7 Days

Penny on petrol Shell increased its petrol prices by a penny a litre, blaming its decision on the jump in the cost of crude oil. The Petrol Retailers' Association warned that other oil companies might also increase prices, which would cancel out the cut in fuel duty announced in last month's Budget. A blaze at the Conoco oil refinery in Grimsby was said to have added to the rise in prices.

Bag-snatchers kill their victim Elizabeth Sherlock, 42, died after thieves drove over her in their getaway car, having stolen her handbag which contained just £20. Sherlock, a costume designer for the BBC, gave chase after her bag was grabbed as she sat with her husband in a cafe at Euston Station.

US rebukes Israel The Israeli military withdrew from the Gaza Strip after one day, under pressure from the United States. Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, condemned the invasion as "excessive and disproportionate".

Nuns go on trial Two Catholic nuns went on trial in Brussels, charged with complicity in the 1994 genocide of fellow Rwandans. Sister Gertrude and Sister Maria Kisito are accused of helping Hutu soldiers massacre more than 5,000 Tutsis who had come to them for refuge.

Murder suspect caught Francisco Montez became the chief suspect for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Caroline Dickinson following DNA tests. Dickinson was attacked in a French youth hostel in 1996. Montez, a Spanish drifter arrested in Miami, is wanted in connection with a series of assaults on teenage girls across Europe.

Drugs companies rethink policy on Aids Speculation grew that multinational pharmaceutical companies would drop their case against South African legislation that was intended to allow the manufacture or importing of cheaper generic versions of brand-name Aids drugs. The drugs companies have been vilified for putting profit before lives.

This article first appeared in the 23 April 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Blessed are the pure in heart

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.