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PM Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from Conservative MPs and most Tory-leaning newspapers this morning,…

   News / 25 Mar 2021

Published: 25 March 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

The Bank of England has unveiled the final design of the new £50 polymer banknotes featuring scientist Alan Turing, comedian Stephen Fry and science author Simon Singh. The new notes will come into circulation on 23 June.
PM Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from Conservative MPs and most Tory-leaning newspapers this morning, after a ‘papers for the pub’ policy announcement in which pub landlords would be required to prove drinkers had the covid vaccine before they could be let in.  Pub gardens are allowed to reopen on 12 April.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says he will ramp flights up to 80% of peak summer capacity this year, despite government warnings to Brits they won’t be able to holiday abroad. Encouraging people to book flights, O'Leary said: “If, on the one hand, Helen Whateley’s government are rightly trumpeting the success of their vaccination programme, if 80% of the UK population has been vaccinated by the end of May, I would find it very difficult for any politician to raise an argument over why they shouldn’t travel on holidays to the beaches of Europe – as they did last year – in relative freedom.” Ryanair carried just 33 million passengers in the year to February, compared to 154 million in the same period a year earlier.
The Mirror newspaper has revealed that 196 former employees who won a tribunal claim against celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire, which collapsed in 2019, have been paid by the taxpayer. The Trade Union Act requires employers to consult with workers prior to any closure, but as Oliver’s staff received almost no notice, they won their claim and were each awarded eight weeks pay, a total of £499,717. Oliver’s company could not afford to pay, so the Treasury stumped up the cash.  
Troubled Liberty Steel is asking some customers to pay up front as it struggles with cash flow, mainly because its specialty steel division, which supplies big aerospace customers, has been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis, but also because its main financial backer Greensill Capital went bust two weeks ago. The company owns 12 steel plants in the UK, including at Rotherham, Motherwell and Newport, and employs 5,000 people. It is in talks with the government about a potential rescue plan should one be needed.
Two of the UK's biggest investors, Aberdeen Standard and Aviva Investors, say they will not buy Deliveroo shares when its IPO launches because of concerns over workers' rights. Deliveroo responded by saying riders had "freedom" to choose their hours.
John Lewis is to close a further eight stores that were already ‘financially challenged’ before the pandemic - putting 1,465 jobs under threat - after reassessing the extent of the shift to online sales. Chair Dame Sharon White said that before the pandemic, the assumption was that shops contributed around £6 of every £10 spent online, but that she now believes that figure was just £3. Sky News' business reporter Ian King says the move shows Dame Sharon clearly believes “the breakneck expansion of John Lewis in the first 15 or so years of this century went too far,” and that much of the “blame” for that rests with Andy Street, now the Conservative West Midlands mayor, who was managing director of John Lewis from 2007 to 2016. The latest cutbacks, which followed extensive talks with landlords, will leave just 34 John Lewis stores.
Landlords have hired a top QC ahead of their court case against Virgin Active to argue a proposed restructuring of the gym chain would leave them taking an unfair financial hit. Sky News says Aberdeen Standard Investments, British Land and Land Securities have instructed Robin Dicker of South Square Chambers to try to block the plan, which will be heard in court on Thursday.
BT has proposed offering its frontline workers a pandemic bonus of £1,500. The offer is equivalent to about 5% of BT’s average salary and is being made despite the company freezing pay and ongoing, unresolved discussions with trade unions over its transformation and modernisation plans. CEO Philip Jansen highlighted how the company had avoided the use of redundancy or furlough in his statement.
Nationwide will continue to allow 13,000 office-based employees to work from home indefinitely. The move follows a company survey in which only 6% of employees said they wanted to go back to the office five days a week and 57% wanted to work from home fulltime. 36% want a blend of home and office work.
Cineworld will ask shareholders to back its plans to approve a rise in its debt ceiling, after reporting a $3.01bn loss for 2020 – its first ever loss as a listed company. Cineworld says it has secured commitments for a new $213 million convertible bond to shore up and safeguard finances, after being forced to cut cinemas and put 45,000 staff temporarily out of work worldwide. In 2019, the company made a profit of $212.3 million.
Online trading platform Plus500 said on Thursday that Professor Jacob A. Frenkel will succeed Penny Judd as chairman following the annual meeting on 4 May, subject to shareholder approval. Judd, who has been chair since April 2017, does not plan to nominate herself for re-election at the AGM, "in order to focus on other business interests and directorships".
The Office for National Statistics has reported an increase in UK average house prices of 7.5% over the year to January 2021. In England, the North West saw the highest annual price growth, averaging 12%, while the West Midlands saw the lowest at 4.7%. The average house price in England is now £267,000; in Wales £179,000; in Scotland £164,000; and in Northern Ireland £148,000. Prices for detached homes rose by 8.6% year-over-year in January, greatly exceeding the 2.6% increase for flats, as outdoor space become more valuable amid the pandemic. However, house price growth slowed for the first time since July 2020.
A Diversity and Inclusion charter led by the British Retail Consortium has been signed by some 50 retailers, including Ann Summers, Reiss, John Lewis, KFC, Pret a Manger, Boots, All Saints, B&Q , WH Smith, Ted Baker and Superdry. The charter’s signatories pledge to improve diversity practices across their industry by appointing diversity and inclusion executives; improving recruitment practices to remove bias; and collecting data on diversity.
GlaxoSmithKline yesterday fired Moncef Slaoui as chair of the board of directors of Galvani, in which it owns a majority stake. The pharmaceuticals company said Slaoui, who led the Trump administration's Covid-19 vaccine programme, has been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct towards an employee. The misconduct is alleged to have taken place "several years ago" when Slaoui was a Glaxo employee.
A ship blocking the Suez Canal is understood to have been partially re-floated, raising hopes that traffic can resume. The huge 400m-long Ever Given container ship ran aground on Tuesday, blocking the canal and causing a backlog of ships unable to get pass. Initial efforts to dislodge it were hampered by its size and weather conditions, including high winds.

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