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Former staff of a development quango were sent for patchwork, pottery and jewellery-making lessons at taxpayers’ expense, an investigation has found.

A question for the Prime Minister

The Government control freaks are winning and the rights of backbenchers are under threat

Monica hits Town

LAST NIGHT'S interview on Channel 4 was the curtain-raiser to two weeks of Monica mania, which will begin with her arrival in Britain this weekend.

Parliament Lords reform: Hereditary peers deal upsets MPs

GROWING DISCONTENT was apparent among Labour backbenchers yesterday over Government plans to retain nearly 100 hereditary peers beyond stage one of House of Lords reform, although Peter Mandelson, the former cabinet minister, insisted that the deal would safeguard other important legislation.

The lost world of suburbia

SO MANY miles of Britain are covered with them: ribbons of red- tiled, pebbledashed houses, the pale net curtains drawn tight inside their double-glazed windows, a Ford Mondeo parked in the paved-over front garden, with just a stained-glass tulip let into a window or a carriage light fixed to a wall to set one house off from another.

The Week In Westminster: Citizen Blair leads mob as Tory shadows fade away

IT WAS A wretched week for parliamentary democracy which began with the Prime Minister determined to forsake the Commons Punch and Judy show for the soft sofa of the Richard and Judy television show.

Access to secrets will be diluted

THE GOVERNMENT has watered down its long-awaited plans for a Freedom of Information Act, which will be published next month.

Suburbs `may be slums of tomorrow'

"Gaily into Ruislip Gardens,

Signs of the valuable peasants beginning to revolt

THE REVERBERATIONS of the Peter Mandelson affair dominated every nook and cranny of Parliament as MPs had their first opportunity to chew the fat since the Christmas recess.

Prescott: `We must revive traditional Labour values'

THE DEPUTY Prime Minister, John Prescott, and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, have forged a new alliance to reassert "traditional" Labour values in the wake of the resignation of Peter Mandelson.

Racing: New course for Kelleway

THE COMPLETE Book of Trainers' Excuses - already one of the largest volumes in print - is about to receive a new entry. When a well-fancied runner is beaten on the all-weather at Lingfield this winter by one of Gay Kelleway's inmates, its handler will be able to take the owners aside and explain that, just as in football, it is always difficult for visitors to get a result against the home side.

MP opposing control freaks wins election

GROWING OPPOSITION to Labour's "control freakery" has finally spread to its MPs, with the election of a leading backbench rebel to the parliamentary party's ruling executive.

MALLS ARE WONDERFUL

Many people are horrified by the out-of-town emporiums that are replacing high street shops. But Paul Barker argues that this is snobbery: malls such as Lakeside Thurrock (pictured) are palaces of wonder, natural successors to the Victorian arcades

Irritations of Modern Life: 13: Sunday Shopping

LET US be clear about this: it isn't that I think everyone should be Praising the Lord. It isn't that I want everyone to be cleaning the car, walking the dog, planting begonias or playing cricket on the village green. For all I care, people can spend Sunday dreaming of Shula Archer naked in a pigpen. My only wish is that - just for one day - they would stay off the High Street, get off the M25 to Thurrock Lakeside and stop going shopping.

10,000 free cinema tickets

A PERFECT MURDER. Three people. One triangle. A wealthy and powerful husband Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas). The intelligent, beautiful young woman he married Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow). Her soulful and attractive lover David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen). A dangerous combination, to be sure. Perhaps a deadly one............

Economy on knife-edge admits Government

A SENIOR Cabinet minister warned last night that the economy was on a "knife edge", in spite of the lowest unemployment figures for 18 years and hopes that interest rates could be pegged for a year.
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Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...