The Week in Review: Home News

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The Independent Online
IT WAS enough to make John Major choke on his apple juice. An unholy alliance of Europhobic Tories and Opposition MPs threatened to wreck the Maastricht treaty by reinstating the Social Chapter.

The Government vowed not to ratify the treaty if rebel Tories backed a Labour amendment removing Britain's exemption from the chapter, which concerns workers' rights.

Diehard Europeans found an unexpected new ally in the shape of George Carey. In an outspoken speech, the Archbishop of Canterbury praised centralised European Community policies and said that nationalism brought only suffering and conflict.

Some critics of the monarchy would like the Queen to emulate the more modest style of her European counterparts. But the chances of her swapping her Bentleys for a bicycle appear remote, despite arrangements for her to pay income tax on her private fortune.

The extent of Her Majesty's wealth and the size of her tax bill remained shrouded in secrecy, although the Sun declared that her new commitments would leave her poorer than Mick Jagger, Richard Branson and the soft-porn king David Sullivan.

The chief advantage that the Queen will enjoy over mere mortals is exemption from inheritance tax on bequests to the next sovereign.

An odd couple in the public gaze were James Canning and Ethel Lamb, the IRA terrorist and his 60-year-old lover. Canning, 37, who slept with a revolver beneath his pillow, was jailed for 30 years for possession of Semtex and conspiracy to cause explosions. Lamb, whose suburban London home had provided his cover, was jailed for three years.

Police and social services were criticised in two reports on Frank Beck, the social worker serving five life sentences for sexually abusing children in Leicestershire homes. A combination of incompetence, negligence and naivety by the authorities was blamed for Beck's 13-year reign of terror.

The clamour intensified over the case of a 15-year-old rapist who was freed by a judge and told to pay his classmate victim pounds 500 so that she could recover on holiday. The Attorney-General said he would review the case.

New crime research furnished the Labour Party with fuel for a fresh offensive. John Smith, the Labour leader, ridiculed the Tories as the party of law and order, saying that the number of recorded crimes had doubled since they came to office.

Tony Blair, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said that a burglary took place every 24 seconds in Britain. Edwina Currie, the Tory MP for Derbyshire South, would sympathise; her Westminster flat was broken into this week.

Mrs Currie dismissed the burglary with typical insouciance, saying she was glad to see the back of 'a moth-eaten fur coat' and 'some tatty costume jewellery'. 'Some gangster's moll will be feeling hard done by,' she said.