7 Days

Straw wrong on Pinochet The High Court in London has ruled that the Home Secretary was wrong to keep General Augusto Pinochet's medical report a secret. Belgium, Spain, France and Switzerland, which have campaigned to put Pinochet on trial, can now decide if there is any medical evidence to challenge Jack Straw's conclusion that Pinochet is too ill to face torture charges. Leaked Spanish newspaper reports suggested that Pinochet, though medically fit, is suffering from brain damage.

IRA pull-out The IRA withdrew from General John de Chastelain's independent decommissioning body following the decision by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson, to reimpose direct rule from London. The suspension of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement averted the resignation of the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, as First Minister. The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, indicated that he had no intention of taking part in a new review of the 22-month-old agreement.

Web abuse at No 10 Downing Street's new website has been the target of racist and obscene abuse. The site includes a weekly broadcast from the PM and invites the public to submit views by e-mail. Abusive messages were posted by cranks calling themselves "William Plague" and "Tonmy Blair", as well as "Dead Alan Clark MP" who appeals for the sterilisation of criminals. Downing Street said urgent action was being taken to raise the problem with web supervisors.

Minimum wage rise The government announced a surprise 10 pence-an-hour increase for Britain's two million lowest-paid workers. Treasury experts said that the rise, which takes the hourly rate to £3.70, will have no adverse effects on inflation or employment. Ministers plan to recall the Low Pay Commission to recommend another rise for October 2001.

This article first appeared in the 21 February 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Just wait for the gold rush to end