7 Days

Nuclear warheads out During his summit in Washington with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, President George Bush announced that the US would slash its nuclear warheads by more than two-thirds in the next decade.

MPs muzzle watchdog The Parliamentary Commission for Standards, the only independent watchdog investigating allegations of sleaze and corruption against MPs, is to be downgraded next year. Elizabeth Filkin, its head, will be replaced by a commissioner working a reduced schedule for a lower salary.

The fifth terminal Despite objections from local residents and environmentalists, the government has endorsed BAA's plans to build Terminal Five at Heathrow airport, already the busiest in Europe. The £2.5bn project will go ahead next year.

More Scottish scandal In the wake of Henry McLeish's resignation as Scotland's First Minister over "financial irregularities", Jack McConnell, Scotland's education minister, confessed to an affair conducted seven years ago with a Labour Party colleague. McConnell is at present the only candidate to succeed McLeish.

"Victory for prejudice" John Howard, the Australian premier, secured victory for his Liberal Party when he was re-elected for a third term. The triumph followed a campaign dominated by the issue of immigration.

4,000 farmers evicted President Robert Mugabe announced that more than 90 per cent of all white-owned land in Zimbabwe will be nationalised. The move prompted farmers to withdraw their agricultural investment, drastically reducing next year's crop production.

Cholesterol busters Statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, could prevent more than a third of heart attacks and strokes, according to a study funded by the Medical Research Council and the British Heart Foundation.

This article first appeared in the 19 November 2001 issue of the New Statesman, And now the trouble really begins

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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.