Pandas get VIP suites in Hong Kong

TWO GIANT pandas, An An and Jia Jia, touched down in Hong Kong from mainland China yesterday to be be whisked off to unprecedented luxury at what is described as the Ocean Park Panda Hotel. The complex is a specially built, pounds 6.5m panda "habitat" with separate "his" and "her" bedrooms, lush vegetation, electronic temperature control and - believe it or not - a sliding roof for when the weather becomes temperate.

Stuck with Hague in Never-say-never land

IT IS not generally realised what a devout lot our politicians are. They may sometimes be heard praying quietly in the Crypt Chapel. "O Lord," they whisper, "we do not ask for much. Just give us an issue, and we can do the rest."

The man who said I had a funny name is not, of course, a racist

I'm amazed by the number of intelligent people who fail to grasp that you can be a racist without knowing it

Senior Tories offer to back Blair on EMU

PRO-EUROPEAN heavyweights in the Conservative Party openly defied William Hague last night by welcoming Tony Blair's announcement of the timetable under which Britain would join a successful single currency.

The Week In Westminster: Pinochet and policing prove tougher than yobs for Straw

NEXT WEEK will be a difficult one for Jack Straw - much more difficult than the comparatively easy time he has had over his proposals to lock up people with severe personality disorders or encourage the public to have a go at yobs.

Spin gurus try to thwart black asbestos victims' legal claims

"THE ADMINISTRATION used young boys within the collecting bags to trample down and compact the asbestos fluff. There was a burly fellow patrolling the bags to lash at the backs of any boys who slowed their pace."

Parliament: Lords Reform: Mandelson's lone stand on Lords

PETER MANDELSON used his comeback in the Commons last night to claim he was "the lonely voice" who proposed to set up a Royal Commission on House of Lords reform.

Peer demands Heath be called to account

SIR EDWARD Heath, the former prime minister, has been referred to the Conservative Ethics and Integrity Committee for failing to declare his business interests, including a consultancy with a Chinese state-owned company.

Goodman stole peer's cash to give to Labour

LORD GOODMAN, once one of the country's most influential and eminent lawyers, stole up to pounds 1m from a Conservative peer, and handed large sums to Labour ministers.

Standards watchdog to investigate Heath

SIR EDWARD HEATH, the former Conservative prime minister, is to be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following the Independent on Sunday's revelations last week about his business interests.

Blair wins award for services to Europe

TONY BLAIR yesterday became the third British prime minister to be awarded the Charlemagne Prize, given in recognition of service to European integration.

The Saturday Essay: After half a century, Blair could get it right in Europe

Tony Blair is the most instinctively European prime minister since Heath - and a good deal more adept

Quiz of the year: 1998

1. "Believe me, it will be the envy of the world." What was the eighth wonder and who was hyping it?

Thursday Book: Britain misses the Euro-bus again


Obituary: Nicholas Budgen

WHEN EDWARD Heath called an unexpected general election for February 1974, Enoch Powell produced a press release which came as a thunderbolt for all but a handful of his admirers: he would not stand as a Conservative candidate in the Wolverhampton South West seat which he had, by assiduous work, made safe for the Tories since he was first elected to Parliament for that constituency in 1950.
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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