Politics

A petition calling for student tuition fees to be cut by nearly 70% to £3,000 is to be debated in Parliament later.

It argues the maximum annual fee of £9,250 in England will leave students in debt and put people off enrolling.

The online petition attracted 164,166 signatures, meaning it has to be considered for debate by MPs, one of who, Labour's Mike Hill, will lead it.

Ministers have announced a review of student funding after it became a major issue in the general election.

Labour, which first introduced tuition fees of £3,000 in 2005, are now committed to scrapping them.

The government has said it has responded to concerns about the burden on students by increasing the earnings threshold at which many graduates have to start repaying their loans from £21,000 to £25,000.

The maximum amount that universities can charge, which was due to rise to more than £9,500 next year in line with inflation, has been frozen while the current 6.1% interest rates on loans is to be re-examined.

Monday's debate on tuition fees, which begins at 16:30 GMT in Westminster Hall, will not change policy but will give MPs a platform to discuss one of the most politically charged issues in England.

Originally launched in 2016 – when the maximum fee was £9,000 – the petition was selected for debate by the backbench business committee of MPs, after it secured the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered.

The petition states: "University fees are rising more and more. £9,000 for university fees is too high and the stress of being in debt is what puts individuals off applying for a degree.

Politics

I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! got political on Sunday night – and Amir Khan probably wishes it hadn't.

The boxer has been mocked online after asking fellow contestants whether the UK had ever had a female prime minister.

"Don't tell anyone," he said as he was reminded that the current occupant of 10 Downing Street is Theresa May.

To be fair, he corrected himself with Margaret Thatcher – who spent 11 years as prime minister.

But Twitter users didn't let him off.

Khan had been talking about the election of Boris Johnson's dad Stanley as the camp's prime minister.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale couldn't resist a dig at the foreign secretary's ambitions.

"You've been trying so hard as a family and you've done it," she said.

"Thank you very much, public" Johnson senior said as he reacted to his election victory.

"My administration will probably be very short, very feeble but we'll do our best."

Politics

The government will fully fund the costs of dealing with the Manchester Arena attack, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

It comes after Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said an initial offer was "not good enough".

But the PM told the Manchester Evening News: "Be in no doubt, Manchester will get the financial support it needs."

She added in a statement that a Cabinet Office taskforce had been set up to oversee meeting the costs.

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device that killed 22 people and injured 512 in the foyer of the venue at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May.

The government had previously said Manchester would receive £12m to help cover the "exceptional costs" of the attack, with £3m being made available immediately.

But Mr Burnham said more than £17.5m had already been spent and suggested at least £10.4m more could be needed, including for the inquests into the 22 deaths and an inquiry.

The £12m figure would have meant local authorities being forced to cut services to make up the £5m shortfall on what had already been spent, he warned.

Mrs May told the Manchester Evening News: "Be in no doubt, Manchester will get the financial support it needs – and if that costs £28m, as Andy Burnham has estimated, then that is what we will make available."

She added in a statement that the attack was "one of the darkest moments in the city's history".

Politics

The government's plan to boost UK industry ahead of the country leaving the EU is due to be launched later.

The industrial strategy is aimed at lifting growth, which official forecasts suggest will slow due to the UK's poor productivity performance.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said the UK's decision to leave the EU meant the strategy was "even more important".

A deal with US healthcare giant MSD to open a UK research centre has been announced as part of the strategy.

Will the government's economic medicine work?

The investment by MSD, known as Merck in the US, is worth up to £1bn and is expected to create 950 jobs.

The government said the announcement was "a huge vote of confidence" in its plans to boost the post-Brexit UK economy.

The strategy comes just days after official forecasting body the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced an aggressive downgrade of its UK growth and productivity forecasts.

Political parties and business groups have said that the solution to creating stronger growth and higher wages is more investment.

The industrial strategy is expected to outline similar partnerships to the MSD one with other private sector firms in the construction, artificial intelligence and automotive sectors.

Politics

Russia’s ombudsman for entrepreneurs’ rights and part-owner of popular Russian champagne brand “Abrau-Durso” Boris Titov will join the 2018 presidential race. The ombudsman chairs the Party of Growth, which announced his nomination.

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The nomination of Boris Titov was discussed and agreed on by his fellow party members during the meeting at the Titov-owned wine house in the village of Abrau-Durso in Southern Russia. The presidential hopeful heads one of the youngest Russian parties “Party of Growth,” which has never managed to overcome the threshold to enter the country’s parliament.

While earlier the business ombudsman was not among the announced party candidates, the Party of Growth sent mixed messages in relation to the coming elections. In June they vowed to support the incumbent Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2018, but later in summer they advised him to leave the post.

“The business class is our main potential support, but not the only audience I intend to appeal to,” Titov told reporters on Sunday, as cited by Ria Novosti. He added that his party “has something to offer the country.”

The presidential hopeful wants to promote his economic program dubbed “the Strategy of Growth,” which is aimed at boosting the economy by moving away from dependence on oil and other resources.

READ MORE: Medvedev after Putin? Kremlin urges caution over presidential election rumors

Titov is the latest in this year’s series of public and political figures to have announced presidential ambitions, including Russian showbiz personality and opposition member Ksenia Sobchak; journalist and all-round celebrity Yekaterina Gordon; Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov; and the head of Russia’s Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky, among others. Current Russian president Vladimir Putin has not announced whether he plans to join the forthcoming run as yet. The election is scheduled to take place in March 2018.

Politics

There can be no final decisions on the future of the Irish border until the UK and the EU have reached a trade agreement, Liam Fox has said.

The UK's international trade secretary also blamed the EU for Brexit delays.

The comments came after the Irish Republic's EU commissioner said Dublin could veto Brexit trade talks.

The EU has said "sufficient progress" has to be made on the Irish border before negotiations on a future relationship can begin.

Downing Street has said the whole of the UK will leave both the customs union and the single market when it leaves the EU in 2019.

"We don't want there to be a hard border but the UK is going to be leaving the customs union and the single market," Mr Fox told Sky News.

He added: "We can't come to a final answer to the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state. And until we get into discussions with the EU on the end state that will be very difficult – so the quicker we can do that the better, and we are still in a position where the EU doesn't want to do that."

Mr Fox accused the European Commission of having an "obsession" with ever-closer union between EU member states, which was delaying progress in Brexit talks.

'Play tough'

Phil Hogan, the EU's agriculture commissioner, told the Observer that staying in the customs union would negate the need for a hard border – with customs posts and possible passport checks – on the island.

He said Dublin would "play tough to the end" over its threat to veto trade talks until it had guarantees over the border.

Politics

The Irish Republic's EU commissioner has said Dublin will "play tough to the end" over its threat to veto Brexit talks moving on to discuss trade.

The European Union has said "sufficient progress" has to be made on the Irish border before negotiations on the UK and EU's future relationship can begin.

Phil Hogan told the Observer staying in the customs union would avoid there being a hard border on the island.

The DUP said Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK must not be different.

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which is in a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Conservative government, said she would not support "any suggestion that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, will have to mirror European regulations".

Downing Street has said the whole of the UK will leave both the customs union and the single market when it leaves the EU.

The EU has given Prime Minister Theresa May until 4 December to come up with further proposals on issues including the border, the Brexit divorce bill and citizens' rights, if European leaders are to back moving on to trade talks.

But Mr Hogan, the EU's agriculture commissioner, accused some in the British government of having what he called a "blind faith" about securing a comprehensive free trade deal after Brexit.

He said it was a "very simple fact" that "if the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union, or better still the single market, there would be no border issue".

In these circumstances regulations either side of the border would remain the same, and so a near invisible border would be possible.

Politics

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster has said Sinn Féin must choose between making a deal with them or having direct rule ministers in place.

Speaking at the party's annual conference, she said "time is short".

Mrs Foster also spoke of the DUP's influence in Westminster and the party's commitment to Brexit.

DUP MPs are propping up the Conservative government as part of a confidence-and-supply deal.

On the failure of talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin, Mrs Foster said that "some progress was made but that can only be built upon if all sides are genuinely serious about obtaining a deal that is balanced".

The DUP-Sinn Féin power-sharing government fell apart in January following a row over a green energy scandal, which is now the subject of a public inquiry.

A series of talks have failed to find agreement over issues including an Irish language act and same-sex marriage.

"I said back in the summer that this party was prepared to legislate for the Irish language in the context of legislating for the plurality of cultures that exist in Northern Ireland," Mrs Foster told the conference in Belfast.

"The Irish language is spoken and enjoyed by thousands of people in all parts of Northern Ireland, it does no damage to our unionism or the Union we cherish.

"I respect the Irish language and those who speak it, however, respect isn't a one-way street.

Politics

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Michael Gove has hit out at the way social media "corrupts and distorts" political reporting and decision making following a row about animal welfare.

The environment secretary said attacks on MPs over a vote on an EU protocol about "animal sentience" had been "absolutely wrong".

The Commons vote sparked protests and a celebrity-backed social media campaign.

After the interview, Mr Gove was criticised over his role in claims made during the EU Referendum.

David Cameron's former communications chief Craig Oliver tweeted: "Interesting to hear Michael Gove complaining about the distortions of social media. £350m? Turkey? EU army?"

Last week MPs voted not to incorporate part of an EU treaty recognising that animals could feel emotion and pain into the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas had tabled the amendment to the EU bill, which would have transferred the EU protocol on animal sentience – the ability to experience feelings – into domestic law.

But ministers argued that the recognition of animals' sentience already existed in UK law and MPs rejected the amendment.

'Raw and authentic'

Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "On social media there was a suggestion that somehow the MPs had voted against the principle that animals are sentient beings, that did not happen, that is absolutely wrong."

Politics

The Russian lower house has rejected a bill to allow teenagers as young as 16 to join political parties, which was drafted by the nationalist-populist opposition party LDPR in a bid to attract young people to politics.

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The bill was drafted last January by two members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, who themselves are the youngest members of the State Duma – Vasily Vlasov (22) and Boris Chernyshov (26).

In explanatory notes attached to the motion, its key sponsors claims that the opportunity to join youth branches of political parties from the age of 16 was not enough to encourage young people to become more active in politics. They proposed to change the existing law to allow citizens as young as 16 to join political parties as full members.

The Liberal Democrats also noted that young people’s participation in the political process can also encourage their parents, relatives and friends to follow suit, and that full-pledged participation in political parties would serve to distract young people from various destructive “street subcultures.”

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© Mikhail Voskresenskiy

Government experts have previously issued a negative overview of the LDPR’s bill, saying that Russian law and various international conventions set the age of majority at 18 years, and allowing party membership for younger citizens is not reasonable as they cannot bear full responsibility for their decisions.