Dear Sir Humphrey

Home Office staff are being told to stop using complicated English and write instead like 'tabloid hacks'. A former editor of the 'Daily Mirror' advises

Home Office `should do more to find out what ministers want'

Stringent criticism of the culture of the Home Office and of its "impenetrable" policy submissions to ministers, which often read like "an All Souls prize essay", came yesterday from a review of its senior management.

Odds fixed on Christmas chart-toppers

THE DISTANT sound of Christmas 1994 can also be heard, faintly but distinctly.

THEATRE / Bringing the house down: Paul Taylor reviews The Lodger at Hampstead Theatre

Even more so than The Birthday Party, Simon Burke's The Lodger is not a play for anyone thinking of letting rooms. This 1992 Mobil Prizewinner opens with an edgy bout of mutual suspicion between a prospective tenant and the man who might consent to rent her a cruddy 12 by 10 in a house that yells the lack of a woman's touch and eventually resounds to a woman's yelling.

ART / Overheard

We shall set targets for the number of nursery rhymes, jingles and stories children should hear by their fourth birthday . . . If we soak children in language-rich and music-rich experiences their language development will be more successful.

Financial controls at top-spending quango 'lax': Housing Corporation under-performing

BRITAIN'S highest-spending quango, the pounds 2.4bn-a-year Housing Corporation, has lax financial controls and is not doing enough to check on how taxpayers' money is being used.

THEATRE / Fair cop: Jeffrey Wainwright on The Lodger, Manchester

It is to be hoped that the small English town that is the setting for Simon Burke's Mobil Prize-winning new play is unusually unfortunate in its constabulary, or we are in worse trouble than we thought. It's hard to know whether to be more alarmed by Reed, a cynical youngish detective, or his colleague Wise, who takes in as lodgers first a whore and then her pimp and ends up with his own number on cards in every phone box in town. Even tracking the action at a very steady plod we had Lois sussed from the start, and as soon an the wise-cracking Pollock - 'like the fish' - puts down his suitcase we can tell he's a slimeball even before he starts cosying his switch-blade up to her nose.

Underrated / The best of Brittas: The case for The Brittas Empire

David Liddiment, head of Entertainment at the BBC, was recently on Biteback extolling the virtues of BBC 1 comedies. He rounded up all the usual suspects: Absolutely Fabulous, One Foot in the Grave, Keeping up Appearances, Only Fools and Horses, Birds of a Feather. But why not The Brittas Empire?

Mr Motivator works out his millions: Fortunes are being made from the current crop of fitness videos. Hester Lacey meets the new king of hone and tone

SEVENTEEN million people every week are transfixed over breakfast by Mr Motivator, GMTV's resident exercise instructor - 6ft tall, a honed and toned mass of rippling lats, pecs, quads and triceps, all snugly packed into a psychedelic skintight Lycra leotard-thing. 'It's a one piece suit,' explains Mr M. He has around 150 of them, and they are a vital piece of motivating equipment.

Director bows out at CMA

THE JOINT managing director of Central Motor Auctions, Steve Kendall, is to leave the group as it announces its annual results today.

TELEVISION / States of mind: John Lyttle compares factual and fictional views of security, the state and cynicism

LAST NIGHT two journalists used television to expose the inner workings of the modern state. New Statesman reporter Duncan Campbell's Dispatches (C4) adopted the documentary approach to tell of Menwith Hill, a self-contained multi-billion dollar US satellite surveillance complex sprawled across 500 acres of British soil. Meanwhile, in his play The Vision Thing (BBC2), Mark Lawson of the Independent demonstrated how entangled the Tory party had become with the snapping poodle press, how soundbites mattered more than policy, and how there were wheels within corrupt wheels: who was bugging the Foreign Secretary, Nathaniel Parker's adulterous affair and why? MI5? The wicked PM (Derek Jacobi)? And had God really spoken to Jacobi's predecessor (top-billed Richard Wilson)?

Season of BBC 2 drama signals move upmarket: Autumn programme offers return to traditional strengths

REGULAR live poetry and even live novel-reading will feature in an impressively eclectic and strikingly upmarket autumn season for BBC 2.

Shares plummet at Brown & Tawse

BROWN & TAWSE, the steel and pipes distributor, saw 30 per cent of its stock market value wiped away yesterday when it announced worse-than-expected losses for the year to 28 March.

Complaints over level of TV violence soar

COMPLAINTS by television viewers went up by more than a third and complaints about levels of violence on the screen have more than doubled in 12 months, according to the Broadcasting Standards Council, writes Martin Wroe.
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Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
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A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

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Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

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From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

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How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

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Feather dust-up

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Boris Johnson's war on diesel

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Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

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Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
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The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
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Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
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How did our legends really begin?

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