Issue 65: 2016 08 04: Week in Brief: UK

04 August 2016

Week in Brief: UK

Union Jack flapping in wind from the right

Government News

HINKLEY POINT: The Government has postponed a decision on Hinkley Point C pending a further review. The announcement, which was made just before the deal was due to be signed, took the energy industry by surprise.

It is understood that EDF, the French company which was to build and operate the reactor, had moved its own decision forward to try to pre-empt opposition from Mrs May’s new administration which was understood to be nervous of Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects. If the project, which had been expected to supply 7% of Britain’s power, is ultimately shelved, the government will need to come out with an alternative strategy for securing the electricity supply.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua has said that Britain’s suspicious approach to China could jeopardise trade links.

COMPANIES HOUSE: Consideration is being given to reducing the period for which records of defunct companies are held, from 20 to 6 years. The move is a reaction to claims by individuals associated with the companies that the availability of the information is damaging. Law enforcement agencies are concerned that the loss of the records may make it more difficult to investigate crime.

RESIGNATION HONOURS: Rows over Mr Cameron’s resignation honours list continue, it being understood that he will no longer press for a peerage for Michael Spencer, a former Tory treasurer and donor whose company Icap was involved in the Libor rigging scandal.  Proposed knighthoods for aides and donors have also caused a stir with Ian Taylor, chief executive of Vitol, stating that he does not want his name to go forward.  Also contentious is a proposed CBE for Will Shaw, the son of Jack Straw, who led the unsuccessful Remain campaign.  The Prime Minister has indicated that she will not interfere with the list chosen by Mr Cameron.

PENSIONS: Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister, has called for the abolition of the triple lock on pensions, suggesting that, although their value should be protected, the 2.5% annual rise didn’t make sense. The Prime Minister has pointed out that this was an election pledge and has said that there are no plans to resile from it.


CORBYN CHALLENGE: The High Court has confirmed that the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party acted correctly in deciding that as the current leader Mr Corbyn did not to seek endorsement from fifty-one MPs or MEPs in order to participate in the ballot. The challenge had been brought by party member Michael Foster who will have to pay the costs incurred by the Party’s general secretary and by Mr Corbyn himself.

The Communication Workers Union, Aslef and the Ucatt have all said that they will back Mr Corbyn in the leadership election.


MARKET ACCESS: Mrs May has said that the arrangements between Britain and the EU will need to be tailor- made and should not be restricted on those already used by other countries such as Norway.  Speaking in Rome, she also said that the rights of citizens of other EU nations living in the UK would depend upon the rights conferred on British subjects living elsewhere in the EU.

EU CONTRIBUTION: Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that the net contribution made by Britain to the EU in 2015 amounted to about £200 million a week.

EUROPEAN POST: Mr Juncker has announced the appointment of Sir Julian King, Britain’s new European Commissioner, to take responsibility for the fight against terrorism in a “security union”. The appointment is being questioned by MEPs who have the opportunity to veto it next month.

See comment A Tale Of Two Brexits.

Miscellaneous Political

HOUSING: Research published by the Resolution Foundation indicates that the proportion of homeowners across England has dropped from 71% in 2003 to the 1986 level of 63%. Over the same period, the proportion of people renting their homes in the private sector has increased from 11% to 19%.

RUSSIA PROPAGANDA: According to an investigation by “The Times”, Russia’s new UK news agency, Sputnik, is engaged in an exercise of spreading misleading propaganda in the UK. It is said that the agency, which is based in Edinburgh, has reported that Jo Cox was murdered in order to sway voters to Remain in the EU referendum, and also that the West had agreed with Russia that NATO would never be extended to Russia’s borders.

PLASTIC BAGS: According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the use of plastic bags by shoppers has dropped by 85% since the introduction of the 5p charge.  Bag consumption by shoppers is now running at about 1.2 billion a year.

PORT OF DOVER: Considerable delays continue at the port of Dover where traffic is being disrupted by additional French security checks. Motorists travelling on Saturday (a particularly busy day because of a crossover between leaving and returning holidaymakers) were being advised to take food and water.

PRE-FLIGHT DRINKS: Following a number of violent incidents, Lord Ahmed, the aviation minister, is to review rules governing drinking at airports. Current guidelines recommend that duty free drink should not be consumed on the plane and that staff at airports should be trained to refuse alcohol to passengers who seem likely to become disruptive.

POLICING: The number of police firearms officers in England and Wales is now 5639, more than 20% below the 2010 figure. These figures do not take into account the additional 1500 firearms officers announced in April.

BHS: Sir Philip Green has responded to criticisms by Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pension Select Committee, by saying that they jeopardise his promised support for the BHS Pension Scheme. He made the point that any help that he gives to the scheme is voluntary and that he is under no legal obligation to do anything.


ZIKA VIRUS: Three cases have been diagnosed in the UK. In each case the patient has recently returned from abroad. The virus is low risk in the UK where it can only be transmitted by sexual activity. The mosquitoes which are normally responsible for its spread cannot survive here.

ALZHEIMER’S: A new drug LMTX or LMTM, invented at the University of Aberdeen, is expected to be effective in the control of Alzheimer’s disease after tests showed that in some cases it completely halted its development.

HIV DRUG: The High Court has held that the NHS England has power to fund preventative treatments such as the pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis PrEP.  The result of the ruling, which is to be appealed, is that the treatment will have to compete for available funds with therapies for other diseases.

JUNIOR DOCTORS: There were 6673 enrolments in specialist training placements this year, a small increase from the previous figure. Although the government points to the increase as refuting predictions that numbers would drop following the Junior doctors strike, the BMA says that the new recruits will join under the old contract.

Crime and Courts

M1 PROTESTER: Nicholas Muton, who closed the M1 for over a day by climbing a gantry and refusing to come down, has been sentenced to 2 years in prison by Leicester Crown Court.

PEOPLE SMUGGLERS: Stephen Jackson, a Sussex yachtsman, has been sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for smuggling seventeen illegal immigrants into Britain. 8 of the immigrants have been deported and 9 have received prison sentences.

Robert Stilwell, a former British judo champion, and his friend Mark Stribling, both of Kent, were each sentenced to more than four years imprisonment for conspiring to assist the immigration of 15 Albanians in an inflatable boat which got into trouble, taking in water a mile and a half from the coast. The immigrants, who (unlike Stillwell and Stribling) had no lifejackets, were rescued by the coastguard.  They had each paid about €6000 for the trip.

BIG BREAKFAST: The Metropolitan Police have dropped the investigation into alleged sexual offences by Chris Evans on the basis that there is insufficient evidence to proceed.

MURDER: Muhiddin Mire, who tried to murder a man at Leytonstone station in December, has been sent to Broadmoor, sentenced to life imprisonment .  Should he become sane enough to move to an ordinary prison he must serve a minimum of 8 ½ years.

VICTIM FREED: The kidnapped mother-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief executive, has been freed by Brazilian police. It is understood that no ransom was paid.

IMMIGRATION RULING: The Home Officers has successfully appealed against a ruling by an immigration judge that children living in the Calais Jungle should be allowed to come to Britain if they have family members here. The case turned on whether the children should have claimed asylum in France under the Dublin 111 agreement. The children in question are living in the UK and will not be deported.


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