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Fracking: Campaigners attack 'threat to public health'

Campaign groups have lined up in opposition to fracking as the bidding process for licences gets underway, with claims that the process is bad for the environment and unsafe to the public.

Campaigners have long opposed fracking in Britain.
Campaigners have long opposed fracking in Britain. Credit: Martin Gerten/DPA

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth say plans to protect National Parks will not quieten protesters, adding that communities should be offered the same safeguards.

Today the risk of fracking has spread. This threat to the environment and public health could now affect millions more people.

– Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner

Ministers waited until the parliamentary recess to make their move, no doubt aware of the political headache this will cause to MPs whose constituencies will be affected.

– Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner


Russia 'hopes for objective investigation into MH17'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was hopeful the investigation into a downed airliner over eastern Ukraine would be "objective and respect a presumption of innocence."

An armed pro-Russian separatist guards the site of MH17 crash.
An armed pro-Russian separatist guards the site of MH17 crash. Credit: Reuters

"Only the honest, open participation of all those who have access to information about the crash can be regarded as normal. Anything else we will consider deceitful attempts to influence the investigation, putting presumption of innocence in doubt," he told a news conference.

Mr Lavrov also said Russia was hopeful that international monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe could be deployed along the Russia-Ukraine border.

Read: Experts cancel MH17 site visit over disputed security threat

Russia: Sanctions 'will not achieve their goal'

The U.S. and EU sanctions imposed against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine will "not achieve their goal," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Mr Lavrov said the sanctions may result in Russia becoming more economically independent.

"(Sanctions) simply cannot achieve (their aim) ... I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength.

– Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

Read: Experts cancel MH17 site visit over disputed security threat

Report: Fracking 'could cause water shortages'

Bidding for licences to explore shale gas will open today.
Bidding for licences to explore shale gas will open today. Credit: Lindsey Parnaby/PA Archive

Shale gas fracking could lead to water shortgages in parts of the country, a report warned last week.

The paper by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) claimed the water-intensive nature of the process, along with predicted climate change, could mean existing public supplies may not provide enough to meet requirements.

The study also warned of "major shortcomings" in regulations regarding the local environmental and public health risks surrounding fracking.

It was also claimed that there was a "complete lack of evidence behind claims that shale gas exploitation will bring down UK energy bills".

Fracking: 'Robust regulation and monitoring is vital'

Robust regulation and comprehensive monitoring are vital to ensure the public acceptability test is met when it comes to fracking, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister has said.

Tom Greatrex said: "With 80 per cent of our heating coming from gas and declining North Sea reserves, shale and other unconventional gas may have the potential to form a part of our future energy mix.

"There are legitimate environmental concerns that must be addressed before extraction is permitted.

"David Cameron's Government must take these issues seriously rather than drawing simplistic and irresponsible comparisons with the USA."

His comments come after the government announced the bidding process for licences to explore shale gas will open today.


Union: Passport office needs 'permanent jobs'

Permanent jobs need to be "put back" into the passport office if another backlog is to be prevented, according to the union which represents their workers.

Mike Jones, from the PCS union, said passport office employees were walking out because there needed to be "a permanent solution" to the staffing shortages which had caused the original backlog.

Patients offered GP appointments by Skype and email

Seven million people are now being offered GP appointments via Skype and email as well as out-of-hours in an attempt to combat overstretching of services.

It is thought GPs will turn away patients over 50 million times next year due.
It is thought GPs will turn away patients over 50 million times next year due. Credit: PA

The Department of Health said the number of GPs had also increased by 1,000 since 2010.

A spokesman said: "We know GPs are working under pressure which is why we have cut GPs' targets to free up time with patients and are increasing trainees so that GP numbers continue to grow faster than the population."

Police bursts tyres after joyrider steals a bus from depot

A joyrider stole a bus from a depot in Yorkshire and drove it round a city centre until police were forced to burst its tyres.

damaged bus
The bus showed signs of damage after a joyrider stole it from a depot. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

The owners of the single-decker bus notified police of the theft but the driver refused to stop when tracked down.

Specialist equipment was then deployed to burst the tyres of the bus as it travelled towards the centre of Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Acting Sergeant Chris Raby, of West Yorkshire Police, said: "Thankfully, incidents such as these are rare. Unfortunately, some unattended vehicles parked at the roadside were damaged, but nobody was hurt."

The driver was arrested and the bus recovered.

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