Published: 06 December 2021
Location: London, UK
Commons’ Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has called in the Metropolitan Police to investigate claims that drug abuse is rife in the Houses of Parliament. Sky News says there is growing evidence that cannabis and cocaine are being used openly on the parliamentary estate. Allegations include a claim that a former MP put his drug dealer on the parliamentary payroll, claiming he was a member of staff, as a way of paying him for drugs. And, according to a report in The Sunday Times, the same former MP is rumoured to have dealt drugs himself and at least one parliamentary aide has been sacked for taking cocaine. Responding to the report, Sir Lindsay said: "The accounts of drug misuse in parliament given to The Sunday Times are deeply concerning, and I will be raising them as a priority with the Metropolitan Police next week. I expect to see full and effective enforcement of the law.”
The government failed to put adequate measures in place to prevent fraudsters stealing billions of pounds through its Bounce Back Loan scheme, the National Audit Office (NAO) says. The NAO added the Department for Business (BEIS) estimated fraudulent loans were worth £4.9bn, 11% of the total, as of March. The Bounce Bank Loan scheme was set up in April 2020 with the aim of keeping small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC reports. A total of 1.5 million loans worth £47bn were issued through the initiative, after about a quarter of UK businesses applied. In its report, the NAO said the government estimated more than a third of loans, worth £17bn, may never be repaid due to both fraudulent activity and legitimate borrowers defaulting. As of 30 September, figures from the state-owned British Business Bank, which supervises the scheme, showed £2bn worth of loans had been repaid and £1.3bn had been defaulted on. The bank said about 7% of all loans were at least one month in arrears. Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: "The true level of fraud will become clearer over time."
A majority of Brits have seen the cost of living increase and one in six say they were unable to buy essential food items due to shortages in the last two weeks of November, the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) report on the social impact of Covid-19 shows. Over a third (36%) of adults reported experiencing goods shortages in the past two weeks, albeit down from 41% in the weeks prior, Yahoo Finance UK reports. 43% said they noticed less variety in the shops, while 20% said they could not find the item they needed, nor could they find a replacement. Two thirds of people (65%) said their cost of living has risen in the past month. Around 87% said the price of food has risen, 77% said that the cost of energy bills is up, and 76% found that fuel prices are higher. A rise in energy bills has hit 81% of those aged 30 to 49 as well as 78% of those over 70.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is riddled with challenges, as short-term headwinds, such as rising costs and supply chain shortages have grown since its previous forecast in June. Long-term challenges and poor productivity continue to underline the need for a booster for business investment to support sustainable growth, the CBI said. In the economic forecast, business investment appetite is predicted to rise briefly above its pre-pandemic level at the end of 2022, growing by 8.2% over the year. However, this recovery is short-lived, with capital spending falling from mid-2023, as the super-deduction comes to an end and the rise in corporation tax begins. As a result, business investment will continue to lag other advanced economies, the research showed. The CBI has also predicted for GDP growth to come in at 6.9% this year, 5.1% next year, revised down from 8.2% and 6.1%, respectively. It also expects figures of 3% in 2023, while the unemployment rate is estimated to fall back to 3.8% at the end of 2023.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed a series of new listing rules on Thursday, intended to boost growth and innovation on UK stock markets. London’s markets have been trailing behind its peers in recent years, struggling to grow big tech businesses that can compete internationally, says Yahoo Finance UK. Changes include allowing a targeted form of dual class share structures within the premium listing segment, to encourage innovative, and often founder-led companies onto public markets sooner, as well as broadening the listed investment landscape for investors in the UK. The amount of shares an issuer is required to have in public hands will also reduce from 25% to 10%, decreasing potential barriers for issuers created by current requirements. Another change is that the FCA is increasing the minimum market capitalisation (MMC) threshold for both the premium and standard listing segments for shares in ordinary commercial companies from £700,000 to £30m. Raising the MMC will give investors greater trust and clarity about the types of company with shares admitted to different markets, it said. According to the UK Listing Review, which made the recommendations, the number of listed companies in the UK has fallen by about 40% from a recent peak in 2008. Between 2015 and 2020, the UK accounted for only 5% of IPOs globally.
Bank of England (BoE) policymaker Michael Saunders has said it is best to wait for more information on the Omicron coronavirus strain before deciding on UK interest rates. Yahoo Finance UK reports he said at an online webinar on Friday that he wanted to assess the data on the impact on the economy, before deciding how to vote on 16 December. “At present, given the new Omicron Covid variant has only been detected quite recently, there could be particular advantages in waiting to see more evidence on its possible effects on public health outcomes and hence on the economy,” he said. Saunders was one of two officials who voted for an interest rate hike to 0.25% at the start of November. The other seven members of the Monetary Policy Committee chose to keep rates on hold. The UK's main interest rate has been at an all-time low of 0.1% since the pandemic began, having been set at 0.75% pre-pandemic.
The HGV driver shortage appears to be easing. Logistics UK, which represents freight and haulage businesses, said the number of drivers leaving the profession had tailed off and more trainees were coming through the testing system. There has been a 25.6% increase in HGV driver tests from the July to September 2019 period compared to the same period in 2021 and a three-fold increase in applications for vocational provisional licences. Average driver pay also increased by 10% in the nine months to October 2021. However, the trade body said more action was needed by the government and industry to make the sector attractive to new recruits, as by early autumn there were 44,000 fewer HGV drivers compared to the same time in 2019.
Plans by the EU to reclassify people working for food delivery firms such as Deliveroo and Delivery Hero as employees could cost the sector up to €4.5m per year more, Bloomberg reports. According to a draft labour rights plan designed to improve the labour rights of gig workers, as many as 4.1m people working through food delivery and ride-hailing apps could be reclassified. Bloomberg said the European Commission wrote in a risk assessment that it wasn't possible to calculate potential job losses and that the rule changes may "negatively affect" workers' flexibility. Under the proposed rules, expected to be made public next week, any worker whose job is controlled by a digital platform can presume they are an employee regardless of what they are called in their contract.
The number of job vacancies in the UK has hit a new record 3.5 according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). There was a particular rise in demand last week for prison officers, scaffolders, dentists and vets, Sky News reports. While the latest official data shows a level of 1.3 million vacancies in October, the REC said that the number of active job adverts had risen from almost 1.7 million in the summer. It reported that with around 210,000 new jobs posted in the last week alone, there were currently 3.51 million roles being advertised.
The Mercedes Formula One team, which includes Britain's Lewis Hamilton in its driver line-up, is facing a backlash for a sponsorship deal from a company which made some of the insulation used on Grenfell Tower. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, added his voice last night to condemnation from relatives of the 72 people killed in the devastating 2017 fire of the team's decision to add Kingspan to its financial backers. He tweeted: "Deeply disappointed that @MercedesAMGF1 are accepting sponsorship from cladding firm Kingspan while the Grenfell Inquiry is ongoing.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken legal action to block chipmaker Nvidia's proposed $40.0bn takeover of Cambridge-based chip designer Arm, citing competition concerns. The FTC said the deal, which would give Nvidia control over the technology and designs that competitors depend upon to develop their own products, could potentially lead to a chip conglomerate that would stifle the innovation pipeline for next-generation technologies. Last week, California-based Nvidia warned that it was at risk of losing a $1.25bn down payment if the takeover falls through, stated: "As we move into this next step in the FTC process, we will continue to work to demonstrate that this transaction will benefit the industry and promote competition." The deal was first announced in September 2020 and has already faced in-depth investigations by Britain's Competition and Markets Authorityand another in the European Union.
Selfridges is set to be sold to Central Group, a Thai conglomerate, for £4bn, according to The Times, which says a deal could be made by the end of the year. The deal is believed to include Selfridges’ property assets, which have been valued at £2bn. The Weston family, which owns the chain, put it up for sale earlier in June this year, following the death of British-Canadian billionaire Galen Weston, who oversaw the department store’s move from public to private in 2003. The family control Selfridges through Wittington Investments Ltd in Canada, which is separate from the UK arm which also owns a large stake in Primark-owner Associated British Foods. The company owns 25 outlets and posted sales of almost £2bn in the year to February 2020. Founded in 1908 by US retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge, it now has flagship stores in London, Birmingham, and Dublin, as well as in Canada and the Netherlands. Central Group is also family-owned and has 3,700 shops around the world, from supermarkets to electronics stores. Central Group's non-executive director Vittorio Radice ran Selfridges between 1996 and 2003 and has been managing a department store in Italy since 2006. He also spent time at British supermarket chain Marks and Spencers.
Up to 1,200 workers at Tesco distribution centres across the UK are set to strike in the run-up to Christmas, the Unite union says. The workers, including warehouse staff and HGV drivers, are based at sites in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster and will strike because the supermarket offered a 4% pay rise which Unite said amounted to a "real terms pay cut" due to inflation.
Ebay has seen a surge in people listing items for sale in the UK ahead of Christmas. Just under half a million people listed products to sell on eBay UK last week, and the platform saw a 79% increase in listings over the Black Friday (26 November) weekend, with 10 new listings being posted every second. Sales of used items also jumped 11% over the last week.
The Nationwide Building Society has appointed Debbie Crosbie, currently the chief executive of TSB, as its next CEO and executive director. Crosbie will succeed Joe Garner, whose departure was announced in September, and take up the position in the first half of next year. Crosbie, who is also a non-executive director of energy company SSE and a member of the Prudential Regulation Authority's Practitioner Panel, will be the building society's first female executive director.
International travellers heading to the US must be tested for Covid-19 within one day of travel regardless of their vaccination status, the White House has announced. President Joe Biden has also extended the requirement to wear masks on planes, trains and buses to March.
Donald Trump's new social media firm says it has entered into agreements to raise $1bn (£755m) from investors ahead of a planned stock market listing. The Donald Trump Media & Technology Group is working to launch a social media app called Truth Social early next year.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump remains banned from Twitter and Facebook. "$1bn sends an important message to Big Tech that censorship and political discrimination must end," he said.
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