The Somerset Levels continued to wallow in floods. The Environment Agency was widely blamed for not having dredged channels, and for putting the welfare of water voles before flood prevention. Its chairman, Lord Smith of Finsbury, said there were ‘tricky issues of policy and priority: town or country, front rooms or farmland?’ The Prince of Wales visited the area. At the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, 5.78 inches of rain fell in January, the most since its records began in 1767. Cuadrilla said it would drill and frack for shale gas at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton in Lancashire. Two men found 300 medieval silver coins in a field near Kirkcudbright.
Lloyds Banking Group set aside another £1.8 billion to compensate for mis-sold payment protection insurance, taking its total to £10 billion, all in preparation for the government privatising more of its 32.7 per cent stake. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said he wanted schools to stay open for 10 hours a day. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said he wanted pubs to stay open until one o’clock in the morning when England plays its first game in the World Cup in June. Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association deselected Anne McIntosh. South Suffolk Conservative Association deselected Tim Yeo. The Guardian published the report suppressed by the Labour party into interference by the Unite union with selection of a parliamentary candidate for Falkirk. It said: ‘There can be no doubt that members were recruited to manipulate party processes.’ The RMT union held a strike on the London Underground. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will meet the Pope at the Vatican on 3 April.
President François Hollande of France visited Britain, declining to answer a question at a press conference in a hangar at Brize Norton about his latest mistress, characterising Mr Cameron’s request for EU treaty changes by 2017 as ‘not a priority’, and enjoying with him a lunch of potted shrimps and trout at the Swan public house, Swinbrook, where each was given a cheering half of Hook Norton bitter. The EU Referendum Bill, purporting to guarantee a referendum in 2017, was killed in the Lords. Earlier, Mr Cameron had told ministers to abstain on an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would have limited the grounds for foreign criminals to resist deportation. It was defeated, but 86 Tories voted for it. Sacred Heart primary school at Sandwell, in the West Midlands, was found to have 99 per cent of pupils not speaking English as their first language. The borough of Copeland in Cumberland was found to be the place in England with most fat people: 76 per cent, against a national average of 64. Kevin Pietersen was dropped by England.
The government of Pakistan arranged peace talks with the Taleban, but their start was delayed. A second round of talks between the government of Syria and some of the opposition was scheduled in Geneva. Russia said that Syria should finish the delayed shipping out of its chemical weapons by the beginning of March. Heavy snow in northern Iran left 480,000 households without electricity. China cancelled a deal to buy 1.2 million tons of rice from Thailand pending an investigation by the Thai Anti-Corruption Commission of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s policy of buying rice from farmers for more than market prices. A woman in China died of the new H10N8 bird flu virus.
In an EU poll, between 6 per cent and 29 per cent of people in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece reported that they had been expected to pay a bribe in the past year; in Britain only five out of 1,115 polled said that they had, the lowest result. Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the French comedian who popularised the quenelle gesture, was barred from entering Britain. Bill Gates resigned as chairman of Microsoft to become its technology adviser. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died, aged 46, apparently from a heroin overdose. The oldest captive flamingo in the world died in Adelaide zoo, aged 83.
At least 75 people were killed in fighting between Muslims and Christians in the town of Boda in the Central African Republic. Brazilian police, investigating the disappearance of three contractors, arrested five Amazonian Indians; an Indian had been killed near Humaita in December during wrangles over Indians manning roadblocks and demanding money. The Argentine peso fell sharply. The Spanish royal family published its salaries: the king is paid €140,519 a year with another €152,233 dress allowance. CSH
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