01 June 2017
Week In Brief: UK NEWS
TERRORIST THREAT: Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who is in charge of the investigation into the Manchester bombing, has said that a large part of the network supporting the bomber has been successfully wound up and that the threat of further outrages has been contained. The difficulty of the job facing the police and the security services was emphasized by security minister Ben Wallace who said that there were 23,000 people on the database of potential attackers. Of those 3,000 are believed to pose a threat and are being actively monitored. The remainder, a category which included both Salman Abedi and Khalid Masood, who were responsible for the attacks in Manchester and Westminster respectively, fall into a residual category.
The Government has lodged protests with the US over the leaking of the identity of the Manchester bomber to the New York Times. Initially information sharing was cut off but this has now been restored.
The Government has said that, if it wins the general election, it will beef up the Prevent scheme (which aims to prevent the radicalisation of vulnerable persons) by training teachers, social workers and others who work in the community to spot those being radicalised. The scheme is contentious with some Muslim bodies saying that it alienates the Muslim community but other Muslims, including Labour’s Khalid Mahmood MP, suggesting that the scheme be developed further.
ELECTION LATEST: The gap between the two main parties has narrowed so far that some polls are indicating a hung parliament. With a week to go to polling day the result is impossible too predict.
The drop in Conservative support can be traced back to the inclusion in the manifesto of proposals under which those requiring care in old age would have an uncapped amount recovered from their estates. The government has backed down over this, and there will now be a cap, although the size of that cap has not yet been decided. However, Mrs May’s denials of any U-turn in a televised interview with Andrew Neil played very badly with the electorate and eroded their trust in her.
Mr Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil went considerably better, although it exposed the tensions in his party over Trident and the fact that his manifesto proposals, which include nationalisation of the water companies and large investments in schools and the NHS, could not be funded out of the taxes proposed.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: The Conservatives would, if elected, bring in a new definition of domestic violence as part of an overhaul of the law in that area. The idea is to increase the number of convictions and there would be a special offence where the violence was directed against children.
BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS: Mrs May has told the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, that there should be simultaneous discussions of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the terms of its withdrawal. So far the EU has sought to deal with the “exit bill” first, presumably to stop threats of not paying it being used by the UK in trade negotiations. Mr Macron is keen to begin by getting residency rights sorted out so that EU residents of the UK and British residents of the EU know where they stand.
IMMIGRATION: Figures produced by the Office of National Statistics reveal that net migration fell by about 25% to 248,000 in the year ending December 2016. Driving the figures is an increase in Europeans returning home, together with a drop in the number of immigrants from eastern European countries.
HARD-WORKING EUROPEANS: Research by the University of Bath indicates that although central and eastern European migrants work harder than indigenous employees, that difference persists only for the first couple of years following their arrival.
STATINS: A paper published in The Lancet indicates that statins, in common use to reduce the risk of heart disease, are also effective in countering strokes. Statins are currently taken by about 7 million people at the cost of some £2 pounds per month. They have been criticised on the basis that users may suffer side-effects, although the current view is that they are both safe and effective.
TEENAGE PREGNANCIES: Research published in the Journal of Health Economics and carried out by Professor Paton of Nottingham University Business School and Liam Wright of the University of Sheffield indicates that cuts in the funding of sex and relationship education since 2010 have reduced, rather than increased, the incidence of teenage pregnancy, the decline being greatest in areas where the deepest cuts have been made. Although surprising, the conclusion is not entirely new. A study in 2009 indicated that Teenage Pregnancy Unit campaigns increased the number of pregnancies rather than reducing it and a study last year suggested that sex education had no effect on the number of pregnancies at all.
SEX ABUSE ENQUIRY: Victims of sexual abuse at the Roman Catholic schools at Ealing and Fort Augustus have protested against a narrowing of the enquiry by the Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to exclude these institutions. Fort Augustus falls outside the remit of the enquiry because it is in Scotland. Enquiries into Ealing are being dropped because of clashes with a criminal trial which would have led to considerable delay. Enquiries will continue at the Benedictine schools at Ampleforth, Downside and Worth.
BAG PEOPLE: Tesco is running a trial of getting rid of single plastic bags, currently available at 5p each, from certain shops. Instead it will offer reusable bags at 10p. The charge on plastic bags introduced in October has been highly successful with a drop in use of more than 90%.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: IT problems at British Airways have played havoc with holiday traffic. They began with a loss of power to the Fly computer system on Saturday and resulted in the cancellation or delay of more than 1000 weekend flights from Heathrow, with a full service not being restored until Tuesday. At Gatwick there were delays but no cancellations. A large number of passengers have lost their luggage which, it is understood, will be delivered to them in due course.
Analysts expect the bill to the company to be in excess of £100 million. BA has been accused of failing to fully reimburse those who booked flights on other airlines, of charging trapped passengers for upgrades and of profiting from the use of their hotline. Critics say that the problems are a result of cost-cutting, and, in particular, the outsourcing of the IT function to India. The British Airways system collapsed three times last summer. Criticism has been levelled at chief executive Alex Cruz for taking cost-cutting too far.
TIGER TRAGEDY: A keeper, Rosa King, was killed by a tiger at Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire.
CUP FINAL: Arsenal won the cup final on Saturday, beating the league champions Chelsea by two goals to one. Chelsea finished with 10 men after Moses received a second yellow card as a result of a diving incident. It is understood that Arsenal will be appointing Arsene Wenger as their manager for a further two years.
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