A senior Conservative MP has accused the government of mistakenly thinking it can “abolish death” by imposing new coronavirus lockdown measures across the country.Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, said on Monday “the fact is people in their 80s and 90s die”.“We just can’t save every life,” he told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme. “Because the cost to the living is too high.”The MP for Broxbourne said the threat of the virus had been overplayed.“The pandemic is not rampant,” he said. “This is an illness that very sadly really afflicts the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.“Our focus should be on protecting them, not limiting the life chances of young people and people of middle age who are responsible for running and owning businesses.”Walker said the economic impact of strict lockdown rules risked bankrupting the economy and pushing younger people into unemployment. “First world public services do require a first world economy,” he said. He accused scientists on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee of choosing to “ramp up” the “fear factor” with warnings about the disease. “It does seem the government, for the best of reasons, but mistaken reasons, is trying to abolish death,” Walker said. “You can’t abolish death. The fact is people in their 80s and 90s die.”He said the “only guarantee” anyone had when they were born was that “at some stage in your 80s or 90s you are going to die”.Walker added: “My real concern is these decisions are mostly being made by the middle aged and well-heeled, paid out of the public purse, so they’re not really going to bear the consequences off these decisions.”It came after Boris Johnson announced the closure of pubs and bars across Merseyside as he battled to gain control over the coronavirus outbreak.The prime minister launched a three-tier system of local alert levels for England, with the Liverpool city region placed in the most serious “very high” risk category from Wednesday.Johnson told MPs that the coming weeks and months would “test the mettle” of the country as it faced a second wave of Covid-19 cases.Johnson’s Commons statement came after a public presentation of the latest data led by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam.Van-Tam said that while cases are rising fastest in northern England, it is of “concern” that they are “heating up” in more parts of the country compared with a week ago.Related...
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Summary - A new market study, titled “Global Ladies Handbag Market Insights, Forecast to 2026 ” has been featured on WiseGuyReports.Ladies handbag is a small kind of bag for women use; it is usually made of leather, and includes totes, shoulder bags, purses and satchels.This industry continuously increases, with the development of global economyALSO READ: https://www.einpresswire.com/article/519201162/ladies-handbag-market-2020-global-industry-key-players-size-trends-consumption-demand-analysis-to-2026The Europe is the largest market of ladies handbag, which occupies average 36.55 percent of global ladies handbag procedures per year.At the same time, the practicability of the product also makes great contributions to the development of the ladies handbag.The practicability market is consolidated in nature.Various players are adopting competitive strategies such as collaborations, acquisitions and capitalizing untapped opportunities in the emerging economies of India and China, to sustain and gain market penetration across the globe.Some key players of this market include Dior, LVMH, Coach, Kering, Prada, Michael Kors, Hermes, Chanel, Richemont , Kate Spade, Burberry, Tory Burch, Septwolves, Fion, Wanlima.Since the COVID-19 virus outbreak in December 2019, the disease has spread to almost 100 countries around the globe with the World Health Organization declaring it a public health emergency.
Ministers have been urged to toughen rules around racist hair discrimination which causes “ridiculous” stress and anxiety and can harm Black people’s education and work outcomes.Equalities minister Liz Truss was urged to toughen guidance for schools and workplaces to stop “appalling” cases of Black people being sent home from school because of their afros, or turned down for jobs because they have braids or cornrows.The Liberal Democrats also urged Truss to launch a review of whether the law needs to change to stop “unacceptable” discrimination in school and work hair policies, which are “all-too-prevalent”.It came as HuffPost UK heard stories of Black people who suffered hair discrimination at school and work that caused so much anxiety that it affected exam results and how they go about their jobs.MORE Young Black Brits On Growing Up With Hair Discrimination: ‘It Stays With You’ ‘How can you have a rule that’s just for Black and mixed race people?’Ruby Williams was repeatedly sent home from school because of her afro hair and recently received an £8,500 out-of-court settlement after her family took legal action against the Urswick school in Hackney, east London.Her natural hair was judged to breach school policy which stated that “afro style hair must be of reasonable size and length”.Ruby’s mother, Kate Williams, said that at the same time other pupils were allowed to grow their hair as long as they want it, dye it blue and red, or add extensions. Boys were allowed shaved heads, tramlines and other hairstyles which may not be allowed at other stricter schools.“Their only issue was natural afro hair, you couldn’t make it up,” she said.“I know myself, I’m a teacher, I knew straight away you cannot have a rule that just applies to afro hair.“Because who has afro hair? Black and mixed race people have afro hair.“How can you have a rule that’s just for Black and mixed race people?”Williams took the case to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, eventually winning the settlement after battling the school for years.But she told HuffPost UK that the saga caused so much stress and anxiety that Ruby, who was a “model student”, got worse GCSE grades than predicted.Ruby became so stressed that she once “lost it” when a photo of her with her afro was taken off a classroom wall by a teacher despite the fact that she was following school rules and had her hair tied back at the time, and she eventually became an intermittent “school refuser”.Ruby’s mother also had a “complete breakdown” as her daughter intermittently refused to go to school because she struggled so much with going from the “teacher’s pet” to getting in trouble “and being highlighted”.Ruby’s mother said: “She was a model student and she went from that to staring in the mirror every morning, looking at her hair, not knowing what to do.“She was ridiculously stressed out and that impacted on the whole family. Every morning was a nightmare.”Williams added: “It was the worst time of my life, I had a complete breakdown in the middle of it.“It was horrendous, it’s hard to explain how much stress it brought into her life and our lives as parents and our extended family and support network, it was awful.” When she finished her GCSEs, in which she achieved good grades – but below her predictions – Ruby chose to leave Hackney for a “bog standard” sixth form in nearby Haringey.“She was clever enough to go to top sixth forms but she lost all her confidence and she didn’t want the stress of going somewhere highly academic, in case she turned wobbly again,” Williams said.Williams, whose 18 year-old daughter is now at Manchester University, backed the Lib Dems’ call for stronger guidance but said she wanted it to be put into law so schools can be held accountable.Following Ruby’s case, Hackney council drew up guidance to make school hairstyles “more flexible and inclusive”, but Williams insists that without a legal change “they have no clout”.“They can’t force any of the schools in Hackney to follow this guidance,” she said.“This needs to be in statutory education law. It needs to be part of the statutory duties of schools, because if it was the Department for Education could have sorted this out for us four years ago, in 2016 when they first got involved.“They couldn’t do anything and they were very apologetic.“All they could do was force the school to give us a complaints panel.“But what they should have been able to do is to write to the school and say: you’re breaking equalities and education law, stop it.“It should be the DfE’s job to keep children safe in schools and the government should give them that power.” ‘As if I’m an animal in a zoo’Julia Ogiehor revealed the different kinds of hair discrimination that she has faced in her office job and said the new guidance would help Black people get jobs and then “thrive and progress”.She has faced a situation where a boss has “pulled my braids and asked if my hair is real”, and said colleagues crowd around her desk and stare at her if she changes her hair “as if I’m an animal in a zoo”.Colleagues also “don’t seem to understand” when they ask to touch her hair and she refuses, and she has had colleagues ask “how often I wash my hair”.“I’ve had to in the past, whenever I have had braiding, and I’m going into work for the first time, I’ve had so much anxiety about the reaction that I’ve had to send a picture to my team in advance or tell my manager separately that I don’t want attention drawn to it,” she said.“It gets to the stage where I get so much anxiety that I don’t want to change my hair too much because I can’t deal with it.”Ogiehor reveals she is now in a situation where she will refuse to take a job “if it means I have to change my hair”, and that discrimination is so common that Black women have a technique known as “a dive” – to move out of the way as soon as someone reaches for their hair.“It’s definitely a racial thing,” she said.“If you are still not used to a Black woman having afro hair one day, braids another and straight hair another day, then you haven’t been paying attention.”Ogiehor, who is a Lib Dem councillor in Muswell Hill, north London, went on: “Having this guidance would remove that extra layer of stress - you are going to an interview, you are stressing about doing well, it would be nice to remove to that added pressure of: will they judge me according to my hair?“It would be nice to go into work and know that you don’t have to do these mental gymnastics of how to approach everyone zooming in on you and making you the centre of the office, like at a zoo, with everyone crowding around your desk looking over you.“In an interview, it would help you be more confident and that would make you more likely to get a job.“The more confident and comfortable you are in your work environment, the more likely you are to thrive and progress.“It’s just one less thing to worry about - it doesn’t go far enough in dealing with many of the microaggressions people with colour face in the workplace, but it’s one small step in helping deal with that stress.” ‘This is racial discrimination, pure and simple’Lib Dem equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has written to Truss demanding action to stop “appalling cases of Black children being sent home from school because of their afros, Black boys being told to cut off their dreadlocks, Black women being turned down for jobs because they wear their hair in braids or cornrows, and Black employees being told to chemically straighten their natural hair”.She told HuffPost UK: “No one should have to endure discrimination of any kind. Yet hair discrimination remains a major issue in the UK today, as Black people face pressure - both official and unofficial - when it comes to hair styles.“This is racial discrimination, pure and simple. It is unacceptable and it must stop.“The Liberal Democrats want to see new guidance for schools and employers to prevent hair discrimination in policies and practices to help eliminate this prejudice from our society.”The party is also calling for an awareness campaign to support schools and workplaces ensure their policies are not discriminatory, and to help people who have experienced hair discrimination uphold their rights.Truss was also urged to start a review to determine if additional changes, including potential legal changes, are needed to tackle hair discrimination. Related...
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Boris Johnson is facing anger in the north of England on a scale last seen by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, a shadow cabinet minister has warned.Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said people in the north feel like the government is “actively working against us” and stressed she had not “felt anger like this” since the 1980s.The senior Labour figure led calls for the government to boost financial support for areas to be placed under tougher coronavirus restrictions under the three-tier local lockdown plan the prime minister is expected to reveal on Monday.Nandy was backed by the Tory leader of Bolton council, David Greenhalgh, who called on Rishi Sunak to “at the very least” restore support to the levels of the original furlough scheme, which saw the government cover 80% of workers’ wages.The chancellor last week announced plans for a 67% wage subsidy but northern leaders have warned this does not go far enough and will lead to businesses “going under” and job losses.But communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested on Sunday that the government would not go further, insisting: “We can’t do everything.”Johnson is also facing anger for failing to involve local leaders enough in decision-making, and because plans for local lockdowns, including pub and restaurant closures, leaked to the media days before they were due to be formally announced.People feel the government is actively working against parts of northern England says Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy#Marr#Covid_19https://t.co/JYYPxtoIYkpic.twitter.com/0h5zeldyAW— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 11, 2020Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s really hard to explain how angry people are in the north of England about what has happened not just over the last few months but over the last few days.“I haven’t felt anger like this towards the government since I was growing up here in the 1980s.“People feel that they haven’t just been abandoned by the government, they now feel that the government is actively working against us.”Nandy said many northern areas were into the third month of restrictions but Covid cases were still going up and businesses fear “death by a thousand cuts”.She said: “If they carry on like this, briefing out new lockdown restrictions on a Thursday night and then going missing over the weekend... if they don’t do something quickly they are not just going to lose control of the virus but they are going to lose trust in what people are being told, and that is really, really serious.”Greenhalgh said many businesses in Bolton have already been closed for three months with the lockdown on hospitality, with many jobs lost already and firms “on the brink”.He told Marr that Johnson’s “build back better” agenda will be left in tatters unless more financial support is provided."Why should the north of England be treated any differently?"Conservative Cllr David Greenhalgh tells #Marr the government can’t continue restricting northern England without an exit package #Covid_19https://t.co/JYYPxtoIYkpic.twitter.com/mDGEnZ8ARn— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 11, 2020On the wage subsidy scheme Sunak set out last week, he said: “The idea that this money is only payable from the beginning of November and it could come to us as late as late November, early December, is just not good enough.”Greenhalgh went on: “It has to at the very least be a package that returns to the furlough of the March lockdown and anything less is quite frankly unacceptable.“Many of these businesses will simply go under and we can’t ‘build back better’ if we’ve lost some of these businesses.”Nandy meanwhile confirmed Labour would attempt to force a vote on the local lockdown restrictions expected to be applied to the north and the financial package.But she stressed the party would not seek to vote down government measures but instead “try and frame the terms of a debate and vote in the House of Commons so that there is an opportunity to put forwards an alternative support package”.Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Johnson would be breaking his election promise to “level up” the country unless he provides more economic help.“If they continue with this, jobs will be lost, businesses will collapse, the fragile economies of the North will be shattered,” the Labour mayor told Times Radio.“The government has a real choice here, if it proceeds on the path it is on, in my view, the central so-called mission of this government to level-up will be over.”Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson revealed the city is “likely” to be placed in tier three – the toughest local lockdown likely to include pub and restaurant closures.“That is going to have huge economic damage and damage that will take us back to the position this city was in in the 80s with large levels of unemployment, of people unemployed and it will set us back a long time,” he told Times Radio.“Let’s make it absolutely clear here, if this was down in the south east in London, it wouldn’t be happening, it simply wouldn’t be tolerated.”Jenrick defended the government’s financial support package, telling Marr: “They need to be seen in the context of everything else we’ve done.“This country has put in place measures which compare extremely favourably to other countries.“We can’t do everything, there is a limit to what the state can do here. 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Local areas are to be handed more control of coronavirus contact tracing amid ongoing failures in the national Test and Trace system, a cabinet minister has revealed.Robert Jenrick admitted councils and communities “are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers” following weeks of pressure to give local areas more control.The Test and Trace service, headed by Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding, this week reported its worst ever figures for tracking down “close contacts” of people with coronavirus.As well as thousands of cases going missing due to an IT blunder, the controversial system hit a new low with just 68.8% of cases in England being reached and told to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus, well short of the 80% needed for the system to work effectively.The so-called “NHS Test and Trace” system has been dogged by criticism since it began earlier this year, with many attacking its use of private firms like Serco and Deloitte.Labour leader Keir Starmer told HuffPost UK earlier this month that council chiefs and mayors should be given more powers over contact tracing. Now, with the UK said to be at a “tipping point” in the Covid-19 pandemic and with millions of people set to face more restrictions from Monday, Jenrick confirmed local mayors and councils would be given more control of contact tracing.It came after the Sunday Times reported plans are being drawn up to give local leaders powers to deploy an army of volunteer contact tracers as well as giving local authorities more control over mobile testing units and walk-in centres.Jenrick told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’re going to work very closely with local authorities.“So in addition to the national infrastructure, which is developing and increasing with every passing week, we’re also going to be making use of local councils to do contact tracing in particular.“Because there is clear evidence that local councils are good at that, as you’d expect.”Jenrick said there was “real evidence” that mobilising council workers to do contact tracing in places like Leicester helped get the spread of coronavirus under control.“People who know their own community, particularly hard to reach communities, are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers,” he said.“So we’re going to be supporting them to do that.”Related...
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Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to slash taxpayer aid for fossil fuels after a poll found that two in three Britons want Boris Johnson to shift subsidies away from oil and gas firms to support renewable energy instead.Labour stepped up its demands for an overhaul of government tax breaks for the North Sea as the newly released YouGov/Global Witness poll, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, underlined public concern that not enough is being done to tackle the climate emergency.Nearly two thirds (65%) of the UK population want to see the government shifting the subsidies it currently provides to domestic oil and gas firms to instead support the expansion of renewable energy and increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes. Less than in one in 10 (7%) opposed such a shift.More broadly, 67% want to see the UK as world leader on climate change, with majorities across all age groups, regions, genders, political parties and both sides of the Brexit vote (remain 83% and leave 56%).With the UK set to hold the next round of global climate change talks in Glasgow next year, the poll results match growing campaigns for the UK to radically change its subsidies for fossil fuels, with domestic gas in particular receiving VAT cuts that electricity – which can be renewable – lacks.The Johnson government launched a review last month of its oil and gas licensing regime, which could herald a big shift in policy since the Cameron government opted to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as economically possible.Since 2016, the UK has operated a legally binding policy called “Maximising Economic Recovery” (MER) that compels the Oil and Gas Authority to “take all steps necessary” to ensure that the maximum value of oil is recovered from under UK waters.Climate change campaigners argue that the policy, plus a system of tax perks for the gas and petroleum industries, is incompatible with the Johnson government’s wider commitments to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.Critics say that the Oil and Gas Authority regulator is only now considering the net zero target and the government’s industrial strategy does not mention the need to retrain and redeploy oil and gas workers.A consultation into the strategy ended in July and revised version is expected to be presented to business secretary Alok Sharma this autumn.Scotland’s economy has long relied on fossil fuels, but the YouGov poll also found that three quarters of the Scottish public were unaware of UK government’s “Maximising Economic Recovery” policy, to extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable.Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the Scottish population would like to see the Scottish government training and skills spending go towards the renewable energy sector, whilst amongst 16-24-year-old voters, the environment and the climate was the most important issue.Ken Penton, UK climate campaigner at Global Witness, said: “Off the back of a period of great political upheaval in the UK, with sharp divides, it’s welcome news that protecting the climate is one issues that unites everyone.“The simple fact is you can’t be a global climate leader if you plan to carry on maximising the amount of oil and gas you produce, rather than support the growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.”Penton said that as the host of the UN Conference of Parties (COP) conference in 2021, the UK would be judged not on its rhetoric but on action on curbing the oil and gas industry.“This starts with scrapping the Maximising Economic Recovery policy that dictates the UK explore for and extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable. If the UK is to meet its own climate obligations, it cannot dig for any further fossil fuels beyond what is already in existing operational fields,” he said.Boris Johnson pledged to boost offshore wind energy in his Tory conference speech this week, though critics said he failed to commit the billions needed for a serious investment in the sector.Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead also made clear that the polling underlined that the public agreed the current strategy needed to change.“Labour has made clear the government’s Maximising Economic Recovery strategy for oil and gas is untenable as it stands, and inconsistent with the ambition to meet net zero emissions,” he said.“We must focus instead on a just transition to a decarbonised energy sector, which recognises the different role oil and gas will play in future industry, and that creates high-skilled, green jobs.”The department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) refuses to describe the current tax breaks for fossil fuels as “subsidies”, even though an EU report last year found that £10bn was effectively spent shoring up the industry, compared to £9bn for renewable energy.A BEIS spokesperson said: “We want to ensure the UK has the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth and we have already cut emissions by 43% since 1990 and were the first major economy to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.“We will continue our global leadership on tackling climate change by hosting the next UN climate conference COP26 in 2021.“The UK does not have any fossil fuel subsidies, and we are exploring how to make the gas network cleaner through the Green Gas Levy and have just announced plans for even more of our electricity will be provided by clean, green wind power.”The UK has signed up to a G20 summit commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies across the globe that encourage wasteful consumption.It says that the independent Committee on Climate Change has recognised the ongoing demand for oil and natural gas, including it in all scenarios it proposed for how the UK meets its target for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.The oil and gas sector supports 270,000 jobs across the UK, but the green economy has the potential to support 2 million jobs by 2030, even on government estimates.* Total sample size was 1,704 adults, fieldwork was undertaken between 18 - 19th August 2020. 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You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.It was only a matter of time. When Rishi Sunak set out his ‘Winter Economy Plan’ just a few weeks ago, many (including this newsletter) warned that it was inadequate to the sheer scale of the looming problems threatened by the Covid second wave.Back then, he delighted some Tory MPs and newspapers with his bullish rhetoric that “we must learn to live with it and live without fear”. Well, fear is stalking the land among those who can see their jobs and businesses disappearing across the north, and it now seems the Treasury has finally been scared enough by the political consequences that he is doling out some extra support.Of course the chancellor will never admit that this is a U-turn on his plan to withdraw furlough, even though local furlough is exactly what this looks like. The government will pay two thirds of the salary of each employee (up to £2,100 a month) in any pub, bar or restaurant forced to shut down in the new local lockdowns expected next week. The 67% is less generous than the 80% of full furlough however. Exactly what people should do to cope with the loss of a third of their income remains unsaid.Although the help is welcome, it’s no surprise that several local council leaders have already suggested it’s too little, too late. They were distinctly underwhelmed by the presentation given them tonight, confirming the earlier warning from the mayors of Greater Manchester, the Sheffield and Liverpool city regions and North Tyne that the plan did not “appear to have gone far enough to prevent genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter”.And it wasn’t just last month that many warned Sunak that he should go for a targeted version of furlough, it was many months ago. In his rushed announcement today (a Tweeted video clip is hardly a statement on the floor of the Commons), he said his expanded Jobs Support Scheme would be “for closed businesses”. But what about all those closed sectors of the economy, such as aviation and creative industries, effectively shut down by government regulation?As the Resolution Foundation put it this afternoon: “The delay in putting [the scheme] in place will have come at a high price in jobs lost.” It rightly says that the Job Support Scheme itself needs further reform to persuade bosses to cut hours rather than jobs. Another U-turn may well be on its way in a few weeks if employers simply go for the bottom line.What makes the government’s position all the more politically dangerous is the latest growth news, with this morning’s GDP figures showing that the hoped-for ‘V-shaped’ recovery now looks like a stuttering spike on the nation’s economic electrocardiogram. Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme may have done too little on consumer spending and too much in spreading the virus.The bigger problem is that these local lockdowns look like they are going to slowly creep across the entire country. The three-tiered system of controls may well leave most areas in the top two most serious categories and only a shrinking handful in the lowest one. Only today, on a call to MPs, I’m told Matt Hancock made clear things were getting worse everywhere.The south has so far escaped much of this, but with London due to get new curbs, the counties around it could follow very quickly. I understand public health officials in Essex, for example, are pushing for tier-two restrictions that would mean a ban on household mixing.The lack of grip on the virus or from both No.10 and No.11 Downing Street is what will worry their MPs most. The PM suggested last week he would hold weekly press conferences from now on, but he failed to do a single one this week. Sunak too appeared so afraid of scrutiny that he didn’t make this announcement in a No.10 press briefing, but via pooled broadcast clips.There will probably be a Johnson address to the nation next week, but voters in the north can be forgiven for thinking they are being treated like fools this weekend. If the virus spreads south, that may be a perception that spreads more widely among the electorate too.Related...
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Ministers are under pressure to use “sugar tax” cash to pay for food schemes for poorer families as the Covid-19 economic fallout takes hold. A letter signed by 108 health and children’s experts, seen by HuffPost UK, calls on chancellor Rishi Sunak to target the soft drinks industry and spend the money on healthy food for youngsters. It warns the Covid-19 pandemic will hit deprived areas harder, with 2.3 million UK children now thought to be at risk of food insecurity. Four in five children are not getting their five-a-day, the letter adds. Signed by 29 councils’ public health directors, many of which cover “red wall” constituency areas in the north and Midlands, as well as charities and mayors, the plea to the government follows high-profile free school meals campaigning by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.It calls on Sunak, health secretary Matt Hancock and education secretary Gavin Williamson to back five key policy changes. As well as the sugar tax investment, it calls for an expansion of free school meals and holiday hunger programmes to all youngsters whose families receive Universal Credit (UC) and the extension of fruit and veg schemes to all primary school age children. The group also want the government to raise the value of the “healthy start” vouchers in line with inflation to £4.25, and for ministers to guarantee that pregnant women and families with a baby who claim UC are eligible. Vera Zakharov, coordinator for Sustain, the charity which has been the driving force behind the appeal, said: “Local leaders have spoken, and children’s food access needs to be a front and centre priority for policymakers.“Government has a unique opportunity this year to show leadership on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the next generation by championing fiscal policies that provide a nutritional safety net to some of the most vulnerable children and families.“We are urging ministers to spend public money wisely by investing in children’s health.” The call is backed by community leaders in cities and regions experiencing some of the worst rates of child poverty, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester. Elected mayors from Bristol and Middlesbrough are also backing the calls, alongside food poverty groups across the country.The Covid-19 crisis has put food insecurity and health inequalities in the spotlight.Research by the Food Foundation earlier this year found 14% of adults living with children reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in the last six months. It is estimated some 2.3 million children live in these households.Sustain adds that studies have shown that four in five children are not reaching their five-a-day requirement for fruit and vegetables. Andrea Fallon, director of public health for Rochdale Council, said: “Covid has shone a light on the impact of long-term inequalities in health particularly in the north of England and Greater Manchester and these inequalities are highly likely to get worse. “We urge government to take action now to ensure that children and families have access to good food as this is a key foundation for good health and wellbeing and as such an essential part of getting a good start in life.”Mark Adams, public health director for South Tees, who signed the letter, said: “These policies will add much needed national support to our local priorities of tackling obesity, particularly amongst children. They are also essential in narrowing the health inequalities that we face between South Tees and the England average, and also between communities within our area.”Sunak has temporarily boosted Universal Credit by £20 as the lockdown sparked a huge rise in claims and unemployment. The sugar tax was forecast to raise £520m in its first year but that figure was revised down to £275m as companies adjusted products to avoid the levy. The government was also forced to extend free school meals over the summer holidays amid fears many children could go hungry.The chancellor is set to hold a comprehensive spending review this year, but a date has yet to be confirmed. Related...
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The government has been accused of wasting “huge amounts of money” after reportedly spending millions settling a lawsuit over a Lighthouse Lab contract. The BBC reported on Thursday that the government had agreed a settlement amounting to some £2m following a lawsuit over how it chose who should be awarded an IT contract for the new Covid laboratories. Diagnostics AI, a British company, claimed that it had been swept aside by officials in favour of UgenTec, a European company, despite allegedly spotting some of the positive Covid-19 cases its rival missed.The company went on to sue the government, describing the procurement process as “unfair and unlawful”. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has vehemently denied any claims of wrongdoing, and is in the process of settling the case – which means their selection process won’t be publicly scrutinised in the courtroom. It also added that the final figure of the settlement remains subject to agreement. Some have criticised the government for the decision to settle, raising concerns regarding the transparency of the government’s expensive private contracts paid for with public money during the crisis. Shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves told HuffPost UK: “No public transparency, and plenty of money wasted: seems like that’s just how this Tory government likes it these days. “This government’s incompetent way of handing out contracts like these not only wastes huge amounts of money while local public services crumble - but more efficient and experienced British businesses also miss out while massive companies take the spoils with little transparency or accountability.”The government has repeatedly been accused of maintaining secrecy around its coronavirus spending, with a major HuffPost UK investigation published in August revealing “scandalous and shocking” revelations about the way taxpayers’ money was handed out. In the wake of the Diagnostics AI case, Steve Goodrich of Transparency International UK told HuffPost UK that months into the pandemic the government should be working to open up its tendering processes once more. He said: “Earlier this year, government was under immense pressure to expedite the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including shortcutting usual procurement processes.“Whilst uncompetitive tendering sped-up supply chains, it has also raised valid questions as to who was awarded what contract, when and for how much.“Now eight months into the pandemic, it’s time the public sector returned to open and competitive tendering to avoid further damage to trust and possible litigation.”According to the BBC the contract Diagnostics AI missed out on was worth in excess of £1m, with settlement costs coming to an estimated £2m. The company had hoped that their software would be used in thee Lighthouse Labs – which were set up around the country in response to the pandemic – in order to determine whether the graphs produced following analysis of Covid testing swabs showed a positive or negative result. During a trial run of 2,000 samples, Diagnostics AI claimed there were issues with UgenTec’s analysis – alleging it had found negative results when they were positive or inconclusive. Diagnostics AI said it had taken legal action over the matter as they believed it was “significant public importance to highlight the serious and harmful consequences of a biased procurement process for the British public’s health.”A spokesperson added: “NHS experts including leading virologists confirmed our findings - that the system the Lighthouse Labs chose was flawed and produced incorrect results. This gives rise to serious questions about the accuracy of the testing process.“Diagnostics.ai provide the only system for accurate PCR result analysis that has been independently peer-reviewed and publicly validated by the NHS. “We hope that the issues raised in this claim will make the UK government reflect carefully on how vital it is to have an impartial, rigorous and comprehensively validated procurement process for the provision of all such crucial services”.DHSC have slammed the company’s claims as “inaccurate”, with a department spokesperson saying: “We completely refute this inaccurate claim about the accuracy of results - the tests are reliable and effective, the laboratories that undertake them have been reviewed and assessed by experts and the percentage of false negatives or positives is tiny.“This was a commercial dispute over a software contract where a number of factors were considered before it was awarded, which is still subject to final agreement over costs.”Diagnostics AI also sued two non-profit companies owned and financed by the government, UK Biocentre and Medicines Delivery Catapult (MDC), which were in charge of the process to decide which company to use for the Lighthouse contracts. The BBC reported that Diagnostics AI had repeatedly asked for information about what services were required by government and how their bid would be evaluated. According to the company, that information never came – though they say claim UgenTech were provided with the details they needed. In the situation of a national emergency, as declared by the PM, the government can have the power to procure services without going through the usual tendering process.But Diagnostics AI claim that because the company had been recommended to UK Biocentre alongside UgenTec they were therefore both being considered – and so say the ensuing process was unfair. HuffPost UK has contacted both the UK Biocentre and MDC – who strongly refuted Diagnostic AI’s allegations in statements to the BBC – for comment. Related...
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Theresa May has savaged Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings’ housebuilding reforms, warning they make a mockery of their claim to be “levelling up” the north and south of England.In a Commons debate, the former prime minister ridiculed her successor’s proposals to replace local planning controls with an algorithm that will “distribute” an annual 337,000 homes across the country.The scheme, reportedly the brainchild of the PM’s chief advisor Cummings, could deliver an additional five million homes across England in the next 15 years, with nearly a third in rural counties.May was joined by 31 Tory MPs, including six of her former cabinet ministers such as Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green, as they unanimously passed a motion demanding that the project be paused until after parliament has voted on it.The PM has been bullish in recent days as the Tory rebellion has grown, but backbencher Bob Seely warned him that the government reforms represented “not levelling up but concreting out” many areas.The Sunday Times reported this summer that Cummings had been working with communities secretary Robert Jenrick devise the radical planning changes, which are based on US-style zonal developments.A petition opposing the move has already attracted nearly 150,000 signatures.One Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “This is government by spad [special advisor] and proves that people like Dominic Cummings have no idea how to implement policy.“This could have a longer impact on the government than Covid. If they go ahead, it won’t be us they have to deal with, it will be the electorate in the local elections next year and the year after that and after that.”The criticism came as Cummings. who has set up a new Nasa-style ‘command centre’ to better coordinate No.10′s oversight of Whitehall, is facing fresh scrutiny from parliament over his role.The Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee on Thursday launched a new inquiry into “the role and status of the prime minister’s office”.May, who has already criticised Johnson over his plan to break international law on Brexit, was withering in her criticism of the “ill-conceived” reforms.She said: “The problem with these proposals, the problem with this algorithm on housing numbers, is that it doesn’t guarantee a single extra home being built and, far from levelling up, it forces more investment into London and the south.”In a pointed reference to this year’s A-level fiasco, the former premier said: “I would have thought that the Government might have abandoned algorithms by now.”“What this new algorithm does, as regards to levelling up, is flies in the face of the government’s flagship policy. The government needs to think again and come back with a comprehensive proposal to this House for a proper debate and, dare I say it, a meaningful vote,” she said.Seely earlier warned the reforms could “hollow out our cities” and “urbanise our suburbs”.“I support levelling up 100% but, broadly speaking, the danger in these new targets in the way they’ve been shaped is that the biggest housing increases will be to rural shires and suburbs, and the biggest falls are in the urban north and Midlands.“The worst of all worlds would be to hollow out our cities, to urbanise our suburbs and suburbanise the countryside and yet I fear that is what we may accidentally be achieving. That is not levelling up but is concreting out.”Hunt said: “The argument for building new houses has been won but what is on the table risks eroding local democracy, reducing affordable housing and encroaching on our beautiful countryside.”May’s former deputy Damian Green added: “We are in danger of turning the Garden of England into a patio.”Conservative former cabinet minister Chris Grayling told the government he could not support the housing algorithm, claiming the approach is “wrong”.“The reality is if we go ahead with a housing approach of the kind the government is setting out in this algorithm, what it will do is it will continue to suck economic growth, the brightest and best people in our society and opportunity into the south-east of England – exactly the opposite to what this country actually needs to achieve,” he said.Consultation on the government’s White Paper on the reforms is due to end this month and MPs think legislation is likely in the new year.Housing minister Chris Pincher assured MPs that their concerns would be reflected on “very carefully”.“I am especially mindful that honourable members are concerned about geographic imbalance – concerns about too many homes in the south and not enough in the Midlands and the north,” he said.“Equally, I recognise anxieties about what these changes might mean for our countryside in contrast to our urban areas.”“I want to reassure the House that through this consultation process we are committed to addressing any supposed imbalances.”The prime minister’s official spokesperson said he had not heard May’s remarks but said: “Unnecessary delays to the planning system are stopping us from building a better Britain.“We must reform the planning system to cut red tape and make the system faster while ensuring councils and local people can decide where developments should and shouldn’t go.”Related...
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A Paralympic gold medallist and Tory peer has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a beauty therapist during a massage.Nine-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist Lord Holmes of Richmond had been accused of grabbing the complainant’s bottom and asking her if she did “extras”.The former athlete, who retired from sport in 2002 and went into a career in law, denied one count of sexual assault at the trail at Southwark Crown Court.The jury on Thursday returned their not guilty verdict on one count of sexual assault after just over five hours of deliberations.Holmes, of Richmond, Surrey, was accompanied by his guide dog in the dock and rubbed his eyes and repeatedly breathed sighs of relief after the verdict was given.He was helped from the dock by his wife.The 48-year-old, who went completely blind almost overnight at the age of 14, was accused of groping the woman after asking to touch her to see what she looked like – something she had consented to.He had admitted asking to touch the therapist, but denied it was due to any kind of sexual motivation.Holmes had told the court: “I understand how difficult it is to imagine what it must be like to have no sight whatsoever, because up until I was 14 I couldn’t have any indication of what that would be like, but that really is my world.“My world would stop here (in front of me) if I couldn’t contact that external world that you can get in the blink of an eye, and I try and use everything I’ve still got to try and construct that world.“So, through sound, smells, and, yes, touch, but touch as a means of being able to construct that world, touching objects, and, yes, touching people every single day.”He continued: “(It’s) to get a sense of that other person – not to make a facsimile or an oil painting of them, just having a sense of that other person who was in a room that I didn’t really know, with a person I don’t know, lying on my back and feeling completely vulnerable.”Related...
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The 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will remain in place after Keir Starmer said Labour would not vote against the coronavirus restriction next week.Scores of Tory rebels were threatening to defeat the government on the controversial policy – if they could secure Labour backing to oppose the measures on Tuesday.But Starmer said MPs were only getting a straight “take-it-or-leave-it” choice on the curfew and so Labour would not oppose the regulations because that would risk no restrictions being in place at all.He urged Boris Johnson to learn from Wales, where there is a 10pm deadline for selling alcohol but drinkers are given time to finish so they are not all kicked out of venues at the same time.In England there have been concerns that ordering venues to physically close at 10pm was leading to people all leaving at the same time and packing together on public transport, which could pose a higher risk of spreading Covid-19.The rule also means many pubs are forced to call last orders at 9.30pm, further reducing the time in which they can make money compared to establishments in Wales.There have also been concerns that the government has failed to provide scientific evidence for a 10pm curfew, which has not been discussed or modelled by its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).On Thursday, Starmer told broadcasters: “There’s growing concern about the 10pm curfew and lots of examples of everybody coming out of venues at the same time and causing a problem with the way people are exiting.“We need this reform, there’s a smarter way of doing this.”He went on: “The problem with the vote next week is it’s an up-down take-it-or-leave-it vote and therefore if you vote down the current arrangements there won’t be any restrictions in place.“That’s not what we want so we won’t be down the restrictions that are in place.“But we do say to the government – reform the 10pm rule, show us the evidence, do it in a much smarter way.”Related...
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Boris Johnson’s Test and Trace service has reported its worst ever figures for tracking down “close contacts” of people with Covid.As well as thousands of cases going missing due to an IT blunder, the controversial system hit a new low with just 68.8% of cases in England being reached and told to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus.Government experts have advised that the whole system can only work effectively if at least 80% of “close contacts” are actually tracked down and told to quarantine.“Close contacts” are defined as those who have spent more than 15 minutes within two metres of a positive Covid case.Latest figures for the week between September 24 and 30 confirmed the “September surge” in coronavirus cases across the country, with 51,475 people testing positive for the first time – a 56% increase compared to the previous week.The so-called “NHS Test and Trace” system, which is headed by Tory peer and former TalkTalk phone giant boss Dido Harding, has been dogged by criticism since it began earlier this year, with many attacking its use of private firms like Serco and Deloitte.Although it has managed to dramatically increase testing capacity from 2,000 a day to around 300,000 a day, its performance on getting tests to those who need them has remained under fire.The new figures show that the proportion of Covid cases it reached overall went backwards, down to 74%, as did 24-hour turnaround times.This week’s 68.8% “close contact” rate – taking into account all the cases’ contacts who were identified – was down from 71.6% the week before and is now the worst since the system was launched back in May.On testing, too, the system is getting worse and is nearly back at its all-time lows of a fortnight ago.Boris Johnson promised 100% of in-person tests would be done in 24 hours by the end of June.But Thursday’s figures show that for in-person tests – done at local test sites, mobile testing units and regional test sites – just 25.7% are done within the 24-hour time frame. The figure is down from 38.0% in the previous week.And for all test routes combined, barely one in 10 is being done within the 24 hour target set by the PM.Just 11.9% of tests from all test sites were received within 24 hours of a test being taken compared to 17.0% in the previous week.Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “It is now clear that the government has lost control of contact tracing with the system failing just when we need it most.“The government should have fixed test and trace when infections were lower over the summer. It must act urgently to ensure the country doesn’t pay a terrible price over the winter because of this failure.”Rehana Azam, GMB union national secretary, said it was time for Harding to “consider her position”, not least as she this week broke a pledge to remain independent by voting with the Tories in the Lords on an immigration bill.“The Prime Minister said he couldn’t think of anyone better than Baroness Harding to run the UK’s Test and Trace programme, and that shows a clear lack of judgement. It’s scary that one of the Prime Minister’s cronies with a terrible track record has been put in temporary custody of our country’s public health.“There is now ample proof to show that the UK’s Test and Trace programme needs to be taken into public hands and led by experts and local authorities, not party-political cronies.”But the prime minister’s official spokesman said he still had confidence in Harding. “We have set up from scratch what is the largest testing network in British history, and that includes 96 NHS labs, 258 mobile units, 77 regional sites and 150 walk-in sites and our labs are now processing over one million tests a week,” he said.The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said: “It’s worrying that NHS Test and Trace performance in key areas such as the proportion of positive cases transferred into the Test and Trace system, of close contacts reached, and of tests turned round within 24 hours, are all getting worse when we need them to get better, quickly.”Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, said the positivity rate and the fact that test numbers are not increasing may be a “troubling indicator” that Test and Trace is not keeping up with demand.The split between public sector and private sector contact tracers was underlined once again in the latest figures.For cases handled by local health protection teams, 97.1 % of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to September 30.In contrast, cases handled online or by call centres returned a 62.4 % successful contact rate.As a result of the IT blunder identified last weekend, approximately 11,000 positive test results were not added to the contact tracing system between September 24 and 30.Contact tracing for those results will be added to next week’s figures, the government said. Just 71.6% of the missing contacts have been traced, meaning nearly 30% have yet to be tracked down.The department of health and social care insisted that it is making progress on contacts despite the worsening rate on one measure.101,782 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive between 24 September and 30 September.The number of contacts “identified” increased by 11% compared to the previous week and is more than 3 times higher than the end of August, the DHSC said.For those “where communication details were available”, 82.2% were reached and asked to self-isolate. This is the government’s preferred measure of close contacts, but critics say that it paints an overly rosy picture of the situation.Harding announced that a new partnership with four university laboratories had just been agreed to expand capacity of the whole service this winter.She also said that she had hit her target of opening 500 test centres across the UK by October, with the median distance travelled for in-person tests having fallen for the second consecutive week, now to just 3.7 miles.“As the number of cases rise, so demand for tests continues to grow. We are working hard to increase testing capacity to meet that demand and improve turnaround times for tests,” Harding said.“The announcement today of new partnership agreements with four London university labs, will see tens of thousands of extra tests being processed over the coming months and into the new year.”Related...
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Keir Starmer has demanded Boris Johnson publish the scientific evidence behind the 10pm curfew ahead of a crunch Commons vote next week on the law.Speaking during PMQs on Wednesday, the Labour leader gave a strong indication he may withhold his support.If Labour joins Tory rebels, there is a chance the government could be defeated in any bid to keep the curfew in place.“One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule?” Starmer said.“If there is, why doesn’t the government do itself a favour and publish it? If not, why doesn’t the government review the rule?”He added: “Will the prime minister commit to publishing the scientific basis for the rule before this House votes on it?”Johnson sidestepped the call for any science behind the curfew to be published and told MPs the point of the law was “to reduce the spread of the virus”.The government has been under increasing pressure to scrap the curfew from Tory MPs and the hospitality industry.Steve Baker, the leading backbench rebel, told HuffPost UK: “It is not clear what the evidence is to support the 10pm curfew or that it is effective.”Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UK Hospitality, said the curfew and other restrictions had a “severe and devastating” impact on pubs, restaurants and other venues.Pub giant Greene King said on Wednesday it plans to cut around 800 jobs and shut dozens of pubs and restaurantsLocal Labour leaders have also warned the curfew is counter-productive as it has led to people all leaving bars at the same time, gathering together outside, holding more house parties and cramming on to public transport.Read more: Pub Bosses Explain Why 10pm Curfew Isn’t WorkingHuffPost UK revealed today ministers are considering shifting the curfew back an hour, with supermarkets being ordered to stop selling alcohol after 11pm.The plan would transplant the rules operating in Northern Ireland to England, which see last orders being called at 10.30pm.During PMQs, Starmer also said Labour analysis showed 19 out of 20 areas in England that have been under restrictions over the last two months have seen an increase in infection rates anyway.Bolton, which has been under restrictions since July 30, has seen its infection rate increase almost 13 times from 20 to 255 per 100,000.Burnley, which has been under restrictions since July 31, has seen its infection rate increase over 20 times from 21 to 434 per 100,000.Bury, which has also been under restrictions since July 31, has seen its infection rate increase over 13 times from 20 to 266 per 100,000.An analysis of government data by HuffPost UK also showed there are now only seven areas of the UK with levels of Covid-19 under the government’s own threshold for foreign countries that require travel restrictions.People visiting countries with more than 20 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day average are required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK.Related...
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