Media Watch 5/2/15

By Rowan Williams

Britain’s contribution to the fight against Islamic extremist group the Islamic State (IS) is modest and should be stepped up, a group of MPs has said. The House of Commons Defence Select Committee found that the UK had carried out six percent of the airstrikes against IS and expressed surprise that Britain was not doing more. The Committee was not in favour of deploying combat troops, however. The Committee’s report on IS found the group to be the most significant threat to international security from the Middle East in decades, writing that parts of Iraq and Syria has descended into a “nightmare” in the “extreme form” of a jihadist state. The UK began bombing IS targets in Iraq in September, though has not approved attacks in Syria. Britain’s proportion of military personnel in Iraq is also smaller than other coalition states in some regions. The Committee called on Britain to use its knowledge of the region developed during the Iraq war, and to further diplomatic involvement with coalition nations and Iran in fighting the threat of IS.

Tesco is to face a further investigation into its relationship with its suppliers, amid concerns that the supermarket broke the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) will investigate the supermarket, with the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Reporting Council already undertaking their own investigations. The investigation will examine Tesco’s profits, and delays in paying out to its suppliers. Any investigation into Tesco’s past actions by the GCA, however, will not end in a fine for the company; while recent legislation allows the GCA to fine companies up to one percent of their annual UK turnover, the fine cannot be made against offences made before its introduction. Such a fine for Tesco could have totalled over £400 million.

China has officially detained a Canadian man and released his wife on bail after both were held for months without charge over suspicions of stealing state secrets. China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that Kevin Garratt had been arrested on suspicion of theft, citing the National Security Agency of Dandong. The detention of Garratt is believed to pave the way for an official arrest and future prosecution. Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia ran a Christian coffee shop in the town of Dandong near China’s border with North Korea. Chinese authorities are reported to have been cracking down on foreign Christian groups in the area. The detention of the couple has strained relations between China and Canada.

The Papers

A range of stories in the headlines today, though a few are related to Britain’s political parties. The Financial Times leads with analysis showing that the Conservative Party has doubled the number of “big City donors” over five years. Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband has attacked the Conservatives over the news as “‘the party of Mayfair hedge funds and Monaco tax avoiders'”. The Independent leads with a report into the lack of state-educated MPs. This year’s general election “will see no increase” in the proportion of state-educated MPs, the study found, with many also claiming an Oxbridge background. The Guardian leads with news that MPs have called on the government to “Step up the fight against” terror group the Islamic State. MPs in the Commons Defence Committee have suggested “drones and special forces” be used. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of a boost to pensions by as much as £100,000, after a new law set out in parliament yesterday proposed to limit fees on pension savings to 0.75 percent. The paper calls the news a “Victory for Daily Telegraph”, having long campaigned against pension fees, which currently stand at approximately 1.5 percent. The Times, meanwhile, leads with news of a mass resignation of Rotherham Council’s Cabinet following an inquiry into the council’s failure to deal with child sexual abuse in the town. The paper “finally” is able to report on what it calls “the truth behind the lies”, with “bullying, sexism and political correctness blamed for failures”.

British Media on China

On the TransAsia plane crash in Taiwan: the crash of TransAsia flight GE235 in Taiwan that has killed at least 31 people has received coverage from all major UK media outlets. The BBC reports that “Many of the passengers were Chinese tourists”, and that China will reportedly “participate in a probe into the crash”. The death toll is expected to rise as the search for those missing continues, the BBC writes. The Daily Telegraph reports that the plane’s pilot reportedly “complained of ‘engine abnormality’ before take-off”, but that TransAsia has denied the claims. The Independent’s website hosts over half a dozen pieces on the story, including a report into TransAsia’s safety record and a piece reporting that one family “moved seats before take-off and survived” the crash. The Guardian, meanwhile, hosted live updates on the crash, reporting that relatives of the 31 Chinese passengers on board the flight will travel to Taiwan on Thursday.

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