A referendum on the UK’s EU membership, tax cuts, and an extension of the government’s Right-to-Buy scheme are all policies set to be included in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech. In the speech, which will occur during the state re-opening of parliament, the Queen will set out the broad plans of the government for the next five years. It is expected, however, that proposed plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights will not be included in the speech, after criticism from across the political spectrum. A consultation on human rights law is instead expected. Other policies expected include further devolution for Scotland, a counter-extremism bill to counter radicalisation, and the increasing of free childcare for three and four year-olds. The government will also pledge to scrap income tax for some of those working on the minimum wage. Given its narrow parliamentary majority of 12 seats, the government may face problems in passing all its policies into law – with a Conservative backbench rebellion already leading to a climb-down over the Human Rights Act, the government could face similar difficulties in future.
Seven officials from world footballing body FIFA have been arrested on corruption charges, as Swiss authorities open a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. A total of 14 officials have been indicted under corruption charges, the US Department of Justice has said. The 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. Suspects are alleged to have received over £97 million in bribes. In dawn raids on Wednesday that included a raid on FIFA’s Zurich headquarters, those arrested include a former FIFA vice-president. Arrested officials could face extradition to the US to face criminal proceedings. One official involved has already pleaded guilty, the US Department of Justice has said. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is standing for re-election as FIFA President on Friday, has not been implicated in the scandal. The announcement of criminal investigations has reignited calls for the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be re-run.
In China, police have detained 12 people after a fire at an elderly care home killed 38 people in Henan province. Six people were also injured in the blaze. Those arrested include the legal representative of the care home. Police are continuing to search for another three employees of the home. The cause of the fire remains unknown. The news has highlighted the plight of China’s ageing population, as China faces increasing pressure to provide safe and affordable elderly care. Chinese state media have written of a severe shortage of care workers, with just 220,000 carers currently working when 10 million are needed.
Debates over human rights and the EU make several headlines today. The Times writes that Prime Minister David Cameron has ‘blinked first’ in the ongoing “human rights row”. The Prime Minister has dropped his “early bid to scrap legislation” including the Human Rights Act, and will not in fact introduce the proposed replacement British Bill of Rights while in government. The Guardian leads with a warning from ex-Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg that UK liberties are “under threat”. Clegg’s comments are an attempt to “rally” the “bruised” Lib Dems following a heavy election defeat, the paper writes. The Financial Teams leads with news that the Prime Minister plans for a “fast-track bill for referendum on EU membership” to be included in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech. With the bill to be debated as early as the next few weeks, the new plans raise the possibility that an EU referendum could be held as early as 2016. The Daily Telegraph reports that “Tax cuts for millions” will feature in the Queen’s Speech, writing that the government is putting family finances at the “heart” of its policies. The paper also notes the “delayed” plan to scrap the Human Rights Act. The Independent leads with news of a “new way to beat cancer” discovered by British doctors. For the first time, experts have modified a virus to “kill tumours” of those suffering from skin cancer, giving some patients an extra 20 months of life.
British Media on China
On the South China Sea: continued coverage of the South China Sea appears in the UK media today. The Independent features an editorial writing that an “extremely dangerous conflict is brewing between the US and China” over the region. The stakes in the conflict are “exceptionally high”, the paper writes, but only recently has the situation “gone critical”. The editorial largely seeks to inform and stress the dangerous potential of conflict. The paper also features a piece that writes that “China has upped its military posturing” over the dispute. The Daily Telegraph features a video online on the issue, reporting that China is comparing its land reclamation efforts in the region “to ordinary construction such as road-building going on elsewhere in the country”. The Guardian reports that China’s plan to build lighthouses in the area is likely to increase tensions.