News High ideals: Labour has built around 400 homes in each of its local authority areas since the election

Conservative councils build only half as much affordable and social housing

'Act now to save our natural environment or Britain's most precious wildlife will be lost forever'

England's green and pleasant land is in catastrophic decline, with some of its most precious wildlife at risk of disappearing for ever, the first comprehensive report into the nation's natural life has shown.

The Sketch: Whether or not Boris wins, the gentlemen are back in the game

It's amateurs vs professionals. That's the current theme, or narrative of politics just now.

Climate change could force 1 billion from their homes by 2050

As many as one billion people could lose their homes by 2050 because of the devastating impact of global warming, scientists and political leaders will be warned today.

More than 100 MPs employ family members on expenses

More than a hundred MPs – including two cabinet ministers – employ family members as taxpayer-funded assistants, the House of Commons has disclosed. The first official list, published in the wake of the scandal which cost the former Tory MP Derek Conway his political career, showed that MPs of all parties have close relatives on the public payroll. It includes senior figures such as the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, the Housing minister, Caroline Flint, the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, and the former Tory leader Michael Howard.

Terence Blacker: The whiff of defeatism in the face of an old enemy

Imagine for a moment that a government body has delivered a report which presents, as one of four policy options, the prospect of your house being destroyed as well as your local shops, pub, village and landscape. It could happen within the next decade or so, the experts tell you, or in a century's time. On the other hand, the disaster could take place within a year. And, no, under present legislation, there would be no compensation.

Cabinet split over new coal-fired power station

Plans to build Britain's first coal-fired power station since 1984 have led to a cabinet split amid concerns that the project would undermine efforts to cut carbon emissions.

Damning report calls for a bio-secure zone at leak lab

A permanent bio-security zone should be set up around Pirbright, the government laboratories at the centre of the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak, says a damning independent report.

Terence Blacker: Rural dwellers are the victims of betrayal

How Hilary Benn's heart must have sunk at the arrival of yet another report on the state of rural Britain. New Labour has never quite understood the countryside, and those made responsible for it – Nick Smith, Margaret Beckett, Ben Bradshaw, David Miliband – have exuded the long-suffering air of professional politicians doing their best until a more important job comes along.

Badger cull to combat TB unlikely to work, say MPs

The prospect of a badger cull to combat the soaring epidemic of tuberculosis in cattle has diminished after MPs recommended any future slaughter should be strictly limited.

Medals for the 'land girls' of the Second World War

Dressed in a scratchy uniform of brown woollen breeches, a green jumper and a shirt and tie, they were the women whose back-breaking labours in milking parlours, lumber yards and on muddy fields helped to ensure that Britain did not starve during the Second World War.

Bird flu testing is cut despite fears virus has spread

Number of wild birds monitored by government vets down 17% – and even those tests may be seriously flawed, experts say

Tens of thousands of badgers face extermination in attempt to curb TB

Farmers draw up plans for cull, which minister says cannot be legally stopped<br />Family sett made famous in Bill Oddie's 'Springwatch' TV show within death zone

The visit: How a German Pope's tour of Auschwitz reopened old wounds

He appeared to do what was necessary. He stood in the drizzle while the wind tugged at his skull-cap. He trudged alone in his long white cassock under that sign that gives a jolly little jump in the middle, the one that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work is Liberty). He went there, he said, as "a son of Germany," and to hammer home the point, he spoke while he was there in German (for most of his Polish trip he spoke either Italian or the Polish he has taken such trouble to master).

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