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Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 08:02 UK
Today: Tuesday 31 March 2009

PLEASE NOTE: We are unable to offer transcripts for our programme interviews. Today is broadcast live and the running order is subject to change.

Parliamentary authorities are investigating claims that details of all MPs' expenses are being offered to journalists for £300,000. British forces are handing over military authority in southern Iraq to the Americans. And the novelist, Arundhati Roy on the crisis in Sri Lanka.


The top British general in southern Iraq will hand over authority to a US general in Basra as the British withdrawal begins. Most of the 4,000 UK troops are due to leave by the end of combat operations on 31 May. From Basra, defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt reports.

Business news with Adam Shaw.


A cheap pill can guard against heart attacks and stroke, research conducted in India suggests. Professor Peter Weissman discusses how the "polypill" containing a cocktail of five potentially life-saving drugs could halve rates of heart attacks and strokes in healthy middle aged and older people.


Last night Crimewatch aired an appeal to find missing chef, Claudia Lawrence. She was last seen on 18 March after finishing work at the University of York. Correspondent Danny Savage discusses how the detective leading the search said that, following the appeal, the police had received a number of "very interesting calls".


A paper by the Centre for Policy Studies has said that the BBC's remit should be reduced over time to include only those programmes and services which the market would not provide. Former Sky TV executive, Martin le Jeune and the BBC's director of strategy, John Tate, discuss what the corporation should be producing.

Sports news with Arlo White.


Gordon Brown will address a meeting at St Paul's Cathedral on the moral questions raised by the economic crisis. He will be joined by Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams discusses why religious leaders are urging the G20 not to forget their commitments to the world's poorest people during the recession.

Today's papers.


The Royal Observatory Greenwich is marking the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations made using a telescope by Galileo Galilei - famed as one of the forefathers of modern astronomy. Evan Davis meets the historian, Richard Dunn, whose book, The Telescope - A Short History, has just been published.


There was trouble overnight in Belfast, with traffic chaos, the city paralysed and vehicles on fire. Correspondent Mark Simpson reports on a night of disruption.

Thought for the day with Canon Dr Alan Billings, an Anglican priest.


The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence surrounding it, as there is almost no reporting in the international press about what is happening there. The Indian author, Arundhati Roy, who won the Booker prize in 1997 for her novel The God of Small Things, discusses her concerns that the Sri Lankan government is on the verge of committing genocide.


The remaining British forces in southern Iraq will come under command of an American general this morning, as the coalition prepares for the final withdrawal of UK troops from the country. Most of the 4,000 British troops still in Iraq are due to leave by 31 May, though a few will leave today. The British commander in Basra, Maj Gen Andy Salmon, says that much had been achieved over the past six years.


Retail giant Marks and Spencer has announced that fourth quarter sales have fallen 4.2%. Executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose says that M&S is riding out the economic downturn. He also says that he believes the end of the "disposable era" in clothing may be coming.


One casualty of the recession is the planned Battle of Britain Museum. Last year, the RAF sold Bentley Priory, from where the Battle of Britain was directed. The plan was that property development on the site would pay to turn part of the building into a museum, just in time for the 70th anniversary in 2010. But the property development has fallen through. Correspondent Sanchia Berg reports on how it's not clear when a museum might be built there.

Sports news with Arlo White.


The prime minister says he wants to simplify the system of MPs' expenses. It is clear that, one way or another, the system will have to change. Standards Commissioner Dr Jim Dyer from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh discusses what can be done about the expenses of Westminster politicians.


One of the areas up for discussion at the G20 is tax havens. Gordon Brown is urging a crackdown, asking leaders to agree new rules to punish multinationals that use offshore shelters to dodge revenue bills. John Whiting of Price Waterhouse and Geoff Cook, chief executive of Jersey Finance, discuss exactly what tax havens are and what will happen if they are forced to change how they operate.

Business news with Adam Shaw.


Reports from Libya and Egypt say a boat carrying more than 250 migrants to Europe has sunk. Rome correspondent Duncan Kennedy and Peter Schatzer, director of the International Organisation for Migration, discuss why people are desperate to get to Italy.


A computer virus that may have infected 15 million computers could break out on 1 April. Rupert Goodwins, editor of ZD Net, says experts fear it will cause problems.


NASA showcased a full-sized mock up of its Orion Spacecraft on the streets of Washington DC on Monday. Orion is expected to begin carrying humans to the International Space Station in 2015 and to the moon in 2020. Professor Colin Pillinger discusses why we want to get to the moon again.


Most people would welcome more representation of disfigurement on television, a report has found. Is it always the villains like Richard III, or Freddie Kruger that are portrayed as disfigured and the goodies as beautiful? Or characters to be pitied, like the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame? James Partridge, from the charity Changing Faces, and Professor John Sutherland of University College London, discuss the portrayal of disfigurement in the media, arts and literature.



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