Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas reveals he has HIV

Former rugby player Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive.

The 45-year-old said he had been “living with [this] secret for years” and it had taken it’s toll on his mental health, leading to suicidal thoughts.

However he has chosen to share his diagnosis to make a difference and help others who have HIV in the hopes he break the stigma around the condition.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, he said: “Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now.”

‘I thought I was going to die’

There are an estimated 101,600 people in the UK with HIV (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty)

The Wales player, who retired from rugby in 2011, didn’t share when he received his diagnosis but said he had learned of it after going for a routine sexual health screening.

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He said: “I was in such a state. I immediately thought I was going to die.

“I had a fear people would judge me and treat be like a leper because of lack of knowledge. I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff.”

He remained silent about his condition until now over fears of how he would be treated by others, admitting he was “petrified” now it is in the open.

He said: “I thought that if people knew about me beingHIV positive  they wouldn’t want to breathe the same air as me.”

Breaking the stigma

However he said his personal strength and support system helped him come to terms with his HIV diagnosis.

He has received regular blood tests every six months, with his condition now considered “undetectable”, meaning that he cannot pass the virus on.

The star, who came out as gay in 2009,  hopes his admission will help educate others on HIV and break the stigma surrounding the condition.

“HIV is a scary subject. There’s a lot of fear and ignorance. But the fear is something people learned in the 1980s from the tombstone adverts on TV. In 2019 there is nothing to be afraid of.

“People need to know that due to modern medicine HIV is not life-threatening any more and because of the medication I take, there’s no way it can be passed on.”

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Extinction Rebellion co-founder arrested as protesters fly drones to try and shut down Heathrow airport

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam is among those to have been arrested as environmental protesters intentionally flew drones near Heathrow airport.

Mr Hallam, 53, was reportedly detained on Saturday alongside activists from a splinter group called Heathrow Pause, which has been attempting to disrupt flights at Britain’s busiest airport since Thursday.

Extinction Rebellion said that Hallam was previously arrested on Thursday during a preemptive wave of arrests, and was bailed with conditions not to be within five miles of any airport or possess drone equipment.

Police confirmed that a total of 19 people aged between 19 and 69 have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit a public nuisance or attempting to commit a public nuisance.

Roger Hallam, a co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion group, was previously arrested in Bethnal Green, east London, on Thursday
Roger Hallam, a co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion group, was previously arrested in Bethnal Green, east London, on Thursday (Photo: LHR Pause Media/PA Wire)

A 53-year-old man arrested on Thursday was arrested again on Saturday and taken into police custody, Scotland Yard added.

A dispersal order around the airport will remain in place until 4.30am on Sunday “to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport.”

Signal jammers

The activists have been attempting to interrupt flights by flying drones inside the 5km exclusion zone around the major transport hub.

However, the activists have so far failed to cause any delays, with police believed to be using signal jammers to prevent their drones from operating.

Flights continued to land as normal on Friday and Saturday.

Police declined to comment on specific measures they may have taken to stop the protesters’ drones from working, but one expert said existing technology can jam signals between operators and drones.

Richard Gill, chief executive of Drone Defence, told Press Association: “That technology is definitely available and can do exactly that.

“When a drone is operated remotely it relies on a radio connection between the drone and the pilot.

“Interference can cut that connection between the operator and the drone.”

Former Paralympian James Brown was arrested at terminal two on Friday after he took part in the protest, and he told PA that there were up to 35 people willing to fly the devices in an attempt to cause disruption.

Dangerous folly

Heathrow Pause says it wants to highlight the “dangerous folly of Heathrow expansion” and cancel the planned third runway.

The group said: “We must reiterate that interrupting the Airport and disturbing scores of travellers was never the ultimate goal of this action.

“The real objective was always to trigger a sensible, honest conversation, throughout society, on the dangerous folly of Heathrow expansion, with the ultimate objective of cancelling the third runway.

“That conversation is now happening. It is incumbent on all of us to keep it going.”

Heathrow Airport confirmed its runways were open and said they were committed to addressing climate change.

It said in a statement on Friday: “We will continue to work with the authorities to carry out dynamic risk assessment programmes and keep our passengers flying safely on their journeys today.

“We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity, designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people, is not the answer.

“The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do.”

This action is the latest in a string of climate change protests this year, including the widespread action in London in April, which saw Extinction Rebellion bring sites including Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge to a standstill.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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Domestic violence survivor shares shocking photos of injuries to urge other victims to get help

A woman who survived an abusive relationship has shared images of her injuries, encouraging other victims of abuse to get help.

Lynn Hart, 53, was left with her face covered in bruises and eyes swollen shut, after a vicious beating from boyfriend of three years, David Harrison.

Harrison flew into a rage at his Dudley flat on 5 May, repeatedly punching Ms Hart in the face before using a TV speaker bar as a weapon to continue the onslaught, while she lay defenceless on the floor.

The injuries were so shocking that when visiting her GP, Ms Hart was taken through the back door to avoid upsetting other patients.

Seven years jail

Lynn Hart was left with severe bruising to her face after being beaten by her boyfriend
Lynn Hart was left with severe bruising to her face after being beaten by her boyfriend (Photo: West Midlands Police)

Harrison initially professed his innocence, claiming Ms Hart had fallen down a flight of stairs.

However, on 3 September he admitted a charge of wounding at Wolverhampton Crown Court, and was jailed for seven years.

Ms Hart spoke out as new data revealed that killings as a result of domestic violence has reached a five-year high.

The data obtained by the BBC shows that 173 people were killed in domestic violence homicides across the UK in 2018.

Never happen again

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Speaking about how the abuse started, Ms Hart explained: “We moved in together about six months after meeting and at first everything was great.

“But he was a heavy drinker and slowly things started going wrong. First it was verbal abuse, putting me down and telling me things like ‘your family don’t love you, only I love you’.

“But then he started with the physical attacks… and they got worse over time. I would put on extra make-up and come up with excuses for anyone who saw through the concealer.”

She added: “Each time he’d apologise and tell me it would never happen again. I also thought there’s no point reporting it to the police as it would be my word against his, I wouldn’t be believed.”

Thought I would die

Of the night in question, she added: “I genuinely thought he was going to kill me. He just kept punching me in the face and then picked up the TV speaker and used that to hit me.”

Ms Hart fled and sought refuge at her son’s flat where she resolved to finally call the police, adding: “I knew my life was in danger if I stayed with him and enough was enough.”

David Harrison was jailed for seven years
David Harrison was jailed for seven years (Photo: West Midlands Police)

She said: “Looking back I should have got the police involved earlier but it’s easy to say in hindsight. They supported me from the moment I reported it, believed in me – that was important – and guided me through the court process.

“There might be thousands of people in the position I was in, torn between their love for a partner but every day scared they could be assaulted for no reason.

“What I’d say is get help. It’s unlikely their abusive partner will suddenly just change… [police] can help you escape violent situations and come out the other side.

“I truly feel that if I’d have stayed with David any longer I would have ended up dead.”

Monster in drink

Detective Inspector Catherine Webb-Jones, of West Midlands Police said: “Harrison’s abusive behaviour escalated over time yet Lynn hoped he would change.

“It didn’t stop. Harrison proved to be a monster in drink with alcohol often being the trigger for his offending.

“Lynn’s appeal comes from the heart: victims of abuse need to find the courage to seek support. Don’t suffer alone and don’t tolerate abuse.”

Victims of domestic abuse can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327, or the National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428.

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Blenheim Palace closed after £1m gold toilet stolen overnight

Blenheim Palace’s 18-carat golden toilet worth £1 million was stolen overnight, just two days after it went on display.

The 18th Century palace – a World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill – will remain closed for the rest of the day while the investigation continues.

The incident happened just before 5am on Saturday morning and “caused significant damage and flooding,” according to police.

The golden loo was plumbed in the palace, near the room where the former primer minister was born.

66-year-old arrested

The golden toilet drew large crowds when it was exhibited in New York in 2016 (Photo credit should read WILLIAM EDWARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

A 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and remains in police custody – but the toilet is still missing.

Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police said: “The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace.

“Due to the toilet being plumbed in to the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.

“We believe a group offenders used at least two vehicles during the offence.

“The artwork has not been recovered at this time but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.

“Residents will see an increased police presence in the area while officers and staff carry out enquiries.”

“I am appealing to anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area to contact police.

“You can call us on 101, quoting URN 273 (14/9), visit our website or visit a police station.”

Flushed with success

The toilet, designed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan was part of a new exhibition at the Oxfordshire estate.

Visitors were able to use the artwork, provided they obey a three-minute time limit.

More than 100,000 visitors have waited in line to use the fully functioning toilet during a previous installation at New York’s Guggenheim museum.

The toilet designed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, was part of a new exhibition at Blenheim Palace (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Posting on their Twitter account, Blenheim Palace said: “Due to an unforeseen incident at the Palace we are closed until lunchtime, the Park will remain open. Apologies for any inconvenience.

“Please note, the Palace will now be shut until 2pm. The coffee shop and gift shop will be open as normal.”

They later added: “The Palace will now be shut for the rest of the day. Further updates will follow.”

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Only if Johnson comes up with a firm proposal can the DUP’s true position be revealed

Despite Arlene Foster’s public denials, the Times stands by its story that  ahead of any return to Stormont ,the DUP would support the idea of the Assembly signing off on a deal to replace the backstop that would involve some ( no doubt de-dramatised) “checks in the Irish Sea” . This is based on the hope that DUP all-Ireland agreement on agri foods is only a stage on a journey rather than the final destination. It would mean the DUP joining the others including Sinn Fein in agreeing something more comprehensive. What would happen if they didn’t agree?  Would that amount to the veto that Dublin and the EU have repeatedly they will not concede to the Assembly? If not, what’s the point of it?   We can only know the answers to these key questions if Boris Johnson makes a firm proposal. Will he do that before he puts a new Deal package to Brussels? Or hold back in case some party or other torpedoes it in advance?

From the Times report today.       


The Times revealed yesterday that the DUP was shifting some of its red lines to unlock a deal with the EU. Critically, the Northern Irish party has privately indicated that it could accept regulatory checks in the Irish Sea and divergence from Britain with the consent of the province’s democratic institutions.

Despite Ms Foster’s and Mr Wilson’s insistence, party sources say that they could accept regulatory divergence with the “consent” of Northern Irish democratic institutions. They made clear that this would not require the executive and assembly to be restored before October 31. “That could happen in the transition period,” they said. They were “positive” that a deal could be done.

The deal could find favour with the EU, which fears Northern Ireland becoming a back door into its single market for non-compliant goods if the UK signs trade deals with countries such as the United States.

Surprisingly perhaps Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s negotiator around the GFA and still a keen observer gives no encouragement to the Times’ analysis in a letter to the paper. But then he’s an unrepentant Remainer.

… If we leave the single market and the customs union, as we will have to for the Canada-style free trade agreement favoured by Boris Johnson, there will have to be a border somewhere. It can be between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK or between the island of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

The DUP has a perfectly legitimate complaint against the border between Northern Ireland and Britain because it undermines its identity. The Irish are rightly never going to agree to a border with the EU. And a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would reopen the issue of identity underpinning the Good Friday agreement. This has been the problem bedevilling the Brexit talks since the start and to suggest that a common agricultural area for the whole of Ireland and some cobbled-together ideas about trusted trader schemes solves it, is nonsense. In truth we are still a long way from a negotiated deal and no one has yet found the magic key to unlock it.

Jonathan Powell
Downing Street chief of staff 1997-07


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‘I used a hammer and chisel in surgery’: Meet doctor, 93, who started working in the NHS when it was created in 1948

Professor Harold Ellis qualified as a doctor in the same month the NHS was was created in July 1948. “I’d been a student at the Radcliffe [Hospital in Oxford] for three years, went away for a fortnight’s holiday, came back and it was now the National Health Service. Honestly, we didn’t really notice it – there wasn’t great big notices up around the hospital or anything. The nurses weren’t running around with NHS badges on their bosoms. Everything just went on exactly the same way.”

The biggest concerns were from senior medics: the consultants, surgeons, physicians, and anesthetists. They had been “honorary staff” as Professor Ellis calls them, who gave their services for free and earned their money in private practice.

“For them it was a revolution because they didn’t know what their financial situation was going to be. That was the main reason for them violently opposing the NHS for months and months.”

Under Bevan’s scheme, the hospital consultants were to be either full-time salaried specialists or to serve as part-time consultants, paid for the sessions they covered in the health service and allowed private practice outside their sessional hours. The majority opted for the second option. The new salaries for both GPs, who had previously owned their surgeries and sold them upon retirement, and consultants were generous. “Nye Bevan made a wonderful statement with his wonderful Welsh voice: ‘I stuffed their mouths with gold!’. The doctors had no argument to that. With one shot of his pistol Bevan had the consultants on his side. And the difference to patients was remarkable.”

Professor Ellis with two colleagues at the Radcliffe Hospital Oxford. (Photo: Harold Ellis)
Professor Ellis, centre, with two colleagues at the Radcliffe Hospital Oxford (Photo: Harold Ellis)

History of the NHS

How the NHS was created forms the tail end of his new book, Tales of the Operating Theatre and other essays, in which Professor Ellis reflects on his 70-year career and comprises first-hand accounts of some of the most remarkable moments in medical history.

“You’ll find it’s brilliant,” he laughs. “It should be, it’s my 28th book.”

Born in Stepney Green in the East End of London in 1926, Professor Ellis was the youngest of four children and his parents were both dress makers.

“I’d always wanted to study medicine, no idea why. The only doctor I knew was our GP. I ended up getting a scholarship to read medicine at Oxford, which coincided with the outbreak of World War Two.”

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After spending two years training as a house surgeon in Oxford, Professor Ellis went on to practice as a graded surgical specialist in the Royal Army Medical Corps until 1952, treating soldiers injured in the Korean War who had spinal and head injuries.

“The first paper I ever wrote was on spinal tumours in soldiers in the British Medical Journal, in the 1960s. The surgery that I was doing has now completely altered, new operations have come in. The cranial surgery I did in the army was crude – using a hammer and chisel to get into the skull. Now they use electric saws.

“I never used fibreoptic surgery – the very first gall bladder removed laparoscopically [using keyhole surgery] in this country was in 1989, the year I retired, by one of my ex-trainees and he phoned me up afterwards to tell me. I wished those kind of machines and tools were around when I was operating.”

Changes to surgery

He continued his career as a surgical registrar, working at hospitals in London, Sheffield and the Radcliffe in Oxford again. Asked what the biggest differences to surgery were he saw over the course of his 40-year career, Professor Ellis grins.

“Where do you want me to start? Have you got the next 6-7 days? Nothing I did in 1948 would compare to what I was doing 20-30 years later, mostly because of medical and surgical progress. The diseases changed, treatment changed, drugs changed, the operations changed. Things you’d see every day as a student disappeared – like tuberculosis. Every ward, when I qualified, had patients with TB in it.

“There was a TB hospital in Oxford with about 200 beds, full of patients. At the [main] hospital up the road a sixth of the patients had TB, you’d go to an orthopaedic clinic and swarms of patients had TB. You’d see them every day. It was very common for doctors and nurses to get it as well, from the patients.”

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Professor Ellis was afraid of catching polio as a medical student but was confident he had developed some kind of immunity to TB from growing up in the East End.

“Most doctors today will never have seen a patient with tuberculosis, unless they work in the third world. We had outbreaks of poliomyelitis as well until the polio vaccine came in in the mid-1950s. I was one of the first in the queue to get it.

“When I was professor of surgery in the 1980s, AIDs came in. All of a sudden you had wards full of AIDs patients, all the staff were petrified they were going to catch AIDs.”

Professor Ellis with surgical patients at the Radcliffe Hospital in 1948.
Professor Ellis with surgical patients at the Radcliffe Hospital in 1948 (Photo: Harold Ellis)

‘Anatomy doesn’t change’

Professor Ellis, a former Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, founded the academic surgical unit at Westminster Medical school in 1960, where he practiced as a professor of surgery until his retirement in 1989. He then went to teach anatomy at Cambridge University from 1989 to 1993, before moving onto teach clinical anatomy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London. He is also the author of the textbook Clinical Anatomy which is now in its 13th edition.

“Unlike surgery, anatomy doesn’t change. The body hasn’t changed since I dissected my first corpse in 1943. The students love me because I’m so old and tell them stories. I don’t teach using a word processor – just a bit of chalk on the blackboard.

“I made it quite clear that as soon as I retired I wasn’t going to see any more patients or do any more surgery. Once or twice old patients would ring up and ask: ‘You operated on me 22 years ago, can you see my daughter?’ But I had to say I’d retired. I’d advise them to see my ex-trainee though, although even he’s retired now.

“I enjoyed my time as a surgeon but I knew right from the start it’s a finite thing and was going to stop eventually. I’ve been in the theatre about 10 times since I retired to see my trainees doing all these wonderful things and had great admiration, but I never thought ‘move over, let me try’. Just like an old pilot I imagine, going for a ride in a Spitfire but you don’t want to fly it yourself.”

Golden anniversary

Now 93, Professor Ellis lives in Finchley, north London, still married to his wife, Wendy, although he can’t quite remember for how long exactly.

“I know we’ve had our Golden wedding anniversary so it’s 60 something years. I was determined not to marry anyone in the health service profession. I didn’t want to come home at night after a day at the hospital and talk about bed pans. I met this lovely girl and she said I was the very first doctor she’d met. I thought ‘I’m going to marry this girl’. Took me years to persuade her though.”

He believes the NHS embodies the advancements there have been in medicine, but is fearful for the health service today.

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“It’s got terrible problems. The remarkable thing is that, when the health service started, people would say – and you won’t believe this – it will get cheaper, because people are going to get better: cripples will become fit, active people and so on. Absolute rubbish!

“Every year, more and more people like me are getting older and older and requiring medical care. When I was a student if you were treating a 75-year-old patient on the ward, one chief would say: ’75?! There’s no point in treating him, for God’s sake!’ Statistically he should have dead for five years.

“Some of my old teachers would not operate on the elderly, saying ‘You’re 70, what do you expect me to do?’ These days people are having heart surgery at 90 years of age – and that costs a lot of money.

“Other countries may have different health systems but you have to decide what you’re going to spend your money on? Are you going to buy a new battleship or a new hospital? I know what I’d prefer to do.”

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Bereaved woman may be eligible for support if ‘friends thought she had wed’ due to Scottish law

A long-forgotten quirk of Scottish law may offer a lifeline to a mother who was denied bereavement support when her partner of 20 years died.

Denise Robertson, from East Lothian, was told after losing Gary Dunn she was ineligible for thousands of pounds because they never wed or entered a civil partnership.

But now the UK Government will reconsider after her daughter found an obscure law that may mean they get the money if friends thought Gary and her mother were married.

“The Department for Work and Pensions has passed my appeal on to a different department,” said Ms Robertson, 58, from Macmerry. “Seemingly they are going to treat my appeal under Scottish law.”

‘Supporting people through bereavement’

Her daughter, Charlene Campbell, spent hours poring through online documents and archives to unearth a type of irregular marriage called “marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute”. It was abolished by the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, except for in very particular circumstances.

“They are getting in touch with me to arrange a visit to speak with me and ask questions about our 20-year relationship,” said Ms Robertson.

“Under Scottish law, if myself, Gary and others before 2006 saw us as husband and wife then I should have a good case. They will have to interview people that knew us.”

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Mr Dunn was diagnosed with chronic rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 21 – a condition leading to a deterioration in his health later in life.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and have widened the support available.”

A version of this article first appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman

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Bus passenger journeys have fallen by 300 million in five years

The annual number of bus journeys being taken in England has fallen by more than 300 million in five years, figures show, as cities beyond London consider seizing control of services.

Analysis of Department for Transport figures by the Local Government Association (LGA) shows 4.3bn journeys were made in 2018/19, compared with 4.6bn in 2014/15.

The LGA commissioned a survey of 1,105 people from England, which shows that 69 per cent of residents think councils should be the main decision-makers on bus services.

i told in June how Manchester could be the first city region outside London to take control of its buses. Sheffield is among other cities considering similar proposals in a move that would mark the biggest change in regional public transport in more than three decades.

Bus route transformation

The LGA believes giving councils oversight of local bus services would enable them to maintain and improve them, as well as protect routes so older and vulnerable people “don’t get left behind”.

Earlier this year, it warned that nearly half of routes are at risk of being scrapped due to a lack of funding.

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Manchester could be set to seize control of its buses

It said claimed that councils are filling a £652m gap between Government funding for the free bus pass scheme and how much it costs. Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability.

But budgetary constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

In Manchester, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for buses to re-regulated.

LGA transport spokesman David Renard said: “Councils want to protect local bus services, which are a vital service and can be a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents, whether that is to go shopping, collect medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends.

”The continuing decline in bus journeys emphasises the need to protect bus services and for councils to be able to invest in funding subsidised routes.”

Buses queue up for passengers on the streets of Manchester. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Buses queue up for passengers on the streets of Manchester (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

He added: “Not only will this make sure we can provide bus services to those who rely on them, but it can also help to reduce congestion and improve air quality by reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.

”As our polling also shows, the vast majority of residents want to see councils take control over how bus routes operate in their local area.

“With proper funding and by giving all councils oversight through automatic franchising powers, councils will be better placed to boost ailing passenger numbers and enable more people to use the bus services they rely on every day.”

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London school accused of kicking out A-level students for ‘not getting good enough grades’

A state school in London has been accused of unlawfully kicking out sixth formers half-way through their A levels because they were not getting good enough grades.

Three families at Queens Park Community School in Brent were told their children were “below the required minimum standard to progress into Year 13”.

However, students can only be lawfully excluded for disciplinary reasons, and not on the basis of their academic results.

In 2017 St Olave’s, a leading grammar school in Bromley, Kent, was embroiled in scandal after it was found to have booted out students who failed to achieve a certain level of academic performance at the end of Year 12. An official inquiry by Bromley Council concluded the practice was illegal.

‘Disappointing thing’

One parent whose child was informed by Queens Park that he could not progress to Year 13 told Schools Week magazine: “When they needed him to step up and do things for the school, he always did it.

“On this one occasion when he’s had a bad year and we needed the school to support him, they didn’t.”

The parent added: “They kicked him out and I think that’s the most disappointing thing. He’s given everything to the school and he’s being treated as though he’s walked in with a set of kitchen knives. That’s how it feels – that they’ve just dismissed him and they don’t care about him.”

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A spokesperson for Queens Park said that when students “are clearly not meeting the minimum grades after a year of study we encourage them to find more suitable alternative courses on which they can succeed” and that “A-levels are not for everyone.”

They insisted the students had not been excluded, and claimed they had been offered the opportunity to start a BTEC instead.

However, Schools Week reported that in the correspondence it had seen, parents were told the school was “unable to offer” their child a place this academic year, without mention of the option of a BTEC.

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‘Illegal’ standalone grammar school created in Kent, campaigners say

Campaigners have claimed that a new grammar school has been illegally created in Kent.

In 2017 Tonbridge’s Weald of Kent Grammar School opened a satellite site 10 miles away in Sevenoaks. Under a 1998 law it is illegal to open any new grammars, but the Government signed off on the new site because it accepted it was just an “annexe” of the main school.

However, Comprehensive Future – which campaigns against selective schools – has uncovered evidence which it says shows the integration of the two sites has been quietly dropped, in effect creating a new standalone grammar.

The original proposal agreed to by the Department for Education claimed “all students will enjoy the benefit of at least a half-day a week at the main site” and that the headteacher would spend time on both sites.

Revised timetable

But under a revised timetable Sevenoaks pupils no longer travel to the main school site for lessons. A teacher told Comprehensive Future: “The leadership team will now stop spending one day a week in Sevenoaks, instead one assistant headteacher will be based permanently in Sevenoaks.

“This is the beginning of a separate leadership team.”

The trust’s business accounts also describe the Sevenoaks site as “a growing school”.

Dr Nuala Burgess, Comprehensive Future’s chair, said: “If the original plans submitted for the satellite had shown this current set-up, [we] stood a very real chance of winning a judicial review, on the grounds that the satellite was, for all intents and purposes, a new selective school.”

“Any new, standalone, grammar school is illegal, and the Sevenoaks satellite is tantamount to the creation of a new selective school via the backdoor.”

The Labour MP Lucy Powell, who was Shadow Education Secretary when the site was approved. commented: “I warned at the time that the DfE gave the green light for this so-called annex, that it was in effect the first new grammar school to open in more than 50 years.

“There are real concerns that this is an illegal grammar school. Ministers must investigate urgently.”

A spokesperson for Comprehensive Future told i that the group was now “looking into” the possibility of a judicial review.

Public funds

But Elizabeth Bone, the headteacher of Weald of Kent, insisted it is “one school which operates across two campuses”.

She said the senior leadership team continued to work at both sites. She added: “When the annex building at our Sevenoaks campus was first opened, we asked students to travel once a fortnight to the Tonbridge campus.

“This was set up to ensure that the delivery of the curriculum was done in a cost-effective manner and ensured that all students in the school had equal access to curriculum specialist teaching.

“As we enter the third year of the annex being open, we are now able to deliver, in a manner that represents best use of public funds, specialist teaching at both of our campus sites.”

The DfE is currently considering bids by two other grammar schools in Kent who are competing to open a campus in Whitstable.

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Momentum launches drive to get tens of thousands of students registered for snap election

An urgent voter registration drive to sign up tens of thousands of students in key marginal seats is being launched by Momentum, the pro-Corbyn campaign group.

It argues that younger voters hold the key to victory in marginal seats across the country – including Boris Johnson’s constituency – if a snap election takes places this autumn.

Momentum are to hold events at university freshers fairs and run a Facebook advertising campaign costing thousands of pounds aimed at young people living in key marginals.

It is also setting up a website advising students whether it would be more effective for them to register to vote at their home or their college address.

The group has identified five seats with sizeable young populations where registering 19,000 voters across the constituencies would swing them to Labour.

Labour surge at last election

It is also targeting six seats with large numbers of young people where Labour will defend slim majorities.

A surge in support among younger voters was credited in capturing seats such as Canterbury, where there are two universities, and Warwick and Leamington, home to Warwick University, for Labour in the 2017 election.

Labour’s Ali Milani is standing against Boris Johnson in Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Momentum said it was responding to reports that the Prime Minister was supporting an October poll – before it was blocked by MPs – partly because relatively low numbers of students will have registered to vote.

Mr Johnson’s majority in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency fell from 10,695 to 5,034 at the last election, and Labour believes he is vulnerable because of the youth of his west London electorate as well as demographic change.

Johnson tried to ‘rig election’

Laura Parker, Momentum’s national co-ordinator, said: “Johnson’s attempt to rig the election and stop students from registering is deplorable, and it’s heartening to see so many young people getting registered in response.

“Young people surged to Labour in the last election because we offered a concrete vision of hope.

“They turned seats like Canterbury and Newcastle-under-Lyme red, and we’re going to register tens of thousands of young people in key marginals to make sure they’re part of the movement against this government which treats them with such contempt.”

More than 500,000 people have applied to register to vote since the start of the month, with young people making up the bulk of applicants.

Momentum’s hit list

Conservative marginals with a high concentration of young people

Walsall North (2,601 majority)

Cities of London and Westminster (3,148)

Truro and Falmouth (3,792)

Loughborough (4,269)

Uxbridge and South Ruislip (5,034)

Labour marginals with a high concentration of young people 

Kensington (20 majority)

Newcastle-under-Lyme (30)

Canterbury (187)

Portsmouth South (1,154)

Warwick and Leamington (1,206)

Lincoln (1,538)

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Woman exasperated with local council because it won’t recycle her broken recycling bin

A woman has condemned her local council after she claimed she was told she wouldn’t be able to recycle her broken recycling bin.

Harriet Jany, 29, has accused Wiltshire Council of “hypocritical rubbish” and said she was “shocked” after she was told to throw the plastic bin away.

Ms Jany said she wanted to responsibly dispose of her black waste recycling container – used for tins, paper and glass – after it cracked through wear and tear, and asked for a replacement.

But the bin collectors were unable to help.

Ms Jany, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said: “I spoke to the council and they told me to put it in my household bin. I wasn’t happy with that – a massive bit of plastic!

“It’s the irony of it. It’s a recycling bin and we were told to put it away as a waste.”


Recycling broken bins
She said she was ‘shocked’ by the situation (Photo: SWNS)

The webs analytics consultant, who lives with her partner, raised her concerns on Twitter and over the phone after the black bin was left outside her home for nearly a week.

She tweeted Wiltshire Council on 28 August 28, saying: “Black recycling box completely replaced when only needing new lid. Told to put recycling box in my bin! How bad for the environment. Should recycle recycling boxes!”

She then posted again on 4 September to say:  “Black recycling bin still sat on drive and no one has collected it (lid broken but actual bin can be reused). After reporting no one has bothered to come back to me. Can someone deal with this please?!”

Taxpayer’s money

She added: “I thought sending me a new bin was a waste of taxpayer’s money. The bottom was fine.

“The council told me I needed to get rid of the bin. I was shocked when I rang them.

“I was later told I could use the recycling centre, but that was only after me pushing. It wasn’t what I was told originally. It’s not very good. Some people would just fly-tip.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said there appeared to have been some miscommunication.

He said: “If a black box recycling bin is broken it can be recycled. People can take it to their local household recycling centre where it can be placed in the rigid plastics section. Alternatively, we can also arrange for a broken bin to be collected by our team.”

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Welcome to Asgardia: The ‘Space Nation’ that’s ramping up plans to save humanity by putting 15m people in orbit

When Igor Ashurbeyli, an Azeri-Russian billionaire obsessed with humanity’s extra-terrestrial survival, announced his plan to create the first nation in space, even he admitted it sounded outlandish. With disarming frankness, he said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you write that some crazy Russian rocket scientist talked nonsense here today.”

Three years later, the Asgardia project – a name rooted in the Norse legend of Asgard and roughly translated as “garden of the gods” – has indeed provided plenty of ammunition for detractors who dismiss it as a headline-grabbing myth.

Earlier this year, Asgardia unveiled a plan to build a fleet of “cosmic Noah’s arks” orbiting the Earth, at a cost of roughly £100bn a piece, along with various moon bases to ensure humanity would survive events such as a cataclysmic meteor impact.

To date, the Space Nation’s presence in the firmament – where it aims to achieve “permanent peace in space” by settling some two per cent of the Earth’s population up there – consists of a 3kg low-orbit satellite the size of a bread tin launched in 2017. 

80 per cent male ‘population’

Igor Ashurbeyli, an Azeri-Russian billionaire obsessed with humanity’s extra-terrestrial survival, announced his plan to create the first nation in space
Igor Ashurbeyli, an Azeri-Russian billionaire obsessed with humanity’s extra-terrestrial survival, announced his plan to create the first nation in space (Photo: ALEX HALADA/AFP/Getty)

In the meantime, Asgardia, whose current “population” is 80 per cent male, last month sought the endorsement of finalists in the “Mrs Russia” beauty pageant, taking the opportunity to impress upon the contenders the importance of securing the birth of the first baby in space. According to a breathless Asgardia statement, it was “a mission that was of particular interest to [the] contestants”.

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But while the publicity machine behind Asgardia and Mr Ashurbeyli, who was last year formally declared  “Head of Nation”, busies itself, the Space Nation is nonetheless slowly attracting the attention of those with more unimpeachable cosmic credentials.

Next month the organisation will host a three-day science conference in Germany attended by senior figures from City investment houses, universities including MIT, executives from organisations such as British defence contractor QinetiQ and the former chief scientist of Nasa’s human research program. Among the topics up for earnest discussion will be the creation of artificial gravity and “procreation and growing up in space”.

‘Resolve imperfections in human history’

The first Head of Nation of 'Asgardia', Russian scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli. According to Ashurbeyli, Asgardia's citizens are drawn by a vision of
The first Head of Nation of ‘Asgardia’, Russian scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli. According to Ashurbeyli, Asgardia’s citizens are drawn by a vision of ‘space politics’ instead of geopolitics (Photo: Getty)

The Space Nation, whose 34-page constitution promises to “resolve differences, conflicts, inequality and imperfections in human history”, equally claims to have attracted significant popular support. To date, it has elected a parliament of 150 MPs and registered  a “population” of some 1.1m people on its website. A further 19,000 individuals have signed up as “residents”, paying a €100 (£89) annual citizenship fee which garners it an earthly annual income of £1.7m. 

The ultimate aim is to recruit 150 million Asgardian, of whom 15m will be residents in space and beyond.

If the Asgardia project, which to date has been personally bankrolled by Mr Ashurbeyli to the tune of at least £10m, is gaining some traction it is partly due to the efforts of a number of idiosyncratic Britons at its core.

By his own admission, Lembit Opik has what he deftly describes as a “colourful political back catalogue”. Since last year, the former Liberal Democrat MP and some-time I’m a Celebrity… contestant has been beavering away as chairman of the Asgardian parliament after being approached by a former Downing Street adviser to take on the role.

Mr Opik, the grandson of a prominent Estonian astronomer and who during his Westminster career championed the cause of tracking asteroids capable of damaging Earth, believes fervently that pioneering Asgardians will ultimately be proved right in their belief that humanity will one day rely on its ability to live in space for its survival.

Burials to taxation

He is part of a triumvirate of Britons involved in the Asgardia project which includes Nigel Evans, the arch-Brexiteer Conservative MP who chairs the Asgardian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and Philip Appleby, a former Ministry of Defence official and police officer who has been appointed Minister of Safety and Security.

Mr Opik told iweekend: “Lots people are building rockets. Asgardia is about building the society to go with them.

“At some point in the future, ordinary people are going to have to inhabit space and we are not going to build a social infrastructure from mission control. It has to be built by consent – painstakingly and comprehensively. We have to decide the rules and methods on everything from burials to taxation, from marriage to procreation.”

The former fiance of one half of Romanian pop act the Cheeky Girls declares himself undaunted by the inevitable cynicism. He added: “My political back catalogue tells you that I’m no stranger to dealing with the unexpected. It has never bothered me to be on the far side of convention and target for suspicion of derision.

“But I think Asgardia has become internally more confident about its narrative. We are getting some big names from science and commerce and it creates a virtuous circle – the more people take us seriously, the more serious it will get.”

Death rays

The Asgardia project, which to date has been personally bankrolled by Mr Ashurbeyli to the tune of at least £10m, is gaining some traction it is partly due to the efforts of a number of idiosyncratic Britons at its core
The Asgardia project, which to date has been personally bankrolled by Mr Ashurbeyli to the tune of at least £10m, is gaining some traction it is partly due to the efforts of a number of idiosyncratic Britons at its core

One senior scientist attending next month’s conference said: “There is a lot of wishful thinking [associated with Asgardia]. But at the end of the day the problems it is trying to address are real and there can be no harm in exploring a path towards potential solutions.”

Just how seriously Asgardia is taken is of course the question that Mr Opik and other senior figures in the Space Kingdom acknowledge will dog it unless or until it shows significant progress on a bewildering list of stated aims ranging from formal recognition as a state by the United Nations to the establishment of its first permanent settlement on the moon by 2043.

They are also trying to compete in a dynamic and increasingly crowded market. After decades as the sole preserve of the Cold War super powers, space exploration is undergoing a sort of democratisation (and, more darkly, militarisation) in which private money and thrusting entrepreneurs are setting the pace  – and military powers are increasingly squaring up against each other with cosmic death rays and satellite jamming devices.

Expensive business

It is an expensive business requiring even the dreamiest players to raise billions. 

Asgardia says it will be sustained by charging its first seven million “primary Asgardians” €1,000 for formal citizenship and a passport and seeking a further €1bn each from seven as yet unnamed “primary investors”.

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The resulting income, along with another €1bn from small investors, will provide a €15 billion war chest for Asgardia to invest in research and the building of its institutions, much of it held in its own crypto-currrency – the Solar – which began test purchasing this month.

As Mr Opik put it: “History shows that there has to be pioneers.  When the Wright Brothers first flew, no-one really knew where their invention would go. Now we sit in the back of a jumbo jet with a gin and tonic watching a film. Humanity’s survival depends on our presence in space. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, we either travel or die.”

Survival and governance

There are those who beg to differ with the notion that Asgardia and Mr Ashurbeyli are suitable vehicles for ensuring humanity’s survival and governance in space.

The issue of extraterrestrial sovereignty and administration has long been a subject for legal debate. The sole international document – the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty – stipulates that space is “the province of all mankind” and cannot be subject to “national appropriation”.

Frans Von Der Dunk, professor of space law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told iweekend: “At least at first sight this is basically about a billionaire living out his fantasies to be emperor, king or president in outer space. As such, it does not bring the human settlement of outer space any nearer.

“We should not allow the very valuable asset of outer space, the ‘province of all mankind’… to be used for a billionaire’s fun if there is not at least also some broader public benefit to be drawn from that.”

Hands-on approach

Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik was last year appointed chairman of the parliament of Asgardia (Photo: Asgardia)

For his part, Mr Opik is unapologetic about the hands-on approach of Mr Ashurbeyli, whose 56th birthday this week was the subject of a series of gushing celebratory messages from his senior acolytes. Mr Opik said: “He is an executive head of state – he is not watching from the sidelines, he is leading his country. He is more like an American president than the British Queen.”

Indeed, senior Asgardians retort that they and Mr Ashurbeyli, an expert in nanotechnology who once headed one of Russia’s largest defence companies, are striving for the public benefit, starting with the subject that tends to turn up time and again in the Space Nation’s musings – cosmic sex.

It is, they insist, not a matter of prurient obsession but an issue that epitomises a far-sighted practical approach to human survival.

‘Continuous effort’

Mr Opik said: “The technology available to us suggests it would take hundreds of years to travel to the next star system. It is going to take generations born in space to complete that journey. 

“That raises questions about the effects of weightlessness and the need for artificial gravity.  How much artificial gravity is necessary for the reproductive process? Floating in space might look great but it isn’t much fun if you are trying to conceive.”

He added: “We are going to always have to push the boundaries of credibility. It is going to be a continuous effort but without it we won’t get the answers to vital questions.”

The visionaries taking us higher

The world is in the grip of a new space race that could see the number of satellites increase by 750 per cent and nation states challenged by cosmic entrepreneurs and adventurers.

The billionaires

There is an ongoing private-sector battle, led by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and Tesla magnate Elon Musk, to dominate the business of delivery to space and communication from it.

Musk’s SpaceX project has perfected its reusable launch system, which has already made 15 deliveries to the International Space Station. It is expected to slash the cost of launches from $50,000 per kg to just $1,500.

Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket is due to carry out its first crewed mission shortly, while British business magnate Sir Richard Branson has aspirations for space tourism with his Virgin Galactic project.

The adventurers

Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli, the founder of the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, wants to see the future of humanity secured with moon bases and a fleet of “arks” orbiting the planet. He is far from alone in wanting to zip around the cosmos: both Mr Musk and the China government have voiced their intent to travel the 140 million miles to Mars, while the USA has said it aims to return to the moon by 2024.

The generals

The increasing reliance of daily life on satellites, which enable everything from navigation to communication, is prompting a rapid militarisation of space.

Both Russia and China have developed weapons capable of destroying or jamming Western military satellites, prompting the US to respond with the formation of its first “Space Command”.

Britain’s most senior military officer in charge of space defence said this week that near-misses on Western satellites by potentially hostile space craft are now a daily occurrence.

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Adele files for divorce from husband Simon Konecki after three years of marriage

Adele has filed for divorce from her husband Simon Konecki after the couple split up earlier this year following three years of marriage.

The move was revealed in court documents lodged by the singer at a court in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The couple – who began dating in 2011 – had a son, Angelo, the following year and went on to get married in a secret ceremony in 2016.

A representative confirmed their separation in April, saying they were “committed to raising their son together lovingly”.

Divorce settlement

It is not known if the pair signed a prenuptial agreement before they wed, but previous reports have suggested Adele could end up paying her husband around half of her total fortune.

According to the 2019 Sunday Times Rich List, she increased her total net worth by £10m to £150m since the previous year.

Meanwhile in 2016 it was reported her tax bill for the previous year had come in at around £4m, putting her on a par with multinational companies such as Facebook.

Adele performing at Wembley Stadium in June 2017. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for September Management)
Adele performing at Wembley Stadium in 2017 (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for September Management)

The Tottenham-born singer released her debut album, 19, in 2008, which contained the songs Chasing Pavements and Hometown Glory and reached number one in the UK.

Her eagerly anticipated follow-up, 2011’s 21, brought even more success thanks to the singles Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep and Rumour Has It.

The record topped the charts in 30 countries, including the US and UK, and cemented Adele’s status as one of the world’s best-loved artists.

Adele, 31, released her most recent album, 25, in 2015, which contained the single Hello. It proved to be another critical and commercial success.

Birthday honour

In June 2013, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music.

Earlier this year she was invited into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences – the organisation behind the Oscars – as part of its work to increase its female membership.

Her soon-to-be ex-husband Mr Konecki is the founder of ethical bottled water company Life Water, having previously worked at Lehman Brothers.

He reportedly said in a 2012 interview with Management Today that he had been “doing well and earning a lot of money” as an investment banker but “got sick of that greedy and corrupted world”.

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Sarah Wollaston predicts more Conservatives will follow her into the Liberal Democrats

A Conservative MP who defected to the Liberal Democrats has predicted that several of her former colleagues are poised to follow her into the party.

Sarah Wollaston argued that the 21 Tory MPs stripped of the Tory whip this month would feel more at home in her new party, and said an “awful lot” of them were considering their next move.

Dr Wollaston quit the Conservative Party in February in protest over its Brexit stance to help form the breakaway Change UK grouping and moved last month to the Lib Dems. She is one of five MPs who have joined the party since Jo Swinson became its leader.

Heidi Allen, the former Change UK leader who is now an independent, is among several MPs who are tipped to be about to switch to the Lib Dems.

Warning over standing as independent

Heidi Allen, the former Change UK leader who is now an independent, and has been tipped to join the Lib Dems
Heidi Allen, the former Change UK leader who is now an independent, and has been tipped to join the Lib Dems (Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)

Speaking on the eve of the party’s annual conference, Dr Wollaston told i that she believed several of her former colleagues on the Tory benches were poised to switch sides. She said: “A lot of them will be looking very seriously about how they can be most effective.

“There are an awful lot of people in the Conservative Party who, like me, genuinely care about issues of social justice and genuinely care about what will happen if we do leave [the EU] – particularly with a chaotic no deal.”

She argued that disillusioned Tories could end up siphoning support from “progressive centre parties” instead of the Conservatives if they stood as independents.

Dr Wollaston urged them: “Look very carefully look at the groundswell of opinion wanting more than that choice of a hard Brexit egoist or somebody who is embracing something much further to the left than we have had in British politics.”

Disagreements back to Cameron years

The former GP said her “fundamental disagreements” with Tory policies began with David Cameron’s overhaul of the National Health Service structure in 2012, and had gathered pace as the party moved to the Right.

“People have been telling me for years that I wasn’t a proper Tory and they were absolutely right,” she said.

With hindsight, she said, she wished that she had moved directly to the Lib Dems rather than forming the ill-fated Change UK party.

“We needed to create a mechanism for people who felt they needed to leave the Conservative Party and the Labour party,” the Totnes MP said.

Tories ‘completely toxic’

“But now I think it would be right for it to fold into the Liberal Democrats and to have a single progressive centreground force.”

She denounced her former party as “completely toxic” and claimed that many Tory local associations had been taken over by Brexit Party supporters.

Dr Wollaston, a keen supporter of her new party’s commitment to overturning the Leave vote by revoking Article 50, claimed that it felt like “coming home” to be a Liberal Democrat.

“It feels much more comfortable to be in a party where there’s genuinely a debate about policy rather than it being decided by a few people in a dark room,” she said.

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Lily Allen says Warner Music record label failed to act after she reported sexual assault

Lily Allen has claimed her record label Warner Music failed to take action after she told them she was sexually assaulted by an industry figure.

The singer, 34, made the allegation in her memoir, in which she says the man assaulted her when she fell asleep in his hotel room.

Allen said the alleged incident occurred during a work trip to the Caribbean in 2016 and happened after she had attended a party with the industry figure.

Work trip

Talking to The Next Episode podcast, she said: “I had been at a party. He was in a position of responsibility. He’d got me out of this party and decided he wanted to take me back to my hotel.

“We got to my hotel. I couldn’t find my room keys. So he was like: ‘Well, why don’t you sleep in my bed while I go and get the keys?’ or whatever.

“So I passed out in his bed… The next thing I knew, I woke up and he was in my bed naked slapping my bum.”

Lily Allen
She was away at the time of the alleged assault (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Allen claimed the man was trying to have sex with her, and added: “I recoiled and I got up out of the bed and I screamed.”

She said of the alleged incident: “I’d never given any indication that I did want that.”

Allen said: “I’d made a decision that I didn’t want to go to the police, that I didn’t want to make a fuss and I wanted to keep it quiet. But I did want to protect myself.”

She told podcast host Miquita Oliver: “I do feel like my career has been fucked with as a result of talking about this stuff, for sure. I really do.”


Allen said she “went out for dinner with one of the label bosses” at Warner Music after the allegation was revealed in her book, who said “he had no idea” about the allegation until the publication of her memoir.

When asked by Oliver: “Did he say, ‘Now that we know, boy, are we going to do something about it?”‘ Allen replied: “No.”

The label said in a statement to the podcast: “These allegations from 2016 are appalling.

“We take accusations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and investigate claims that are raised with us.”

Warner Music has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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State pension age changes: More women aged 60-64 are working after increases to the SPA, statistics show

The employment rate for women aged between 60 and 64 is higher than the proportion of those who are not seeking work for the very first time, new data has revealed.

Employment is up among both men and women aged 50 or over, but the largest increase is in the 60-64-year-old group, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

For women it is up from 24.3 per cent in 1999 to 51.4 per cent and for men it has risen from 47.6 per cent to 60.8 per cent, the fourth annual report on the economic labour market status for people aged 50 and over shows.

Women are likely to have been spurred on to find work because of changes to the state pension age. The original eligibility age of 60 has rapidly increased to 65 over the last decade to bring it in line with the state pension age for men. The Government is in the process of raising the state pension age further, to 66, for both genders.

Over the past few months, i has been speaking to women affected by the increases who have been forced to stay in work longer than expected and even accept zero-hour contracts.

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Same unemployment rate between older and younger people

The impact of the state pension age changes is further demonstrated by ONS statistics showing the unemployment rate for all individuals in the 50-64 age group and the 35-49 bracket is exactly same, at 2.6 per cent.

Age UK, the charity for older people in the UK, said while it was correct to conclude there is an upwards trend in employment for those aged over 50, “this does not tell the whole story”.

“The rising state pension age and changes to disability benefits have meant many people have needed to stay in work, while the average number of hours worked in this age group has dropped,” said charity director Caroline Abrahams.

She also pointed out that for older people remaining in employment, ageism remained a major concern.

A previous report from the charity found more than one-in-three 55-64 year olds believed they had been disadvantaged in the workplace because of their age.

“We need a concerted effort from Government and employers to help the UK’s line managers move beyond basing employment decisions on outdated stereotypes and to consign ageism to the history books where it belong,” said Ms Abrahams.

Some women have been forced to work longer because of the state pension age changes

Increase to age of stopping working

The ONS data showed the average age at which women leave the labour market is also likely to have been affected by the rising state pension age.

With a state pension age of 65 or 66, the average age of exit for women is currently 64.3 – up from 60.3 in 1986. When the state pension age was 62, the exit age was around 63 years old.

The average age of exit has risen for men, too, going from 63 in 1996 to 65.3 in 2019.

For both men and women, the employment rate decreases as age increases. The transition between the 60-64 age group and the 65-69 cohort – 65 is the current state pension age for both genders – has the greatest drop.

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Ovo buys SSE retail business to create home energy giant

Big Six energy provider SSE has agreed to sell its household supply arm to smaller rival Ovo Group in a £500m deal.

Ovo’s offer to take over SSE’s energy services business comprises of £400m in cash and £100m in loan notes and is expected to complete later this year or early next year. It will turn Ovo into the UK’s second largest domestic energy suppliers after British Gas, having been founded just 10 years ago.

SSE is the third largest supplier in the UK energy market, with around 3.5m household customers and 8,000 staff. Independent provider Ovo has around 1.5m customers and about 2,000 employees.

The deal comes after SSE was forced to scrap its merger with Big Six rival npower last December after the Government’s energy price cap sent shockwaves through the industry.

Energy price cap

Gas and electricity suppliers have come under intense pressure in the UK following this year’s introduction of the cap on standard variable tariffs, as well as increasing competition from a swathe of smaller players.

In May, SSE announced plans to offload its energy services segment after more than half a million households switched to a new supplier in the year ending March 2019. The Big Six company vowed to sell or float its energy services arm by the second half of 2020.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and chief executive of Ovo, hailed the deal as a “significant moment for the energy industry”.

He said: “For the past three years Ovo has been investing heavily in scalable operating platforms, smart data capabilities and connected home services, ensuring we’re well positioned to grow and take advantage of new opportunities in a changing market. SSE and OVO are a great fit. They share our values on sustainability and serving customers. They’ve built an excellent team that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of SSE, said: “We have long believed that a dedicated, focused and independent retailer will ultimately best serve customers, employees and other stakeholders – and this is an excellent opportunity to make that happen. Ovo shares our relentless focus on customer service and has a bold vision for how technology can reshape the future of the industry.

“I’m confident that this is the best outcome for the SSE Energy Services business.”

SSE added that, should the deal with Ovo go through, it will do “all it can to ensure a smooth transition for customers and employees”.

Ovo will also retain the SSE brand under licence for a period and will ensure a phased and “carefully-managed” transfer.

Tough year for SSE

But it comes after a difficult 12 months for SSE, which admitted on reporting its annual results recently that its wider business “fell well short” of its hopes in 2018-19 and warned that 2019-20 earnings would also be hit. The group’s annual underlying pre-tax profits fell 38 per cent to £725.7m.

The figures came on the back of a tough year for SSE following the collapse of its npower merger. It was also fined £700,000 by industry watchdog Ofgem in April for missing last year’s target to install gas smart meters for customers.


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Domestic violence killings in the UK hit highest level in five years

Domestic violence killings have reached a five year high, according to new figures.

Data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK shows 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides in 2018. This is an increase of 32 deaths on the previous year.

The statistics show there were 165 domestic killings in 2014, 160 in 2015, 139 in 2016 and 141 in 2017.

In July, the Domestic Abuse Bill, designed to help protect survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales, was introduced in Parliament for the first time before Theresa May stepped down as Prime Minister.

Legislation halted

Jess Phillips MP has warned new laws to tackle domestic violence will not work while police do not have the resources to tackle it on the ground  (Photo: UK Parliament)

But the bill was dropped after Boris Johnson suspended Parliament.

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No-fault divorce and domestic abuse laws dropped after Boris Johnson prorogues Parliament

Domestic abuse survivors’ lack of support leaves them at much higher risk of schizophrenia, depression and other conditions

On Thursday, Mr Johnson said domestic abuse legislation would be reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech. The Prime Minister tweeted: “Domestic abuse shatters lives and tears families apart. We are fully committed to tackling this horrific crime – which is why the Queen’s Speech will confirm we will be reintroducing domestic abuse legislation in the next session.”

Sir James Munby, former president of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, has called for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be brought back before Parliament. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: “This is a vitally important Bill, tackling what everyone agrees is a very great social evil.

“It is immensely depressing nothing effective has been done to get this necessary reform through Parliament.”

Sir James added: “The Bill must be reintroduced in Parliament as soon as the next session starts.

“It must then be pursued to the earliest possible conclusion of the parliamentary process with determination, vigour and a real sense of urgent commitment on the part of Government.”

‘These are not isolated incidents’

A new domestic abuse commissioner has been created but the position has yet to be filled.

Labour MP Jess Phillips warned new laws to tackle domestic violence will not work while police do not have the resources they need to tackle domestic abuse, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “None of this will work unless there are resources on the ground.”

Women’s Aid called for specialist domestic abuse training for police officers  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

A spokesperson from Women’s Aid told i the charity is “appalled” that domestic homicides are now at their highest rate in five years.

“Domestic homicide is a gendered crime, with 82 per cent of perpetrators being male and 73 per cent of victims being female.

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These headlines show how not to report on domestic homicides

“We know that these are not isolated incidents or one-offs: the research shows there are clear warning signs for domestic homicides, and that when a woman attempts to leave her abuser it is the most dangerous time.

“The government must put reducing domestic homicides at the centre of its work to reduce violence against women. We know that it is not just so-called ‘high-risk’ cases which lead to homicide; coercive control is a significant indicator and we know not all survivors are  taken seriously with the current approach to domestic abuse.”

The charity called for a sustainable funding model for refugee accommodation and specialist domestic abuse training for all police officers for authorities to seriously tackle domestic abuse.

Additional reporting by PA. 

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Cancer patients ‘missing out on vital care’ as specialist nurses struggle with workload

Cancer patients are missing out on vital care as specialist nurses struggle with huge workloads and have to use their holidays for training, according to a new report. Macmillan Cancer Support’s study found the cancer workforce is stretched, with around one in 10 specialist nurse posts vacant in some regions. General nurses are also struggling to find time to train as cancer specialists, the charity said.

One in five (22 per cent) of 260 cancer nurse specialists surveyed said they have taken annual leave to undertake training, while 39 per cent described their workload as unmanageable. Some 44 per cent said their workload was having a negative impact on patient care. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) said having more time for training would help them improve care for people living with cancer.

The report comes just a day after figures revealed the UK is lagging behind other rich countries when it comes to cancer survival rates, despite improvements. The UK was at the bottom of the league table for five out of seven cancers, including bowel, lung and pancreatic. Cancer Research UK said the UK could do better and called for more “investment in the NHS and the systems and innovations that support it”.

Sarah Orr, lead cancer nurse for the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, said: “It’s a constant strain. We are a larger population living longer but with multiple long-term conditions. The NHS needs an engaged workforce that feels valued and at the moment they just feel exhausted. Without an engaged workforce the NHS won’t exist, it’s as simple as that, really.”

Rapid pace

Alison Keen, head of cancer nursing at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and chairwoman of the National Forum of Lead Cancer Nurses, said: “The world of cancer care is changing at a rapid pace, with an increase in the complexity of treatments, and an ever-growing demand for care.

“Nurses are pivotal to the delivery of cancer treatment and care. Nationally there is a lack of consistent and equitable funding for nurse education, which means that generalist nurses have little opportunity to have the resource or time to receive much-needed education and development.

“The knock-on effect is the lack of opportunity to specialise in services, such as cancer care. Even if some receive funding, nursing vacancies and pressure on acute services result in the inability to be released for training or development.”

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Macmillan Cancer Support’s specialist adviser for workforce, Nikki Cannon, said: “The NHS nursing workforce is at breaking point and, while much more needs to be done to grow the workforce, our report shows how urgently existing nursing staff also need to be supported and retained.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Cancer nurses do an invaluable job and we expect all organisations to ensure staff are able to take the necessary time off to undertake appropriate training and development.

“The recent spending review included a £150m fund for continuous professional development for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, providing each with a personal training budget of at least £1,000 over three years. The record £33.9bn extra a year we’re investing in our NHS will also help the health service recruit the staff it needs for the future, and by 2021 every patient will have access to a specialist cancer nurse.”

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Government moves closer to blocking Hong Kong £32bn bid for LSE as Chancellor takes control

The Government’s intervention in the £32bn takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange (LSE) from its Hong Kong rival looked increasingly likely as the Chancellor Sajid Javid took control of the decision on whether or not to block the deal from Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

In the unusual move, Mr Javid will now rule if the Government will block the deal, a decision that would usually lie with Ms Leadsom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It is understood Mr Javid is considering a public interest intervention to scupper the deal on the grounds of both national security and ensuring the stability of the UK financial system.

On Wednesday Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) speculatively offered to pay around £83.61 per share, valuing LSE at around £29.6bn excluding its debt. Any deal was already dependent on the LSE abandoning its plans to complete a $27bn (£21.9bn) deal to buy data provider Refinitiv, which was agreed last month, and is now also reliant on the approval of the Government, which confirmed its concern over the deal.

A government spokesperson said: “The London Stock Exchange is a critically important part of the UK financial system, so as you would expect, the Government and the regulators will be looking at the details  closely.”

Mr Javid will now rule if the Government will block the deal, a decision that would usually lie with Ms Leadsom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Mr Javid will now rule if the Government will block the deal, a decision that would usually lie with Ms Leadsom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Public interest

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, in certain circumstances, the Government has the power to intervene in mergers on specified public interest grounds.

The decision on whether to intervene is quasi-judicial in nature, and the relevant Secretary of State, normally the business secretary, makes the decision except in media or telecoms mergers, where the culture secretary is handed control over any review.

A spokeswoman for BEIS said that because this deal involved the LSE the decision whether or not to block it had been handed to the Chancellor.

The last-gasp offer from HKEX could also spark a bidding war for the exchange if other suitors offer a more generous price. HKEX’s offer represents a 23 per cent premium on LSE’s closing share price on Tuesday. It comes after a long line of other exchanges’ failed deals to buy the LSE.

Chinese firms have made 15 large acquisitions in the UK this year, spending £6.75bn. Analysts point to the decline in the pound for making UK firms attractive to overseas buyers.

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NHS trusts handing over £205m a year to the Treasury in interest payments as debts mount

NHS trusts are handing over more than £205m a year to the Government in interest payments after being forced to take out loans, i can reveal.

Critics accused the Conservatives of “starving the NHS” by charging unreasonable interest rates on the loans they make to hospitals and other organisations which are struggling to afford their running costs.

Trusts across England have paid more than £607m to Whitehall in interest over the past five years. The amount paid out is rising every year as NHS debts continue to mount; last year it could have paid the salaries of 7,500 nurses.

The interest goes into the general budget of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) instead of being spent directly on NHS services. Trusts can request loans from the department if they face a shortfall in funding day-to-day operations or capital investments. The Government charges interest of up to 6 per cent on the loans. This summer it emerged that the total debt owed by NHS trusts stands at more than £14bn after years of austerity.

NHS hit by Treasury bill

'It’s frankly heartless that the Conservatives have starved NHS trusts of more than half a billion pounds', says Tim Farron
‘It’s frankly heartless that the Conservatives have starved NHS trusts of more than half a billion pounds’, says Tim Farron (Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire)

Over the past five years, the DHSC has been paid a total of £607,404,854 in loan interest, according to figures unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act. The amount being paid has risen every year, reaching £205,053,570 in 2018-19 – nearly £4m a week. The £205m bill would be enough to pay the salaries of nearly 7,500 nurses at £27,400 each or 2,300 consultants on £90,000.

In total 184 different trusts reported paying money from their budgets to Whitehall. The largest payment last year came from Barts Health NHS Trust, which operates five hospitals in London and spent £9.8m on interest.

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Critics have accused the Government of putting trusts’ future in jeopardy by forcing them to take out loans and then taking millions of pounds in interest.

The former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told i: “While hard-working doctors and nurses are being forced to work with insufficient resources, it’s frankly heartless that the Conservatives have starved NHS trusts of more than half a billion pounds.

“That taxpayers’ money is being spent lining the Government’s coffers instead of training more doctors and nurses is a slap in the face to all of us that rely on the NHS.”

Loans rack up

University Hospital Coventry is named in the IPPR report as one of the hospital trusts worst affected by PFI.
University Hospital Coventry is named in the IPPR report as one of the hospital trusts worst affected by PFI

Some NHS trusts come to the Department of Health for loans in order to fund specific capital projects, backed by a comprehensive plan for repayment.

The Great Western Hospital in Swindon, run by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is building a new £18.4m radiotherapy centre partly thanks to a Whitehall cash injection.

But most trusts borrow money just to stay afloat day to day. For example Wye Valley NHS Trust, based in Herefordshire, is running an annual deficit of £20m meaning that each year it must beg for additional funding from the central Government. Directors have warned the spiralling debt could mean the trust is no longer a “going concern” in the near future.

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Isle of Wight NHS Trust is in a similar quandary. Bills from contractors have gone unpaid thanks to the black hole in its finances which it has plugged with ever-increasing loans, with bosses forcd to choose which providers should get the money they are owed first.

The use of DHSC loans to pay everyday expenses raises the prospect of Whitehall having to bail out local trusts to the tune of billions over the coming years.

It was revealed that hospitals face a £80bn bill for private-finance initiative projects which have delivered just £13bn of investment. Some are spending a fifth of their budgets on PFI debts.

A DHSC spokesman said: “Where trusts do struggle financially, we will provide short-term loans to ensure they continue to run vital services and provide outstanding care to patients and the interest paid on those loans goes back into the NHS.”

Why public bodies borrow from each other

Why are NHS trusts making these payments?

Trusts can apply for “financial support” from the Department of Health (DHSC) for a number of reasons. This comes in the form of a repayable loan.

What is the purpose of these loans?

Some go on “normal course of business” funding, where hospitals face a short-term hole in their budgets. Others fund “strategic investments” such as new buildings. Trusts in serious financial trouble can also get loans as part of a “recovery plan” designed to solve their budget problems.

What is the point of public bodies paying money to each other?

Loans go out of the DHSC’s general budget and into the budgets of individual trusts. The repayments, and attached interest, go the other way. The system is designed to ensure that trusts spend their money efficiently rather than relying on an unlimited pool of central funding.

Why are the interest rates so high?

Some have rates of less than 1 per cent but nearly a third have rates of 3.5 per cent or more, with the most onerous attracting a rate of 6 per cent. The Government is currently able to borrow money for a decade at just 0.7 per cent in annual interest, suggesting the DHSC makes a large profit from some of its loans.

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John Bercow says ministers will be like ‘bank robbers or knife thugs’ if they ignore law to deliver no-deal Brexit

John Bercow has gone to war with the Government warning ministers will be no better than bank robbers or knife criminals if they try and force through a no-deal Brexit.

The Commons’ speaker pledged to help rebel MPs secure an extension to the Brexit deadline if the Government seeks to ignore the law which aims to rule out no-deal.

And he launched a vociferous attack on ministers who have refused to rule out dodging the terms of the legislation in order to deliver Brexit on 31 October. Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out asking the EU to delay Brexit in the event of a no-deal scenario, as is now required by the law.

Delivering a lecture in London on Thursday night, Mr Bercow predicted “yet more drama” in the House of Commons as the Halloween deadline draws closer. He said the only three acceptable outcomes would be leaving the EU with a deal approved by MPs, delivering no-deal with Parliament’s permission, or seeking a three-month delay as mandated by the so-called Benn bill.

Commons ‘creativity’

Boris Johnson says he will not request a delay to Brexit (Photo: Getty Images)

The Speaker, who is stepping down next month, added: “Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period. What conceivable moral force do the public’s representatives have in seeking to tackle anti-social behaviour; in prosecuting with greater vigour and imagination and relentlessness the fight against knife crime; in arguing that the state must protect itself against all forms of nefarious illegality, if we are to treat for a moment that it might be in order in the name of some higher cause to disregard a law enacted by Parliament?

“One should no more refuse to request an extension of Article 50 because of what one might regard as the noble end of departing the EU as soon as impossible, than one could possibly excuse robbing a bank on the basis that the money stolen would be donated to a charitable cause immediately afterwards.”

Vowing to tear up Commons convention in order to keep the Government in check, Mr Bercow concluded: “If we come close to being there, I would imagine that Parliament would want to cut such a possibility off and do so forcefully.

“If that demands additional procedural creativity to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen and that neither the limitations of the rulebook nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so.”

The Speaker, who has repeatedly clashed with ministers, is leaving his post on 31 October. Labour MPs Lindsay Hoyle and Harriet Harman are the favourites to replace him.

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Scientific breakthrough could herald end to hair loss for cancer patients having chemotherapy

Scientists have pinpointed why a certain type of chemotherapy drug causes cancer patients to lose their hair while undergoing treatment.

It is hoped the findings could one day pave the way for the development of new medicine to help prevent the distressing side effect.

Researchers at the University of Manchester said it had been known for years that taxanes – a major component of drugs used to treat breast cancer and others – caused hair loss but not why.

They found the specialised dividing cells at the base of the hair follicle – crucial for producing hair itself – and the stem cells from which they arise were particularly vulnerable to taxanes’ effects.

Hair follicles

A human hair follicle that has been treated with taxane drug Taxotere. (Photo: University of Manchester)
A human hair follicle that has been treated with taxane drug Taxotere (Photo: University of Manchester)

In order to prevent hair loss, they said the follicle cells needed to be protected from them in a way that did not benefit the cancer.

As part of the study, the team tested a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors, which block cell division and are already medically approved as so-called “targeted” cancer therapies.

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They found that when human scalp hair follicles were bathed in CDK4/6 inhibitors in the laboratory, they were “much less susceptible” to the damaging effects of taxanes.

The team are hoping their work could one day be used to support the development of medicines which can slow or briefly suspend cell division to prevent hair loss.

While such medicines are some way off, they could potentially take the form of a topical cream applied to the scalp which is specifically targeted at the hair follicles.

The researchers, whose study has been published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, said this could complement existing approaches for preventing hair loss such as scalp cooling devices.

More work needed

However, they added hair loss prevention was a “lamentably under-funded” field of cancer medicine and that more work was needed to make further breakthroughs.

“Despite the fact that taxanes have been used in the clinic for decades, and have long been known to cause hair loss, we’re only now scratching the surface of how they damage the human hair follicle,” said lead author Dr Talveen Purba.

“We also don’t know why some patients show greater hair loss than others even though they get the same drug and drug-dose, and why it is that certain chemotherapy regimens and drug combinations have much worse outcomes than others.”

He added more time was needed to develop more ways to not only prevent hair loss but to promote follicle regeneration in patients who have already lost theirs due to chemotherapy.

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NHS A&E attendance twice as high in deprived areas compared to wealthiest

More than twice as many people go to A&E in deprived areas compared to the richest parts of the country, official figures reveal. Of the 10 per cent of the population living in the poorest areas some 3.1 million people in England went to emergency departments last year compared with 1.5 million people in the least deprived areas.

NHS Digital’s figures also show that attendances for the 20 per cent of the population living in the most deprived areas accounted for 27 per cent (5.9 million) of all A&E attendances.

The report brings together newly published data from NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) with previously published data from NHS England and NHS Improvement’s A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions Monthly Situation Reports. It includes attendances from all types of Accident and Emergency departments ranging from major A&E departments, single specialty, consultant-led emergency departments to Minor Injury Units and Walk-in Centres. HES data in the report shows for 2018/19 reveals that Monday is the busiest day of the week and the most popular time of arrival is between 10am and 12pm.

Patients arriving from 8am to 10am generally spent the shortest time in A&E with 16 per cent of patients arriving between 8am and 8:59am spending one hour or less; and 90 per cent of arrivals between 9am and 9:59am spending four hours or less.

Half a day waiting

Looking at all arrival times, 1.5 per cent (330,000) of all attendances in 2018/19 spent more than 12 hours in A&E, compared with 1.6 per cent (333,000) the previous year.

There was a 4 per cent increase in attendances to A&E during 2018-19 (24.8 million), compared to 2017-18 (23.8 million) and a 21 per cent increase since 2009-10 (20.5 million). The average growth per year over the period since 2009-10 is two per cent, compared with the England population average growth of one per cent per year, over a similar period.

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Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the NHS is entering autumn in a worse state than ever before.

He said: “There has been no apparent planning with the total focus on Brexit to the exclusion of all other. Current performance shows activity through summer has been higher than any previous summer – there has been no respite and there will come a breaking point.

“There has been is no increase in beds available across the NHS and no reversal of the decline in numbers over the last decades. Last winter had no extraneous factors with relatively little flu and no real prolonged severe weather – if either or both of those occur this year it will cause havoc.

“I have written to the health secretary and prime minister outlining my concerns and am yet to receive a response, which seems indicative of their attitude towards the real issues facing the NHS.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “Over a busy summer, NHS staff have continued to deliver more care than ever before for those who need it, with 37,000 more people receiving A&E treatment within four hours this August compared with last August.

“July also saw the highest ever number of people in a month benefiting from fast NHS cancer checks, other routine tests and rapid treatment for serious mental health problems, while an extra 1,600 people started planned treatment every day compared to last year, showing that every part of the health service is playing its part in meeting the rising demand for care.”

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Schoolgirl, 14, sent home for wearing wrong skirt – but the school’s uniform skirts don’t fit her

A schoolgirl has been threatened with isolation for wearing the wrong skirt – but her school’s preferred uniform does not fit her.

Kada Jones started Year 10 at Portchester Community School in Portsmouth last week. Instead of wearing the grey pleated knee-length skirt the school requires, Kada wore a grey size 24-26 skirt from Aldi, which she says she wore last year without complaint.

But this year, the 14-year-old found herself being removed from class and told that if she didn’t wear the regulation skirt she would be forced to either study in isolation, or stay at home.

The school’s headteacher insists that the skirt does not match school regulations, which is not “the appropriate length and appropriate material”.

‘I’ve been crying for five days’

Portchester Community School’s regulation uniform doesn’t fit Kada. Instead, her mum had to buy a size 24-26 elasticated skirt from Aldi – as close to the uniform requirements as she could.

Kada, who is studying geography, health and social care, history and art alongside the core GCSE subjects, says she is heartbroken by how she has been treated by the school.

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She said: “I’ve been crying for the past five days – I don’t understand, I’ve done nothing wrong.

“People get put in isolation because they have done something wrong; they’ve been treating me like I’m not even a human being.

“All I want to do is go to school.”

Kada Jones was removed from class over the skirt (Photo: The News Portsmouth)

‘Not appropriate length’

Kada’s mother, 54-year-old Carleen Jones, says her daughter is medically healthy, and is “fuming” that the school has changed its mind on her skirts.

She said: “Kada was in the headmaster’s maths class last year, and he never raised an issue with her skirt.

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“If she was dressed like a punk rocker or something I would understand, but this skirt is similar to the school ones and is absolutely fine.”

In an act of defiance, Kada went into school yesterday and even attended two of her morning lessons, before the school removed her from the classroom.

Richard Carlyle, headteacher at Portchester Community School, says all schoolchildren must abide by the same rules.

“It’s about the skirt being the appropriate length and appropriate material,” he said.

“Ms Jones’ skirt wasn’t quite up to school regulations in terms of length, but the school is working to find a uniform that is compliant.

“Pupils have a duty to wear the uniform respectfully and with dignity.”

The original source of this story is our sister title The News, Portsmouth 

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Friday the 13th: Forget it — Safety experts say Tuesday the 8th is now more dangerous

Superstitious souls who have spent a lifetime expecting bad luck on Friday the 13th may have misplaced their worries, according to an analysis of workplace accidents.

Tomorrow’s date is thought to have been considered unlucky since the Middle Ages, although it only developed into an irrational fear in the nineteenth century. But now safety experts who have carried out a study using a decade of workplace deaths data believe it may not be the unluckiest day after all.

The study by CE Safety found that people are likely to die at work on Tuesday the 8th. Some 373 people have died at work on a Tuesday in the UK and 84 workplace deaths occurred on the 8th of the month, while 327 people have died on a Friday and there were 80 deaths on the 13th.

The report says: “Friday the 13th isn’t as deadly as you think. Tuesday the 8th is the date to be extra cautious.”

People are also suspicious about black cats. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
People are also suspicious about black cats (Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty)

Deaths from cattle

Construction was found to be the deadliest industry, with 451 people dying in the last 10 years. It means builders, roofers and scaffolders face a higher death rate than service personnel including soldiers, firefighters and the police.

The third most dangerous professions were in agriculture, with 300 deaths. They included 36 deaths involving cattle and 31 from freak accidents with agricultural machinery.

The Scottish Highlands had the highest rate of deaths – most of them caused by cattle – followed by Glasgow and Aberdeenshire. Cornwall, Birmingham and Sheffield had the next highest deaths.

Gary Ellis, senior consultant at CE Safety, said: “Workplace accidents often occur as a result of fatigue.
“Employers are ultimately responsible for the safety of their employees, and the many regulations and training available should be enough to start seeing these rates decline.

”Unfortunately, the statistics show that they remain the same – and in our opinion, means not enough is being done.“

More work

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Engineering firm Babcock named as preferred bidders for Royal Navy frigates

Engineering firm Babcock has been named as the preferred bidder to build a new generation of frigates for the Royal Navy.

The five ships will be constructed at Babcock’s Rosyth Dockyard in Fife as part of a £1.3bn contract and will involve supply chains throughout the UK. It is thought the Type 31 programme will support more than 2,500 jobs, including 150 for new technical apprenticeships.

Work is expected to begin later this once the formal contract has been awarded, with detailed design work and manufacture earmarked to begin in 2021.

The Government has committed to buying at least five of the low-cost warships for the Royal Navy, with the first vessel expected to be in the water by 2023. The average production cost is £250 million per ship, with the Ministry of Defence aiming to award the contract by the end of the year.

Boris Johnson speaking to apprentices during his visi to the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender moored on the River Thames. (Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)
Boris Johnson speaking to apprentices during his visi to the NLV Pharos (Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

The news was welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he visited NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender that is moored alongside HMS Belfast on the Thames for London International Shipping Week.

He said: “We’re here to announce that Babcock is the preferred bidder to build five new Type 31 frigates and I’m so excited by that because I see the UK as a great shipbuilding nation – we already are but we want to expand it.

“And what it delivers is high quality jobs for young people – really high-skilled jobs for young people in this country – but also massive export opportunities of vessels that not only help to keep the peace but tackle piracy, help dealing with immigration issues across the seas, all sorts of ways which UK naval vessels are really helping the modern world – and they’re a fantastic export for our country.”

Next generation

The vessels will be fitted with the world-leading Sea Ceptor missile system, a range of highly advanced weapon and sensor systems and a combat system with a 4D air and surface surveillance and target indication radar.

They will also have capabilities to operate with a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter.

An artist's impression of the Babcock design. (Photo: Babcock/PA)
An artist’s impression of the Babcock design (Photo: Babcock/PA)

“These mighty ships will form the next generation of the Royal Navy fleet,” said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

“The Type 31 frigates will be a fast, agile and versatile warship, projecting power and influence across the globe.

“The ships will be vital to the Royal Navy’s mission to keeping peace, providing life-saving humanitarian aid and safeguarding the economy across the world from the North Atlantic, to the Gulf, and in the Asia Pacific.”

Archie Bethel, Babcock chief executive, said the firm’s Arrowhead 140 design was a “modern warship” that would “meet the maritime threats of today and tomorrow, with British ingenuity and engineering at its core”.

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Sign honouring former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s birthplace put up in wrong village

A sign dedicated to former Prime Minister Harold Wilson was erected in the wrong village.

Highways chiefs put up the road sign stating his correct birthplace as the Huddersfield suburb of Cowlersley in Yorkshire.

But a mix-up saw it erected in the neighbouring village of Linthwaite by mistake.

The mistake was pointed by a local resident who posted a picture of the sign on Facebook alongside the caption: “Our new sign in LINTHWAITE near the church.”

‘Embarrassing mistake’

Our new sign in LINTHWAITE near the church 🤡🤡

Posted by Christine Charlesworth on Sunday, September 8, 2019

According to people in the village of Linthwaite the sign has since been discreetly removed.

Former councillor Donna Bellamy described the error as an “embarrassing mistake” by the local authority.

“I would hope it’s the council that has taken it down and not some random member of the public,” she told Examiner Live.

“And if it reappears I would hope it’s several hundred yards further down the road – so that it’s actually in Cowlersley, not in Linthwaite.

“The fact that Linthwaite Church is across the road was a clue. This is just basic knowledge.”

Wilson’s birthplace

Mr Wilson served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976 (Photo: Getty)

Mr Wilson was born in a terraced house on Warneford Road in Cowlersley in 1916.

He became leader of the Labour Party in 1963 and served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976.

The sign, which stated “Welcome to Cowlersley” with a sub-heading “Birthplace of Harold Wilson”, was spotted on Gilroyd Lane close to Linthwaite Church – around one mile away from his birthplace.

During his time as Prime Minister Wilson oversaw the creation of the Open University, the modernisation of GP surgeries through the 1966 Doctors Charter, ending capital punishment, and the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion.

After his death in 1995 he was honoured with a statue in Huddersfield which was unveiled by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 1999.

i has contacted Kirklees Council for comment.

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Radcliffe baby death: Man, 22, arrested as 11-month-old boy dies after being rescued from River Irwell in Greater Manchester

A baby boy who was rescued from a river in Manchester has died in hospital.

Greater Manchester Police said a 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody for questioning.

The boy, thought to be 11 months old and named locally as Zakari Bennet, was retrieved by firefighters from the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, after emergency services responded to reports that a child was in the water shortly before 4.25pm on Wednesday.

Zakari was rushed to hospital from the scene near Blackburn Street in the town centre but died a short time later.

Murder investigation

Forensic officers in Peel Street, Radcliffe
Forensic officers in Peel Street, Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Photo: Kim Pilling/PA Wire)

Police have not said how the boy came to be in the water, but the Manchester Evening News reported the child was thrown into the River Irwell from a bridge.

It is understood police are treating the matter as a domestic incident.

Detective Inspector Wes Knights, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “This is an incredibly tragic incident which has taken the life of a baby boy, who we believe is only around 11-months-old.

“His family have understandably been left devastated by what has happened and we have specially trained officers providing them with support at this difficult time.

“We currently have a suspect in custody who will be questioned by detectives later today.

“However, our investigation does not stop there and we need anybody with information to come forward and help us get answers for this little boy’s loved ones.

Call for witnesses

“We know that there were a significant number of witnesses to what happened and I want to urge those people to come forward and provide us with as much detail as they can.

“It’s also possible that other people may have information about the circumstances leading up to the incident, as we know the baby had been in the area for a number of hours beforehand.

“Given the time this happened and the large number of witnesses present, we know that some of the incident was captured in images or on video so I want ask people to provide these to the investigation team.”

Police said a post-mortem examination of the child will take place on Friday as inquires continue.

A number of cordons remain in place near the river, including in Peel Street and River Street.

‘Let me grieve for my child’

Floral tributes are left on a bridge in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester
Floral tributes are left on a bridge in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Photo: Kim Pilling/PA Wire)

The boy’s mother, Emma Blood, said she was unaware anything had happened to her son until 7pm on Wednesday and did not know he had died until she reached the hospital.

Writing on her Facebook page, she told how she sat with him “for hours”, held him and kissed him.

She added: “Let me grieve for my child, my whole world and so much more.”

Tearful mourners, many who were mothers with young children, have left flowers, soft toys and candles on the bridge.

Among the tributes was a large cuddly bear with a card that read: “To a beautiful little boy. Sleep tight little man. Our thoughts are with your family. From all of us at Lidl Radcliffe.”

One card with flowers read: “Goodnight and God Bless beautiful innocent boy. Fly high Angel.”

The boy’s grandfather was too upset to comment as he visited the bridge. He left a card that read: “To my beautiful grandson. We love you so much RIP.”

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called at 4.28pm to a rescue of a person in water in Pilkington Way, Radcliffe.

“Fire engines from Whitefield, Farnworth and Eccles attended the incident along with a water incident unit from Eccles.

“Crews rescued one casualty who was then handed over to NWAS (North West Ambulance Service).”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 8797 or 101 quoting incident number 1930 of 11/09/2019, or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Additional reporting by PA

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