The final days before MPs break up for parliamentary recess are a good time for the Government to try to bury bad news – but The Mirror has rounded it up so you don’t miss any
The final days before MPs break up for parliamentary recess are a good time for the Government to try to bury bad news.
Rishi Sunak is already under fire after refusing to apologise for a transphobic jibe he made at PMQs on Wednesday. The PM made the remark as the mum of murdered transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was in Parliament – and resisted a call by her dad to say sorry.
In the background, his ministers have been attempting to slip out bad news about crumbling concrete crisis in schools and a surge in rotten tooth extractions among children. As the Government tries to take advantage of ‘Take Out the Trash Day’, The Mirror has rounded up all the bad news from today so the Tories don’t get away with hiding any.
More schools identified with crumbling RAAC concrete
A further three schools have been identified as having crumbling and unstable concrete, known as RAAC, the Department for Education announced today. It takes the total number of schools and colleges with confirmed cases of RAAC in England to 234.
The department announced 119 schools are being included within the School Rebuilding Programme as work to remove RAAC is “more extensive or complex”.
The Lib Dems hit out at the announcement, saying children in schools affected by RAAC “are facing massive disruption”. The party’s Education Spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “It is a national scandal that children are being taught in crumbling classrooms. Children in the schools affected by RAAC are facing massive disruption to their education day in and day out.
“Learning in temporary classrooms, dealing with cold and draughty conditions and not having specialist teaching facilities like science labs and design technology spaces is having a direct impact on these pupils’ learning experience and their educational outcomes. This Conservative Government must stop sitting on its hands and speed up the rebuilding programme to ensure that these schools are all rebuilt as quickly as possible and provide practical advice and support to minimise the disruption to pupils whilst work is ongoing.”
Steep rise in no-fault evictions
New figures released on Thursday showed a steep rise in repossessions after renters were handed no-fault evictions, which allow tenants to be evicted on a whim and without reason.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data showed that some 26,311 accelerated possessions have been made from the second quarter of 2019 until the end of 2023. There were 9,457 such repossessions last year, up from 6,339 in 2022 – a 49% rise.
The Tories first vowed in April 2019 to abolish section 21 notices – but the legislation, which has been set back by repeated delays, is still going through Parliament Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning, Matthew Pennycook, said: “The stark rise in section 21 notices served last year lays bare the devastating impact that the Tories’ failure to abolish them is having on hard-pressed renters.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s utterly shameful that the Government is bowing to vested interests while renters are marched out of their homes in their thousands.” Referring to the next election, Ms Neate said: “When they head for the ballot box, England’s 11 million renters will remember who stood with them.”
Kids’ rotten tooth extractions shoot up
The number of children needing tooth extractions in hospitals jumped to 48,000 last year, new data shows. Teeth removals for under-18s of multiple teeth surged by 17% amid a collapse in access to NHS dentists.
Two thirds of extractions were due to tooth decay meaning there were 119 operations a day to remove rotten teeth in children. Youngsters in poorer areas, which are less likely to have an NHS dentist, were three and a half more likely to require hospital extractions.
It comes as 70% of dental surgeries now refuse to accept under-18s as new NHS patients. The Mirror is campaigning for a return to access to an NHS dentist for all and our online petition is expected to top 100,000 in its first 24 hours.
Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association (BDA), warned “the oral health gap is widening for our youngest patients, and it won’t be halted by holding another consultation”. “Ministers are trying to turn supervised brushing into a political football,” he said. “They need to grow up, and double down on tried and tested programmes.”
Housing for asylum seekers
The Government has abandoned plans to relax rules for landlords who rent homes to asylum seekers. Ministers were accused of allowing migrants to be placed in sub-standard housing after saying homes would no longer have to be registered as homes in multiple occupation (HMOs).
Draft legislation would have spared them having to do so for two years if they rented to people seeking asylum. This was challenged by eight asylum seekers, and on Wednesday the Government withdrew the plan. A Government spokesman said: “Our success maximising the use of existing sites and delivering alternative accommodation means it is no longer necessary to pursue the removal of licensing requirements for houses in multiple occupation.
“We are making significant progress moving asylum seekers out of hotels, which cost UK taxpayers £8.2m a day. We have already returned the first 50 to their communities and we will exit more in the coming months.”
Draconian new rules to stop firefighters going on strike
Draconian new rules that will stop firefighters going on strike has sparked anger. In a statement Policing Minister Chris Philp announced minimum service levels during industrial action, insisting forces will be expected to crew 73% of fire engines.
It means employers will have to issue ‘work notices’ making staff come in on strike days. Fire brigades union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is an outrageous and authoritarian plan to seek to ban strikes in the Fire and Rescue Service. The government wants this in place so that it can attack the pay and conditions of firefighters and other workers.” He went on to describe it as “one of the worst assaults in the last century on the rights of working people to defend themselves”.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “This is a flagrant attack on the right to strike of firefighters. No one should be sacked for exercising their right to strike. But that is exactly what the government is threatening. These new laws are undemocratic, unworkable and are likely illegal. And they will do nothing to resolve industrial disputes.”
Infected blood scandal backlash
Concerns have been raised after the Government announced Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery has been appointed to advise ministers on compensation for victims of the contaminated blood scandal.
Families affected by the scandal – widely deemed to be the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS – raised concerns about Sir Jonathan’s role at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where he has been chairman since 2019, and his membership of Bayer’s bioethics council.
The Factor 8 campaign group said: “The Oxford NHS Trust is at the heart of the infected blood scandal and Bayer manufactured and supplied much of the HCV (hepatitis C virus) and HIV infected Factor VIII products to the UK during the 1980s.” Its director, Jason Evans, said the group was worried that ministers were “seeking to water down” the Infected Blood Inquiry’s recommendations on compensation.
Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. The Government has previously been accused of dragging its feet over compensation and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was heckled when he appeared before the inquiry last year as he vowed to pay compensation “as swiftly as possible”.