Displaying items by tag: Government

Friday, 08 April 2022 04:16

Briton accused of spying

David Smith, a former employee of the British embassy in Berlin, was arrested for having allegedly offered names of British officials to Russian spies. He was extradited to the UK on 4th April after losing a battle to stay in Germany and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court the following day. The state court of Brandenburg said that it had accepted an extradition request by the Government for Mr Smith, who has been in German custody on suspicion of spying for Russia. Mr Smith was arrested at his home in Potsdam, 21 miles west of Berlin, last summer after a joint investigation by German and British security services found that he had been selling information to Russia since at least Nov 2020.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 31 March 2022 22:11

Economic crime bill

Ground-breaking legislation introduced to Parliament recently could provide a major boost to Britain’s defences against illicit wealth. Transparency International (TI) said that the bill introduces much-needed reforms on property ownership, transparency, strengthening UK asset recovery powers, and sanctions. But there are some gaps within it. An 18-month transition period is far too long, and risks massive levels of asset flight. TI recommends the Government implement transitional provisions to stop property from being sold before the register comes into force and the proceeds transferred overseas. Overseas companies owning UK property should declare their beneficial ownership information; and the legislation should be implemented at the earliest opportunity to empower Companies House to introduce verification checks, query, investigate and remove false information.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 24 March 2022 21:29

Spring statement as cost of living soars

Rishi Sunak delivered his mini-Budget against a backdrop of rising fuel, energy and food costs. He cut fuel duty by 5p but resisted calls to scrap April's National Insurance rise of 1.25p in the pound; instead the start threshold will rise from £9,600 to £12,570. He warned the UK's post-pandemic recovery has been blown off course by the war in Ukraine, but he promised an income tax cut in 2024 when the economy would be in better shape. The Office for Budget Responsibility painted a bleak picture of the immediate prospects, saying that living standards are set to take the biggest hit since records began in the 1950s. It said inflation was set to peak at 8.7% at the end of this year and this - combined with rising taxes - will ‘weigh heavily on living standards in the coming twelve months’. The UK's tax burden will be the highest level since the 1940s.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 24 March 2022 21:22

CAP: Government must act

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a Christian debt help charity which is calling on the Government to 'act now' and increase support for those on low incomes with everything at its disposal. They saw calls to their debt helpline rise by 47% this January compared to last year, and requests for emergency fuel vouchers have doubled. CAP said, ‘We, along with many other charities and think-tanks, say that the upgrading of Social Security (the amount benefits and pensions go up in April) needs to be more than planned. Also they could pause deductions to Universal Credit as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. The third thing needed is a cost of living review; the level of social security has not matched the actual cost of living, even for the barest of essentials, for many, many years.’

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 24 March 2022 21:18

Church leaders call for renewable energy

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and 200+ church leaders sent an open letter to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. They said a stronger commitment to renewable energy would help address the climate emergency and help people to weather the cost of living crisis. Letter signatories include fifty Anglican and Catholic bishops, including the lead environment bishops. Their call for financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency - solar and wind energy - was met in the spring statement, but retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK to reduce heating bills and decrease carbon emissions was not. They also proposed a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to address the cost of living and no support for new oil and gas developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 17 March 2022 21:41

Concerns over Scotland’s £5bn Covid funds

A detailed analysis of where almost £5bn of Covid business funding went is not possible due to gaps in data, a spending watchdog has found. The Scottish government provided £4.4bn in grants and business rates relief between the start of the pandemic and October 2021. A further £375m was announced following the emergence of Omicron last winter. Although the speed and scale of the rollout helped to safeguard thousands of jobs and businesses, Audit Scotland was unable to determine where all the money ended up. It also identified gaps in information about how quickly applicants received funding. Auditor general Stephen Boyle said, ‘Knowing where the money went matters’. Information to enable wider analysis of how funding supported groups, such as female-owned businesses, is not available from centrally held data. The Accounts Commission said that councils' fraud arrangements are generally robust, but during the pandemic they were severely relied upon.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 03 March 2022 22:28

‘Chaotic’ Kickstart scheme for youth fails

The Public Accounts Committee supported the Department for Work and Pensions as it tried to help young people into work at what was expected to be a downturn in employment opportunities. But the £1.9 billion ‘emergency intervention’ Kickstart scheme has supported far fewer young people than predicted. Early delivery was chaotic and DWP ‘neglected to put in place basic management information that would be expected for a multi-billion-pound grant programme’. Also, despite more favourable than predicted economic conditions, many young people who joined Universal Credit when the pandemic started have remained on the benefit. DWP doesn’t know why these people are not in Kickstart jobs.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 03 February 2022 21:06

'Levelling up' plan announced

The government's 332-page Levelling Up White Paper,published on 2 February, aims to ‘change the economic model of the UK’. The areas for improvement are as follows: pay, employment and productivity to rise; more investment in research and development; public transport connectivity everywhere to be closer to the standards of London; nationwide 4G broadband coverage, with the majority having 5G coverage;more primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths; more people completing high-quality skills training; the gap in life expectancy between highest and lowest narrowed; well-being improved everywhere; people engaging more in local culture and community; secure paths to ownership for renters; first-time buyers increasing; homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime to fall in the worst-affected areas. Boris Johnson said levelling up would involve investing in towns, cities, rural and coastal areas. He has created a brand-new government department dedicated to these proposals. However, the Institute of Economic Affairs described them as dubious in quality.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 27 January 2022 20:24

Government: Britishvolt risks of slavery

The mining of key metals such as cobalt for car batteries has been linked to appalling working conditions amounting to modern slavery in countries such as DRC where much of the world’s cobalt is sourced. Also, environmental damage is caused by lithium extraction in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Responding to news that the Government will be investing £100m in Britishvolt's new 'gigafactory' in Northumberland to boost production of electric car batteries, Amnesty International said although the news is a leap forward for British industry, offering jobs and a very meaningful opportunity for the UK to decarbonise transport in the fight against climate change, it is absolutely crucial that the Government, Britishvolt, and its investors ensure there are diligence systems in place. They must be honest and transparent about the environmental and human rights Britishvolt faces in sourcing cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper and other battery metals. See

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 20 January 2022 20:25

Channel crossings: navy patrols

After discussions around the Royal Navy working with the Home Office and UK Border Force, it will soon lead operations to limit migrant channel crossings, enabling the Home Office to focus on reforms to the asylum system. Defence select committee chair Tobias Ellwood criticised government plans as ‘rushed’ and a ‘massive distraction’ for the Navy. It is not clear either how the military or other services would be involved or how they could coordinate operations. A source said there was ‘trepidation’ within the MoD about getting involved in such a complex issue. The plans could see Boris Johnson give the Navy authority over government vessels in the channel. Yvette Cooper said we have failed to do the serious and practical work with France that is needed to stop lives being lost and criminal gangs profiting from crossings.

Published in British Isles