Newspaper review: 'Threat' to Trident, and 'genetic' sex crimes
The political row that captures most headlines is the suggestion, made in an article in the Times by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, that Labour would abandon the Trident nuclear missile system in return for post-election support from the SNP.
Writing in the paper's Thunderer column, Mr Fallon says an "unholy alliance" of Labour and Scottish Nationalists would "put Britain's security in serious jeopardy".
The Conservative front-bencher writes that the SNP has a "naive world view" which is "more suited to a student union protest group" than a party of government.
"Often unstable states want to have nuclear weapons," he adds. "The only responsible response is to recommit to our nuclear deterrent now, so that we can cope with any direct threat to the UK and our Nato allies in the decades up to 2060."
He uses the piece to announce that a re-elected Conservative administration will build four new nuclear-powered submarines to replace the Vanguard class craft that currently carry Trident missiles.
Labour have said Mr Fallon's comments are a "total fabrication" and "ridiculous" and re-iterated that is was committed to the "continuous at-sea" nuclear deterrent policy.
The Guardian says Mr Fallon's announcement has been dismissed as "scaremongering" by the Tories following a YouGov/Sun poll which put Labour 2 points ahead of them.
It adds: "The party pointed out that Miliband gave a simple "no" answer when Jeremy Paxman asked him in the recent Channel 4/Sky News Q&A whether he would agree to an SNP demand not to renew Trident".
Labour has been exploring the option of reducing the number of nuclear submarines from four to three, the Guardian continues. Only one submarine is at sea at any given time.
However, the paper notes that during Wednesday's televised Scottish leaders' debate, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon declared Trident "a red line" issue for the party.
The Daily Mail comment column says: "By pledging to spend £100bn on four new Trident submarines, the Tories put clear blue water between themselves and their rivals - who, terrifyingly, either want to scrap the deterrent altogether or only replace some of the subs."
It goes on to argue that money for the programme could be found by cutting the overseas aid budget.
The papers are full of what the Times calls the "megabucks merger" between Royal Dutch Shell and the BG Group that will create Britain's biggest ever quoted company.
The paper adds that the £47bn that Shell will pay in cash and shares for the oil and gas exploration group - which was formerly part of British Gas - could signal the oil giant's retreat from "controversial Arctic" ventures.
It will lead to a bigger presence off Brazil and in liquefied natural gas, it explains.
The paper's business commentator Alistair Osborne says the move is risky, but the acquisition - which adds 25% to Shell's proven reserves - was a response to BG's low share price, and a "game-changing" bet that oil prices will recover soon.
The Daily Telegraph's coverage headlines the possibility that BG chief executive Helge Lund may leave his job with £29m after just two-months in charge.
Mr Lund is in line for a substantial compensation package from the deal, although he is expected to stay in his post for up to a year while the details of the merger are being worked out, the paper explains.
The Daily Mail notes that hundreds of thousands of people who bought shares in British Gas during its 1980s privatisation could now be in line for a windfall if they kept their stake in its successor company.
BG Groups shares have increased in value by 30% following the announcement of the deal.
The Financial Times says that despite his substantial leaving present Mr Lund - who was previously in charge of Norway's state oil company - has mixed feelings about the deal.
"I came to build a company, not sell it," he tells the paper.
The Independent's comment page says the merger "creates another behemoth beyond the might of nation states to regulate".
Noting that the combined company will be capitalised at £200bn - roughly the annual GDP of South Africa - the paper writes: "Companies that big have to be careful not to squash legitimate national concerns or smaller rivals even if they don't intend to; a hippo sharing a bed with a duckling."
The paper adds that a requirement to increase research & development spend on sustainable energy should be a pre-requisite for allowing such deals to go ahead.
The news that an Anglo-Swedish research programme has found a possible link between genetics and a predisposition to commit sexual offences, makes many newspapers.
The Daily Telegraph says that "fathers and brothers of sex offenders could be offered psychotherapy to teach them relationship skills such as respecting boundaries and curbing aggression as a way of protecting the public".
The study, by Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute analysed data pertaining to more than 21,000 Swedish criminals.
It found that "around 40 per cent of the risk of committing a sex crime is genetic, the research found, with the remaining 60 per cent down to personal and environmental factors, such as being abused as a child, upbringing, wealth and education," the Telegraph adds.
The Independent, which leads on the story, says the scientists have stressed that the findings should not "excuse" sex crimes, or be used to restrict the freedom of male relatives of offenders, or to suggest that there are genes for rape or paedophilia.
The paper says that future studies may discover the gene or genes which influence the risk of sexual offending, and it is likely that such genes would be "mediators" of aberrant behaviour, rather than a direct cause.
It adds that researchers found an increased risk of offending even in half-brothers who had been raised in different households and different circumstances.
Forensic pathologist Rajan Darjee tells the Independent: "Genes influence brain development, and brain functioning underpins psychological functioning, so it should not be surprising to find that genetic factors play a role in sexual offending.
"The fact that genes play such a role does not mean that a person is less responsible for their offending or that offending is inevitable in someone at higher genetic risk, it just emphasises that genes are an important part of a complicated jigsaw."
The paper notes a study in Finland last year found that 5 to 10% of violent crimes in the country could be attributed to two genes which can modify certain brain activity.
"The important point was that many people carry these gene variants and are not violent. You may inherit a genetic predisposition, but it is possible to control its influence," it concludes.
The gangster film-like raid on a safe deposit box storeroom in London's Hatton Garden continues to fascinate the press.
The Sun speculates that the mastermind of the operation is a "master blagger" known as the King of Diamonds.
Its front page shows a grainy image of the man, who it does not name but says is a cockney, captured in an earlier jewellery raid.
The paper's story links the raid - which may have netted the criminals £200m worth of valuables - to two previous robberies carried out by the "major-league bandit".
The Sun does not reveal its sources, but says the man they believe is behind the robbery is black, in his mid-30s and has connections with the Midlands. It says he has recently returned to Britain after living in Spain.
The Guardian says the true scale of the robbery, which took place over the Easter weekend, may never be known.
It adds that many of the jewels and other valuables stored at the facility were uninsured, with owners leaving them there to reduce their household premiums.
"It's terrible. I'm absolutely devastated. It's a lifetime of work and stock I've had for many years," one man who has lost items of "considerable value" tells the paper.
The Daily Telegraph wonders how the raiders, who disabled the firm's alarm, abseiled down the lift-shaft to the basement then used heavy equipment to break through an 18ins-thick steel door, "knew so much about the vault".
It adds detectives are trying to establish if the robbers had inside information on the vault's security arrangements.
The Times adds that the sound of the break-in may have been ignored during the break-in by neighbouring traders who assumed it was part of the Crossrail project, which is carrying out work nearby.
It adds that Premier League footballers may be among the crime's victims. Two jewellers known for their work with the stars used the facility to store valuables.
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