13 July 2017
Week in Brief: UK
TEACHERS PAY: Education Secretary Justine Greening has confirmed that the 1% cap on teachers’ pay is to remain in place. The education budget is under pressure because of pledges to spend an additional £4 billion on schools which were made before the decision to scrap free school lunches for infants was reversed. A possible target for savings is the provision for the creation of further free schools, which amounts to £1.3 billion in 2017/18.
TRUMP VISIT: It is understood that a state visit by President Trump is being considered for the early part of 2018. Mr Trump has recently indicated that the US will be willing to strike a trade deal with the UK very shortly after Brexit.
EXCLUDED MEMBER: Brexiteer Tory MP for Newton Abbott, Ann Marie Morris, has been suspended from the party for saying that leaving the EU without an agreement was “the real nigger in the woodpile”. She has apologised unreservedly and says that she had not meant to use the phrase. John Redwood, who was on the same platform, did not notice it.
OPERATION SOPHIA: The House of Lords EU external affairs subcommittee has concluded that the use of naval forces to interrupt people smuggling in the Mediterranean has increased deaths, as smugglers have moved from larger vessels to small inflatables. The Committee could see no reason for continued participation but recommended that the training of the Libyan coastguard should be continued.
ARMS SALES: The High Court has rejected an application for judicial review challenging the grant by the Government of export licences for weapons sold to Saudi Arabia. After hearing evidence in secret, the Court held that the grant of the licences was not illegal. That, of course, confirms that ministers acted within their powers and does not amount to a ruling on whether they did so wisely.
POPULATION GROWTH: According to Eurostat, the statistical agency of the EU, the amount by which the population of France exceeds that of the UK has narrowed by 500,000 to 1.2 million over the last five years. At 65.8 million, the UK is still a long way behind Germany at 82.8 million. However, the German population is falling and may drop by as much as 15 million over the next 30 years.
END OF MAY? Pressure is growing on the Prime Minister to give up her position before the party conference in the autumn. As she seeks to come to terms with her reduced majority by calling on the other parties to contribute ideas, it seems increasingly unlikely that she will retain the support of her own colleagues.
BAD BLOOD: Following receipt of a letter from opposition parties seeking an enquiry into the deaths of people who were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s, the Government has announced an enquiry.
DESELECTION: The Chairman of the Labour Party has said that he does not see deselection as the way forward and that there is no plan to change the current rules under which sitting MPs need a simple majority from their local branch to stay in place. Momentum has said that it is not planning to target individual MPs.
CHARLIE GARD CASE: In yet another hearing regarding the application by Great Ormond Street Hospital for confirmation that it is lawful to turn off life support for Charlie, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court Judgement that to do so would be in his best interest. The Court stressed that the test was the interest of the child even where that conflicted with the views of parents. Nonetheless the merits of the nucleoside therapy advocated by the parents had been carefully analysed.
NUCLEAR REGULATION: The Royal College of Radiologists has criticised the proposal to leave Euratom because of the effect on scans and treatments which use radioactive isotope. The UK is dependent on reactors in France, Germany, and Holland for isotope supplies.
CARE FUNDS: Councils are objecting to attempts by the government to make them spend £2 billion of emergency and social care funds to create care home places which will free up hospital beds. The concern is that this will reduce the money available for maintaining patients in the community and make it harder for old people to remain at home.
CLERGY UNFROCKED: The General Synod of the Church of England has voted to allow clergy to conduct services in casual dress rather than in vestments. The change, which will not formally come into effect until approved by the Queen, provides for casual dress to be used with agreement of the parochial church council.
SUICIDES: The Synod has also approved the burial of suicides using the standard burial service from the Book of Common Prayer.
LUTON BETTER: Luton airport, famous for its boast that it is just 20 minutes from central London and the fact that travellers have to begin by getting a bus to the local railway station, is about to construct a shuttle link to the station to improve the experience of passengers. The link, which it is said will deliver passengers to or from the railway station in no longer than five minutes, should be operational by 2021.
SOUTHERN RAILWAYS: Long suffering commuters on Southern Rail face a three-week partial shutdown of the network in August. This time, however, it isn’t disagreement with the unions but engineering work to extend platforms at Waterloo. The work, once completed, will increase the capacity of that station by 30%. Meanwhile Network Rail suggests that commuters should work from home or avoid peak times during the works.
NED LUDD RIDES AGAIN: A drill owned by Cuadrilla which was to be used for exploration in Lancashire has been damaged by vandals. Lorries making deliveries to the site where the drill was to be used have been stopped by protesters.
AMBULANCE CHASING: Law firm Leigh Day has suspended two trainees after an investigation by The Times uncovered what seems to have been the touting of services to the survivors of Grenfell Tower. Posters bearing the names of the trainees are being examined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The Times’s investigation has also found evidence of insurance agencies visiting door-to-door and a bogus victims’ organisation.
TENNIS: Johanna Konta has become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon since 1978 by beating second-seeded Simona Halep in a remarkably even and hard fought match. She goes on to play Venus Williams of the US. Andy Murray was defeated by Sam Querrey in the quarter finals.
ROONEY: Wayne Rooney, the former England captain, is to transfer to Everton, the club at which he began his career. He has always had an emotional attachment to the club and believes that he can move it forward to future trophies.
LIONS: The British and Irish Lions drew their test series with the All Blacks, tying the final test at Eden Park 15 – 15.
CRICKET: England won the first test match against South Africa by 211 runs, captain Joe Root making 190 in the first innings and Moheen Ali being named man of the match after taking 6 wickets for 53 runs in South Africa’s second innings.
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