Rory Stewart: ‘I’ll resign if prison violence doesn’t improve’ | Erwin James

The prisons minister says airport-style security in prisons would cut off the supply of drugs to inmates

By any measure our prisons are in a state of crisis. Last year, there were almost 50,000 incidents of self-harm among the 82,500 prisoners in England and Wales. Drug-fuelled violence is at an all-time high, with more than 32,500 assaults, 10,000 of which were against staff. At least 87 prisoners took their own lives, five were murdered and more than 300 died of ill-health or natural causes. The scale of the problem is not lost on the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, who has vowed to resign if he doesn’t achieve improvements.

One of the major reasons that there is so much violence is that there are too many drugs, and one of the reasons for that is insufficient perimeter security, says Stewart. He intends to make it more difficult for criminals to get drugs into prisons. Stewart is focusing on 10 of the worst-performing prisons, including Wormwood Scrubs, Leeds and Nottingham, which he dubs his “ 10-prison project”. They have been given an extra budget of £40m to improve safety and tackle drug-taking.

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Bowel cancer trial aims to reset gut bacteria

It is thought some strains of bacteria may cause cancer or allow it to develop unchecked

Bowel cancer patients will be given a groundbreaking form of treatment aimed at altering the makeup of their gut bacteria, in a trial due to launch this year.

The phase one trial, backed by a £20m grant from Cancer Research UK, is led by an international team who are investigating whether gut bacteria play a role in triggering cancer and making the disease more resistant to treatment in some patients.

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UK rents fall for first time in a decade

Yorkshire records biggest percentage decline but signs emerge rents are rising again

Rents across Britain fell in 2018 for the first time in a decade, offering relief for tenants after years of inflation-busting rises.

Figures from the Deposit Protection Scheme – a government-backed group that supervises tenancy deposits – showed the average rent fell by £9 (1.17%) from £774 in 2017 to £765.

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Rotten future: British fishermen square up to no-deal Brexit

Border delays, resulting in fresh fish having to be frozen, protests by French fishermen and staffing shortages are causing angst

It’s a slow sunrise over the Clyde Marina in Ardrossan, on Scotland’s west coast, where Alistair Roberts is fitting the wheelhouse in his new fishing boat, Guide Them.

“It’s the first boat to be built on the Clyde for 14 years,” he says, proudly. “It’ll be up and running at the end of March, just at the bad time,” he adds, referring to the date when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, regardless of whether a Brexit deal has been reached. “So there’s me who needs their head looked at!”

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Young people look for meaning. But poetry offers our escape | Bridget Minamore

New figures show a dramatic growth in the popularity of poetry among young people. A poet gives her view of the boom
Poetry sales soar as political millennials search for clarity

Clarity is

a murky word despite itself, sitting
on the topsoil of reasons I’m supposed
to embrace this odd alchemy / this way
of sharing thought / this beautifully bizarre
approach to scattered words in some time strange
shapes. I’m certain some feel different to me,
certain many pick up poems and hope
to see through them, but I have always searched
for the opaque / always been dazzled by
the haze of vagueness poetry seems to
inspire. I’m scared like we all are – or all
aren’t, which is perhaps even scarier –
but a poem can be a kingdom in
which blindfolded foresight makes perfect sense
and the political and personal
align like nowhere else. Perhaps it would
be easy to label my attachment
a modern phenomenon / attribute
the groundswell of love towards volumes of
verse to the uniqueness of my peers / claim
the rise in buying and reading pages
bound and bulbous with poems is a new
response to recent chaos, but surely
we poets know better. We know the world
screams as loudly as it always has done,
the young are the same as the young always
are, poetry is a language we have
spoken since we could speak, and most of us
don’t ask poetry for clarity, but
for an escape / for the chance to run far,
far away from the unmistakable.

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When is it time to call it a day? In this country, we have no idea | Margaret Hodge

Prince Philip’s road accident is a vivid reminder of the absurdity of current rules based on age. They urgently need debate

I still remember the frustration I felt as a teenager at the plethora of inconsistent rules that governed what I could and could not do, on the basis solely of my age: when I could vote, marry, drive a car or buy drinks. I am now reaching the stage in life when a whole new set of age-based cans and can’ts are starting to determine what I’m allowed to do.

Related: The new retirement: how an ageing population is transforming Britain

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