News Over 200,000 people have contacted their council for help following the last cut to benefits, however councils cannot keep up with the demand

Authorities had been forced to dip into funds allocated to other services to cope with the surge in numbers of households appealing for help

Britain seizes control of scandal-hit dependency

Allegations of 'political amorality' against former Turks and Caicos leader

Brit in a jam overseas? Don't expect a diplomatic response

Helping distressed Brits abroad is part of the job description for consular officials but their willingness to oblige has it limits.

<i>IoS</i> letters, emails & online postings (12 July, 2009)

You report that there were 770 calls to the Forced Marriage Unit in the first six months of this year, a 16 per cent increase on last year ("I can't forgive or forget what they did to me", 5 July).

Tories accused of hypocrisy as they seek the gay vote

Party's proposed 'blueprint for the family' signals a return to Back to Basics policies, critics claim

Leading article: The fight goes on

The political row that has broken out about homophobia seems a distasteful distraction. There seems something artificial, even underhand, about the way in which two Labour ministers, both gay, have claimed that homophobia survives on the opposition benches. The charges smack of party political point-scoring, on territory – equal rights and non-discrimination – that should by now be above such wrangling.

Be vigilant against forced marriages, schools urged

Schools were today urged to be vigilant about potential cases of forced marriage as the summer holidays approach.

The Sketch: Doctors could get you sectioned for talking like this...

Outgoing deputy Leader of the House Chris Bryant has taken the next step on his journey to Home Secretary via the Foreign Office. There he'll be taking western values to the gangsters, murderers, street swine, smugglers and putsch-makers of Latin America. It's a promotion. Yes, and valuable experience for getting through to the next level towards the Cabinet.

Simon Carr: The Speaker spoke &ndash; and everything went wrong

Sketch: If he hangs on too tightly he'll take a lot of parliamentary fabric with him when he goes

MPs hit by angry public backlash

Labour MP faces criminal investigation into &pound;13,000 claim for mortgage already paid off

Reforms 'could make Catholics eligible for throne'

Moves to end the 300-year-long ban on Roman Catholics taking the throne and on eldest daughters succeeding as monarch are being seriously considered by Downing Street, it was reported today.

The Sketch: Stand-in Harman beaten by Hague's stand-up skills

Harriet Harman was standing in for the Prime Minister. He was at the G8, pledging to reduce carbon emissions to zero by the year 3000, along with one-to-one obesity counselling for every African child. Noble aspirations indeed. Well and good. Harriet, however, was left with the heavy lifting in Parliament.

The Sketch: Loyalists belittled by opportunism and argument

After the debate on university top-up fees some years ago, I wondered why one of Labour's well-known lefties had voted for the left's most hated measure of the day.

The Sketch: What is a stem cell? Most MPs don't have a clue

Pens faltered, brows furrowed, note-taking stopped. One by one you could see MPs and gallery journalists realising that the most fundamental fact about the debate is they didn't actually know what a stem cell is. That's quite a disadvantage when it comes to the big ethical question of human/animal hybrids for research purposes.

MPs vote against ban on hybrid embryos

A cross-party attempt to ban the use of hybrid human-animal embryos for scientific research was rejected by the Commons tonight. MPs voted 336 to 176 (a majority of 160) against the move led by Tory former minister Edward Leigh.

The Sketch: Too many reviews, no time to argue

Good grief, the Prime Minister's bad at arguing. He just asserts things. And any old thing that comes to mind. I'm going to invite him home and let him win an argument with my... I'm not sure exactly... if I turn my food processor on to medium, he'd beat that, you'd think? He'd keep up, at least?

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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system