Issue 63: 2016 07 21: Week in Brief: UK


21 July 2016

Week in Brief: UK

 Union Jack flapping in wind from the right

Government News

NEW CABINET: New prime minister Theresa May has now finished assembling her cabinet.  In a reshuffle which has been described as ‘brutal’, she has sent George Osborne and Michael Gove, previously Chancellor of the Exchequer and Justice Secretary respectively but both at the heart of David Cameron’s administration, to the backbenches where they will be joined by Nicky Morgan (previously at Education, but now replaced by Justine Greening) and Patrick McLoughlin (previously at Transport).  Jeremy Hunt remains at Health as does Michael Fallon at Defence.  Philip Hammond moves from Foreign Secretary to the Treasury.

The reshuffle contains a number of important promotions.  Amber Rudd is the new Home Secretary; Chris Grayling is the new Transport Secretary; and Greg Clark is at Business and Energy. The moves which have attracted the most attention, however, are the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, David Davis as the minister in charge of the Brexit negotiations and Liam Fox as President of the Board of Trade.  Fellow “Leave” campaigner Andrea Leadsom has been appointed Secretary of State for the Environment.

The appointment of Liz Truss as Lord Chancellor has also attracted criticism because she has no previous legal experience and, according to her critics, would be unlikely to stand up sufficiently for judges against the executive. Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, a Lord Chancellor has to be qualified by experience.

Mr Johnson is to share use of the Foreign Secretary’s country residence at Chevening with Mr Davis and Dr Fox.

See comment Mrs May’s Strategy.

EU: Britain is to give up its impending presidency of the EU.

TRIDENT: The House of Commons has approved the renewal of the Trident program and the replacement of the current Vanguard class of nuclear submarines, by 472 votes to 117.  140 Labour MPs voted with the government. Although Labour Party policy is to support Trident, Mr Corbyn is opposed to it and voted against its renewal. Labour MPs were given a free vote on the issue.


LABOUR: Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd and former shadow work and pensions secretary, has emerged as the candidate who will stand against Mr Corbyn for the party leadership after winning the support of 90 MPs, against 72 MPs who supported Mrs Eagle. Corbyn allies criticised him for being Blairite and for his work lobbying for US drug company Pfizer.

Although members of the party can only vote in next month’s ballot if they can show that their membership goes back six months, a vote could be ‘bought’ by anyone paying £25 by 5 pm yesterday. According to a poll by YouGov, 56% of Labour members are likely to support Mr Corbyn and 34% are likely to support Mr Smith.


DRUNK PILOTS: Two pilots who had been due to fly the Air Transat service from Glasgow to Toronto with 250 passengers aboard were removed from the plane on the basis that they were drunk. They are to be charged at the Paisley Sheriff Court.

ROADWORKS: There is to be a consultation about the extension of the “lane rental” system under which companies and local authorities are charged for digging up roads at peak times.  The system encourages work to be done at night and more quickly, with fines for roadworks where no work is actually being carried out.  It has already been introduced in London, where TFL considers that £30 million a year has been saved, and in Kent, where the net benefit is thought to be £4.6 million.

AIRWAYS CHAOS: Teething problems with new computer check-in systems used by British Airways caused chaos at the start of the holiday period as queues built up at Heathrow and Gatwick.  According to the airline everything is now back up and running.


SUMMER: The temperature on Tuesday reached 33.5C at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and 45C on the London tube.  EU rules ban the transportation of cattle at temperatures of more than 27C.

BUTTER: Confusion deepens over the merits of eating butter, as a team from Boston University, which recently found that it did not lead to heart disease and could give some protection against diabetes, published a new study suggesting that if you replaced 100 calories of your butter ration with pinenuts, seeds or olive oil you would reduce the risk of those diseases. The message seems to be: butter not bad; unsaturated fats better.

NURSES: There is more cheating in exams in nursing than in exams in other disciplines, with 300 nursing candidates being caught cheating at Edinburgh Napier University and with one half of all students caught cheating at the University of Dundee in the years 2010 to 2013 being on nursing courses.  Cheating includes both the use of impersonators at exams and the use of coursework downloaded from the internet. The latter is available cheaply and is often prepared on a bespoke basis in which case it is hard for anti-plagiarism software to spot it.


UNIVERSITY: The total number of applicants to British Universities for the next academic year was 674,890, an increase of 1850. Of those, 285,490 were men, a reduction of 750.  The drop is in slightly older applicants.  The disparity between men and women reflects levels of achievement throughout the educational system where boys are generally outperformed by girls.


CHILD ABDUCTION: Teenage girls aged thirteen and fourteen were sentenced to 3 and 4 years detention respectively for abducting a child in Newcastle.  They were arrested a couple of hours after the abduction.  The child was unharmed.  It is understood that one of the girls had been groomed and incited to take part in the abduction by a man who has not yet been caught.

GUN CRIME: According to a House of Commons Briefing Paper seen by The Times, gun crime across England and Wales is up by 2%.  Blackspots are London, where the rise is 3.6%, Greater Manchester, where the rise is 10.1%, and the West Midlands, where the rise is 4.1%.  Police and the Security Services are concerned at guns coming into the country from the Balkans, from Russia and by mail order from the USA . Although there is concern at the rise, the longer term trend has been downwards with the level of gun crime at about one third of the figure for 2002-2003.


MARY ROSE: Henry VIII’s battleship, the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 and was raised in 1982, has now been put on show in Portsmouth following treatment of the woodwork to prevent disintegration. The ship, which was very heavily armed, sank because it turned for a broadside with its gun ports open and took on water. More than 500 lives were lost when it went down in the Solent.

OPERA: John Berry, who was forced out of the ENO following pressure from the outgoing chairman Mr Rose, is to be offered a senior artistic role at the Bolshoi.


CRICKET: Pakistan beat England at Lord’s by 75 runs on the fourth day of the first test match.

FISHING: 60,000 rainbow trout have been introduced accidentally into the River Avon in Hampshire. It is believed that they escaped from a fish farm. The trout are easy to catch with one journalist taking 21 on consecutive casts. Anglers are upset because the fishing has been ruined.  It is unlikely that the trout will survive long in the wild.


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