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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng accused protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) of endangering British…

   News / 14 Apr 2022

Published: 14 April 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng accused protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) of endangering British energy security and jobs after they glued themselves to the Business Department yesterday. Twenty-five demonstrators stuck themselves to the windows of the Whitehall building in anger at the Government’s decision to extend licences for oil and gas fields in the North Sea. Kwarteng wrote on Twitter: “My message to XR activists gluing themselves (?!) to my Department: You cannot - and we won’t - switch off domestic oil and gas production. Doing so would put energy security, jobs and industries at risk -- and would simply increase foreign imports, not reduce demand”. XR also staged a major protest outside Shell’s London headquarters yesterday, with some activists gaining entry to the building and gluing themselves to the oil giant’s reception desk.
 
The latest Office for National Statistics’ data shows staples such as bread and milk shot up in price in March. The price of bread increased 2.3%, making it 5.5% more expensive than it was a year ago. Milk rose by 1.7% in March and is now 13.2% dearer than a year ago. Oils and fats have also gone up, increasing by 7.2% in March to become nearly a quarter more expensive than a year ago. Lamb, the traditional Easter meal, also rose 1.7% in the month, making the cost around 16% higher than last Easter weekend. The BBC also highlights how the average price of diesel in the UK has risen 18% since the start of February, while the average cost of unleaded petrol has risen by 11%. Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity behind the National Debtline, told PA Media that many households are already buckling under rising costs. “One in eight UK adults say they have already gone without heating, water or electricity in the last three months,” she said.
 
Waitrose and Morrisons are rationing cooking oils because supplies from Ukraine - the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil - have been disrupted by the war. This means increased demand for other types of cooking oil; hence the two supermarkets are limiting how much shoppers can buy, the Daily Express says.
 
A £60,000 salary to work in The Treasury’s Darlington outpost? Not good enough, according to a former adviser to the Trade Secretary, Ben Ramanauskas. It is “not great money” for the “important” role of head of labour market and unemployment policy, he said, adding that The Treasury “isn't going to attract those people especially if they also have to live in Darlington”. His comments prompted a backlash from the local Tory MP Peter Gibson, who said Ramanauskas’ views “demonstrate exactly why moving jobs from London to places like Darlington is so important”. The Government is set to move more than 1,000 civil servants to Darlington but Ramanauskas’ concerns are the latest in a series about the pool of talent available and whether Whitehall civil servants will move out of the capital.
 
Britain's house prices have continued to rise, despite 30-year high inflation and a worsening cost-of-living crisis. Yahoo Finance UK reports that the average property price rose by 10.9% over the year to February 2022, up from 10.2% in January 2022, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics(ONS). Prices increased 0.8% in the month, following a 1.1% monthly rise in January, to take the cost of an average home to £277,000, which is £27,000 higher than the same time last year. In a separate report, PA Media says the number of new homes being listed for sale has risen for the first time in a year, according to the latest RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)residential market survey, which showed a net balance of 8% of property professionals witnessing a rise in the volume of fresh listings coming onto the sales market. RICS said this helped drive the “modest” rise in sales last month.
 
The average price a rental property is put on the market for outside London has hit a new record high because although tenant demand was up by 6% across Britain, the number of available rental properties is 50% lower than this time a year ago. Rightmove's quarterly Rental Trends Tracker reveals asking rents outside of London rose to £1,088 per calendar month, up from £982. The 10.8% rise marks the first time annual growth topped 10% across nine regions. Rents in London also hit a new record of £2,193 pcm, increasing by 14.3% in a year from £1,919, the largest annual jump of any region that Rightmove has recorded.
 
Both Rightmove and RICS have told The Telegraph that the supply of rental properties is falling because buy-to-let landlords are cashing in on rocketing house prices and selling their properties, causing a slump in the supply of rental homes. Estate agents quoted by the newspaper agree: William Taper, of Willmotts estate agents in London, said: “We are seeing more and more older landlords exit the market. These properties are being bought by owner-occupiers and this rental stock is being lost.” Katie Wilcox-Smith of KWS Lettings in the East Midlands, said: “The majority of viewers are having to move because their current landlord is selling the property. The Government needs to address this fast as the rental market will be depleted.”
 
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has found that more than one in eight privately rented homes in England pose a "serious threat" to the health and safety of tenants which costs the NHS “about £340m a year”. The committee also concluded that it is "too difficult for renters to realise their legal right to a safe and secure home" because of “fear of eviction”. An estimated 13% (589,000) of privately rented homes in England were said to have at least one "category one hazard" such as damp and mould growth, pests that could cause infections, and things that could lead to falls, fires, or other accidents, like faulty wiring. An estimated 11 million people rent privately in England, with the sector doubling in size during the past two decades.
 
Rail operator Avanti West Coast has been threatened with strike action over new "see-through" staff uniforms. The RMT union says Avanti is making workers wear “flimsy new blouses and shirts ... which are basically transparent”. Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said employees already suffer “widespread abuse” on Avanti services on the west coast mainline and the new uniforms must be replaced. The train operator rejected the claim, saying that the “shirt is heavier than the current uniform and conforms with international standards of grading quality,” and that staff have the option to wear “alternative items including a polo shirt, dress, or layer with other garments as part of the design.”
 
National Grid says it may have to pay power generators to turn down their supply during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations because it expects power demand to dip to its lowest annual level as the public stops work and heads outside for street parties for the four-day weekend from June 2-5. Low power demand can be a problem because supply and demand must be constantly balanced and not all stations are able to dial up or down quickly, with the risk of power cuts if there is too much or too little supply, The Telegraph says.
 
Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China claim to have discovered a way to capture solar energy and store it for nearly two decades before it is needed. Using a system called molecular solar thermal energy storage (MOST), the researchers developed an ultra-thin chip to act as a thermoelectric generator. “This is a radically new way of generating electricity from solar energy,” said Kasper Moth-Poulsen, a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers who led the research. The Independent says the MOST system uses a specially designed molecule that reacts to sunlight to capture the Sun’s energy. After loading it with solar energy in Sweden, Chalmers University sent it to their colleagues in Shanghai where they were able to convert it into electricity. “Essentially, Swedish sunshine was sent to the other side of the world and converted into electricity in China,” Moth-Poulsen said.
 
EasyJet airline founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has been described as a “deeply unimpressive witness” by a High Court judge who oversaw a trademark dispute in which EasyGroup had claimed infringement of one of its registered trademarks. Mrs Justice Bacon said Stelios gave answers “that were defensive to the point of implausibility” and found in favour of defendants Nuclei.
 
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has had $7bn (£5.4bn) of assets linked to him frozen by a Jersey court. BBC Business Reporter Ben King points out that Abramovich's assets in Jersey include Camberley International Investments, which has loaned £1.4bn to Fordstam Ltd, the company through which Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea FC. Although King says he has no knowledge of whether this company is among the assets frozen by the Jersey court, if it is, there could be implications for the ongoing sale of the football club, as Abramovich has previously said that he won't seek for the loan to be repaid. If the company which made the loan were to be frozen, however, the decision may be out of his hands.
 
A San Francisco judge has slashed the $137 million in damages Tesla was told to pay former employee Owen Diaz down to $15 million, despite upholding the verdict and agreeing that racial discrimination against him was “disturbing” and Tesla's “indifference” to his complaints “striking." US District Court Judge William Orrick said however that the damages ordered were "excessive," citing constitutional limitations on punitive damages set by the Supreme Court.
 
Are the wheels coming off the non-fungible token (NFT) craze? Malaysia-based Sina Estavi who last year paid $2.9 million for Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's first tweet is now concerned he may "never sell it". Estavi put the tweet up for sale on NFT marketplace OpenSea last week, pledging to donate half the proceeds - which he estimated to be $25m or more - to US charity GiveDirectly. However, the highest bid Estavi, the CEO of blockchain company Bridge Oracle, has yet received, is just $6,222.36. NFTs have been touted as the digital answer to collectibles. However, they have no tangible form of their own, and experts have warned about risks in the market, the BBC says.


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