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The boss of P&O Ferries has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

   News / 29 Mar 2022

Published: 29 March 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

The boss of P&O Ferries has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying the Minister’s call to reinstate 800 sacked workers would cause the firm to collapse with the loss of an additional 2,200 jobs. Peter Hebblethwaite said more than 500 of the sacked crew had accepted and signed settlement agreements, and that he could not change the 31 March deadline for seafarers accepting their redundancy offers. He said in his letter to Shapps: “Complying with your requests would deliberately cause the company's collapse, resulting in the irretrievable loss of an additional 2,200 jobs. I cannot imagine that you would wish to compel an employer to bring about its downfall, affecting not hundreds but thousands of families." Meanwhile, one P&O ferry, The European Causeway, has already failed a safety inspection and been declared "unfit to sail” by The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) because of "failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training". A second, The Pride of Kent, has also been detained ahead of an inspection it must pass before re-entering service with its new crew. “Safety will not be compromised,” Grant Shapps said on Twitter.   
Britain's supermarket prices surged at their fastest rate in nearly a decade this month. Grocery price inflation hit 5.2% over the four weeks to 20 March, the highest since April 2012, according to data analytics firm Kantar. Prices for everyday items were rising the fastest, Kantar said. The report found British shoppers are now turning to own-brand labels, which tend to be cheaper than branded ones, accounting for over 50% of all spending, versus 49.9% this time last year. Kantar’s research also shows that German discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl are the only supermarkets seeing market share growth on last year.
Consumer debt has risen at the fastest pace in almost five years, new data from the Bank of England (BoE) has shown. The Bank says borrowing on credit cards and personal loans jumped £1.9bn in February, £1bn more than expected, in a Reuters poll of economists. This is a 200% increase on January. The figures also showed the average annual growth of consumer credit accelerated to 4.4% in February from 3.2% in January, rising at the highest rate since February 2020. The BoE suggested the data show consumers are turning to borrowing to help pay the bills as inflation surged to a 30-year high of 6.2% last month, with associated rising food, clothing, energy and fuel costs.
Britain’s technology ecosystem has surpassed $1tn (£764bn) in value, only the third country in the world to reach this landmark, after the US and China. The valuation comes from data by Dealroom, analysed for the UK's Digital Economy Council. The valuation means Britain’s digital economy is worth more than double that of Germany’s and almost five times larger than France and Sweden’s.
Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Ed Davey and the former business secretary Vince Cable have criticised National Grid’s announcement that it is to sell 60% of Britain’s gas pipeline infrastructure to foreign investors for more than £4bn. The proposed sale to Australia's Macquarie Asset Managementand Canada's British Columbia Investment Management Corporation was announced on Sunday. National Grid will receive £2.2bn in cash for the deal, plus £2bn in debt financing, which it said will help it transition towards electricity, a key component of the UK's 2050 net zero goals. Cable, however, has criticised Macquarie’s track record of owning important public utilities, pointing to the company’s management of Thames Water, which he said raised "questions over its suitability to run a crucial utility". Macquarie owned Thames Water for more than a decade, leaving it saddled with debt when it sold the company in 2016. Davey meanwhile, who is also a former energy secretary, said that "any firm seeking to profit unfairly from the gas network needs to be told loud and clear they will be stopped".
Six years after the EU referendum, city firms appear to have reconfirmed their commitment to London, defying predictions of a jobs exodus from the financial sector. In April 2016, PwC predicted that as many as 100,000 financial jobs could go, but in fact there have been only
 7,000 in total, down from 7600 a year ago and 10,500 in March 2017. Meanwhile, the number of new jobs that have been publicly linked to Brexit as firms look to boost their London offices has risen from 5000 to 5400.  
British Airways (BA) has become the first airline to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced on a commercial scale in the UK at the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery in Lincolnshire. BA has agreed to purchase enough of the fuel to reduce its lifecycle CO2 emissions by nearly 100,000 tonnes, which the airline says could power the equivalent of 700 net zero flights between London and New York. CEO Sean Doyle said: “Being the first airline to source sustainable aviation fuel produced at commercial scale in the UK is another breakthrough moment for us and the airline industry”.
Deliveroo has joined forces with stationery firm WHSmith. The high street retailer said it will offer as many as 600 products for fast-track home delivery in as little as 20 minutes, including best-selling novels, stationery, printer ink, phone chargers and airpods, toys and children’s exam study guides.
Soaring energy costs and an impasse with landlords over rents has forced the British arm of a major international data management operator into administration. Sky News understands that Sungard's UK operations, which operate services for clients including JP Morgan and the Home Office, have called in Teneo Restructuring in an attempt to salvage its future. The business, which employs nearly 300 people, provides cloud-based services as well as physical data centres, demand for which was hit by covid restrictions.
Waitrose has sent a legal letter to Asda after the latter unveiled it’s ‘Just Essentials’ range yesterday. Waitrose says the branding is too similar to its own ‘Essential Waitrose’ range launched in 2009. Asda said "essentials" is a "commonly-used term" for discount product ranges.
Tesla billionaire Elon Musk is giving "serious thought" to developing a new social media platform. Musk, a prolific but often critical user of Twitter, posted that free speech was "essential to a functioning democracy" and asked his followers: "Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?" and over 70% of respondents voted "no". When asked by one of his followers whether he was considering building a new social media platform himself, where free speech would be the "top priority" and propaganda was "very minimal", he replied: "Am giving serious thought to this."
China’s draconian Covid lockdowns are costing the communist state at least £35bn a month, economists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) say, an amount of lost economic output equivalent to a 3.1% drop in GDP. A strict lockdown in Shanghai alone could reduce China’s real GDP by 4%, the economists said.

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