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Family life 'harder than ever' say almost half of Britons

Almost half of Britons feel family life has become harder over the last 30 years, a YouGov poll for a children's charity has found.

Almost half of parents feared their child's future would be worse than their own. Credit: PA

Some 46% said family life was harder in 2014 than it was three decades ago, according to charity 4Children.

Even more parents (49%) wanted the Government to do more to help them balance the demands of work and raising children in the 21st century.

Whichever party wins next year's general election should open schools from 8am to 6pm to help struggling parents cope, 4Children said.

They also wanted to see free childcare extended to 25 hours a week for all children aged between one and four by 2024, and for Sure Start to be turned into "children and family community hubs".

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Blair warns 'airpower will not suffice' in battle against extremists

Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Airpower alone will not defeat extremists like the Islamist State militants currently holding large swathes of territory in northern Iraq and parts of Syria, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

The Government has supplied arms including heavy machine guns to Kurdish fighters on the front line and has also been involved in transporting materiel supplied by other countries.

But Mr Blair said in his essay: "Air power is a major component of this, to be sure, especially with the new weapons available to us. But - and this is the hard truth - air power alone will not suffice. They can be hemmed in, harried and to a degree contained by air power. But they can't be defeated by it.

"If possible, others closer to the field of battle, with a more immediate interest, can be given the weapons and the training to carry the fight; and in some, perhaps many cases, that will work. It may work in the case of Isis.

"There is real evidence that now countries in the Middle East are prepared to shoulder responsibility and I accept fully there is no appetite for ground engagement in the West.

"But we should not rule it out in the future if it is absolutely necessary.

"Provided that there is the consent of the population directly threatened and with the broadest achievable alliance...we have, on occasions, to play our part."

Former Northern Ireland secretary 'backed' paramilitary amnesties

Credit: PA Wire

Former Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid supported a selective and reversible government amnesty scheme for alleged paramilitaries but excluding members of the security forces, a newly-published document revealed.

His May 2001 letter to Tony Blair said distinguishing between deserving and undeserving terrorism suspects would be difficult since all were innocent in the eyes of the law.

He also envisaged having to use special legislation to override resistance to an amnesty law in the House of Lords.

The Labour government had already accepted publicly that discontinuing prosecutions for offences committed before the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement by supporters of organisations on ceasefire would be a "natural development", the note to the Prime Minister said.

The Good Friday Agreement meant anyone convicted of paramilitary crimes was eligible for early release.

However, this did not cover those suspected of such crimes, nor did it include people who had been charged or convicted but who had escaped from prison.

Labour reaches out to 'Yes' voters

Credit: Alix Franck/ABACA

Labour is to reach out to supporters who voted for independence in last week's referendum, shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran will announce.

While there were only four local authorities where the Yes campaign won a majority, three of them were Labour controlled council areas.

In a bid to address that, Ms Curran is today expected to announce an action plan to understand why some Labour voters wanted to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

As part of this she and other leading figures from the party north of the border will visit the 10 parts of Scotland with the highest Yes votes.

Ms Curran will tell the Labour conference in Manchester that they need to show independence supporters that by remaining in the UK they can help create a better Scotland.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will tell activists there that the party must address the "deficit of hope" that exists.

Their speeches to the conference comes just four days after Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to stay in the union.

Blair: West should commit troops to fight extremists

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014 Credit: Reuters

Western powers including the United Kingdom and the US should be prepared to commit ground forces in the fight against extremists like the Islamic State, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

In an essay, Mr Blair argues that air strikes alone will not be enough to defeat IS or similar groups, and while training and equipping local fighters may work, the option of sending in combat soldiers should not be ruled out.

Mr Blair, whose premiership came to be defined by the Iraq War, acknowledged there was "no appetite" for ground engagement against IS but warned: "You cannot uproot this extremism unless you go to where it originates from and fight it."

He said the struggle against Islamist extremism should be seen as an international fight rather than a series of isolated conflicts, comparing it to the fascist and communist ideologies of the last century.

In an essay on his Tony Blair Faith Foundation's website the former premier also stressed the importance of engaging with a wider spectrum of radical Islamism, not just the violent fringe.

He said because extremists such as IS - formerly known as Isis - are "fanatical" and "prepared both to kill and to die" there could be no solution that does not involve force "with a willingness to take casualties in carrying the fight through to the end".

"This is where we get to the rub. We have to fight groups like Isis," he said.

"There can be an abundance of diplomacy, all necessary relief of humanitarian suffering, every conceivable statement of condemnation which we can muster, but unless they're accompanied by physical combat, we will mitigate the problem but not overcome it."

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Ed Balls: Labour to cap child benefit rise for two years

Child benefit would see cuts for the first two years of a Labour government, Ed Balls is expected to announce.

The shadow chancellor will say that Labour will cap child benefit for at least two years. Credit: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/Press Association Images

The shadow chancellor will present a 1% cap on rises in the help for parents as one of the "tough decisions" necessary to deal with the deficit if the party takes power next year - claiming it will save the taxpayer £400 million over five years.

He will seek to soften the blow by cutting ministers' pay by 5% and then freezing it until the party is able to "balance the books".

Addressing activists at the Opposition's final annual conference before the general election in May, he will vow not to "flinch from the tough decisions" needed to deal with the economy.

He will tell the Manchester gathering:

I want to see child benefit rising again in line with inflation in the next parliament.

But we will not spend money we cannot afford. So for the first two years of the next parliament we will cap the rise in child benefit at 1%.

It will save £400 million in the next parliament. And all the savings will go towards reducing the deficit.

– Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor

CO2 emissions 'to reach new record high in 2014'

Global emissions of carbon dioxide are set to rise again this year to reach a new record high, scientists have warned.

CO2 emissions will reach a new record high this year. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Despite increasingly urgent warnings over the need to curb greenhouse gases to avoid "dangerous" climate change, emissions are estimated to be rising by 2.5% this year, to a record 40 billion tonnes.

The stark warning that time is running out to tackle greenhouse gas emissions comes ahead of a major UN conference on climate change on Tuesday.

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