Newspaper headlines: Uni fees plan and Philip Green's staff hit back

By BBC News

  • Published

Saturday's newspaper front pages carry a wild mix of stories.

The Times reports that university tuition fees could be cut to £6,500 with the shortfall made up by the Treasury, under proposals from a government commission.

But the paper says if the Treasury makes up the difference, vice-chancellors suspect universities will face cuts in the long run as they fight for funding alongside schools, defence, health and crime.

One vice-chancellor says universities fear the worst "if it became a choice between dying babies and medieval French".

Meanwhile, the Guardian says current and former employees of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group have spoken to the paper alleging a "climate of fear, bullying and harassment" at the company and dismissing his claims that his behaviour was merely "banter".

Sir Philip's legal team didn't respond to the paper's request for a comment, but last week he issued a statement strongly denying any allegation of unlawful behaviour.

IVF and adoptions

According to the Telegraph's lead story, improvements in IVF are leading to fewer children being adopted.

The head of the organisation representing children in care in England tells the paper the growing success of fertility treatment means that infertile couples stand a better chance than ever of having their own children.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Adoptions have fallen as IVF success rates have fallen

"Adoption is competing with lots of other ways of having children," says Anthony Douglas, of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

The paper says there were just over 4,000 adoptions last year, compared with about 12,000 at the dawn of fertility treatment in 1978, even though the number of children in care has soared.

The Sun's main story reports that army chiefs have brought in tough new rules to stamp out illegal drug use in the ranks.

For the first time, any soldier who fails a drugs test will be dismissed immediately and banned from rejoining or enlisting with the reserves. Under the old policy, commanders had the discretion to allow soldiers to remain after a failed drugs test if they showed promise or were still in training.

Meanwhile, savers have cashed in a record £5.7bn from their retirement pots so far this year, according to the Daily Express.

The paper reports that the scale of the draw-downs has led to warnings that pensioners may face a lack of cash in later life.

One investment manager said: "Typically, smaller pensions are being fully withdrawn, while people with larger pensions are making multiple withdrawals in a tax year - suggesting they are treating their pensions more like a bank account."

'How's there a 30-year-old in our maths class?

Several papers report on the story of a school pupil in Ipswich who is under investigation by the Home Office over concerns he may actually be 30-years-old.

It is the lead story for the Daily Mirror, which says classmates at Stoke High School in Ipswich became suspicious because of his beard.

According to the Daily Mail, he is believed to be an asylum seeker from Iran. It says the row began after a pupil posted a picture of him on social media with a message: "How's there a 30-year-old man in our maths class?"

Several newspapers also contain pieces about the Sun's story published on Friday which claims former prime minister David Cameron would like to return to politics.

The Mirror suggests that if Mr Cameron wants a cure for his boredom, he could volunteer at one of the four food banks in his former Oxfordshire constituency.

And political commentator Chris Roycroft-Davis writing in the Express, says the income from the lecture circuit is "not enough to satisfy the ego of a man who realises he will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and wants to try to rewrite history".

Transport woes

Meanwhile, the country's biggest breakdown companies are leaving motorists who call for help stranded at the side of the road for up to 12 hours, according to an investigation by the Mail.

It claims some customers have been forced to hire independent recovery firms to pick up their car. Others have had to abandon their vehicle and call friends, family or a taxi to pick them up.

Both the AA and the RAC tell the paper that the harsh winter, potholed roads and the long, hot summer put pressure on them - with a large increase in calls for assistance.

And for rail passengers, the Times reports that Network Rail is planning "one of the biggest shutdowns" over Christmas, with passengers given as little as six weeks' notice of work on some routes.

It says 330 engineering projects will take place between Christmas and the New Year - 25 per cent more than last year.

Image source, PA

The work will affect lines including the West Coast, Great Western, Great Eastern, Midland Main and the main route into Liverpool.

The worst chaos will be around London, where Paddington, Victoria, Euston and Liverpool Street stations will partly shut down.

Network Rail said that the work costing £148 million would create a more efficient service and better facilities. It insisted that the Christmas period was the best time to do it because passenger numbers were halved.