Tag Archives: child

Vaccination to be OFFERED to UK 12-15 year olds

Jabber Johnson: this overgrown teenager has had the vaccine already, despite having already been infected. It has been argued that 12-15 year olds may not benefit from vaccination because of previous infection.

Chief Medical Officers in the UK have recommended that people aged between 12 and 15 should be offered the Covid-19 vaccination.

The decision by the four CMOs comes 10 days after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it could not recommend adding this age group to those receiving the jabs because of a side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that causes heart inflammation and may lead to palpitations and chest pain.

And children were said to be at such a low risk from the virus that vaccines would offer only a marginal benefit.

But the JCVI said ministers may want to consider wider issues like how vaccination may reduce school disruption.

Crucially, though, it seems the decision will be left to the family. This will not be an attempt to force vaccination on young people.

But if a child and parent are of opposing views and the child is considered competent to decide, the child will have the final say.

That may create a difficult situation in the future.

What else will children be considered competent to decide? On what will they be denied the choice? And how will any discrepancies be justified?

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Rashford: Is lack of awareness stopping people claiming food vouchers – or misplaced pride?

The difference between sustenance and starvation: will medical staff step in and point out to families who fear the stigma of claiming food vouchers that there is no shame in feeding their children?

It’s a curiously British phenomenon, this – the mass idiocy that encourages us to say we’re managing (when we’re not) rather than accept help from the government.

Government help is in short supply under the Tories. Anybody who has the chance should seize it with both hands.

But people who can – and should – claim food vouchers aren’t doing it, according to Marcus Rashford, whose campaign for the government to provide free school meals during the holidays saved thousands of your children from starvation over the last year.

The BBC’s report is garbled regarding who can benefit, as it mixes Rashford’s school meals scheme with one for pregnant women and low-income families with children aged under four. Perhaps this new campaign is for both.

Rashford himself, writing in the British Medical Journal, said the food voucher scheme has helped 57,000 parents, but expressed concern that it was “plateauing”.

He said more than 40 per cent of people who were eligible had not registered, and suggested that this was because they came from communities with “no internet, no high street, no word of mouth” – in other words, no way of learning that the scheme even exists.

He called on health professionals to do more to ensure everybody knows about the scheme who are entitled to apply, “especially given the planned digitisation of the scheme this autumn, which will disproportionately disadvantage those without easy access to the internet”.

He asked staff to use an online eligibility calculator and “consider collaborating with us on communicating and educating people about the scheme when possible”.

Crucially, though, he also acknowledged that some people may have been shamed out of applying, in fear that they would be labelled (perhaps as the “undeserving poor”?) because they have been pushed into a position where they have been prevented from being able to feed their children.

He said more needs to be done to end any “silly” stigma and to persuade people to register for support.

I hope doctors and other medical staff pay attention to this.

It would be shocking if children starved because people who have sworn to do no harm found it awkward to do a little good.

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#PoorBoris part II: now he’s complaining that he *can* pay for his kids!

Money, money, money: but how much of it was donated by Boris Johnson’s Tory cronies, did it pay for the Downing Street wallpaper, and did Johnson want even more, so his donors paid for his children instead of him?

Don’t you wish Boris Johnson would make his mind up?

The reporters at The Times and The Sunday Times probably do.

Back in September, The Times reported that Johnson was complaining that he was hard-up as a result of achieving his lifetime ambition of becoming prime minister.

It had cut his income in half, the paper claimed, while he was still paying for four of the six children he accepts responsibility for.

Now it seems he is complaining that he is perfectly capable of covering his costs, after the Sunday Times suggested he had asked Tory donors to pay for a nanny.

(For one of his kids or for Johnson himself? Couldn’t Jacob Rees-Mogg have provided a decent reference? He knows nannies.)

Apparently,

Asked about the same issue during the Downing Street press briefing, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister has covered the costs of all childcare.”

And here’s the serious part – because it puts this story on the same level as the Downing Street refurbishment.

Johnson said he had covered the cost of that as well – but he couldn’t tell us whether he asked (for example) Lord Brownlow to put up £60 grand for it first.

And this story was prompted, it seems, by

one Conservative Party backer saying they “resented” being asked to help foot the bill for Wilfred’s childcare.

(I’m presuming Wilfred is one of the four he actually pays for.)

So now Johnson’s childcare costs are on the same level of corruption as the Downing Street wallpaper – which I understand the Electoral Commission is probing.

Let’s hope it probes Johnson’s nanny as well.

My only problem with this whole corruption angle is the obvious one that has been raised by many people on the social media:

This is a man whose decisions have led to the Covid-19 deaths of more than 150,000 people. It seems wrong that he should be brought down for sponging off of his cronies.

But then, as other people on the social media have pointed out, Al Capone was brought to book (literally) over tax avoidance.

Source: Boris Johnson paid for all son’s childcare costs, says Downing Street – BBC News

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Education professionals rubbish Williamson’s claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: Gavin Williamson was happy to deliberately endanger your children by reopening schools at the height of the Covid crisis (he was forced to close them again when the demand for him to do so became overwhelming. Now he’s happy to falsely criminalise them – in order to satisfy a new profit-making market he is creating?

The Tory Education Secretary’s unevidenced claim that discipline in English schools has “inevitably” worsened after a year of lockdowns has been dismissed as nonsense by people who actually work with school pupils.

Gavin Williamson intends to impose a national network of “behaviour hubs” to spread “best practice” among schools and teachers.

But it seems there is absolutely no need for them. Why is the Tory minister so keen to force them on our schools, and on our children?

Is it anything to do with his new network of “secure schools” – prisons for youngsters – to be run by private firms as “charitable” enterprises?

But Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, told The Guardian:

“We are not aware of any evidence that their behaviour is worse, and our practitioners report that on the whole young people have been relieved to get back inside the classroom.”

Mary Bousted, a joint leader of the National Education Union, said:

“With all the challenges currently facing schools, playing to the gallery by talking tough on behaviour is the least useful approach the education secretary can take.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, also said something – but we are already aware that he is an extremely suspect character himself so it is best to pass him by.

Stuart Lock is chief executive of the Advantage Schools trust, which includes one of the 22 schools named as hubs. Even he disagreed with Williamson’s claims:

“I don’t believe classroom behaviour has got worse than it was before the pandemic. It is probably a bit better.”

Even the man leading the new project – Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead adviser on behaviour – has said there is no evidence of worsened behaviour:

“To be honest, the picture on behaviour we’re seeing is reasonably consistent with the behaviour we were seeing before the pandemic.”

So why has Williamson suddenly falsified a claim that our kids have all gone feral, and started wasting our money on a project to correct behaviour that hasn’t gone bad?

Well, there is this new “secure schools” aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

Secure schools are essentially a re-branding of Young Offenders Institutions that allows private organisations to run them.

The government says it is building “schools with security, not prisons with education” but as Zahra Bei wrote in 2019, “the policy of rebranding youth jails as ‘secure schools’ provides a thinly-veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain”.

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have called the plans “a penal approach rooted in the past”.

The contract for the first secure school was awarded to academy chain Oasis, which has one of the highest rates of personal exclusions in the UK.

It will be on the site of the former Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, which was described as “a site of violence and abuse that prevented the young people who were held there from accessing learning and freedom”.

After a dispute arose over whether running a child prison could be considered a suitable activity for a charity, the government wrote clauses into its new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure that running a child prison can be considered a charitable activity in law.

The change will encourage more academy chains to be providers, creating what the Tories no doubt hope will be a profitable market. And the use of charities will put distance between the Tory government and anything that happens there.

You can read further information on the “secure schools” project here.

With a new market opening up for the detention (and mistreatment?) of children, it seems clear that the organisations running it will want a supply of children.

And suddenly Gavin Williamson is talking about poor behaviour in schools. Convenient?

Source: Experts reject claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools | Pupil behaviour | The Guardian

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Gavin Williamson wants school discipline clampdown. Based on what evidence?

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em: Gavin Williamson was unkindly compared to Frank Spencer from the 70s sitcom. Sadly, if he were more like the character Michael Crawford immortalised, he’d probably care more about children’s well-being and less about subjecting them to “discipline” – which, in the mouth of a Tory, seems very creepy indeed.

Gavin Williamson, the dunderheaded education secretary who illegally scrapped dozens of legal rights for children, is attacking them again.

This time he’s telling us that long periods in lockdown have “inevitably” turned our children feral, and they need to have hefty amounts of discipline whacked into them now that schools are open again.

(When I say “whacked”, I should stress that he’s not actually promoting a return to physical punishments – although I wouldn’t put it past him and our government of weirdo fascists.)

I see no evidence in support of Williamson’s claim. Indeed, information he has provided himself suggests that kids in lockdown have settled down to the different routine of remote schooling via the internet.

“Technology has been invaluable keeping children learning during lockdowns and we support its use,” he said.

Unfortunately, in the very same breath, he demanded that technology is a disruptive influence and that mobile phones should be banned from schools.

He’s actually trying to do something clever here – supporting a lie with a truth. But we can all see through it – can’t we?

This Writer’s personal opinion is that mobile phones shouldn’t be allowed in classrooms. If kids insist on bringing them in, teachers should keep a list of those who have them, and should collect them in the morning and give them back at the end of the school day.

It would be too easy to use internet-enabled mobiles to cheat – and that would undermine the point of going to school.

The points about cyberbullying and inappropriate use of social media are, on balance, also fair:

Mr Williamson has made banning mobile phones in schools a key part of his plan, saying they not only distract from “exercise and good old-fashioned play” but also foment cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social media.

But he has produced no evidence to suggest that possession of a mobile phone, use of it as an education tool during lockdown, or indeed being forced to stay at home at all have eroded discipline in children.

Indeed, if our kids have buckled down and studied at home, without a teacher standing over them, that tends to indicate that they have employed self-discipline. Doesn’t it?

Also, he hasn’t provided any information about the kind of discipline he intends to impose. Is he advocating the conversion of our schools into training grounds for some kind of imposed fascism – the “Johnson Youth”?

The backlash has started:

Last word: It has been alleged that Williamson’s discipline drive is a retaliation against kids who criticised him for policies like his stupid algorithm-based plan to replace exam marks, that automatically assumed that state school pupils would not achieve results as high as those who were privately-educated…

Can anybody provide evidence to support this? I haven’t seen any.

But you have to admit, based on his behaviour, it rings true.

Source: Gavin Williamson backs mobile phone ban in schools and claims children have lacked ‘discipline’ during lockdown | Evening Standard

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The ‘shocking’ part of this report is that it was so easy for 1.3m children & babies to fall into poverty

Family poverty skyrocketed under Tory policies of benefit denial and wage depression. Now they can blame Covid-19 for it.

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and baby bank charity Little Village has shown that 1.3 million babies and children aged less than five in the UK are now in poverty.

The report found 34 per cent of families with one child under five live below the poverty line, meaning they survive on less than 60% of the median household income in the UK.

1.3 million of the 4.2 million children in poverty in the UK are babies and children under the age of 5.

Two in five of the families of the children in poverty have seen a reduction in their earnings as a result of the ongoing Covid crisis.

Undoubtedly the government will want to blame Covid-19. Measures to control the pandemic have meant lower-level incomes have suffered.

But who imposed those measures? The Tories.

And why were so many families already so close to poverty that it took only a 20 per cent reduction in their incomes (the difference between normal wages and furlough payments) to drop them into it? Because the Tories encouraged wage depression over the 10 years prior to the pandemic.

Finally, let us all remember that the pandemic has been a windfall for the richest people in the country. They have increased their income hugely.

Source: 1.3m babies and kids under 5 live in poverty in Britain, ‘shocking’ new report finds – Mirror Online

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Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – Vox Political Scrapbook

I brought this to your attention yesterday, remarking on the similarity between this and the wrong done to UK child benefit claimants by the Conservatives, with their so-called ‘rape clause’.

Now this has happened:

Mark Rutte’s government has stepped down after thousands of families were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud and told to pay money back.

Families suffered an “unparalleled wrong”, Dutch MPs decided, with tax officials, politicians, judges and civil servants leaving them powerless.

An “unparalleled wrong”.

The Dutch can recognise when their government mistreats their benefit claimants abominably.

Why can’t we show the same perception, here in the UK?

Source: Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – BBC News

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal. Why didn’t that happen to the Tories?

I bring this to your attention because the UK Conservative Party restricted child benefits to cover two children a few years ago.

Any parent wishing to claim benefit for a third child (or more) had to prove that the child was born in extraordinary circumstances conforming to a clause in new Tory legislation that swiftly became known as the rape clause.

It demanded that people who had been criminally violated not only had to relive the experience but also had to discuss it with strangers who should have had no right to know.

Parents with more than two children who could not provide such information lost benefit for more than two children instantly.

Those who could provide it were not guaranteed the extra cash because a DWP adjudicator could easily decide against them.

There was an outcry against this change in the law – which unreasonably discriminates against victims of violent crime.

But the Tories were never in any danger of being removed.

So here’s the question:

Are the Dutch overreacting? Or should the Tories have stepped down over their law that exposes and humiliates rape victims?

The Dutch government will decide on Friday whether to step down over an escalating scandal in which tax officials wrongly accused thousands of parents of fraud, plunging many families into debt by ordering them to repay childcare allowances.

The opposition Labour party leader, Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in the previous government, resigned over the affair on Thursday, denying he knew the tax authority was “wrongly hunting down thousands of families” but conceding a failing system had “made the government an enemy of its people”.

Source: Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal | Netherlands | The Guardian

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Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill – but Keir Starmer could have made it three

Keir Starmer: he thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

The Tories bid to allow spies working for government agencies like the Financial Conduct Authority to commit crimes like murder and rape without fear of prosecution has been foiled by the Lords.

Peers supported amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill as follows:

Peers inflicted two significant defeats on the government on Wednesday evening over a bill to regulate the use of undercover informants, passing amendments to stop them participating in murder and rape, and to curtail the use of children as informants.

The government was also defeated by 299 to 284 on an amendment from the peer Doreen Massey, which proposed explicitly banning those acting undercover from being allowed to participate in a list of serious crimes, including murder, torture, rape or other sexual offences as they gained information.

Ministers had ruled out introducing such a list previously, arguing that creating a list of forbidden offences could give terrorists and serious criminals ways to unmask infiltrators by asking them to engage in such banned activities.

Campaign groups welcomed the result, arguing that it would put the UK on a par with similar western countries in setting clear limits.

Sadly, this result is notable for another reason – Labour leader Keir Starmer’s unacceptable support for the Bill with all immunities against criminal prosecution intact.

If he had whipped Labour to oppose it in the Commons, it would never have got as far as the Lords. But he didn’t.

Worse still, after former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti put forward an amendment to remove immunity from prosecution for crimes from government agents who commit them, saying there would otherwise be a “grave risk” of human rights abuses by undercover agents, Starmer whipped Labour peers to abstain and it failed:

Peers were debating the bill at the second day of its report stage. On Monday, an amendment from Shami Chakrabarti seeking to strike out immunity for undercover agents acting within authorised guidelines was defeated by 309 to 153, after the Labour leadership chose to abstain.

It seems clear that this former Director of Public Prosecutions thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

It is an unacceptable attitude for any potential national leader to have.

Source: Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill | House of Lords | The Guardian

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