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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK


Blair holiday front-page news again

The decision by the Blair family to attend the Palio horse race in Siena while they are on holiday in Tuscany receives front-page coverage in a number of papers.

However, The Guardian says few protesters against what has been called a cruel race, during which horses die, were to be found among the crowd.

The Daily Mail carries a commentary by a supporter of fox-hunting, Roger Scruton, who says that although he regards the race as an event he could not watch, it is as important to the Italians as fox-hunting is to the English.

He says Mr Blair, having witnessed the Palio, should witness a hunt, which might be seen as less barbarous.

The reports come just days after protests from communists made headlines at the start of the Blair family holiday in Italy.

GM secrecy scrutinised

Government publicity about where genetically-modified (GM) crops are being grown may force biotechnology firms to shift their operations to the continent, reports the Financial Times.

It says that if the government cannot protect sites in Britain from attack by the green movement, the companies will move to more secretive countries.

Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar, is under fire for such secretiveness, according to The Scotsman. It says his opponents have accused him of trying to cover up where GM crops will be grown.

The Scottish Nationalists and the Scottish Green Party are determined to persuade their new Parliament to ban the trials.

BBC licence hike opposed

The main story in The Times says Mr Blair is preparing to extend his control of the government information spin machine.

The paper says the most senior press officers in Whitehall are being sidelined to centralise the way the media is told about Number 10's plans.

This, says The Times, will result in a presidential-style "Prime Minister's Department" in Downing Street.

The Guardian claims that the BBC is on the defensive after it commissioned an ICM telephone poll of 1,204 adults across Britain. This suggested that 58% were opposed to an increase in the licence fee for those with digital television sets.

The paper says that 44% of those questioned thought BBC television programmes had got worse during the past five years.

Refugees may be relocated

Refugees who have apparently been involved in violence with the people of Dover are to be relocated in the north of England, according to The Independent.

The paper says that the Home Office Minister, Lord Bassam, accepted that those seeking asylum had been "dumped" in the Kent port town, without proper support.

The Daily Mail has a full page on the exploits of 85-year-old Les Seales, described as the world's oldest wing-walker.

Les, it seems, likes nothing better than being strapped to the top wing of a 1940s biplane, and flown at 2,000 feet with the wind in his hair.

His first experience of wing-walking was in the RAF during World War II, when he was a rear gunner on a bomber, and extricated his pilot from their crippled plane before they both parachuted to safety. Now, he says, he loves the freedom and fresh air.

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