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The Bill to extend HS2 to Manchester will be laid before parliament today

   News / 24 Jan 2022

Published: 24 January 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


The Bill to extend HS2 to Manchester will be laid before parliament today. Phase 2b of the high-speed line will cut journey times by 55 minutes from London to Manchester, ministers say, and the new bill seeks powers to lay new track and build new stations. Work is already underway on phase one of HS2 between London and Birmingham, which is set to open between 2029 and 2033. The next section will extend the line to Crewe, with the final phase taking HS2 to Manchester - with that part of the line expected to open between 2035 and 2040.
 
Patients will receive new cancer drugs more quickly following post-Brexitchanges to the regulatory oversight of pharmaceuticals, the Telegraphreports. The change of policy has already slashed approval times by as much as a month since the MHRA joined the US Food and Drug Administration’s(FDA) Project Orbis scheme last year, after withdrawing from the European Medicines Agency. Seven new cancer treatments have since been approved, four for lung cancer and breast cancer and another three are extensions of existing treatments. Project Orbis links the UK to the US, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil, harmonising the regulatory process so trial data can be submitted to all the regulators at the same time, where it can be reviewed, and treatments approved. Government officials have said the scheme is a Brexit benefit which will "speed up the time it takes to get these new medicines to patients". However, Richard Sullivan, a director for the Institute for Cancer Policy, said: "The concern is we're going to start aping some of what we see as the poor practices of the FDA in terms of accelerated approval...If this is about just lowering the bar even more and more, then this is a disaster, because what this is going to do is actually harm British cancer patients, not improve their outcomes."
 
The British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directorsand Make UK have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging support for businesses and consumers as energy costs soar. They said the governmentshould focus on "supporting firms across the economy as they strive to manage these costs and protect cashflows" and that energy-intensive industries such as steel, ceramics and glass makers also needed support to be competitive internationally.
 
Nearly 30 Scotch Whisky distilleries have warned Chancellor Rishi Sunakthat alcohol tax reforms favouring lower strength drinks break a Conservative election pledge to help the industry and urging him to “think again” on his autumn Budget plans to slash taxes on draught beer and cider, sparkling wine and other lower-strength products. The distillers say the measures will “penalise responsible consumers” who want to drink spirits despite there being “more alcohol in a pint of beer or cider than in a Scotch and soda or a G&T”. In a letter seen by the i newspaper, they say the changes fail to deliver on the 2019 Tory manifesto pledge to ensure the alcohol duty review supported British drink producers, specifically mentioning Scotch whisky as a “national export that supports 42,000 jobs” and suggesting it was overtaxed.
 
Work from home guidance to tackle the spread of the Omicron covid variant had a significant impact on footfall across UK retail destinations as shoppers avoided the high streets, new data shows. Footfall across UK retail destinations fell 22.2% in high streets and 24.1% in shopping centres in December when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the figures from retail analyst Springboard.
 
Britons will spend a total of 25 million hours filling in their tax returns this year, according to a Which? survey of 4,000 people. The consumer group also found many of us will have to dip into their savings to pay the tax we owe and are likely to leave the task to the last minute. Which? says the average time taken to complete a return is more than two hours, but 25% of people can complete their return in less than one hour, while 8% of respondents said it took them more than five hours.
 
UK dividend payouts jumped 46.1% last year to £94.1bn, bringing dividends back to 2017 levels, according to the latest Dividend Monitor from Link Group. Dividends from mining companies accounted for almost a quarter of the UK total last year and were the biggest contributor to the year’s increase in payouts overall. The second biggest driver of growth was the restoration of bankingdistributions. However, the Link Group says the pace of recovery is set to slow in 2022.
 
First-time homebuyer numbers rose at a record rate despite low affordability, according to new analysis from Halifax. The figure was up 35% year-on-year to 409,370. In 2020 the figure had been down 13% when compared with the year prior. Halfiax said the average first-time buyer put down a £53,935 deposit on a property costing £264,140 at the age of 32. The average age was up from 29 in 2011 and is now over 30 in every UK region.
 
Greg Jackson, the CEO and Founder of Octopus Energy has written to customers saying he worries that “many commentators don’t truly appreciate the size of the issue, or the urgency to act” on the energy crisis, and urging the government to work with energy companies. “The truth is this is an issue Octopus can’t solve alone,” he says in his email, which predicts a monthly rise of £60 in bills for the average household if nothing changes. Of the three options being considered by Ofgem, the government and the energy industry, he says spreading the cost over several years - possibly but not necessarily using Treasury funding - will be the most helpful as it is the only option big enough to make a real difference to all customers. Such a move could limit increases to around £12 a month, Jackson says, and allow for greater time to deal with wholesale energy price rises “at a national and international level, rather than just passing the bill straight through to households and forcing many into fuel poverty overnight.” He also makes the case for removing VAT and environmental levies from energy bills and extending the warm home discount to more customers. “We believe it’s past time that environmental charges were removed from increasingly green electricity,” he says. “Removing environmental levies and VAT will save a typical home around £220 a year, so in the light of £700 rises, clearly more is needed alongside this. He adds that “an extension to the warm home discount scheme has the benefit of directing help to where it’s most needed.”
 
Retailer John Lewis has confirmed all its staff are entitled to full sick pay for Covid-related absences, regardless of vaccination status, and it would not be "right" to differentiate. The BBC reports John Lewis's operations director Andrew Murphy as saying he "cast no judgement" and that “we just don't believe it's right to create a link between a partner's vaccination status and the pay they receive.”
 
The mining giant founded by Australia's richest man is buying the battery and technology arm of the Williams Formula One racing team for $222.2m (£164m). The BBC reports that Fortescue Metals will purchase UK-based Williams Advanced Engineering from private equity firm EMK Capital and Williams Grand Prix Engineering. The deal is aimed to help the iron ore producer achieve its target to be carbon neutral by 2030, and one of the first projects to be developed will be a battery train. Forrest, who has an estimated net worth of more than $18bn (£13.3bn), is known for investing in sustainable energy projects.
 
Aviva Investors says it will vote to try to get directors kicked out of firms that fail to make good on environmental pledges and that it wants bosses' pay to be linked to sustainability goals. Aviva, which has £262bn of assets under management, set out its expectations in a letter that will be sent to 1,500 firms in 30 countries this week.
 
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the former head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has joined the race to head Channel 4, Sky News reports. Prior to her five-year term as the CBI's director-general, which ended in 2020, she was group strategy and development director at ITV. She held a similar role at the BBC, overseeing its digital strategy and the launch of Freeview in 2003. Since stepping down from the CBI, Dame Carolyn has joined the boards of two of Britain's biggest companies: HSBC Holdings and BAE Systems.
 
According to Chainalysis, the blockchain data platform, scammers stole a record $14bn (£103bn) in cryptocurrency in 2021, with losses from crypto-related crime rising 79% compared with 2020. In its latest report, Chainalysis said sophisticated attacks take careful planning and skill to pull off, but through other types of malware, hackers can take a cheaper “spray-and-pray” approach, spamming millions of potential victims and stealing smaller amounts. The malware families sampled received 5,974 transfers from victims in 2021, up from 5,449 in 2020. In a separate report earlier this month, Chainalysis said North Korea seems to be the hub of crypto crime. Hackers in the country launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400m worth of digital assets last year.


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