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Bite-sized briefing: UK

Police officers have made arrests simply to add people to the DNA database, a retired police officer told the Human Genetics Commission. The practice is "the norm", he said. Police chiefs have denied the claims. The database holds five million profiles; records are held for three-quarters of all young black men.

The Iraq war inquiry opened in London, led by the former government adviser Sir John Chilcot. The inquiry will look at events from 2001-2009, and is expected to last until 2011.

The national identity register is "up and running", a watchdog has said. Sir Joseph Pilling, the government's independent identity commissioner, told the Commons home affairs committee that 538 people were on the database; all except one were UK nationals. The database is at the heart of the government's ID card scheme.

Secret loans of £61.6bn were paid to RBS and HBOS by the Bank of England last autumn, Mervyn King told the Treasury select committee. Both loans were paid back in full by January this year.

Excess winter deaths rose by 49 per cent in England and Wales last year in comparison with the year before. A total of 36,700 deaths were recorded, according to the Office for National Statistics. The greatest number of excess deaths occurred in people aged over 85.

Severe floods hit parts of northern England and Scotland. Cumbria was particularly badly hit by record rainfall. Six bridges collapsed and a safety review of all the county's crossings is under way.

The de Menezes family reached a compensation deal with the Metropolitan Police. Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead in July 2005 when he was mistaken for the failed 21 July bomber Hussain Osman. The compensation amount has not been disclosed.

The Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition government in Wales was briefly in danger of collapse. Labour ruled out a referendum on increasing the Welsh Assembly's lawmaking powers until after the 2010 UK general election, a decision that Plaid Cymru called "completely unacceptable". The parties were later reconciled.

The Scottish Parliament's powers are to be extended in response to the findings of the Calman Commission's review on devolution, the UK government announced. Holyrood is to be handed new tax powers, the Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, said. The Scottish government's white paper on independence is published on St Andrew's Day.

EasyJet apologised for a fashion feature in its in-flight magazine set at Berlin's Holocaust memorial. Almost 300,000 copies were pulped after the New Statesman discovered the story.

This article appears in the 30 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Left Hanging