Image caption, Many of Thursday’s papers focus on government plans to streamline the asylum process in the UK. Some 12,000 people from five nations – Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen – who applied before last July will now be considered for refugee status without face-to-face interviews. Instead, decisions will be made after they have filled out a 10-page Home Office questionnaire. The Daily Express reports that they are among 92,000 cases the Home Office aims to process by the end of the year in an attempt to reduce the asylum backlog.
Image caption, The Daily Mail reports on criticism from Tory backbenchers in what the paper’s headline calls an “amnesty” row. The story explains where that word has come from, saying the government’s plan has been “dubbed an amnesty in all but name” by the chairman of campaign group Migration Watch.
Image caption, The Times also carries the story on its front page, pointing out that the paper had first reported on the plan in December, but the paper’s main focus is on reports the NHS wants to double the number of places available at medical schools. An NHS workforce plan, due to be published next month, is warning that without radical action, staff shortages in the health service will increase more than fourfold over the next 15 years, the paper reports. The plan concludes that a huge expansion of training will be needed, including 15,000 medical school places a year, potentially requiring six new medical schools, and more than 50,000 nursing places, the paper says.
Image caption, Elsewhere in the NHS, the i newspaper reports the that Royal College of Nursing has been accused by other health unions of breaking ranks with their fellow strikers. Representatives from the RCN met with ministers on Tuesday in an attempt to settle a long-running dispute over pay. Other health unions were not invited to take part in discussions. The i reports that the prime minister personally intervened in the dispute over concern about the impact on emergency, cancer and intensive care if RCN members went ahead with their planned 48-hour strike next week.
Image caption, The Daily Mirror carries an exclusive from the frontline in Ukraine on its front page. The paper has been given access to interview members of the Wagner Group – a Russian mercenary organisation – who have been captured by Ukrainian forces. The Mirror says it believes it is the first time a British newspaper has interviewed captured prisoners from the Wagner Group.
Image caption, Also carrying an exclusive on its front page is the Guardian. The paper reveals that pollutants known as “forever chemicals” – which build up in the body, may be toxic and do not break down in the environment – have been found at high levels at thousands of sites across the UK and Europe.
Image caption, Wordplay of the day goes to the headline writers on Metro. The paper reports that a shopper was stopped at a checkout in Lidl and barred from buying 100 cucumbers. It may be one of the supermarkets that has yet to impose official limits on buying certain fruit or veg items but the mass purchase proved enough for Lidl staff to step in and refuse the bulk purchase. “Seize her salad” is Metro’s witty summation of the scene.
Image caption, The Daily Star has taken matters into its own hands, with the paper’s ‘tomato correspondent’ campaigning outside Westminster demanding MPs find a solution to the food shortages, caused after extreme weather hit harvests in Spain and north Africa.
Image caption, Daily Telegraph cartoonist Matt has his own fun with the story, depicting a butcher offering “meat-based alternative to veggie burgers”. The paper leads on a warning from BT about the impact an increase in corporation tax would have on the UK economy. The telecoms giant warns Britain could be sent into a “dramatically anti-investment direction” if tax is increased from 19% to 25% by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in April, the paper says.
Image caption, And the Financial Times reports that multinational tobacco company Philip Morris International has admitted it would “rather keep” its business in Russia than sell it on stringent Kremlin terms. The paper says it highlights the challenges for companies trying to leave the country without taking a huge financial hit.
A number of papers lead with the government’s plan to reduce the asylum backlog by scrapping interviews for some migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. The Daily Mail says the fast lane has been dubbed an amnesty in all but name – and warns it has been told by a senior source that the change would encourage other people from the five countries to come to the UK.
Conservative MP Marco Longhi tells the Daily Telegraph the scheme appears to be “completely wrong”, and people who have entered the UK illegally should be removed and have their claims processed overseas.
But the Daily Express says the plan is a practical solution to a long-standing problem.
“Just take NO for an answer” is the Sun’s message to Shamima Begum, after the former member of the Islamic State group lost a legal bid to restore her British citizenship. The paper says her lawyers boasted that the battle was “nowhere near over” and appeals are set to cost the taxpayer millions.
An editorial in the Times says the government hasn’t yet given a convincing answer on why Shamima Begum must not return to the UK, or what threat she still poses that couldn’t be countered by close monitoring. The paper acknowledges that keeping an eye on her would take up scarce security resources, but adds that punishing people by leaving them stateless in a desert is no answer to terrorism.
Image caption, Ms Begum was 15 when she joined the self-styled Islamic State group in 2015
The Daily Telegraph highlights a warning from BT that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will send Britain in a “drastically anti-investment direction” if he forges ahead with an increase in corporation tax. The chief financial officer of the telecoms firm, Simon Lowth, fears the increase from 19% to 25% will reduce business investment and slow down economic growth.
The Times says it’s seen a draft of an NHS plan to tackle staff shortages in the health service. The document warns that the NHS will be short of more than half a million workers without the biggest boost in training for a generation. It calls for a doubling of medical school places by the end of the decade, which would require half a dozen new medical schools.
According to the Guardian, pollutants known as “forever chemicals” – which build up in the body, may be toxic and do not break down in the environment – have been found at high levels across the UK and Europe. The paper says the chemicals – valued for their non-stick and detergent properties – have made their way into the soil water and sediments from consumer products, firefighting foams, waste and industrial processes. In the UK the highest level was detected in a discharge from a chemicals plant on the River Wyre near Blackpool.
And finally almost all papers feature images of the late musician, David Bowie, in some of his extraordinary costumes, which have now been gifted to the nation. The Daily Mirror says his personal archive is donating a collection of his handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, costumes, photography, music videos, album artwork and awards to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which will open The David Bowie Centre for the study of Performing Arts in 2025.