Tesco announces nationwide Summer Food Collection to support food banks and local community groups

17 Aug

Tesco is to hold an extra summer food collection to support the Trussell Trust and FareShare in response to an increased need for food in the wake of Covid-19.

From August 20 to 22 special donation points will be put up at every Tesco Superstore and Extra store, with customers being asked to donate essential items of long-life food. Tesco will top up all customer donations with an additional 20% donation in cash to the two charities.

The collection has been organised in direct response to the extra pressures placed on the food banks and community groups which FareShare and the Trussell Trust are supporting during the COVID-19 pandemic. FareShare has seen its highest ever demand for food from the thousands of local charities and community groups it supports, whilst the Trussell Trust has seen need at food banks in its network soar by more than 80%.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said:

“As we look to the coming months, more people than ever are likely to need to use a food bank. This isn’t right. Everyone should be able to afford their own food. That’s why we’re immensely grateful to Tesco and their customers for their ongoing support. Every donation will help food banks in our network provide the best possible emergency help to people referred at an uncertain time.”

Both the Trussell Trust and FareShare have already been aided by Tesco as part of a £30m package of community support in response to the pandemic. That package included donations of surplus food with a value of £9m through FareShare, a £15m donation of extra food to the two charities and £1m between them to help them with their increased running costs.

Tesco Director David Page said:

“This is a really challenging time for the two charities because of the big rise in demand on them for food. Our customers have responded with incredible generosity to our food collections in the past, donating more than 39m meals. I hope they will give generously again because there are a lot of people that need a helping hand at the moment and this appeal will make a real difference to them.”

The extra summer food collection is in addition to the pre-Christmas Tesco Food Collection Tesco holds annually for FareShare and the Trussell Trust in November. It will take place from store opening on Thursday, August 20 to store closing on Saturday, August 22.

You can find what items your local food bank is most in need of here.

The post Tesco announces nationwide Summer Food Collection to support food banks and local community groups appeared first on The Trussell Trust.

Newslinks for Sunday 16th August 2020

16 Aug

A-levels and GCSEs 1) Chaos as new appeals rules are published…and then withdrawn. All in a single day.

“In a brief statement, Ofqual said the policy was ‘being reviewed’ by its board and that further information would be released ‘in due course’. No reason for the decision was immediately available, sparking confusion for parents across the country and sparked calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign. The move comes just hours after the body published its criteria for mock exam results to be considered as the basis of an appeal.In a statement late on Saturday, an Ofqual spokesman said: ‘Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals. This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual Board and further information will be published in due course.’ “ – Mail on Sunday

A-levels and GCSEs 2) And it gets worse. An even higher proportion of GCSE pupils, whose results come this week, are to be solely assessed by Ofqal’s algorithm.

“According to analysis shared with the Observer, more than 4.6 million GCSEs in England – about 97% of the total – will be assigned solely by the algorithm drawn up by the exam regulator Ofqual. Teacher rankings will be taken into consideration, but not teacher-assessed grades submitted by schools and colleges. Natalie Perera, executive director of the Education Policy Institute thinktank, said: “We will almost certainly see a repeat of the many problems seen with A-levels, only with GCSEs they could be more severe.” Fewer A-levels – an estimated 82% – were calculated by the Ofqual algorithm.” – Observer

A-levels and GCSEs 3) Will the crisis put a stop to Williamson’s push to open schools?

“Parents are being reassured it’s safe to get their children back into the classroom next month as part of a new publicity drive. Measures being put in place such as staggered break times, increased hygiene and hand-washing will ensure a COVID-secure return to school. Risks will also be minimised by pupils remaining in consistent groups. Staff and pupils will be encouraged to walk or cycle to school as part of the #backtoschoolsafely campaign. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it was a “national priority” to get all students back to school and colleges in September. He said: “All children deserve to be back in school as it is the best place for their education and well-being.” – Sun on Sunday

The Sunday Times: The Government deserves a U for this exams debacle

“The mess has been worsened further by a response that has been fractured between nations. Education is a devolved matter, so different policies are explicable. The failure of the respective governments to communicate is not. Especially unfathomable is that, in England, Mr Williamson had a week of watching the problems unfold in Scotland — a week in which he had most of the data at his disposal — and yet he did nothing. Instead, he panicked and said that pupils would be able to appeal on the basis of a valid mock exam even though he had given Ofqual no prior notice of such an idea and we still have no idea what this will mean in practice – Sunday Times Editorial

> Yesterday: Emily Carver on Comment – The Higher Education dream has been shattered. Could Covid provide the catalyst for change?

Hancock to scrap Public Health England

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute. The Health Secretary, who returns to work after a UK holiday this week, wants to give PHE’s replacement time to be set up before a feared surge in coronavirus cases this autumn. It comes weeks after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, complained that the country’s response to the pandemic had been sluggish, in remarks which were interpreted as a swipe at PHE.” – Sunday Telegraph

Patel: Racism in France means migrants in Britain

“The home secretary risked inflaming relations with France by telling MPs that migrants win the right to stay in the UK because racism means they cannot find work across the Channel. She also said that asylum seekers argue in the British courts that they would be “tortured” if they were sent back to France. Patel’s comments, made in a conference call with more than 40 Tory MPs, came in a week when the UK and France had clashed over migrants crossing the Channel and Britain had imposed a new quarantine on travellers returning from France.” – Sunday Times

  • More than a thousand migrants crossed the Channel to arrive in Britain during the last ten days – Mail on Sunday
  • Ex-Navy chief says empty cruise ships should be used as processing centres… – Sun on Sunday
  • …As a specialist naval team is sent in – Sunday Telegraph
  • The Home Secretary has a point – John Gray, Mail on Sunday
  • Britain must break this vicious cycle of modern slavery and people smuggling – Sun on Sunday Editorial

Johnson is urged not to add more countries to Britain’s quarantine list

“Boris Johnson is being urged by ministers not to add any more countries to the quarantine list in order to save what is left of the summer holidays. There are fears that if Greece joined France and Spain on the list it would collapse the “travel corridor” system that has given overseas holidays to hundreds of thousands of Britons during the pandemic. The status of Greece was uncertain on Saturday with one Cabinet minister saying that “it all depends on the numbers”. Transport secretary Grant Shapps will review its figures on Thursday.” – Sunday Telegraph

Starmer “will recommend Watson for a peerage”

“Mr Watson – who was blocked for a peerage earlier this year – is set to put forward by Sir Keir in a second ‘donors list’ that is being prepared by Boris Johnson. Jenny Chapman, a former Labour MP who lost her seat at last year’s general election, is also likely to be nominated by Sir Keir. Mr Watson was reportedly blocked for a peerage earlier this year because of he had raised repeatedly concerns about child abuse by the convicted fantasist…Mr Johnson has committed to a second list of peerages after several financial backers failed to make the list including Peter Cruddas and Johnny Leavesley, as well as former Tory MEP Dan Hannan.” – Sunday Telegraph

Other appointments news:

  • Runners and riders for BBC Chairman are said to include front-runner Nicky Morgan, Amber Rudd, Andrew Neil, Robbie Gibb and…”Dan Hannan, the former Tory MEP, who missed out on a peerage in last month’s list of 36 new members of the House of Lords.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • Osborne loses out on Royal Opera House job – Sunday Times

Other comment:

Tory MP under investigation for rape to return to the Commons

“A Conservative MP who is under criminal investigation for rape will be free to return to parliament in two weeks’ time after his bail was extended until early November. The former minister, who in his fifties, was arrested on suspicion of offences including rape, sexual assault and assault on August 1. However, the Tory party has refused to suspend him, with Mark Spencer, the chief whip, saying that it is “down to police” to complete their investigation first…Last night the Metropolitan police issued a statement saying that a specialist complex case team was overseeing the investigation into the MP. It added: “His bail to return on a date has been extended to early November 2020.” – Sunday Times

  • Dozens of SNP bullying complaints from Salmond and Sturgeon era – Sunday Times
  • Eric Joyce deserves jail – Karren Brady, Sun on Sunday
  • If your MP is accused of rape, don’t expect to be told – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times

And finally…75 years on: VJ Day. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh reflect on “jubilant scenes” – and honour “the cost borne by so many”

“There is no greater symbol of the sacrifice of the war in the Far East than the Burma railway, built by British and Allied prisoners of war and which for every sleeper laid a life was supposedly lost. On Friday, the Prince of Wales placed a wreath of poppies on a 30-metre section of the railway track at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and led a nation in honouring those he called the “indefatigable” heroes of the Far East…The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen also released a joint statement reflecting on their memories of VJ Day and “the jubilant scenes and overwhelming sense of relief” that the war had come to a close. Such joy was tempered, they said, by “the cost borne by so many” – Sunday Telegraph

> Yesterday: Alistair Lexden on Comment – On this day, 75 years ago – VJ Day at Westminster

Why injustices to school students haven’t sparked a revolt by Tory backbenchers. So far.

16 Aug

An uprising by Conservative MPs is most likely to succeed in the following laboratory conditions.

First, if it has a clear aim.

Second, if Parliament is sitting, and votes can be held – on amendments to a Bill, for example; or on an Opposition motion.  Or even if there are no votes, but a Minister is suddenly hauled to the despatch box to answer an urgent question or open a Standing Order 24 debate.

Third, if it is widely and deeply held.

All these elements were present during the recent row over free school meals for children during these summer holidays.  The revolt’s objective was clear: to compel Rishi Sunak to find the money to fund them.  Parliament was sitting.  (Labour duly slapped down an Opposition Day motion on the subject.)  And finally, backbench opinion was relatively united in wanting the Chancellor to stump up the required £120 million or so.

None of these circumstances applied to last week’s A-level results, and their aftermath, and one of them at least won’t to this week’s GSCE awards, which will be issued on Thursday.  This is despite Ministers conceding that both sets of results are unfair to many pupils.  (If they didn’t admit the point, they wouldn’t be encouraging appeals, would they?)

So why the difference?  Because, first, those MPs unhappy with last week’s A-level results have no agreed objective.  Some hanker after the SNP solution – that’s to say, for the Government simply to give way, and let the grades recommended by schools stand.  Others would like the results to be scrapped altogether, and exams being sat in the autumn.  Most hope that that the appeals process will somehow iron the difficulties out.

Second, Parliament isn’t sitting. Which means no UQs, no SO24s, no Opposition Day motions – and no votes.

Finally, Tory MPs differ not only over potential solutions to the problem, but also over how big it is in the first place.  A few are personally affected, with their own children sitting exams; more have schools and pupils in their seats which they complain have been penalised.

But others from a variety of seats report a low number of complaints to date.

So, crucially, backbench opinion has been divided. Or so WhatsApp group debate among MPs reportedly suggests.

“On the Richter Revolt scale, I’d put this at about six,” one experienced hand told ConHome.  Some Tory MPs feel that the Government should resist a Scotland-style U-turn; others still are primarily concerned about any move that would allow more grade inflation.

Above all, perhaps, newish backbenchers have learned from the Dominic Cummings saga – their first experience of a real e-mail and social media pile-on.  “I’m not planning to write any full replies for a fortnight,” one newcomer said.  “I want to see how the appeals process starts to bed down.”

Furthermore, much of media moved on, after a day of intense coverage, from A-levels to French quarantine. There is less commentary than might have been expected in today’s papers.  And fewer vituperative quotes about the Education Secretary, too.

None the less, Gavin Williamson and Nick Gibb are in very serious trouble.  Yesterday’s Ofqual U-turn over appeals was a shambles, and will register on the Conservative backbenches.  Those GCSE results will come later this week, affecting a larger number of pupils.

Above all, the Education Secretary’s capacity to help craft a return to school for England’s pupils may have been terminally damaged.  He is pushing the cause today, amidst a very bad time for him.  We will return to these matters tomorro.ws

Sophia Worringer: Marriage still matters – and most for the poorest

16 Aug

Sophia Worringer is a parliamentary researcher for Iain Duncan Smith, and was formerly a researcher at the Centre for Social Justice.

It’s the middle classes’ best-kept secret. One that improves children’s school performance, supports their physical and mental health and reduces the chances of exclusion, joining a gang or ending up NEET.

Among the top quintile of couples by income, 84 per cent tie the knot. Among the bottom quintile only 45 per cent do.

Why the difference? The Centre for Social Justice’s new report, Family Structure Still Matters, provides a close analysis of the correlation between family structure and various outcomes. It has found that even after controlling for income and education, the gap in outcomes between children whose parents are married and those who cohabit clearly persists. Robust academic research has shown that family structure has a greater impact on the presence of externalising behaviours – linked to cognitive development, physical and mental health, school attainment, criminal justice involvement and social and emotional development – than education or poverty.

This is about more than money. There is a significant difference in the family breakdown rates between the children with cohabiting parents and those with married parents. A child of cohabiting parents is more than twice as likely to have experienced their parents separating, with all the accompanying disruption that the loss of a parent from the home entails. After income controls were applied, 88 per cent of married couples were still together when their child was aged 5, compared to 67 per cent for cohabitees.

Marriage has a powerful social meaning that conditions the behaviour of its participants. It provides clarity for the future of a relationship, forces ambiguity into the open and requires a public commitment in front of family and friends. Cohabiting relationships are less likely to have that specific moment of an articulated promise.

This is a social justice issue. Already half of all children are no longer living with both their parents by the time they sit their GCSEs but for children in our poorest communities this is true by the time they start primary school. 6% of those aged 5–10 with married parents had a mental health disorder compared to 12% of the same age with cohabiting parents. Rates of cohabitation are on the rise, but largely in the low income bracket.

High income couples continue to marry at consistently high levels. Just look at our politicians: they choose to marry to bring up children, knowing the benefits that stability and commitment bring, and yet they are wary of making any distinction between these two very different types of relationships when enacting policy.

Having married parents can be a step out of poverty. An American study found that amongst families in equal poverty levels children with married parents had a 30 percentage point lead – an 80 per cent chance – of moving out of poverty compared to those with cohabiting parents.

Not only are married couples more likely to stay together, they are more likely to enjoy better mental and physical health, to engage meaningful in their wider community or belong to a voluntary association, have higher relationship satisfaction and income and lower rates of domestic abuse and conflict with their children.

Given the clear advantages of marriage, government should make every effort to distinguish between marriage and cohabitation in data collection and in policy recommendations. It does not. By ignoring this distinction, the government is leading many people to believe that married and cohabiting relationships are interchangeable. This risks robbing couples of making an informed choice about what kind of relationship they should embark on.

We owe it to the most disadvantaged in society to not be silent on the benefits of marriage.

Emily Carver: The Higher Education dream has been shattered. Could Covid provide the catalyst for change?

15 Aug

Emily Carver is Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

During the 1999 Labour Party Conference, Tony Blair pledged to send 50 per cent of young adults to university “within the next century”. His supporters praised his ambition, while many others simply questioned why. Two decades later, the target has been hit, but the mountain of evidence shows that the goal has neither boosted social mobility nor led to higher productivity.

The crude assumption was this: if 50 per cent of young people go to university, 50 per cent of young people will later secure high-paid, high-status jobs. Perhaps to the bemusement of his father, Blair’s son, tech entrepreneur Euan, has devoted significant time and energy to refuting this falsehood.

In an essay for Policy Exchange, Euan denounced the UK’s “obsession” with sending so many school leavers to university. He argued it left graduates ill-equipped, in terms of knowledge and skills, to be successful in the world of work. His concerns were not unfounded.

As the Institute of Economics Affairs’ Dr Stephen Davies points out in his new paper To a Radical Degree, statistics from the ONS show that close to a third of graduates are now “overqualified” for their job, with graduates in arts and humanities most likely to be “under-using” their education. 

Apart from those taking vocational subjects, such as medicine or engineering, in over 90 per cent of cases, graduates will use little of what they’ve learned at university in their subsequent employment and will instead learn the skills they need on the job. 

The results have been disastrous. We have a dearth of skills in the labour market, a generation saddled with debt, and a higher education (HE) sector on the brink of collapse. The fundamental issue is the “good” universities are selling.

These days, the attainment of a degree certificate largely acts as a signal to an employer that you have achieved a certain level of capability. Over the years, the value of that signal inevitably has diminished as a result of oversupply and inflation in qualification levels, while productivity growth figures remain stagnant.

But this signal is so entrenched, and employers so heavily reliant on it, that every year thousands still apply to HE institutions, many for courses that will add very little value.

Covid-19 has exposed a sector in deep trouble and decision-makers are waking up to the need to radically overhaul of the system.

Even before the crisis, many institutions were in a precarious financial position. In 2018, it was reported the number of universities and colleges in England running a deficit jumped by almost 70 per cent. With Chinese students now the second largest source of income for universities, the pandemic has put the future of many institutions in jeopardy.

There is a desperate need to diversify our HE system away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach that has dominated for so many years. We need to return to a varied system in terms of the type of institutions and ways of teaching, with far more of an emphasis on vocations and learning a trade. The Treasury has made clear that any bailout of the sector will be conditional on reform, including removing “mickey mouse” courses that add little to no value. This is a step in the right direction.

With A-Level results out this week and many missing out on their preferred university, the internet is awash with adverts for clearing spaces. It is a sad state of affairs that many of these young people will find out the hard way that the degree they’re investing in may not be worth the paper it’s written on.

Our HE system is badly letting down young people. Fixing it will be no small feat, but the Covid crisis could at least be a catalyst for much-need change.

Newslinks for Saturday 15th August 2020

15 Aug

Williamson pledges no ‘shocking injustices’ in A-Level results

“Every school in England will be able to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades free of charge, the education secretary has said. Gavin Williamson told The Times that the government would cover the fees to ensure that head teachers were not deterred from making appeals. He said that the move, which will cost between £8 million and £15 million, will help to avoid “shocking injustices”, where schools fail to take action on behalf of pupils. Exam boards initially charge schools between £9.50 and £25 per pupil for each appeal, but this can rise to as much as £150 per grade for more contentious cases and schools can pass this cost on to parents. The fee is refunded if the appeal is successful.” – The Times

  • Education Secretary ‘fighting to cling on to his job’ after A Levels meltdown – The Sun
  • ‘Only three per cent’ of staff at DfE headquarters were in work on results day – Daily Mail

More:

  • Exam appeals made free amid fears of ‘bigger disaster’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Head teachers predict a shambles for GCSEs – The Times
  • Thousands of schools to defy union ‘scaremongering’ and welcome children back – Daily Mail

Interview:

  • ‘In Scotland there were no checks… it degrades every single exam result’ – Interview, The Times

Sarah Vine: A final betrayal of disadvantaged children hit hardest by lockdown

“Perhaps understandably, the university for which my friend’s daughter was holding a conditional place is refusing to budge, even though she is just one estimated grade off her offer. And that’s because for every pupil for whom the Computer Said No, some will have achieved the grades required. Indeed, as the Government points out, the marks have actually improved overall, year on year. So why the universal despair felt by parents and pupils? Because when you drill down into the results, a pattern emerges. The ‘standardisation’ models used to ensure a fair assessment by teachers of potential performance — the Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs), the most likely grade a student would have achieved if exams had gone ahead — actually turn out to be a cruel and pretty blunt instrument.” – Daily Mail

  • Results chaos will have lasting impact on class of 2021 – Frederick Studemann, FT
  • Pupils are victims of a farce Williamson had five months to prevent – Laura McInerney, The Guardian

Increase in infections has ‘levelled off’, so lockdown to be eased again

“The increase in coronavirus infections has “levelled off” so the lockdown can be eased again and more venues can reopen, the Government has said. Indoor theatre performances, casinos, bowling alleys and ice skating rinks will be able to throw their doors open again tomorrow after a relaxation of measures was paused last month. The current rate of infections in the UK is 18.5 cases in every 100,000 people. The number of new cases has slowly climbed above 1,000 a day over the last week – but officials have said the overall rate is “levelling off”… Plans to reopen indoor theatre and music performances, casinos, bowling alleys and ice rinks were paused a day before they were scheduled to have restrictions relaxed on August 1. But they will now be able to open from tomorrow – and beauty salons will be able to offer “close contact” treatments such as eye threading and facials.” – The Sun

  • Public Health England became ‘scapegoat of political fever’ – The Times
  • Overseas aid budget is to be spent on protecting Britain’s supermarket supply chains – Daily Express
  • Virus has exposed extent of slavery in UK, says Duncan Smith – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid shows urgent need for devolved healthcare in England, says cross-party inquiry – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Covid revealed sickness at the heart of Britain – Tom McTague, The Times
  • Today’s leaders have much to learn from the Forgotten Army’s victory – General Sir Nick Carter, Daily Telegraph

Sunak urged to help travel industry…

“Travel companies are facing “three winters”, an MP warned on Friday as 220 businesses wrote to the Chancellor to urge him to save the industry. In a letter seen by The Telegraph, the firms called on Rishi Sunak to save “hundreds of thousands” of jobs after France, the second most popular holiday destination for Britons, was struck off the UK’s “travel corridor” list after a surge in coronavirus cases. The group of businesses, under the umbrella Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), said a “total lack of understanding of the travel industry” by the Government and a “complete lack” of consultation had created a “ghastly perfect storm” for the sector. The holiday firms are asking the Chancellor for a six-month extension to the furlough scheme for the travel industry as a “minimum” requirement.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sector ‘on brink of collapse’ as fresh quarantine rules effectively cancel summer – Daily Telegraph

…as Shapps gives wrong day for start of France quarantine rules

“With hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers nervously hanging on his every word, it is fair to expect the transport secretary to have a firm grasp of the details when announcing France would be removed from the UK’s travel corridor list. But Grant Shapps sowed confusion on Thursday night by apparently giving out the wrong information, suggesting the quarantine measures would be coming into force on Sunday when, in fact, they are doing so 20 hours earlier. Shapps said during a TV interview that people arriving in the UK from France would have to isolate for 14 days from Sunday, but the move is actually coming into force at 4am on Saturday. Meanwhile, in a swiftly deleted tweet referencing the imposition of the measures, Shapps declared at 10.45pm on Thursday: “It’s Saturday at 4am, meaning that anyone returning on Sunday onwards will need to quarantine.”” – The Guardian

  • Sturgeon ‘forced Johnson into earlier France quarantine’ – The Times
  • End ‘quarantine roulette’, Government told – Daily Telegraph
  • French ‘vow to force self-isolation in retaliation’ – The Sun
  • Rules fuel demand for private jets and staycations – FT

Comment:

  • We can no longer escape from the necessity of borders – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • This lapdog cabinet is the weakest in a century – Max Hastings, The Times

Editorial:

  • Decision to remove France from the list of ‘safe travel’ countries is necessary – The Times

Surge in house prices and sales after Sunak slashes stamp duty

“Property sales are up by 20 per cent and average asking prices have risen by £10,000 in the four weeks since a cut in stamp duty, according to Bank of England data. Despite confirmation that the country is now in the depths of recession, average asking prices are £30,000 higher and thousands more sales are being agreed each week than before the lockdown from March 27 to May 13. However, analysts believe the rise is a bubble, and the true effects of the economic crash are yet to arrive. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, raised the threshold for paying stamp duty from £125,000 to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland on July 8. That was followed by similar moves in Scotland and Wales.” – The Times

  • Economy on course for rapid recovery from coronavirus crisis, predicts Bank of England chief – Daily Mail

Belarus: Europe’s ‘last dictator’ in a brutal fight for survival

“Viktor is one of thousands of Belarusians who have been subjected to state-administered brutality this week, as Mr Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator for his relentless repression of his opponents, has scrambled to put down the most serious challenge he has faced in his 26 years in charge of the 9.5m-strong eastern European nation… In a week of horrific violence, Mr Lukashenko has done his utmost to prevent that reordering being completed. Almost 7,000 people have been detained, hundreds have been injured, and at least two protesters have died. Security services have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and water cannons with abandon. Journalists have been targeted. Even people not taking part in protests have been rounded up, beaten, and arrested.” – FT

The Conservative Party should give a warm welcome to Hong Kongers arriving in the UK

15 Aug

It was belated, following decades of inaction and errors on Hong Kong, but the British government did the right thing when Dominic Raab offered Hong Kongers sanctuary in this country in the face of China’s hijack of the city. A huge 85 per cent of Conservative Party members agreed with the Foreign Secretary’s decision – a remarkably clear majority.

And so, Hong Kongers who have taken the agonising decision to leave their homes are starting to arrive in the UK. Not just Nathan Law, the prominent democracy activist, but others without public profile. Indeed, in my local community Facebook group a couple of people have recently introduced themselves, asking for tips on adapting to life in the UK.

It strikes me that this is a moment at which the Conservative Party itself should be putting on a warm welcome to these new arrivals. After all, a Conservative Government has established the policy, and Conservative members think it a good thing, so shouldn’t we also assist practically to help people making this move to settle in here?

British Conservatives have long looked enviously at the way in which the Canadian Conservative Jason Kenney and his colleagues built relationships with ethnic minority communities in Canada. Kenney met with people, listened to their concerns, interests and ambitions, and championed policies to help in response.

Back in 2014, Rishi Sunak (whatever happened to him?) wrote on this site that:

“[Kenney] emphasised the importance of personal contact for new immigrants – the political party that engages first has an opportunity to frame how new arrivals perceive that party and its motivations.”

Well, here is just such an opportunity to stop wondering at what Kenney did, and start putting the principle into practice. Will the Conservative Party – as a national organisation, as local associations, or as individuals – seize it?

Alistair Lexden: On this day, 75 years ago – VJ Day at Westminster

15 Aug

Lord Lexden is the Conservative Party’s official historian. His website can be found here

The American atomic bombs, which were to bring  the Second World War to an end, fell first on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and then on Nagasaki three days later. Japan’s unconditional surrender was announced on 14 August.

Clem Attlee’s Government, formed after Labour’s landslide election victory the previous month, had been in office for under three weeks. The dramatic news from the Far East reached the new Prime Minister in a rather haphazard  fashion. During the evening of 14 August, Jock Colville, Churchill’s Private Secretary who had stayed on temporarily to help his successor, “saw on the tape-machine at No 10 that Japan had surrendered. I brought the news into the Cabinet room where Attlee was closeted with Lord Louis Mountbatten[ later Earl Mountbatten of Burma] who was professing Labour sympathies.”

To Colville’s amusement, Mountbatten, the left’s new recruit and a byword for vanity, later told everyone that it was he who had broken the news to a grateful Attlee.

At midnight, the Prime Minister announced the terms of Japan’s surrender. All Japanese forces had been ordered  “to cease active operations [and] to surrender arms.” VJ Day had begun.

The thoughts of many grateful people in London turned at once to Churchill, who was living temporarily in a block of flats, Westminster Gardens (where 34 years later the bomb that was to kill Airey Neave would be placed under his car for subsequent detonation as he left the House of Commons). Early on VJ Day, a crowd gathered there “to see Papa and cheer him”, as Mrs Churchill wrote to her daughter, Mary. Later “ he got mobbed in Whitehall by a frenzied crowd.”

At 11am, Churchill, along with MPs of all parties, was in the House of Commons, which met that day in St Stephen’s Hall, normally used as a  thoroughfare from the St Stephen’s entrance to Central Lobby and beyond. The Speaker told the assembled members of “a strange coincidence. Curiously enough, the last time the House sat in St Stephen’s Hall was on 15th  August, 111 years ago exactly.”

The cause on that occasion was the fire that destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster. On 15 August 1945, the Commons used this temporary refuge because the chamber of the House of Lords, where they had been meeting since the destruction of their own chamber in the Blitz, was needed for another purpose.

By happy chance, VJ Day coincided with the State Opening of the new Parliament, elected in July. The ceremony, severely curtailed during the years of war, was “restored to something of its pristine splendour by the revival of a carriage procession”, as George VI’s Private Secretary, Tommy Lascelles, noted in his diary.

“For the first time in history”, wrote George VI’s biographer, John Wheeler-Bennett, “two Speeches from the Throne were prepared, and signed by the Sovereign for the opening of Parliament” because the moment of Japan’s surrender had been impossible to predict. “ One version of the Speech alluded to the surrender, the other omitted any reference to it.”  Lascelles had “ a nervous moment lest Bill Jowitt, now Lord Chancellor, should produce the wrong speech out of his embroidered bag.”

The scene in the Lords chamber was recorded with characteristic panache and sharp eye for detail by the gay Tory MP, Chips Channon, in his famous diary: “It was crowded with peers and peeresses. The Ambassadresses, all wearing extraordinary hats, sat on the right with the Duchesses. Mme Massigli, the French, wore a white tea tray.”

No ermine was on display: “the many new Socialists looked dazed and dazzled, and I was sorry for their sake that the peers were not in robes.”

It was very much  a dress-down occasion: “the King [was] in an Admiral’s uniform and with his cap on. The Queen, in aquamarine blue, though dignified and gracious, was dwarfed by her Mistress of the Robes, the Duchess of Northumberland, who looked far the more regal of the two. The Crown was carried on a cushion.”

Would the King be able to control his stammer? Though troubled by it much less severely than in his youth, he was always the subject of some worry on the occasion of a major speech. Channon praised him:

“His voice was clear, and he spoke better than usual and was more impressive. But they say that the word Berlin had been substituted for Potsdam [scene of the recent conference of the victorious powers], which he could not have articulated.”

Lascelles called it “a dull speech” which put it firmly in the tradition of such declarations over the centuries, noted chiefly for the absence of fine, memorable language.

Apart from details of practical issues stemming from the end of hostilities, Parliament was told that it would shortly be asked to ratify the Charter of the United Nations in order “to maintain peace in accordance with justice and respect for human rights.”

The King’s Speech went on to make clear that the Labour Government’s legislative programme would fulfil the commitments that all parties had given during the war (and repeated during the recent election campaign), to the Beveridge proposals for full employment, a comprehensive social insurance system and a national health service. To them were added Labour’s own plans for nationalisation (including the Bank of England), housing , planning, and more generous trade union laws.

Looking back on the ceremony, Channon reflected that “the Labour people were subdued and impressed and everybody behaved in an exemplary manner.” A further speech was to be required from the King later in the day when he broadcast to radio listeners at home and abroad. It went particularly well. “Everybody commended it”, Lascelles recorded, “and agrees that he has never spoken so fluently and forcefully.”

During the afternoon the King had the less arduous duty of receiving at Buckingham Palace a delegation of ministers and service chiefs, led by Attlee. Churchill was asked to join them, but “said he wouldn’t come unless he could bring with him those of his former colleagues who had served in the War Cabinet”, as Lascelles noted in his diary. It was the only instance of party political difficulty during the day. “He came alone, half an hour after the others had gone.” The King commented later, “I wish he could have been given a proper reception by the people”, by which he meant an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

The Commons reassembled, back in the Lords chamber once again, at 4pm when Attlee repeated the Japanese terms of surrender “for I feel that it is fit and proper that they should be for ever on record in the annals of this ancient and honourable House.”

Attlee then moved “that this House do now attend at the Church of St Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God on the victorious conclusion of the war.”

Nothing marred the scene, which Channon recorded in his diary. “The Speaker, in full robes, led us through a good-natured crowd of cheering citizens. He was followed by Winston, who had a tremendous reception, and who walked with Eden, Attlee and Herbert Morrison.” After a short service, in which the Speaker’s Chaplain “moved the congregation to Thanksgiving and Dedication”, the bells of St Margaret’s were rung “in celebration of Victory.”

The last business of the House on this historic day began at 5.18pm. Attlee moved an address to the King “on the achievement of final victory.”  The new Labour Prime Minister used  his speech to extol the blessings of constitutional monarchy in Britain. “It is the glory of our democratic Constitution that the will of the people operates and that changes which, in other countries, are often effected through civil strife and bloodshed, here in this island proceed by the peaceful method of the ballot box.”

Churchill himself could not have put it better. He added a few characteristically extravagant comments, proclaiming that “a brighter radiance illumines the Imperial Crown than any which our annals record.” With the two front benches expressing full accord, the House adjourned at 5.35pm.

BIBLIOGRAPHY – John Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries, Volume Two October 1941-55 ( Septre edition, 1987).  Martin Gilbert, ‘ Never Despair’: Winston S. Churchill 1945-1965 ( Heinemann, 1988). Hansard, Fifth Series, Vol. 413, First Vol. of Session 1945-46. Duff Hart-Davis(ed.), King’s Counsellor : Abdication and War: The Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles ( Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006). Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon( Penguin edition, 1970. John W. Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI: His Life and Reign ( Macmillan, 1958).

Ryan Henson and Katherine Mulhern: We must maintain Britain’s reputation as an international development superpower

15 Aug

Ryan Henson is Chief Executive at the Coalition for Global Prosperity. Katherine Mulhern is Director of the Conservative Friends of International Development.

An effective development budget, alongside an active diplomatic and defence strategy, helps keep Britain at the forefront of saving lives, alleviating poverty, and bringing freedom, security, and prosperity to all.

The international system is experiencing profound geopolitical, economic, and financial change. Authoritarian states hostile to British interests are actively seeking an increasing influence in world affairs. This means that democratic processes, and more fundamentally basic human freedoms, are coming under increasing threat.

But Britain can make a difference. Our proud history of fighting totalitarianism, combined with our membership of the UN Security Council, NATO and the Commonwealth and our hosting of the G7 Presidency in 2021, means we are uniquely placed to protect human rights, democracy, and freedom of the press, particularly in emerging and fragile states.

Britain’s international development expertise makes Britain and the world safer, stronger, and more prosperous.

When we tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone, prevent drug trafficking in Tanzania, and train Lebanese forces to fight Daesh, we help to prevent disease, drugs, and extremism from landing on Britain’s streets. When faced with no jobs, conflict, or disease, those in poorer countries are more likely to seek refuge in Europe or be attracted to extremist organisations.

Education, healthcare, jobs, underpinned by fairness, transparency, and a respect for the rule of law, are key to tackling the root causes of mass migration, destabilisation, and radicalisation, helping to make us all safer and our great country stronger.

The success of the new Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, which will officially launch on 1st September, will depend on the extent to which our hard-earned, world-leading reputation as an international development superpower, is retained within the new department.

Countries can and should be empowered to stand on their own two feet, but to do this they need support to help them move through the stages of development and become partners in free trade and investment. In Britain, global free trade cuts the cost of living for working people and promotes choice and opportunity. The free market has been a pillar of human progress for centuries. Aid and development can unleash it, driving prosperity for all.

Britain should not be apologetic about seeking long-term diplomatic relationships that work in the national interest of both sides, but to bring about the trade that generates wealth, many countries need aid.

For as long as people stay poor, they will struggle to stand on their own two feet. Without an education, employers will not hire them. Without good local healthcare, they will be vulnerable to pandemics. And as we all know by now, pandemics don’t stop at borders. Regular sickness or injury will decimate a workforce and slow or halt economic growth. Without jobs people will struggle to take care of their families while paying little or no tax to their local authority. That means poor or non-existent health and education services, and so the cycle continues.

Focusing aid spending on poverty elimination is therefore not just morally right, it makes good economic sense too. The sooner we equip people with education, healthcare, and sustainable jobs, the less need there is for overseas aid in the long term.

We are eight months into a new decade, where Covid-19 and the resulting economic and political shocks have created opportunities for authoritarian regimes to push their agendas. As a result, human rights, individual freedoms, and the British values that have shaped the world are increasingly threatened.

It is in our national interest to counter that authoritarianism, win the battle of ideas, and stand up for the international rules-based system which Churchill and Thatcher did so much to shape and defend. It is also in our national interest to tackle the root causes of poverty.

Britain has always been a force for good: transforming lives, unleashing opportunity, and creating enormous British soft power. The new Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office will have the potential to not only promote British values in a dangerous world, but also to turbo charge the tackling of the many root causes of poverty. If we get it right, both Britain and the world will be all the better for it.