The week in review: Home News

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE news that bored workers take more sick leave than average was less than startling. But one local government officer in Hackney, east London, has made such infrequent appearances at her desk that her superiors considered contacting the Guinness Book of Records.

Saffiyyah Mirza, a housing officer, has taken 400 sick days in less than three years, according to an internal memo leaked this week. She could not, however, be contacted for her views on a possible place in the record books; a colleague said she had been off sick since mid-January.

It was the unemployed, meanwhile, who were exercising John Major. In a keynote speech to the Carlton Club in London, the Prime Minister floated the idea that receipt of benefit could be made dependent on participation in a work or training scheme.

Ministers confirmed that an element of compulsion was being considered, particularly for the long-term unemployed, but ruled out any form of universal 'workfare' as too expensive.

The debate brought little comfort to workers at Leyland DAF. More than 5,000 jobs are threatened at the truck and van manufacturer after the collapse of its Dutch parent company, which went into administration this week. The Government came under fire in the Commons when it refused to launch a rescue package for the company.

There were cheers, however, at the headquarters of four historic regiments when it was disclosed that they were to be saved from merger. The reversal of some planned defence cuts means that the Army will be left with 5,000 more front-line troops.

It was international events such as the war in Bosnia which caused the change of heart. At home, the internal threat posed by the IRA was highlighted once again when two bombs exploded in London, at an Underground station and on a British Rail train. It was the first time a train carriage had been targeted by the group.

Ethical issues faced the law lords, who ruled that Tony Bland could finally be allowed to die. In a historic decision, the Lords said that doctors could withdraw treatment from Mr Bland, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since he was crushed in the Hillsborough stadium disaster.

The families of four men jailed for the murder of Carl Bridgewater 14 years ago pledged to continue their campaign after Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, refused to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.

The Queen threatened the Sun with legal action for alleged breach of copyright over the leaking of her Christmas Day broadcast two days early. The newspaper pledged to mount a full defence if it received a writ.

And as Jack Straw, Labour's environment spokesman, called the monarchy a 'deeply decadent' system, it emerged that the Princess Royal and her new husband are to move into a London apartment block whose notorious former residents include Christine Keeler, Sir Oswald Mosley and John Vassall, the Admiralty spy.