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David Cameron pays tribute to Leon Brittan, but peer dies a tainted man

Leon Brittan in 1998 during his role as European Commission vice-president
Leon Brittan in 1998 during his role as European Commission vice-president

London: Prime Minister David Cameron has led tributes to former home secretary and European Commission vice-president Lord Brittan, who has died aged 75 after a long battle with cancer.

As Leon Brittan, he was a senior member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet until forced to resign over the Westland helicopter affair.

He later spent a decade in Brussels as one of the UK's European Commissioners, a career which also ended with a resignation when he and the other members of Jacques Santer's Commission quit en masse amid allegations of fraud.

Lord Brittan was recently caught up in a row over allegations that he failed to act on evidence of child abuse by senior figures in Westminster in the 1980s.

Mr Cameron said: "Leon Brittan was a dedicated and fiercely intelligent public servant. As a central figure in Margaret Thatcher's government, he helped her transform our country for the better by giving distinguished service as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry."

Last year, reports emerged that Lord Brittan had been questioned by police about an allegation of rape in 1967. Scotland Yard said last night that its inquiries were ongoing.

The controversy over child abuse allegations was triggered by questions surrounding a dossier handed to him as home secretary by then-Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. After coming under pressure to explain what he knew about the file, Lord Brittan confirmed last July that he had a meeting with Mr Dickens in 1983 and was given a file, which he passed on to officials.

Lord Brittan later wrote to Mr Dickens saying the DPP had assessed the material as worth pursuing. But a Home Office review in 2013 found that the dossier had not been retained.

As home secretary, he was dogged by rumours about a supposed sex scandal involving under-age boys. The rumours were denounced as false in Private Eye, which alleged an MI5 plot to force him from office.

Lord Brittan was made a life peer in 2000, and served as vice-chairman of the UBS investment bank from 2000-2014.

Iraq army ‘not ready for Islamic State’

London: Iraq’s security forces will not be ready for months to take on Islamic State (IS) fighters who have seized large swathes of the country, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.

As foreign ministers from across the globe — including US secretary of state John Kerry and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius — fly into London to discuss strategy to take on the jihadis, Mr Hammond said IS represented “probably the greatest single immediate threat to Britain’s national security”.

He warned of the “very significant” risk of Paris-style attacks by home-grown sympathisers.

Meeting David Cameron in Downing Street, Iraq’s prime minister Haider al-Abadi played down suggestions his nation’s army was not ready to take on IS, stressing the “sacrifices” of troops on the ground who he said had already “reversed” the group’s advance and were “keen to push them back from the whole of Iraq”.

But Mr Hammond said that despite huge sums spent by the US and Britain on Iraq’s security forces in the years following the ousting of Saddam Hussein, they had fallen back into a “state of disarray”.

Cameron hails new Scottish powers

Edinburgh: Plans for new powers for the Scottish Parliament are “the best of both worlds”, the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron said the plans meet the pre-referendum vow of the Westminster parties and are “guaranteed” to be delivered by the next UK government.

Mr Cameron was speaking after draft clauses that will form the basis of new laws devolving more powers to Holyrood were published by the UK Government.

Along with the other main Westminster leaders, he had pledged to deliver new powers to the Scottish Parliament if Scots rejected independence in last year’s referendum.

He said: “The Scottish Parliament will have more control over tax and spending, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

“Scotland spoke, we listened, and now here we are delivering.”

But Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said plans had been “significantly watered down”, claiming that UK ministers would get a veto on Scottish powers in key areas.

Star Cilla settles phone hacking claim against Mirror Group

London: Singing legend Cilla Black is in the latest group of celebrities to settle phone hacking compensation claims for “substantial” damages, the High Court has heard.

A judge in London was told that EastEnders star Jessie Wallace, singer and TV personality Peter Andre, and actor and singer Darren Day have also settled actions against Mirror Group Newspapers.

Their barrister David Sherborne told Mr Justice Mann yesterday that the actions related to the “widespread and habitual practice of voicemail interception and the unlawful obtaining of personal information” from 2000 to 2006.

A claim by Black’s son Robert Willis, who is the star’s manager, has also been settled.

At least 13 dead as shell hits bus in rebel-held Donetsk

Ukraine: A mortar shell has hit a bus in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, killing at least 13 people.

It was not immediately clear which side was responsible for the attack, but angry residents punched and kicked a captured soldier dragged to the scene by the rebels.

The mortar killed passengers instantly and blew out the windows of a nearby building. Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko blamed Ukrainian government troops for the attack, calling it a provocation. The bus was far from the front lines, in Donetsk’s central Lenin district.

US anger at another video of police killing black man

New Jersey: A US police video of officers confronting and then fatally shooting a black man has stirred anger over another death at the hands of police.

The video of the December 30 killing of Jerame Reid in Bridgeton, just south of Philadelphia, was released this week.

Conrad Benedetto, a lawyer hired by Mr Reid’s wife to investigate, said the video footage “raises serious questions” about the legality and reasonableness of the officers’ actions because Mr Reid was shot as he raised his hands.

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