Issue 80: 2016 11 17: Week in Brief: UK

17 November 2016

Week in Brief: UK

Union Jack flapping in wind from the right


BREXIT STRATEGY: A memorandum leaked to The Times, and said to have been written by a consultant from the accountancy firm Deloittes, indicates that civil servants are struggling to produce an exit strategy in time for the giving of the Article 50 notice in March of next year. It suggest that quite apart from the huge scope of the project, progress is hampered by divisions in the Cabinet between Philip Hammond (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Greg Clark (the Business Secretary) on the one hand, and Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox, all of whom supported Brexit, on the other.  It is said that there are 500 projects, and an extra 30,000 civil servants could be required to carry them through.  The government denies that it is correct.

FARAGE ROLL: Tory donor Edi Truell has urged the party to make use of Mr Farage’s links with Donald Trump to build bridges with the new US administration. Mr Farage has suggested that criticism about Mr Trump’s campaign may damage relationships unless it is dealt with. The Government has indicated that it will deal with Mr Trump direct. See comment Nigel Farage.

DROP IN INVESTMENT: A survey by the Centre for Economic and Business Research has found that British firms have abandoned £65 billion of investment since Brexit.  It is expected that over the next year wages will rise by just over 1% against 3% inflation.

BRADWELL: The Government has indicated that both sides welcome proposals for the building of a new reactor at Bradwell on Sea by General Nuclear Power Corporation of China and the French company EDF.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said that Chinese steel dumping is currently a problem for British Industry.

JOHNSON MISSES DINNER: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not attend a dinner of EU foreign ministers to discuss the implications of Mr Trump’s election. The meeting would have clashed with UK Remembrance Day commemorations. The French foreign minister did not attend either.

VAZ APPOINTMENT: Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who is under investigation for drugs offences following a newspaper sting, has been appointed to the Committee scrutinising the Criminal Finance Bill. A number of Tory MPs have objected on the basis that it is not appropriate for him to participate in the Justice Select Committee while under investigation.


SUPPORT THE HEROES: Following last week’s television program “The Great Military Charity Scandal”, the Charity Commission has banned Support the Heroes from collecting money because too much of the amount collected goes to fundraisers. The Charity denies having used professional fundraisers.

NATIONAL TRUST: The row about the National Trust’s purchase of Thornythwaite farm in Cumbria continues, with Helen Ghosh, the director of the charity, telling the press that Mr Rebanks, who criticised the trust’s acquisition, did not farm full-time. The National Trust has apologised. The row concerns the trust’s acquisition of the farm without the farmhouse which, according to local farmers, makes it difficult to continue the sheep farming activity.


HEALTH REFORMS: NHS reforms under which sustainability and transformation plans would move care closer to home and keep patients out of hospital, have been criticised by the King’s Fund. There seems to be general agreement that the plans, some of which involved centralisation and cutting beds, are a move in the right direction but there are doubts over implementation and lack of consultation.

BREAST CANCER: Confusion over who is responsible for prescribing biphosphonates for breast cancer has resulted in an estimated 27,000 women missing the beneficial treatment. The drugs are not expensive.  They cost 43p a day. The question is simply whether they should be commissioned by NHS England separately or by Clinical Commissioning Groups.  Jeremy Hunt has been asked to intervene.

HEALTH PRIVATISATION: Virgin Care is to run adult social care, continuing health care, and children’s community health care, in Bath and North West Somerset for seven years from 1 April.  Unison has expressed concern at a profit making company running the services because of the risk of targeted savings.  Virgin Care has long experience of NHS and social care services.

JUNIOR DOCTORS: The Junior Doctors have called off their struggle to resist the new contract imposed by the NHS. The Junior Doctors Alliance has criticised the BMA for conceding.


PENTONVILLE ESCAPEES: The two prisoners who escaped from Pentonville prison last week have been recaptured.

TRAM CRASH: The driver of the tram involved in the Croydon crash, in which seven people died, has claimed that the way the shifts are arranged results in all drivers being tired. He has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but released on bail pending an investigation into why the Tram took a dangerous bend at well over the permitted speed.

JURY SERVICE: As from 1 December 2016, retired people will be eligible for jury service until the age of 75. The increase, which reflects demographics, will increase the pool and thus reduce pressure on those finding jurors.

OPERATION MIDLAND ENQUIRY: Police have criticised the recommendation by Sir Richard Henriques, a retired High Court Judge, that they should no longer have to believe a victim’s account as a matter of policy. They are concerned that this might discourage genuine complainants.

It is understood that, presumably by coincidence, they have now made two arrests in relation to the operation. It is understood that those arrested are not public figures.

PRISON OFFICERS: Tuesday’s strike by prison officers was called off at 5 pm following a High Court injunction restraining the Prison Offices Association from “inducing any form of industrial action”. The strike resulted in prisoners being locked in their cells all day and in the halting of a number of trials. The Prison Governors Association did not condone the strike although it recognised the “extremely tough conditions” currently faced by officers. Justice Secretary Liz Truss has published a White Paper this month on prison reform, including proposals for an additional 2500 staff and measures to reduce the availability of drugs in prisons. See comment Economics and Incarceration.

PERJURY INVESTIGATION: The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has asked the police to investigate complaints that Shaun Wright, then the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, lied on oath in 2014 when giving evidence to the Committee regarding the sexual grooming of children. Mr Wright, who had also been the Rotherham councillor in charge of children’s services for 2005-10, resigned shortly after the committee hearing.


PAXMAN DOLL: The University of Reading has taken over the running of its University Challenge team after the student union voted by 120 votes to 105 to boycott the show. The dispute goes back to 2015 when, in a break in filming, Jeremy Paxman asked the team about the mascot sitting on their desk. On being told that it was a hand-knitted Jeremy Paxman doll, he asked the team whether they took it to bed with them. The leader of the team (and its only woman), Samantha Buzzard, took offence and, according to the students union, a complaint was filed. A boycott of the show was proposed a year later. On the occasion in question Imperial College, London beat the University of Reading by 285 points to 110 points (see Chin Chin).

DAILY MAIL: A group called the Stop Funding Hate campaign has been working to get commercial advertisers to cut links with newspapers which run “divisive hate campaigns”.  The group has persuaded Danish toy company Lego not to engage with the Daily Mail in future promotional activity following the attack by the Mail on the judges who ruled that Parliamentary authority was required before notice was given for the UK to leave the EU. See comment Free Speech in Toytown.


CLIMATE CHANGE: According to a report by the World Meteorological Organisation, 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded, beating the records set by 2014 and 2015. Global average temperature is now 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, some 0.8° below the 2% level which all countries are committed to avoiding.


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