IET responds to potential future gas crisis within the UK


The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) energy experts call out the UK energy system’s lack of resilience in preventing a potential gas crisis in autumn and winter 2021.

Craig Lucas, IET Energy Policy Panel Chair, says: “The situation we are currently experiencing is exceptional, as we emerge from COVID, and the global gas market rebounds.  However, there is no cause for complacency.  The gas market globally is undergoing a structural shift – some marginal oil and gas production was shuttered during the COVID pandemic, and Asian economies increasingly set the global price.  

“In this volatile global market, we need to redouble our focus on the resilience of our own energy system.  We are, as a nation, highly dependent on gas to heat our homes, and more and more reliant on imports from a market where prices are set by others.  We’ve had nuclear outages, low wind, and we’ve run down and closed our national gas storage. We have an increasingly unpredictable climate, which makes predicting demand, and supply of renewables, more challenging.  In the next few years, we will be retiring much of the generation capacity which can balance periods of low wind (coal and nuclear) on the tacit assumption that gas fired generation can provide the flexibility we need as we transition to a Net Zero energy system. 

“The recent combination of electrical plant outages and gas price spikes is arguably a ‘black swan’ situation, but we must plan for a more uncertain future.  This situation only underlines the urgency of progressing measures like energy efficiency and low carbon heating with more vigour, which not only save carbon but, long term, help to protect citizens and consumers.  In addition, it underlines the pressing need to have a balanced low carbon energy generation mix, with the right incentives for storage investment.  The UK Government has allowed us to run down our strategic gas storage because the judgement was that the global markets were sufficiently deep and liquid that we were not at the mercy of one producer nation.”

Olivia Carpenter-Lomax, IET Energy Sector Panel Chair, says: “It is not a new thing to say that the energy sector in the UK – and across the world – is at a time of great change. The vitally important decarbonisation of energy supplies is necessitating a mammoth transition of the way we do things, right across the technical, commercial and governance domains. If this is going to take place with minimal disruption to the supply of energy that is needed by modern society, we must be able to rely on resilient, whole systems and cross-sector thinking and action across the energy sector and the Government. This involves truly understanding the interdependencies, leveraging opportunities and mitigating risks so that systems work together positively rather than against each other destructively.  

“The current situation, which is being called a ‘crisis’, is a clear sign that there is still a lack of effective cross-sector and whole systems coordination. This should be seen as a wake-up call to not only tackle this specific situation, but also to build in resilience and agility to be able to adapt to the requirements of a decarbonising energy system, and to the changing climate itself. 

“The IET has been working in this space for some time. Our work on Future Power Systems Architecture describes the need for true ‘whole systems’ thinking and for agility, transparency and inclusivity to be designed into the systems we create. We are currently drafting work on the resilience within interdependencies of systems, which we hope will help policy makers and businesses in future crises. But we call for real action and change – from both industry and government – off the back of these discussions if we are going to meet the energy needs of society while protecting the planet.”  



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Ministers Debate Relaxing Immigration Rules As Lorry Driver Crisis Hits Fuel Supplies


Petrol station

3 min read

Cabinet ministers are meeting this afternoon to discuss potentially relaxing immigration rules as fuel becomes the latest victim of the country’s chronic lack of lorry drivers.

Ministers including Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay, who is responsible for tackling supply chain disruption, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will discuss how to respond to the ongoing labour shortages, with temporarily relaxing rules for EU workers now on the table, PoliticsHome understands.

The Financial Times this afternoon reported that Boris Johnson had given ministers the green light to relax immigration rules, in what would be a spectacular government U-turn.

A source familiar with the situation is reported to have said the Prime Minister is “completely fed up with bad headlines” about supply chain disruption and “doesn’t care about visa limits anymore”.

Two government sources told PoliticsHome that no final decision had been made at the time of writing.

The government has been adamant that it will not relax immigration rules in response to the dearth of lorry drivers. The long-standing shortage, put down to poor pay, unpleasant working conditions and an aging workforce, has been exacerbated by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng are believed to have been the senior ministers most opposed to relaxing immigration rules.

Ministers have urged businesses to recruit more British workers and have put in place measures designed to speed up the rate at which people can take lorry driver tests, in order to make up the shortfall. The Road Haulage Association estimates the country is short of around 100,000 drivers.

However, the government has come under growing pressure to change its mind in recent weeks as the lorry driver shortage has wreacked havoc across a wide range of industries.

It has led to delays in products reaching supermarket shelves and household names like McDonald’s, Greggs, and Ikea running out of certain items. The Food & Drink Federation’s Ian Wright last week said one in five orders made by hospitality businesses were simply not arriving.

The crisis took an even more serious turn on Thursday when some of the UK’s largest fuel providers said they had been forced to close a small number of petrol stations due to fuel not reaching them. BP said a “handful” of its petrol stations had been forced to shut because of a lack of access to fuel, while Esso and Tesco also reported problems with supply.

Footage posted on social media today showed long queues of cars at petrol stations, despite people being urged by the government not to panic buy.

A multitude of trade groups have spent the last few weeks urging ministers to make it easier to hire lorry drivers and other workers from the continent by adding them to the Shortage Occupation List.

14,000 EU drivers are estimated to have left the UK in the year to June 2020, according to recent Logistics UK analysis of Office for National Statistics data, and the government’s post-Brexit immigration system has made it much harder for them to come back and rejoin the profession.

Logistics UK estimates just 600 of those drivers have returned to the country.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) earlier this month warned that labour shortages could last another two years without urgent action, with the body’s director-general Tony Danker warning: “Standing firm and waiting for shortages to solve themselves is not the way to run an economy.”

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Parliamentary pensions should not be invested in Chinese companies complicit in human rights violations


4 min read

The government must join the US in introducing an entities list banning UK investment in Chinese companies directly complicit in the oppression of the Uyghurs.

In the last year we have seen a growing consensus emerge across the House of Commons on the urgent need for the UK to reassess its strategic relationship with China. Parliamentarians from all parts of the political spectrum have joined together to back the removal of Huawei from the UK’s 5G network, to label the persecution of the Uyghurs as an ongoing genocide, and for a tougher line against China’s dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

This sea-change within Parliament has primarily been driven by the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric, China’s flouting of international law, and growing concerns over human rights violations within its borders and in Hong Kong.

While Parliament has moved to reflect the change in public opinion and the belligerence of the government in Beijing, many firms within the City of London continue to push for the deepening of pension investment in Chinese equities, despite claiming that they support Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing.

Even for parliamentarians, the behaviour of firms like Blackrock, which last month called for investors to consider tripling their allocation to Chinese equities, has consequences when it comes to how MPs’ own pensions are invested.

A report published by UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch has found that over £39m of the British Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund in 2019 was invested in the Blackrock Emerging Markets fund. In 2021, this would have meant that Blackrock invested parliamentary pensions in companies with problematic human rights records or close association with the Chinese state, including £900,000 in Alibaba, £2.9m in Tencent, and £738,000 in China Construction Bank.

For too long firms have been able to hide behind ambiguous definitions of ethical investing, marking their own homework

At a time when a number of parliamentarians are the subject of Chinese sanctions and the House of Commons has labelled China’s persecution of the Uyghurs as a genocide, we have to question whether the parliamentary pension fund should be used to support Chinese state-run banks or invested in companies that are complicit in the human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang.

Blackrock is just one of many Western firms which dedicate substantial resources on PR to extoll their ethical approach to investment, while at the same time ploughing billions into Chinese equities with little concern over human rights records or their relationship with the Chinese state.

Legal and General is the UK’s largest pension provider and manages the civil service pension scheme. Until the spring of this year, its holdings included eight Chinese companies on the US sanctions list. This list included Zhejiang Dahua Technology, who have produced facial recognition software for the Chinese Government which detects the race of individuals and offers to alerts the police when it identifies Uyghurs.

From New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund to the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, Hong Kong Watch’s report highlights that the issue is global, with pension funds across the world investing substantial sums of other people’s money into Alibaba and Tencent.

So, what should we as parliamentarians be doing?

First, we need to get our own pension fund in order. We need to ensure the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund is not being invested in Chinese companies complicit in human rights violations or Chinese state-run banks.

Second, we need an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the ESG industry and the City of London with the aim of establishing a common framework. For too long firms have been able to hide behind ambiguous definitions of ethical investing, marking their own homework.

Third, we should push for the government to commit to making the City of London a world leader in ESG. That means government clearly defining ESG criteria with the inclusion of human rights considerations in primary legislation.

Finally, we cannot turn a blind-eye to the funding of Chinese companies involved in gross human rights violations. The government must join the US in introducing an entities list banning UK investment in Chinese companies directly complicit in the oppression of the Uyghurs.

The UK has the capacity to be a leader in ESG investing. To reach that goal, however, will require our Parliament to lead by example.

 

Alistair Carmichael is the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland and LIberal Dmeocrat spokesperson for Home Affairs. 

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UKRRIN launches new Technology and Innovation Hub in Doncaster


The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), the £92 million partnership between academia and industry, has launched a new Technology and Innovation Hub at Unipart Rail’s Headquarters in Doncaster.

Led by Unipart Rail, the new Hub will support the sector in translating academic research and innovation to solve strategic industry challenges and to enable and develop the next generation of products and services. The Hub will have a particular focus in supporting SMEs, both those established and new to the industry.

The Hub features information and interactive displays on the UKRRIN Centres of Excellence, the Network Rail Research and Development Portfolio and a range of different innovations from across the industry. The Hub has been supported by leading universities including Huddersfield, Southampton and Birmingham and organisations including Network Rail, Unipart Rail, RSSB and the Railway Industry Association (RIA).

Neil McNicholas, Managing Director at Unipart Rail said: “Unipart Rail is extremely proud to be a founding member of UKRRIN and now the home of the UKRRIN technology hub. Our wealth of knowledge, expertise and industry experience positions us as the ideal collaborative partner for SMEs, enabling them to revolutionise the delivery of innovative technology, whilst overcoming barriers to entry. This new facility will support the development of new technologies within academia and the supply chain and provide SMEs with guidance and support in order to establish a commercially viable proposition and a route to market.”

Dr Steve Ingleton, Engineering Director at Unipart Rail, said: “The Technology and Innovation Hub is specifically aimed to bring academia, research and development and industry much closer together to work in partnership to deliver innovation into the sector. The Hub can play a key role in supporting new technology and digital solutions from inception through to market deployment and make a major contribution in the transformation and modernisation of the rail network.”

Jo Binstead, Chair of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), said: “The UKRRIN Technology and Innovation Hub demonstrates how the powerful collaboration between industry and academia has delivered on its promise to bring new technologies to market, accelerating the transformation of our railway, and confirms that the continued investment in Research, Development and Innovation with facilities and expertise for large and small companies to develop, test, validate and deploy innovations ensures the growth of companies in the rail supply chain, and delivers on the Government’s levelling up agenda”

Prof Clive Roberts, Professor of Railway Systems, Head of School of Engineering, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education and Lead for UKRRIN, said: “I am delighted that UKRRIN is continuing to grow its scope and physical presence with the addition of the new UKRRIN Technology and Innovation Hub.  UKRRIN is a truly open network, which allows new industry and academic partners to add new capabilities. The new hub will both act as a location from which we can engage new participants, for example through our Sheffield City Region LEP funded SME-focussed DigiRail programme, and for outputs of UKRRIN to be demonstrated to stakeholders”.

David Clarke, Technical Director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “I am really pleased to welcome this latest addition to the UKRRIN network. The whole network provides access to the best brains and facilities in UK rail and the new Technology and Innovation Hub is particularly welcome with its focus on supporting SMEs by helping get their products to market, thereby solving real rail industry challenges. All too often innovators underestimate what is needed to move from prototype to approvals and then sales, so the hub will be vital in helping them on that journey”

The Hub was launched at an event on Wednesday 22 September covering the theme of ‘Where Great Ideas Converge’ with a number of UK rail leaders’ providing insights into innovation and digital transformation.



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The nuclear industry is harnessing the Best of British to create a new generation of skilled professionals


NDA group attendees pictured with Trudy Harrison MP at the Nuclear Industry Association’s ‘Skills & Apprenticeships Fair’ | Credit: Sellafield

The future of the nuclear industry is in good hands and well placed to help Britain face some of its biggest challenges.

It has been a busy time for the British nuclear sector. This month, representatives from companies across the profession gathered in Westminster for the Nuclear Industry Association’s ‘Nuclear Week in Parliament’, outlining ambitious plans over the coming years – none bigger than the goal of helping the UK reach net zero by 2050.

Pivotal to the nuclear industry’s contribution to net zero is equipping the next generation with the skills to make this a reality. It was therefore significant that a key aspect of this year’s ‘Nuclear Week in Parliament’ was the ‘Skills & Apprenticeships Fair’, paying tribute to and learning from the many graduates and apprentices who are having a major impact in the industry. 

As a leading member of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Sellafield Ltd is proud to have over 520 apprentices and 122 graduates integrated within its organisation. They are particularly pleased that one of them, Katie Wightman (pictured below with Trudy Harrison MP), was recently awarded NSAN UK Nuclear Apprentice of the Year.

Speaking during her keynote speech at the ‘Skills & Apprenticeships Fair’, Katie said:

“Starting an apprenticeship was the best decision I have ever made. It has opened a lot of doors for me; I have learned from so many amazing role models and I would now like to be a role model for others.”

Early career professionals like Katie are making a real difference to the way Sellafield works every day, from helping to safely and securely operate and clean-up Britain’s largest nuclear site, to pioneering the newest technology in AI and Robotics – which is making their mission successful. They are testament to what a rewarding career in nuclear decommissioning looks like.

Chief Executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, David Peattie, said:

“Nuclear decommissioning is a dynamic and forward-looking industry, which provides an unrivalled range of career opportunities for people across the whole of the UK.

“I’m extremely proud of our graduates and apprentices and I’m inspired by the passion they show when they talk about their work in the NDA group. I’m certain this enthusiasm will encourage the next generation to pursue a career in nuclear decommissioning.”

Jamie Reed, Head of Corporate Affairs, Sellafield Ltd said:

“At Sellafield we’re creating a clean environment for future generations and this requires graduates and apprenticeships across a range of areas, whether engineering, robotics or AI. Not only will this be of huge importance to our work but also to the economies of those communities closest to our areas of work in west Cumbria and Warrington.”

This sentiment is echoed by parliamentarians who recognise the value of a career in nuclear. When asked at the ‘Skills & Apprenticeships Fair’ about the impact that young people are having on the industry and how the sector can get more through the door, Trudy Harrison MP, who has many thousands of people employed in nuclear in her Copeland constituency, said “the focus on diversity and inclusion is working”.

She added:

“As long as we continue to invest in nuclear such as research and development, artificial intelligence, robotics for future decommissioning, I do not think we will have a problem recruiting into the nuclear industry.

“Just listening to the bright and shining examples of the future here, both apprentices and graduates from a number of different companies, many of which are based in my Copeland constituency, it’s incredibly inspiring. It’s the Best of British.”

Companies such as Sellafield are also playing a key role in creating regional powerhouses with sustainability at its heart and built on a diverse and inclusive workforce. Their work in Cumbria is proof of this on the ground.

Echoing this, Harrison said Sellafield’s work in the community is vital “because it means that parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles and teachers are recommending a future career… in the nuclear sector”.

Expanding on this, she added:

“The nuclear industry is a crucial investment for a green sustainable future”.

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Grant Shapps Claims Brexit Has Helped Provide A “Solution” For HGV Shortage


3 min read

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has dismissed claims that Brexit is partly to blame for a shortage of HGV drivers.

Some of the UK’s largest fuel providers have been forced to close a small number of petrol stations, warning the shortage of HGV drivers was disrupting fuel supplies.

BP said on Thursday a “handful” of its petrol stations had been forced to shut because of a lack of access to fuel, while Esso and Tesco also reported problems with supply.

Ministers have been urged to take action to tackle the shortage, including by considering easing immigration rules to allow foreign drivers to apply for jobs with firms struggling to get staff.

Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, said the government had let the situation get “gradually worse” in recent months, and said allowing foreign drivers to get “seasonal visas” could be a “very short-term” measures to ease pressures.

Other labour shortages, including in some parts of supply chains, have been blamed on post-Brexit rules, but speaking on Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Brexit had instead helped ease the HGV driver shortage.

“I’ve seen people point to Brexit as if it is the culprit here, in fact they are wrong,” he told Sky News.“Not only are there very large, and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law to alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.”

He added: “So Brexit actually has provided part of the solution of giving more slots available for HGV tests and a lot more, twice as many tests available now than before the pandemic and a large proportion of those we have only been able to do because we are not in the EU.”

Shapps said the government would “move heaven and earth” to solve the issue, adding that he would not rule out drafting in soldiers to drive fuel tankers.

“If it can actually help, we will bring them in,” he said.

Downing Street has urged the public not to panic buy petrol in the wake of the shortage, which comes just days after a CO2 shortage threatened to disrupt the UK’s food and drink supply.

But Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the shortage was a “rapidly worsening crisis that the government has failed to heed the warnings of for a decade”.

He added: “Sticking plaster solutions are not going to solve it. Ministers must take decisive steps now to tackle the 90,000 driver shortfall.”

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Eating disorders cost the UK £9.4 billion in 2020 – we need to invest in a nationwide strategy to tackle this crisis


Hope Virgo

4 min read

The report is calling on the government to develop a UK-wide eating disorder strategy, with a timeline for implementation, adequate ring fenced funding and investment in research.

2020 saw a year like no other as the whole world was engulfed by Covid-19. The fear, losing loved ones, the uncertainty, isolation… I could go on. It won’t be a surprise to any of you that we saw a rapid increase in individuals struggling with eating disorders. But the fact is, before Covid-19, we had a crisis around eating disorder treatment.  

Blaming Covid-19 for the way treatment is, is no longer an option.   

Eating disorders are a growing problem and whilst there are more conversations around food, exercise and health, there still remains a vicious cycle between the lack of awareness, lack of training, lack of funding, lack of research, and dangerous consumeristic messaging from society and the government.

A report written by myself, Dr Agnes Ayton and Professor Gerome Breen as part of the work the Hearts Minds and Genes Coalition for Eating Disorders calculated that the cost of eating disorders on the UK in 2020 was a staggering £9.4 Billion. When we break this down we seen huge costs across society from the loss of productivity (£4.8billion), to healthcare costs (£1.7billion), and carers costs (£1.1billion).

The NHS do an amazing job with the resources they have, but unless we invest there won’t be NHS services for eating disorders

Labour MP, John McDonnell said, “This report shows clearly that in addition to the tragic levels of human suffering caused by eating disorders, there is such a huge economic cost, which demonstrates even further the need for a comprehensive and urgent programme of action from government.” 

Liberal Democrat MP, Wera Hobhouse said, “There is something very wrong with the way eating disorders are treated in the UK and this report provides another angle of their devastating cost.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and we know that early intervention and access to specialist treatment saves lives. It breaks my heart that in 2021 so many are suffering. It is important that focus must turn to early intervention and prevention with adequate funding and services. eating disorders cause untold human suffering. 

As the chair of the APPG on Eating Disorders I fully support Hope’s ongoing campaigning on this issue which affects so many people’s lives.” 

The public understanding of eating disorders has improved in recent years as more people are speaking out, but it still seems to take a high profile person being affected by an eating disorder to bring it out in to the open, when the reality is, these stories and reports are a stark reminder of what is going on daily across the country in tens of thousands of homes. 

Professor Gerome Breen said, “This report underlies the massive impact eating disorders have across all age groups. We’ve been able to do some research that indicates tractable biology which could form the basis of novel therapeutics, but increased research funding is needed to develop these.”

We are told time and time again that the funding is there, promised that there is a plan in place, but when we look at eating disorders across the country there seems to be a real disconnect in these promises and what we are seeing on the ground. The NHS do an amazing job with the resources they have, but unless we invest there won’t be NHS services for eating disorders!

This is why the report is calling on the government to develop a UK-wide eating disorder strategy, with a timeline for implementation and adequate resources; including ring fenced funding and investment in research. To go alongside this, it is essential that we focus on early intervention from the introduction of eating disorder screening to take place across all health care and corporate settings to eating disorder services working with schools, key stakeholders and the government to develop a whole school approach to eating disorders.

With changes like this, we will not only save money for the NHS, but also save lives. Are we really going to wait until we lose generation after generation before we act on this?

 

Hope Virgo is a mental health campaigner and author and Founder of #DumpTheScales.

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The Olympic and Paralympic heroes inspiring communities


Since The National Lottery started to fund elite sport in 1997, National Lottery players have supported over 5,000 British Olympic and Paralympic athletes. This funding allows Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes to train full time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams.

Over 1,000 medals and counting 

This summer saw a fantastic Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games with some amazing moments. The first Team GB gold medal in Tokyo, won by swimmer Adam Peaty, was the 100th gold medal for Team GB since funding from The National Lottery was introduced.  Additionally, Paralympian George Peasgood’s bronze medal in the Tokyo C4 road cycling time trial represents an extraordinary milestone: the 1,000th medal won by a British athlete in the Paralympic and Olympic Games, summer and winter, since the introduction of National Lottery funding.

From grassroots to Olympic medal – Peckham’s BMX hero 

However, it’s not just about elite sport. Thanks to support from The National Lottery and its players, funding is being invested into grassroots initiatives that range from getting more young people from urban areas to explore their potential in Olympic and Paralympic sport to providing inclusive community sports opportunities.

CK Flash is the coach and CEO of the south London club that has mentored 21-year-old Tokyo silver medallist, Kye Whyte, since he took up BMX as a toddler. The club in the heart of Peckham was opened in 2013 with the help of £100,000 of funding from The National Lottery.

By helping clubs like Peckham BMX transform the lives of riders like Kye, National Lottery players are playing a vital role in supporting up-and-coming Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes.

CK, who has seen first-hand the incredible difference that National Lottery funding makes, said, “Kye always seems to surprise me. He’s been with me since he was three. I’ve been running the club for 17 years and getting the club to where it is with the other seven riders who made it onto Team GB.”

CK said it was amazing to see Kye win a silver medal. He added, “It’s a fantastic thing for the community and amazing for kids in the club to look up to. Let’s look at the future and see if we can make some more Kye Whytes.”

Peckham’s Kieran Beneochrise is among the young riders inspired by Kye’s medal-winning performance in Tokyo. The 15-year-old said, “It was amazing for him [Kye] to take silver and it was well deserved. I’ve seen him train here and to know he started in Peckham is really inspiring. My dream is to win gold at the Olympics one day!”

Northampton superstars inspire next generation of swimmers  

Maisie Summers-Newton’s gold medal-winning performances in the pool at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is also encouraging people to get involved.

Maisie won gold in both the SB6 100m Breaststroke and SM6 200m Individual Medley, setting a new world record for the latter of 2:56.68 in the process. The 19-year-old’s achievement was celebrated at an event at Northampton Swimming Club attended by three-time Paralympic gold medallist, Oliver Hynd, designed to demonstrate the power of Paralympic sport to inspire, break down barriers, shift perceptions and increase opportunities for all disabled people.

A total of four ParalympicsGB swimmers – Maisie, Ellie Robinson, Zara Mullooly and William Perry – all hail from Northampton Swimming Club and the quartet is inspiring the next generation to get in the pool and give the sport a go.

Oliver, 26, said, “I think the power of sport and the Paralympics is inspiring people and making positive changes to people’s lives. Events like today allow those opportunities to inspire the next generation, and what with Northampton having Maisie, Ellie, Zara and William, we’ve got a really strong showing in Tokyo.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to try to inspire that next generation coming through and the support from The National Lottery has really made a real difference.”

CEO of Swim England, Jane Nickerson, said, “Events like this are really important because this is the grassroots and where it all starts. These clubs inspire other children who can see what can be achieved regardless of disability, so we’re offering opportunities during the Paralympics for children to come along and have a go to see if they like it.”

The support made possible thanks to National Lottery players is vital to the success not only of ParalympicsGB and Team GB, but also community sport initiatives right across the UK.

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As we recover from the pandemic, we must not allow British horse racing to fall behind


3 min read

The Horserace Betting Levy should apply to all horse racing globally which is bet on by British customers, generating around £20 million annually to help British racing build back better.

Horse racing is a sport that means so much to me, not only because of my love for horse riding, but also because I have seen the positive impact that horse racing has in Newmarket and right across the UK. It is vital we support racing now to recover from the pandemic – for its own sake, because it does so much for jobs, prosperity, and for Britain’s soft power around the world.

Horse racing is the second biggest sport in the UK on any measure – by attendance, by revenue, or by employment. In 2019, over five million attended racecourses in Great Britain, and experienced the thrill of the turf. From flat cap to top hat, Chepstow to Chelmsford, and Perth to Pontefract, people are working, riding and enjoying racing and all the sport brings to our communities.

The racing industry is also one of the biggest private industry employers in Britain. The breadth of skill and craft is extraordinary. Farriers, vets, stud staff, feed suppliers, equipment suppliers, sales companies, bookmakers, transportation or equine schools, breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, the racing employs directly or indirectly 80,000 across the UK.

As we work to build an outward-looking, international and free-trading global Britain, investment from horse racing is vital

Nationally, aside from the estimated £4 billion a year contribution to the UK economy, racing as an industry has acted as a bridgehead for significant trade and investment into the UK. Examples include massive investment in business, property and universities from investors who come to the UK for our racing. As we work to build an outward-looking, international and free-trading global Britain, this investment is vital.

But as we recover from the pandemic, we must not allow British horseracing to fall behind. The suspension of racing for 11 weeks in 2020, and the absence of spectators from racecourses for the majority of 15 months to May 2021, is estimated to have cost the British racing industry between £400 and £450 million in lost revenues.

Racing is of course partly funded by a Levy that represents the value of horse racing to the gambling industry, for without races no-one bets on the horses. The Levy provides for the infrastructure of racing, and for the prize money that attracts investors who are crucial to the sport. We must also not lose sight of the important mission to prevent gambling-related harm, something I care deeply about.

In my adjournment debate today, I will be asking for two changes. First, the Levy should be based on a percentage of turnover, rather than a percentage of profit. This would result in less volatile yields and remove unhealthy perverse incentives in the sport.

Second, and most urgently, the Levy should apply to all horse racing globally which is bet on by British customers. Betting customers in Britain can safely enjoy and benefit from horse racing in a wide variety of countries, British participants often compete in these international events, driving interest and UK betting turnover.

However, British racing does not receive a return from betting activity on these races. An extension of the Levy to cover racing overseas would see this apply to all thoroughbred horse races held worldwide, rather than races solely run in Great Britain. This is how it works elsewhere, it can be quickly and easily enacted, and would generate around £20 million annually to help British racing build back better. Closing this loophole is right, fair, good economics, and based on historic, and international, precedent.

I urge the government to consider these reforms to ensure British racing can thrive in the years ahead.

 

Matt Hancock is the Conservative MP for West Suffolk.

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Minister Admits Customers Could Face Higher Energy Tariffs If Their Current Supplier Goes Bust


Ministers have warned customers could face higher bills if forced to switch supplier

3 min read

Consumers who are forced to switch to a new energy supplier will not be guaranteed they will pay the same rate, a business minister has said.

Business minister Paul Scully said it was “not really possible” to guarantee that customers won’t be forced to pay more for their energy bills if they are transferred to a new supplier.

Thousands of people are facing losing their current tariff rates after several smaller energy suppliers were forced out of business as a result of the wholesale gas price hike.

Under the current system, households whose supplier goes bust will be transferred to a so-called ‘Supplier of Last Resort’ by energy regulator Ofgem to ensure they continue to have a supply of gas and electricity.

Speaking earlier this week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested people would be expected to pay around the same amount, but said the tariff rates could be altered depending on how many smaller firms were forced to “exit the market” as a result of the price squeeze.

“I think you’d be expected to pay the same amount”, Kwarteng told Times Radio. “But that’s clearly going to be a function of how many – we have lots of companies that are in this position – and what the companies are that are left that can absorb the remaining customers.”

But speaking on Thursday, Scully suggested it was “not really possible” to guarantee to customers that their bills wouldn’t increase, and said the government’s first priority was keeping supplies secure.

“In terms of a guarantee, what we’ll have is security, they don’t need to do anything because their transfer will be made directly through the Ofgem scheme, making sure that they have a company looking after them supplying their energy,” he told Times Radio.

“But what we want to do is make sure first of all their continuity of supply and then, as a government, that we are helping to keep those prices down through the price cap through the warm homes discount as well for the lowest paid, and people on pension’s credit.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizen’s Advice said it was likely those shifted to new suppliers would be placed on a standard tariff which would result in higher bills.

“People will be transferred to a new supplier. They won’t be transferred, necessarily, on the tariff they were on previously,” she said.

“So if people were on particular deals they will tend to transfer on to the standard tariff of the new supplier. So that may mean that people’s bills will go up.”

She added: “It’s a very, very worrying time.

“I think that people should be able to find pricing which is very much in line with their old tariff, but we have to wait and see how many suppliers are affected.”

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