consuming less energy, without feeling hungrier, by eating a lower energy density diet which still makes up the same weight of foods overall throughout the day.'

To work out the energy density of a food, divide the number of calories by its weight. So a 40g bag of crisps with 200 calories has an energy density of five – putting it towards the high end of the scale. At the other end of the scale are most fruits and vegetables, as well as vegetable soups, low-fat yoghurt, baked beans, baked potatoes and cornflakes. Many of these are high in water and all have an energy density of 1.5 or less, making them good to fill up on.

Foods with a medium rating include strawberries and cream, lasagne, steak, pizza and chips.

Joining crisps at the high end of the scale, with ratings of four or more, are cheese, chocolate, mayonnaise and butter. Chocolate-lovers, however, can take some heart. The lightness of chocolate mousse means it has a lower rating – and so is more filling – than squares of chocolate. Weight for weight, a low-calorie mousse has around a quarter of the calorie count as the solid variety, but, according to the BNF, should be just as filling.

Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, a nutrition scientist at the foundation, advised including 'more foods with a low energy density, moderate amounts of foods with a medium energy density and small amounts with a high density'. She added: 'For instance, if you make spaghetti bolognese and make the sauce with mincemeat it might be a bit high in fat. 'If you put a lot of veg in the sauce, you will probably eat the same amount of sauce but a lot fewer calories.'

The idea that certain foods make you feel more full than others is the basis of several popular diets. The Atkins Diet, for example, works on the principle that protein satisfies hunger quicker than carbohydrates. So dieters who fill up on steak and eggs lose more weight – and keep it off for longer – than those who tuck into similar quantities of pizza and potatoes.

The British Dietetic Association said it was a good idea to eat lots of fruit and vegetables but that meat, fish and starchy foods should also have a place on our dinner plates.


Why those oh-so-healthy diet foods make us eat even more

On a diet but struggling to shed the pounds, or - horror of horrors - actually gaining weight? Well it could be because you're on a diet, according to scientists. A study has shown that when faced with a healthy, low-calorie dish, we instinctively increase the portion on our plate or feel justified in going back for second helpings.

Researchers at the University of Bristol discovered those on low-calorie diets believe you can't have too much of a good thing and end up consuming just as many calories as if they were eating regular dishes. 'A person's perception of how full a meal will make them feel will no doubt affect portion size,' said Lisa Miles, of the British Nutrition Foundation. 'It's so important to be aware of behavioural triggers for overeating.'

The Bristol team, led by Dr Jeff Brunstrom, looked at the responses of 76 adults to 18 foods and found they quickly learnt their calorie values and over-compensated accordingly. The findings back up a 2007 Canadian research paper on the causes of childhood obesity, which found that rats given low-calorie food also tended to over-eat.

In a second study, Dr Brunstrom found children whose parents regulated sugary snacks, such as chocolate or crisps, ended up bingeing on them when given a chance. The researchers tested 70 children aged between ten and 12 years old, presenting them with six unhealthy treats. A child who was rarely allowed the snack was more likely to over-estimate how much they should eat, miscalculating a 250kcal portion as a 120kcal one. Meanwhile, a youngster who had eaten the foods previously would be able to assess accurately how calorific it was, on average guessing that a 250kcal portion contained 230kcal.

Dr Brunstrom, a lecturer in experimental psychology, will present his work at a BNF conference this week. He said: 'These findings suggest that limiting access to certain snack foods limits learning about their properties. Thus, when snack foods are eventually encountered they might tend to be selected in larger portions.'

This could be bad news for parents who believe they are doing their children a favour by placing sweet treats off-limits. Tam Fry, chairman of the Child Growth Foundation and a member of the National Obesity Forum, said: 'Early in a child's life they need to be introduced to portion size as a positive measure, otherwise it becomes forbidden fruit. 'It isn't just the ignorant affected by obesity, it goes across all social classes.'


British backdown on ID cards: "n a dramatic break with years of Labour policy, the new Home Secretary last night scrapped plans for compulsory ID cards. Alan Johnson said the scheme - which has already cost as much as £200million - would always remain voluntary. The project will now focus on persuading youngsters to pay £30 for a card so they can prove their age when trying to buy alcohol in pubs and bars.... Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling, who has vowed to scrap the cards, said: 'This decision is symbolic of a Government in chaos. They have spent millions on the scheme so far - the Home Secretary thinks it has been a waste and wants to scrap it, but the Prime Minister won't let him. 'So we end up with an absurd fudge instead. This is no way to run the country.'... Controversially, everyone who wants a card or a biometric passport will still have their details stored on the huge national identity register database. Civil liberties groups argue this still amounts to a compulsory scheme, as anybody getting a passport from around 2011 will have no option but to sign up... Plans for compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals remain unchanged. [Since British officials regularly lose huge database files on trains etc., there was no confidence that ID information could be kept secure]

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