Newspaper headlines: Calais comments, immigration 'mess' and NHS criticism

Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart Image copyright AP
Image caption Lost in translation: Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart was quizzed by MPs

Comments by the mayor of Calais that Britain's benefits system is a "soft touch" and a "magnet" for migrants are seized upon by the papers.

The Times says Natacha Bouchart "unleashed her attack" during evidence to a Commons committee inquiry into the work of the Home Office.

The paper says it was a serious blow to David Cameron's reputation on immigration, with the prime minister under pressure to present a tough front in the face of the threat from UKIP.

"Mon Dieu," goes Ann Treneman's Parliamentary sketch. "The home affairs select committee heard from the mayor of Calais yesterday and all hell broke loose."

In his sketch in the Telegraph, Michael Deacon says the problem is stowaways from Calais, but the solution? - "It's all Greek to me".

"Yesterday a group of MPs spent an hour interrogating the mayor of Calais about illegal immigration to Britain," he writes. "I'm afraid I didn't understand a word. Still, I don't feel too bad. Because I doubt the MPs understood a word either.

"Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, had invited Natacha Bouchart to enlighten Parliament about Calais' troubles. It was a sound idea, with only one drawback. Madame Bouchart, it transpired, couldn't speak English. And the MPs couldn't speak French."

John Crace's sketch in the Guardian pokes fun at the welcome afforded by the committee's chairman: "'Ordre, ordre. Je veux te - si je peux be so bold - welcomer ici. It is not souvent que the Lady Mayor de Calais gets to meet moi,' said Keith Vaz in the pre-rehearsed speed-dating routine he usually reserves for his mirror.

"Natacha Bouchart looked startled, as much by the sound of her native language being badly mauled as by the nature of her welcome."

"As ententes go this was not madly cordiale," says Independent sketch writer Donald Macintyre. "The whole proceeding was translated by an interpreter. Which didn't deter the Tory MP Michael Ellis from applying the technique adopted by so many Brit holidaymakers addressing foreigners: speaking more loudly."

The Daily Express devotes its front page to the story, saying that she repeatedly clashed with MPs who argued it was up to France to stop the illegal migrants getting across.

In an editorial, the Express says Ms Bouchart was right to say that migrants were attracted by Britain's "hugely generous" benefits system - but wrong to ask for help from MPs in dealing with the problems in Calais.

The Sun says the mayor "sparked fury" by suggesting that a centre should be built to house those migrants waiting in Calais.

The Mirror comments: "The right-wing Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart - a French Tory - must not be allowed to get away with passing the buck on migrants in the Channel port."

'Out of Control'

The UK's immigration system also comes under fire in the papers after a critical report by a different committee of MPs, which makes the lead story for the Daily Mail.

The Mail reports that officials have lost track of 50,000 illegal immigrants and failed to kick out another 175,000, saying "what a mess!".

The paper comments that the "excoriating" report " produces yet more evidence of an immigration system out of control".

The Guardian says the "highly critical" report will increase pressure on Mr Cameron and his party over the handling of migration.

The Independent says the "damning" report delivers a "bleak assessment of the state of Britain's asylum system".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption MPs are highly critical of the UK's immigration system

Comments by David Cameron ally Nick Boles that the UK may never be able to entirely control immigration - because it is a fundamental principle of the EU - are also analysed.

The Times says it suggests the UK may one day effectively have to choose between EU membership and "reasonable" immigration control.

Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn says the importance of Mr Boles' intervention is that he is a centre-ground thinker and not a right-wing immigration obsessive.

"He makes the crucial point migrant numbers are no longer a dry economic argument," he writes. "It is now a crucial make or break issue of voters' trust - put them back in control, or die."

Sir Andrew Green, the founder of campaign group Migration Watch, writing in the Telegraph, says the subject of immigration is still a "minefield".

"The defence secretary had only to use the word 'swamped' at the weekend for the usual suspects to descend on him like a ton of bricks," he says. "Michael Fallon, as might be expected, duly withdrew his remarks. Now, however, David Blunkett - who suffered a similar fate in 2002 when he was the home secretary - has come riding to the rescue, praising Mr Fallon for his candour.

"This is welcome news: for the danger is that a debate about language will close down a legitimate, indeed essential, conversation about the impact that current levels of immigration are having on our society."

NHS pain

A report by the health service ombudsman that highlights "devastating and shocking" blunders in the NHS makes the lead for the Daily Telegraph.

Dame Julie Mellor's report tells how a woman in her 80s died after being left on a hospital floor for six hours and a day-old baby was left with permanent brain damage because of glaring errors by hospital staff.

Image copyright PA

In a leader, the Telegraph says: "Hardly a day goes by without a tale of woe from the NHS. It is unsurprising that things will go wrong in such a large and unwieldy organisation. Inevitably, too, people will die in hospital since they are there because they are ill.

"But the apparent institutional inability of the NHS to resolve some of its basic managerial issues points to deep-rooted flaws that will take a Herculean effort to eradicate."

The Times and the Independent both report that the watchdog also said patients are still being sent home from hospital too early.

The Mail says it will renew fears that the NHS is struggling to provide safe care for the rising numbers of patients.

Top of the crops

One story that has got most of the papers licking their lips is regarding the predictions that, because of the long summer and mild autumn, we could still be eating strawberries at Christmas.

The Telegraph puts the story on its front page, saying the British Summer Fruits Association said "ideal" growing conditions had yielded sweet, plump fruit for longer than usual.

The Times says Elsanta, a Dutch variety that is "large, firm and glossy" but not as sweet as some others, is the one most likely to be still in the shops in December.

The Guardian says the use of glasshouses and polytunnels, as well as new fruit varieties, has helped British growers grab a bigger portion of the market.

Image copyright AP

As the Independent puts it: "Wimbledon was four months ago and summer is long gone, but British strawberries are still appearing on supermarket shelves as growers celebrate a record-breaking crop."

And finally, the Times reports that the inventor of the classic children's board game Operation is appealing for help to pay for surgery of his own.

John Spinello was apparently paid $500 for the rights to the toy he devised as a student in Illinois in 1964, but it has since had sales worth $40m.

Mr Spinello's warehouse business failed in 2008 and he now trying to raise £37,000 ($60,000) to pay for oral surgery, says the Times.

The good news is he has a crowdfunding page and hopes to sell a prototype of Operation for $35,000.

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