Newspaper headlines: Surveillance 'overhaul' and Terry Pratchett tributes

Friday's papers take varied approaches to a Parliamentary report calling for a single law to govern intelligence agencies' access to private communications.

The Guardian says the report paves the way for a "complete overhaul" of surveillance laws after it criticised a lack of transparency about the process.

However, the Times focuses on the intelligence and security committee's criticism of human rights groups. It quotes MP Hazel Blears saying: "We do not subscribe to the point of view that it is acceptable to let some terrorist attacks happen to uphold the individual right to privacy - nor do we believe that the vast majority of the British public would."

The Sun is outraged at the suggestion, quoting one campaigner saying the prospect of attack is "the price you pay for living in a free society". Its editorial argues: "In fact, the price of such high-minded ideals is paid by the likes of [murdered soldier] Lee Rigby. Not Left-wing intellectuals whose only exposure to attack comes on Twitter."

'Out of the shadows'

The Times reports that David Cameron has ordered an inquiry into "an obscure piece of legislation that enables spy agencies to bypass surveillance laws and snoop on phone calls, texts and emails".

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However, as the Daily Mail reports, the MPs cleared the listening agency GCHQ of having carried out mass surveillance of the public using vast trawls of internet traffic. The paper says this contradicts the claims of US whistle-blower Edward Snowden which were published by the Guardian. In its editorial column, the Mail says: "We remain convinced that Snowden's revelations - which allowed terrorists to evade capture - weakened the state's ability to protect its civilians."

The Guardian has a different take, saying: "Eighteen months after politicians and spy chiefs condemned Snowden as a traitor and questioned the patriotism of the editor of the Guardian for publishing his disclosures, the intelligence agencies have finally acknowledged the need to 'step out of the shadows' and spell out the nature of their intrusive capabilities." It argues that MPs would never have concluded that the "complex web" of laws needed replacing without Snowden's disclosures.

And, for the Independent, the reassurance that agents are "not reading the emails of everyone in the UK" is "troublingly simplistic". It writes: "Thousands of emails are read by analysts every day, and there remains a feeling that the privacy of individual citizens ultimately comes a poor second to other considerations. Some, no doubt, will find that comforting. But surveillance can antagonise as well as protect."

In its editorial, the Daily Telegraph says the report "gives the UK agencies the benefit of the doubt over the legality of their surveillance so far" and adds: "If giving their work a new legal basis can restore public confidence in the tasks they must of necessity perform, that can only be for the good."

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Scotland: home of the world's finest tea" - a smoked white tea from the Highlands has been crowned the world's best, winning the Gold Award of Salon du The in Paris, says the Times
  • "Mist a sitter" - a football match in Cornwall was abandoned after 58 seconds because the fog was too thick to play, reports the Mirror
  • "Gran of coke" - the Sun's take on research indicating a significant increase in cocaine use by people in well-off areas including "secure families, older couples and pensioners"
  • "Found 40 years on, car wife learned to drive in" - a used car dealer recognised his late wife's Triumph TR4's registration plate when it was advertised on eBay, reports the Express

'Greatest satirist'

The announcement of the death of fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, via his Twitter account, captures the imagination of papers including the Daily Mirror. Its writer Warren Manger refers to Sir Terry's literary characterisation of Death as "like an old friend to all", saying: "Only a master of black humour could make the Grim Reaper a sympathetic, even funny character." So, he says, "it seems only fitting he gave almost the last words to Death, who always spoke in booming block capital letters".

It's a reference to one of the final tweets from Sir Terry's account, which read: "AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER."

The Times notes that Sir Terry's work had been translated into 30 languages, he was named as WH Smith's most shoplifted author and wore a T-shirt to conventions reading: "Tolkien's dead, JK Rowling said no, Philip Pullman couldn't make it. 'Hi, I'm Terry Pratchett'."

"What was it that made readers return for the next volume, and then another?" asks the Telegraph. "Most obviously they found a world in which to lose themselves, notably the Discworld on which more than 40 books were set."

Sci-fi reviewer John Wyatt writes in the Sun: "His writing voice was that of a gentle, twinkle-eyed uncle, endearing with silly jokes and comedy scenes but wise and benign too."

"Terry should not be regarded as just a funny fantasy writer," argues director Vadim Jean, who adapted the novel Hogfather, in the Independent. "He was perhaps our greatest satirist."

Crime writer Val McDermid writes in the Guardian that the key aspect of Sir Terry's work was that it "always has reality stitched into it, so people like me who don't read much fantasy feel at home in his world of magic, monstrousness and mortality. We recognise our own chaotic lives, the exaggerated characteristics of the people we know, and the institutions that make up our world".

Many papers address the author's decision to publicise his struggle against Alzheimer's disease. Peter Stanford writes in the Daily Telegraph: "We are, on the whole, shy of looking death in the eye, shyer still of dying in public. And that is particularly true of famous names who develop Alzheimer's. They tend to just disappear from the public spotlight... But not Sir Terry Pratchett."

"He explored his own condition with the quizzical humour, intellectual zest and sheer generosity of spirit that marked his fiction," says the Independent.

'Right to choose'

Ahead of next Wednesday's Budget, the Daily Telegraph says Chancellor George Osborne is expected to include provision for a "second-hand" market for annuities that would "allow retired savers to sell their lifetime contracts to the highest-bidding insurance company, which would offer cash".

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The paper explains: "Pensioners might prefer a lump sum to a guaranteed income if it enabled them to make home improvements, pay off a mortgage or give an early inheritance. Others may want to swap their annuity for a more suitable policy, such as a deal that provides income to their spouse when they die."

The Express reckons that would amount to a "windfall" for six million pensioners who - as it stands - can't take advantage of rules coming into force next month granting greater scope to savers to spend their pension pots as they wish. Its editorial supports the change: "The old rules forcing people to buy an annuity were deeply restrictive and individuals should have the right to choose what they do with money they have worked hard to save."

Likewise, the Times says: "With interest rates at almost zero ever since the banking crash of 2007 to 2009, fixed-income investments have had very low returns." However, the same paper quotes financial advisers warning that "pension buy-backs could become the next big mis-selling scandal".

The Financial Times agrees, urging "more haste, less speed" with the reform. "Returning to the same market could merely see [pensioners] being ripped off again," it says. "With billions of pension savings at stake the government's priorities should be ensuring that the existing reforms work as intended."

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