Lunchtime news Wednesday 20 February 2024

Fire chiefs have warned that the growing number of immigrants living in dangerously overcrowded housing are at risk of a major fire disaster. Peter Holland, chief officer of Lancashire fire brigade has ‘serious concerns’ particularly over houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), which are often unlicensed and overcrowded. HMO occupants are likely to die in a fire six times more than average.

Kate Barker, one of the members of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, has said that the downward spiral of house prices and a drop in mortgage lending are the biggest short-term economic threats to the UK: ‘The risk… of most concern is around the interplay between the property market and financial sector resulting from the credit turmoil… The consequent adverse impact… could prove difficult to turn around quickly’. She noted however, that even if house prices fell 15 per cent, only 5 per cent of mortgage holders – 2 per cent of all households – would find they were in negative equity.

Three mortgage lenders yesterday withdrew their 125 per cent mortgage deals, following criticism that it had encouraged irresponsible borrowing. Alliance & Leicester, Coventry Building Society and Abbey National are the latest institutions to scrap the mortgages. Only one in ten mortgage lenders now offer 100 per cent or more mortgages, down from a third before Christmas.

Work and Pensions secretary, James Purnell, is expected to announce that unemployed people who have claimed benefits for more than a year will be forced to take on placements or volunteer work. From October 2016, theNew Deal programme will have placements lasting four weeks. The long-term unemployed may be forced to work for free in return for benefits until they find paid work.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will announce today that immigrants will be expected to pay an entry ‘tax’ and learn English before they can earn a British passport. The tax will be used to provide extra funding for public services. Migrants will also have to carry out civic work to be eligible for citizenship, although it is unclear how many hours they will need to work or what tasks they will undertake.

And finally, a homeless chef who lived in Gatwick Airport for more than three years has been jailed. Anthony Delaney who ate, showered and slept at the airport and only left to collect his jobseeker’s allowance, had been banned from the airport several times, and was eventually given an Asbo which he breached. He told his lawyer that he was happier staying in the airport because he was ‘clean, dry and warm’.