News Debris washed up by flood water in Moorland, where 40 square miles of the Somerset Levels remain underwater

Officials were told 12 months ago that rivers posed a serious risk but failed to take any action

Leading Article: Public opinion is well ahead of press on private conduct

IT HAS been an open secret in Westminster for some time, but this should be put on the record in the public interest: Nick Brown is a rather good Minister of Agriculture. He has only been in the job only since July and has achieved three impossible things before Christmas. First, the farmers have stopped whingeing about a townie Government conspiring against them. Second, he said his predecessor's ban on beef on the bone was silly, and promised it would go. And third, he got EU vets to agree that the ban on British beef should be lifted, which it may be in January. Well done. End of story? Well, not quite.

The good gays and the bad gays

WHEREAS THE political hurricane that engulfed and destroyed the ministerial career of Ron Davies has lasted for two weeks (and may drag on for much longer), the admission by Nick Brown, yesterday, of his homosexuality will be nothing more than a one-day squall. The feeling of embarrassment that he acknowledged in his statement will, as I can testify from my own experience of being "outed" by the News of The World in 1994, have turned to relief as he sits down this morning to his ministerial duties, with his position in the Government strengthened.

Letter: Flaunting it

Sir: Suzanne Moore's thoughtful essay on Peter Mandelson (Comment, 30 October) hits the nail on the head. Many people who regard themselves as tolerant of gays resent us "flaunting" our sexuality. The attitude is, "I don't care, so please don't tell me," which may seem reasonable enough but is in fact unfair.

Architecture: Playing to an empty house

The new Royal Opera House opens in 1999. Over budget and overly- criticised, it is a state-of-the- art lyric theatre. But will it have a company to perform in it?

Davies Resignation: The outing of tolerance - except in Downing St

I WAS ONCE mugged in South London - does that throw into question my sexual orientation? Of course not. This is why the Ron Davies affair, despite the speedy spin-doctoring of Alastair Campbell, is so peculiar. The rapid response to Davies's strange admission he had done something foolish and had been robbed was a way of avoiding further accusations of sleaze. Yet by avoiding the juicy issue - whether this is extra-marital and possibly gay sex - tabloid imaginations have not been quieted.

Gays not asked to leave Cabinet

THE MYSTERY deepened last night over Ron Davies's reason for resigning after gay former Conservative MP Matthew Parris named two Cabinet ministers as homosexuals - Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Peter Mandelson - who had not been required to resign because of their sexuality.

MPs attack News At Ten abolition plan


Opera house chief accused of bigotry

SIR COLIN Southgate, chairman of the Royal Opera House, faces the accusation of being a male chauvinist, who does not consider women can serve on the board of the opera house.

Ministry logo 'madness'

THE INNER-MOST thoughts of civil servants in Chris Smith's Department of Culture, Media and Sport were exposed last night in an angst-ridden exchange of e-mails about the new logo being designed for "rebranding" their office.

Arts: Where there's a will

London's ballet and opera is in crisis. If only Chris Smith would check his in-tray.

Why don't you please, Gerry Robinson?

The ruthless head of the Arts Council charms even his enemies. So far. Interview by Rachel Sylvester

Rugby League: Smith plans to put the record right

The St Helens wing is eager to lose that 'forgotten man' tag.

Design: Take a look at Britain's new tourist traps

Will Millennium fever and lottery funding turn our country into a giant theme park?

Art: The theatre steals the show


Outlook: Post Office can't have it both ways

THE POST OFFICE expects the best of both worlds. It wants to keep its monopoly but it also wants the commercial freedom to trash what private sector opposition does exist. Unfortunately for the Post Office, commercial freedom rarely comes without commercial risk.
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform