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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