The Telegraph 2024-04-11 01:00:34


Biden issues warning as Iran ‘prepares to launch missile strike’ on Israel

Joe Biden has warned Iran not to launch an attack on Israel, amid reports of an “imminent” missile strike targeting the country.

The US president said his commitment to Israel’s security was “ironclad” and that Washington would do “all we can” to protect it from an attack by Tehran in retaliation for a strike in Syria that killed senior Iranian generals.

On Wednesday evening, Bloomberg reported that US intelligence officials believed an attack on Israeli soil was imminent and could involve “high-precision missiles”.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, Mr Biden said: “We also want to address the Iranian threat … they’re threatening to launch a significant attack in Israel.

“As I told Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad. Let me say it again, ironclad … all we can to protect Israel’s security.”

A Pentagon official on Wednesday night declined to comment on reports that the US was preparing to intercept Iranian missiles, and to join retaliatory strikes by Israel.

The official told The Telegraph the US government was “aware of Iran’s rhetoric” and that “both Israel and the US take it seriously”.

Foreign embassies have reportedly already begun evacuations in anticipation of an attack in the coming days, after Iran’s supreme leader said Israel “must be punished” for an air strike on an Iranian embassy compound in Syria.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the strike, which killed two generals and five military advisers on April 1. The most high-profile victim was Mohamed Reza Zahedi, who led the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

In a speech to mark the end of Ramadan on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei vowed to take revenge on Israel.

“When they attack the consulate, it is as if they have attacked our soil,” he said. “The evil regime made a mistake and must be punished and it shall be.”

Two days after the attack, he said “the Zionist regime” would “receive a slap in the face” in retaliation.

Military targets

US officials reportedly believe any Iranian strike would likely be on military and government buildings, not civilian targets. One source told Bloomberg that an attack was considered a matter of when, not if.

Any strike could escalate the conflict in the Middle East to a direct war between two of the region’s biggest powers.

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, has said Israel would respond to an attack with its own strike on Iranian soil.

Speaking to troops in northern Israel, Mr Gallant said Iran would face a “powerful response in its territory”.

“In this war, we are being attacked from more than one front … from different directions,” he said.

“Any enemy that tries to attack us will first of all be met with a strong defence. But we will know how to react very quickly with a decisive offensive action against the territory of whoever attacks our territory, no matter where it is, in the entire Middle East.”

Iran has been accused of supporting Hamas in its war against Israel and of stoking the conflict through its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

The attack on Israel could come from Lebanon, where Hezbollah is located, although intelligence officials reportedly believe it could also be launched from elsewhere in the region.

Tehran has long avoided attacking Israel directly but Khamenei said that “our fighters” would be involved in Iran’s revenge.

Israeli officials have said they will wait for the Iranian attack before launching a planned assault on Rafah, in the south of Gaza, where the Israeli government has vowed to root out remaining Hamas fighters.

Iran has also blamed Britain and the US for its role in the air strike on April 1, and argues that Israel’s Western backers are complicit in the deaths of its troops.

While the US has publicly warned Israel against attacking Rafah because of expected civilian casualties, Washington has remained supportive of the war against Hamas and committed to Israeli security.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, said the UK was “absolutely clear about the threat that Iran poses to the region” and pointed to British participation in strikes against the Yemeni Houthis, another Iranian proxy group.

“Britain stands with our allies, crucially, including the United States, we stand up for Israel’s right to self-defence,” he told Fox News.

The UK Government has retained diplomatic ties with Iran throughout the conflict, despite Lord Cameron’s declaration that the country is “a thoroughly malign influence in the region and in the world”.

On Wednesday evening, Lufthansa, the German flight operator, announced it was suspending flights to Tehran “due to the current situation in the Middle East”.

A spokesman said the company was “constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities”.

Separately on Wednesday, three sons of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh were killed by an Israeli strike in central Gaza.

The IDF said they were operatives of Hamas’s military wing. Haniyeh said several of his grandchildren had also been killed.

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NHS bosses ordered to reveal fate of 9,000 young transgender Tavistock patients

The NHS must reveal the fate of 9,000 transgender young people treated by the controversial Tavistock clinic, the Health Secretary has said in the wake of the Cass review.

The landmark report published on Wednesday found adult gender clinics had refused to disclose whether transgender people who started their treatment as children later changed their minds about transitioning, or went on to suffer serious mental health problems.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, met Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, on Wednesday to tell her “nothing less than full co-operation by those clinics in the research is acceptable”.

Writing in The Telegraph, Ms Atkins says she has had enough of “a culture of secrecy and ideology over evidence and safety”.

She goes on: “We simply do not know the lifelong impact of these medical interventions on young minds and bodies to be clear that they are safe.”

The Cass review called for an end to the prescribing of powerful hormone drugs to under-18s and warned that under-25s should be cared for with “extreme caution” and not hurried down a medical pathway.

Ms Atkins says that she expects private clinics to also follow these recommendations, and is looking into ways the Department for Health and Social Care can block doctors abroad from prescribing puberty blockers to children in Britain.

She also praises those who spoke out to “raise the alarm about how treatment was diverging so far from guidance” and says that she is “greatly troubled” by the rapid rise in the referral of teenage girls to transgender clinics.

The Telegraph understands that NHS England has now written to the chief executives of the hospital trusts that operate the adult clinics demanding that the data is handed over as well as instructing an end to appointments for under-18s. The health service will also undertake an external review of all its transgender services.

Lack of data ‘unacceptable’

The review, led by Dr Hilary Cass, a paediatrician, said that the lack of “robust data” on what had happened to the 9,000 children who were treated by the gender clinic at the Tavistock between 2009 and 2020 was “unacceptable”. 

Those children then went on to continue their treatment at adult clinics.

Research led by the University of York had been due to look at the long-term outcomes of children treated by the Tavistock.

It was expected to provide insights into the clinic’s work, including the number of patients treated with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, how many people detransitioned and how many had a “co-occurring mental health diagnosis” or a “diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder”. The review had been given the power to access medical records.

Ms Atkins says: “It is disgraceful that adult gender clinics have not co-operated with the vital University of York research to link data on children at the Tavistock so that we can understand their journey into adulthood.

“This Government took the unprecedented step of changing the law to make this possible. There can be no further delay on their full participation. I know that NHS England will use all the powers at their disposal to compel this if they have to.

“Nothing less than full cooperation by those clinics in the research is acceptable.”

Sajid Javid demands ‘no holds barred’ inquiry

Sajid Javid, the former health secretary who gave the independent review powers to access medical records in 2022, called for “a no holds barred government investigation” to hold those responsible to account for obstruction.

He told The Telegraph: “Despite it being the unanimous will of Parliament, it is clear vested interests have deliberately frustrated the important data access legislation I brought forward to support Dr Cass’s review.

“A no holds barred government investigation should be launched into this obfuscation, documents retrieved and, if necessary, individuals held accountable for failing to provide records.”

It is understood health leaders are prepared to use legal powers to mandate the main seven adult gender clinics to hand over the data they hold on trans patients, with only one being willing to comply with requests by researchers to date. There are a further five pilot adult clinics that have been set up since 2020.

Dr Cass told the NHS it was “hugely disappointing” that the clinics would not engage in research that would help to inform the future treatment of children who believe they are transgender.

The Tavistock, which also runs an adult service, refused to give data on either of its services, the report said.

The other adult clinics are the Leeds Gender Identity Clinic, the Northampton Gender Identity Clinic in Daventry, the Northern Region Gender Dysphoria Service in Newcastle, the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health, the Porterbrook Clinic Gender Identity Service in Sheffield, and the Laurels Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter.

NHS takes responsibility for research

The NHS is committed to undertaking the research and has moved the responsibility for its completion from the Cass review to the NHS National Research Oversight Board for Children and Young People’s Gender.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said he was “pretty angry” that the trusts had “refused to co-operate”.

“I want to send a clear message to them that under a Labour government there’ll be accountability for that, you’re not going to get away with it. And I want to work constructively with the Government to try to get this right,” he said.

Professor Michael Biggs, a sociologist at Oxford University and board member at the charity Sex Matters, said it was “disgraceful that gender clinicians employed by the NHS wilfully obstructed Hilary Cass’s attempt to undertake research as part of her review”.

“It is a dereliction of duty for these NHS clinics to refuse to provide patient information. This information is needed by clinicians, the general public and most importantly, future patients and their families, so they can understand the safety and efficacy of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones,” he said.

“Public sector bodies deliberately withholding information is contemptible and those responsible must be held to account.”

Kate Barker, the chief executive of advocacy group LGB Alliance, said: “It is deeply troubling that attempts to gather evidence for the Cass Review have been deliberately blocked. All of its recommendations are at risk whilst institutions remain captured by zealous, anti-science proponents of gender identity ideology.”

Rowling praise for review’s work

On Wednesday, J K Rowling praised the Cass review – and criticised trans rights activists who continued to attack it.

“Over the last four years, Hilary Cass has conducted the most robust review of the medical evidence for transitioning children that’s ever been conducted,” the author tweeted.

“Mere hours after it was released to the press and public, committed ideologues are doubling down.

“These are people who’ve deemed opponents ‘far-Right’ for wanting to know there are proper checks and balances in place before autistic, gay and abused kids – groups that are all overrepresented at gender clinics – are left sterilised, inorgasmic, lifelong patients.

“I understand that the review’s conclusions will have come as a seismic shock to those who’ve hounded and demonised whistleblowers and smeared opponents as bigots and transphobes, but trying to discredit Hilary Cass’s work isn’t merely misguided. It’s actively malign.

“Even if you don’t feel ashamed of cheerleading for what now looks like severe medical malpractice, even if you don’t want to accept that you might have been wrong, where’s your sense of self-preservation? The bandwagon you hopped on so gladly is hurtling towards a cliff.”

The ‘laying bare of a tragedy’

She added: “And if I sound angry, it’s because I’m bloody angry. I read Cass this morning and my anger’s been mounting all day. Kids have been irreversibly harmed, and thousands are complicit, not just medics, but the celebrity mouthpieces, unquestioning media and cynical corporations.

“The consequences of this scandal will play out for decades. You cheered it on. You did all you could to impede and misrepresent research. You tried to bully people out of their jobs for opposing you. Young people have been experimented on, left infertile and in pain.

“The Cass Review may be a watershed moment, but it comes too late for detransitioners who’ve written me heartbreaking letters of regret. Today’s not a triumph, it’s the laying bare of a tragedy.”


Children’s safety and wellbeing comes before anything else

By Victoria Atkins, Health Secretary

The final report of Dr Cass’s review is a historic moment for our understanding of how to care for children who are struggling with difficult questions about who they are.  
 
I am hugely grateful to Dr Cass’s dedicated team for their detailed and considered work on such a contentious area of healthcare. I commend those brave voices who spoke up to raise the alarm about how treatment was diverging so far from guidance.

A culture of secrecy and ideology over evidence and safety.  Today I’m saying “enough”.

We simply do not know the lifelong impact of these medical interventions on young minds and bodies to be clear that they are safe.  
 
We’ve also seen a marked change in the age and sex of those seeking help. I am greatly troubled by the rapid rise in the referral of teenage girls and the stressors that Dr Cass highlights like social media and degrading pornography.
 
Action is already being taken to protect our children.

NHS England is stopping children under 18 from being seen by adult gender services with immediate effect.  
 
This builds on progress earlier this year to end the routine prescription of puberty blockers at the new regional services. An urgent update on cross-sex hormones clinical policy must now follow.  

I have written to the chief executive of NHS England to seek assurance on this and the need for swift delivery across Dr Cass’s recommendations. I want to ensure that we prioritise continuity of care and support up to the age of 25 with a follow-through service for young people at a potentially vulnerable stage in their journey.  
 
It is disgraceful that adult gender clinics have not cooperated with the vital University of York research to link data on children at the Tavistock so that we can understand their journey into adulthood. 

This Government took the unprecedented step of changing the law to make this possible. There can be no further delay on their full participation. I know that NHS England will use all the powers at their disposal to compel this if they have to.  
 
I am clear in my expectation that private providers must fall in line too. I have instructed my officials to work on the changes necessary to close down routes that allow puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to be prescribed to children for gender dysphoria from abroad.
 
We need clinicians from across disciplines in the NHS to come together in the new services to build better, more holistic care teams. Teams that treat the whole child and all of their needs.  
 
Children and young people must have healthcare that is caring and careful. Their safety and wellbeing comes before anything else. I will do everything I can do deliver on these changes.

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China flooding Britain with fake stamps in act of ‘economic warfare’

China is behind the scourge of counterfeit stamps flooding Britain and landing victims with £5 penalties, The Telegraph understands.

Sources close to Royal Mail said that forgeries from the Communist country were behind a rise in complaints that letters sent with stamps bought from legitimate stores were being flagged as fraudulent.

Security experts and MPs described the mass forgery as an “act of economic warfare” and akin to “printing counterfeit money”.

It is understood that the convincing forgeries are being bought unwittingly by small retailers, who are not required to buy stamps directly from Royal Mail and can instead source them from wholesalers in bulk.

It comes after the Royal Mail last week launched a review into its new barcoded stamps amid fears customers are wrongly being forced to pay £5 to collect letters.

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said he expects Royal Mail to investigate how the counterfeit stamps from China entered the supply chain and were being sold in shops.

Royal Mail insists its systems are not faulty – meaning any stamps flagged as counterfeit are likely to be fakes from China.

A Telegraph investigation identified four major Chinese suppliers offering to print up to one million counterfeit Royal Mail stamps a week for as little as 4p each – and deliver them to Britain within days.

The stamps are also being sold through online retail giants such as Amazon and eBay – and on websites that mimic the official Royal Mail store. 

A senior figure at Royal Mail admitted to BBC One’s Watchdog that he could not spot the difference between a counterfeit and a genuine stamp.

David Gold, director of external affairs and policy, said: “The reality is counterfeiters are now so good at what they do that even I, and I work for Royal Mail, I can’t tell the difference just by looking at them.”

Security experts have warned that the mass fraud is “economic warfare” done with the “tacit approval” of the Chinese Communist Party.

The postal workers union CWU has also said that the “scam on an unprecedented scale” had resulted in a rise in aggression against its members and risked further damage to the Post Office brand following the Horizon computer scandal.

The Royal Mail introduced barcode stamps in 2022 in an effort to put a stop to forgeries that were costing the postal service tens of millions of pounds every year. 

The barcodes are scanned when post arrives at sorting offices and suspicious stamps are then inspected by staff who then declare if the stamp is genuine or fake. Stamp fraud has since fallen 90pc.

Royal Mail insists genuine stamps will never be marked as counterfeit, unlike those printed in China.

The Government last month revealed that China was behind a cyber attack on the Electoral Commission that compromised the data of 40 million voters, and concern in Whitehall that China was behind social media attacks on the Princess of Wales.

Official Royal Mail stamps have been printed by the same family business in Wolverhampton for the past decade. However, more than 8,000 miles away, one factory in China’s third largest city, Shenzhen, claims it employs 39 members of staff and can produce up to one million per week.

Another company in the port city of Quanzhou, in south east China, is selling sheets of 50 first class large barcoded stamps. The listing describes the fake stamps as “mint, new and read [sic] for posting”.

The biggest supplier identified is based in Shanghai. It has numerous listings for different types of barcoded stamps including stamps featuring King Charles first released last March and older iterations which feature the late Queen.

The minimum purchase order is 20,000 stamps which are sold at $0.20 (£0.15) per stamp. However, for orders above 300,000, each stamp costs just $0.05 (£0.04) – representing a 3,275pc markup if it was sold at the Royal Mail retail price of £1.35.

The price of a first class stamp in Britain has doubled since March 2019 when it was just 67p. Since then, there have been seven price rises, culminating in last week’s rise to £1.35 for a first class stamp and 85p for a second class stamp.

Royal Mail said it believes sheets of genuine stamps, which can only be bought and sold in Britain, are being sent to China where they are then copied repeatedly to produce counterfeits in vast quantities. The forgeries are then sent to Britain where they are sold to unsuspecting retailers and consumers.

Alan Mendoza, founder of national security think tank the Henry Jackson Society, said the mass production of forged stamps damaged the British economy by “robbing businesses of revenue”.

He said: “It is inconceivable that a large-scale counterfeit operation like this could be occurring without the knowledge and therefore tacit approval of the Chinese Communist Party given its strict control over the Chinese economy. As such, it’s an obvious form of economic warfare and should be called out for what it is with economic repercussions for China if it does not rein it in.”

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay accidentally bought counterfeit stamps on Amazon last year.  The Conservative MP raised in Parliament last May, accusing Amazon of “facilitating the sale of counterfeit postage stamps from China” that were “virtually perfect except for the barcode”.

He said he had raised the “serious matter” with the National Crime Agency and Trading Standards but “received woeful responses”.

Royal Mail says it has taken down more than 300 suspicious listings in the past year including on Amazon and eBay.

Amazon says it continues to collaborate with Royal Mail to “improve proactive detection mechanisms” as well as UK law enforcement to protect customers from “those attempting to abuse our store”.

Yet The Telegraph found numerous suspicious listings on Amazon – all of which had reviews claiming the stamps were fraudulent and left recipients with £5 fines.

There are also counterfeit stamp listings on eBay with one detailing in the product description that it was manufactured in China.

An eBay spokesman said: “The sale of counterfeit items is strictly prohibited on eBay and we proactively block millions of counterfeit items every year.”

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, called for a criminal investigation and said forging stamps needed to be treated with the same severity as counterfeiting money.

He said: “Criminal law is very clear about this and I don’t understand why the police are not cracking down. The law is there to be used and these people are counterfeiters and they are as bad as counterfeiting money so treat them in the same way.”

He urged the Government to take a firmer stand against China, adding: “We have to ensure we deal with this in a way that tells the Chinese ‘enough is enough’ and we should be saying to the Chinese embassy, ‘why aren’t you cracking down on this?’. Because the more this goes on, the more it undermines the very nature of law and order in the UK.”

Conservative MP Bob Seely said: “It is pretty appalling. It is incredibly brazen and it begs the question what are the Chinese authorities doing about this and why aren’t they cracking down, unless this is yet more undeclared conflict against the West.”

“China allows [this criminality] because it damages our society and it damages our institutions and this is yet another example of that.”

Tom Keatinge, of defence and security think tank The Royal United Services Institute, said while he believed it was more likely a Chinese organised crime group has “identified a vulnerability” in our stamps, the “acid test will be how the Chinese state responds to this information being brought to their attention”.

China is also believed to be behind a rise in counterfeit stamps that have infiltrated the United States Postal Service (USPS). Last February, USPS warned the public to be “alert” to a rise in counterfeit stamps being sold online. In one case, US border protection seized $2.5m (£1.9m) worth of counterfeit stamps that had come from China.

The USPS now reserves the right to open and destroy any post that has been sent using counterfeit postage.

But the union that represents postmasters and postmen in the UK has warned Royal Mail not to go down a similar path.

Andy Furey, of the Communication Workers Union, said post workers were facing a rise in aggression after the fake stamp penalty was increased from £2.50 to £5 last October.

He said: “This appears to be a scam on quite an unprecedented scale and it’s not good for postal workers who are knocking on people’s doors saying ‘we are going to surcharge you because this stamp is counterfeit’.

“Royal Mail has an obligation not to penalise the customer and to stop it at source and get it sorted rather than pass the burden of the blame to the customer.

“There is a sense of inertia about this from Royal Mail. I wonder if they are in denial about the scale of this [scam] and they are hoping it goes away.”

The union leader said the prevalence of fake stamps now risked further undermining trust in postmasters after some people claimed stamps bought at Post Offices had been flagged as counterfeit.

He said: “It’s important that the Post Office is a go to destination for customers to buy stamps, books and packs, we don’t like any bad or negative publicity around this where people are starting to question the brand [the Post Office] or the legitimacy of what they are spending their money on. We are deeply perturbed by this and we think Royal Mail has been too slow to react.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We are working hard to remove counterfeit stamps from circulation. We regularly monitor online marketplaces to detect suspicious activity, such as sales of heavily discounted stamps and work closely with retailers and law enforcement agencies to identify those who produce counterfeit stamps.

“We work closely with a number of police forces across the country to apprehend offenders and search premises. In recent cases we have recovered stamps with a retail value of over £250,000.”

Have you bought a counterfeit stamp from a Post Office? Email money@telegraph.co.uk 

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Labour women tear into Wes Streeting as Cass report ignites fresh trans row

Labour has become embroiled in another trans row after Wes Streeting welcomed the Cass review into NHS gender services and pledged to implement it in full.

The shadow health secretary said the report raised “some serious concerns that are pretty scandalous”.

But Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP placed under investigation by the party last year for campaigning against gender ideology, pointed out that women who had exposed the scandal had been “blanked, sidelined and dismissed” by male leaders simply for speaking up.

And feminist Julie Bindel demanded an apology from Mr Streeting for failing to support her gender-critical views when he was president of the National Union of Students.

Mr Streeting’s comments angered the Labour Left. The Corbynite group Momentum tweeted: “The Cass review ignored dozens of scientific studies, coming to a harmful conclusion of limiting access to gender-affirming care for trans youth.

“Anti-trans campaigners have celebrated it. So it’s highly disappointing that Labour’s leadership is welcoming it unreservedly.”

Labour has long been divided on trans issues and has been accused of flip-flopping on its stance.

The party no longer has plans to bring in self-ID for trans people, and Sir Keir Starmer has rowed back from saying “trans women are women”, and now states that a woman is an “adult female” and that 99.9 per cent of them do not have a penis.

Earlier this year the party dropped a year-long investigation into a complaint that Ms Duffield had been transphobic for liking a tweet by Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, who is now a gender-critical campaigner.

However, despite the changes, critics of the Labour leadership say gender-critical women in the party continue to be sidelined or not selected.

The Cass review, published on Wednesday, said much of the evidence for gender medicine was flimsy and that drugs such as puberty blockers should be used with extreme caution as children who think they are trans may have mental health problems.

Dr Hilary Cass, the paediatrician behind the report, said some NHS gender clinics refused to comment on requests for information.

Speaking on The Sun’s Never Mind the Ballots programme, Mr Streeting said: “I think we’ve got to ask ourselves why is it that we’ve seen medical interventions that have been given on the basis of very weak evidence?

“How is it that clinicians have been silenced or afraid to come forward? Why is it that a group of young people who are extremely vulnerable are waiting years to access treatment?

“I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m pretty angry actually that despite this review having been commissioned there are some NHS trusts that refused to co-operate.

“And I want to send a clear message to them that under a Labour government there’ll be accountability for that, you’re not going to get away with it. And I want to work constructively with the Government to try to get this right.”

Earlier, he had tweeted: “Children’s healthcare should always be led by evidence and children’s welfare, free from culture wars…

“The Government must now immediately act, but if they do not, the next Labour government will work to implement the expert recommendations of the Cass review, to ensure that young people are receiving appropriate and high-quality care.”

This prompted Ms Duffield to retweet the statement, with the message: “To the many women blanked, sidelined, dismissed by male leaders when speaking up and exposing this for years.”

And Ms Bindel, a former Labour Party member, wrote: “Glad to see you are now openly critical of the gender ideology that led to the atrocities against children outlined in the Cass report.

“I am open to accepting an apology from you. In 2008, when you were NUS president, I was no-platformed alongside five fascist groups for ‘transphobia’.

“I contacted you and asked for your help. You gave none. I asked you to condemn those that had orchestrated the no-platforming, and you refused.

“Have you any idea of the reputational damage this caused me? How it gave others permission to no-platform, denounce and defame me?

“How it meant that I could be slandered by other organisations, and so many, many universities around the UK and elsewhere? If this sounds bitter then good, because I am.”

To this message, Ms Duffield said: “Thank you for leading us all here Julie. Without you, most of us wouldn’t have had a clue what had been happening to children who were far too young to have the critical faculties or agency to consent.”

Addressing Ms Bindel’s accusation, Mr Streeting replied: “From memory (16 years on, so correct me if I’m wrong!) I replied to confirm that you weren’t on NUS’ no platform policy and as this was in relation to a motion passed by the autonomous women’s campaign I was not empowered to overturn it (not least as a male president!).”

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Afghan sex offender avoids deportation over risk of ‘mob violence’

An Afghan sex offender avoided deportation after lawyers claimed his treatment of women would put him at risk of “mob violence” in his home country.

The 31-year-old asylum seeker was jailed for 12 weeks for “outraging public decency and exposure” and was placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.

However, the Afghan was awarded refugee status and avoided deportation after claiming it was a breach of his human rights to deny him asylum in the UK.

Doctors told the immigration tribunal that the Afghan man, referred to only as DH, continued to act “inappropriately” towards women despite his conviction.

An immigration tribunal judge agreed with lawyers that his “risky behaviours” would expose him to “ill treatment” and even “mob violence” if he returned to Afghanistan.

Christopher Hanson, the tribunal judge, therefore ruled that the man should be granted refugee status, allowing him to remain in the UK.

The disclosure follows controversy over a similar decision to grant asylum to Abdul Ezedi, the Clapham chemical attacker, despite a conviction and suspended jail sentence for two offences of sexual assault and exposure.

Deported

Laura Farris, the Home Office minister, told Sky News that she would investigate the Afghan case. “It is absolutely right that the public expect all foreign offenders to be deported when their sentences are completed. I will look into that particular case,” she said.

Foreign offenders face automatic deportation if they are sentenced to at least a year in jail. This is a reduction from two years, which was introduced by the Home Office following the Ezedi case.

However, Ms Farris suggested the Government could go further, saying her “preference” would be for all foreign sex offenders jailed for any length of time to be deported. “By and large, sex offenders should be removed from the UK,” she said.

It is understood the Home Office is considering a lower threshold than the one-year jail sentence for specific offences such as sex crimes, which would make it easier to deport foreign offenders for these offences.

The Afghan was jailed at a central London magistrates’ court after deliberately exposing himself and, according to the court documents, was considered to have met the criteria for deportation as a threat to the public.

However, he appealed on the basis that his mental illness created a “strong likelihood of sexually disinhibited behaviour that in Afghanistan would lead to serious harm”.

The court found the risk of such behaviour increased as his mental health deteriorated. “His mental health is very likely to deteriorate if he were returned [to Afghanistan]. It is reasonable to infer from this that the risk of the appellant behaving in an unacceptable way would also increase,” say the documents.

‘Real risk of mob violence’

“The consequence of [DH] behaving inappropriately towards a woman or touching himself in public would be to enrage onlookers. There is a real risk of mob violence. The risk is more than fanciful. The appellant’s risky behaviours have endured in the UK for several years now.”

The tribunal ruled that the Afghan’s mental health condition was sufficiently established to justify his inclusion in a “protected” group, thus securing his right to asylum in the UK.

Ms Farris said the Government was determined to end the legal “merry-go-round” which saw asylum seekers winning up to half of their appeals to immigration tribunals.

The Government’s illegal migration act aims to create a one-stop shop to prevent asylum seekers introducing multiple new pieces of evidence to support their claims. Anyone arriving illegally in the UK faces being detained and removed to a safe third country, such as Rwanda, where they will claim asylum.

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UK houses so many asylum seekers that over half the foreign aid budget is spent in Britain

The UK is housing so many asylum seekers that more than half the foreign aid budget earmarked for poor countries is now being spent in Britain, new figures suggest.

In 2023, the UK spent £9.9 billion in bilateral aid – yet 54 per cent of this was used domestically, according to the Centre for Global Development (CGD), which analysed data released by the Foreign Office data on Wednesday. This was an increase from 48 per cent the previous year.

Britain’s bilateral aid money is supposed to be spent on helping poorer nations alleviate poverty and respond to humanitarian disasters.

However, in recent years, an increasing proportion has been spent within Britain itself to support the rising number of refugees entering the country.

The cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels alone is £8 million a day, according to Home Office data.

Sarah Champion, chairman of the international development committee, said the rising trend in spending foreign aid domestically was limiting what could be allocated overseas and was “deeply worrying”.

“We [the committee] have expressed our concerns and ministers are still not listening,” the Labour MP said.

The Foreign Office’s latest figures show that the amount of financial aid given bilaterally to poorer nations in 2023 fell by nearly 10 per cent, dropping to £4.1 billion from £4.6 billion in 2022.

The largest cuts were made to aid spending in Asia, which received £619 million from Britain in 2023, down from £925 million the previous year.

Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at Bond, a UK network of NGOs, said the figures demonstrated that “the Government seems to have lost its grip on UK aid spending”.

He added that international organisations “are once again seeing vital funding for emergency support programmes in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere being cut or held back, and we suspect this is because of escalating Home Office asylum costs taking an increasing chunk of the UK aid budget.”

The aid money spent within Britain is predominantly used to house and support asylum seekers during the first 12 months of their stay in the UK.

This includes payments for refugees’ transport within the UK and temporary food, accommodation and training.

Of the £5.3 billion estimated to have been spent out of the bilateral aid budget in the UK last year, the vast majority of this (£4.3 billion) was used for domestic refugee costs, the CGD said.

Britain also used its bilateral aid to fund research projects linked to overseas issues and “administrative costs”.

A decade ago, just 7 per cent of Britain’s overseas budget for poor nations was being spent domestically, according to the CGD. The share spent in the UK has risen sharply since, reaching a record high in 2023.

Britain’s overall foreign aid spending – including money donated to both low-income countries and organisations such as the UN – increased to 0.58 per cent of GDP in 2023, up from 0.5 per cent in 2022.

Ms Champion welcomed this rise, but said it still falls short of the Government’s 0.7 per cent manifesto commitment.

A UK government spokesman said: “The UK spent over £15 billion on development last year, including on life-saving humanitarian aid in Gaza, in Sudan following the coup, and in Turkey and Syria after the earthquake.

“Our spend in 2023 also helped fragile states to access finance, millions of women globally to receive family planning support and is tackling the effects of climate change. We are also nearly doubling our spend in low-income countries this financial year.

“Last year’s budget was boosted by additional funding to support refugees in the UK, who have escaped oppression and conflict overseas, including from Ukraine and Afghanistan. We will continue to ensure our aid budget delivers value for money for British taxpayers.”

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Paula Vennells told ‘again and again’ by retired judge that Post Office’s case ‘didn’t make sense’

Paula Vennells was told “again and again” by a retired judge that the Post Office’s case “didn’t make sense”, the inquiry was told on Wednesday.

In 2013 Sir Anthony Hooper was appointed as chairman of a Post Office working group, which reviewed cases of sub-postmasters who believed they had been wrongfully blamed for shortfalls.

Yet he told Ms Vennells, then chief executive of the Post Office, that the organisation’s case “didn’t make sense”.

Addressing the inquiry, he said: “As I say in my witness statement, I tried to make it clear to Paula Vennells and to the chair [of the board] that the Post Office’s case didn’t make sense and I felt that throughout and no doubt Second Sight [forensic accountants] did.

“It didn’t make sense that reputable sub-postmasters, appointed by the Post Office after an examination of their characters, would be stealing these sums of money. It didn’t make sense.”

He added: “It just never made sense and I made that point over and over again.”

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