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Bite-sized briefing: UK

The government was accused of trying to suppress evidence of the UK's role in torture at a high court hearing. Lawyers for the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, are appealing for a decision to disclose allegations made by the former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed to be blocked.

Measures to tackle unemployment were introduced by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Yvette Cooper. She promised 100,000 new jobs and training opportunities for under-25s. Over a million young people are not in employment, education or training.

The Ministry of Defence will fund £900m of equipment for troops in Afghanistan, cutting existing spending to pay for it. The National Audit Office warned that the current defence budget deficit was unsustainable.

Zac Goldsmith, the non-dom, millionaire Tory candidate (left), has so far spent a record £260,000 on his political campaign, it was reported. Once an election has been called, candidates are limited to a maximum spend of £12,000.

Doctors warned that the government is failing to widen access t the medical profession. The British Medical Association found the number of medical students from low-income backgrounds rose by only 1.7 per cent from 2003 to 2008.

Four British former Guantanamo Bay detainees were refused an appeal by the US Supreme Court. They say they suffered torture and religious abuse. The court ruled that further review of the case was unwarranted.

One in ten children will be obese by 2015, the British Medical Journal reports. Research found that children from less affluent and worse-educated households would be the most affected.

British Airways staff announced 12 days of strikes, set to take place over Christmas and the New Year, citing staff reductions and changes to work conditions. The carrier plans legal action to prevent them.

Lower speed limits were recommended by the government. Councils will be advised to introduce 20mph zones near homes and schools, and 50mph limits on rural main roads with a history of accidents.

Parliament's first nursery is expected to open next summer, the Speaker John Bercow said. It is part of an effort to get more parents to stand as MPs.

Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than bankers, the New Economics Foundation found. Cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid, while bankers destroy £7 for every £1 they earn. Meanwhile, advertising executives "create stress", and waste recycling workers create even more value than cleaners.

This article appears in the 21 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special