Cecil Parkinson, the former Conservative Cabinet Minister, has died

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Cecil Parkinson, the former Conservative Party Chairman, has died at the age of 84. He sat in the House of Commons from 1970 until 1992 and in the House of Lords from 1992 until he retired in 2015.

He was the Conservative MP for Enfield West from 1970 to 1974, for South Hertfordshire from 1974 to 1983 and for Hertsmere from 1983 until 1992.

Parkinson was nearly promoted by Margaret Thatcher to the position of Foreign Secretary in 1983 but there were allegations which deterred her. These came to light later in the same year when it was announced that Sarah Keays, his secretary, was pregnant with his baby. Parkinson resigned from his post as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry although he returned to the Cabinet again in 1987.

Parkinson served as the Paymaster General from 1981 to 1983, as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 1983, as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry from 1987 until 1989 and as the Secretary of State for Transport from 1989 until 1990. He was elevated to the Peerage as Baron Parkinson in 1992. He was also briefly the Conservative Party chairman under William Hague from 1997 until 1998.

Labour split on power sharing for Falkland Islands issue

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A spokesman for the Labour Party has said that they believe in “self-determination for the Falkland Islands” after Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party, suggested that the existing situation could be changed.

Corbyn said on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr programme last week:

“I think there has to be a discussion about how you can bring
about some reasonable accommodation with Argentina. It seems
to me ridiculous that in the 21st century we’d be getting into some
enormous conflict with Argentina about the islands just off it”.

Hilary Benn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, is thought to have rejected Corbyn’s new policy during a Shadow Cabinet meeting. It was reported in the media that Benn insisted that the party should defend the rights of the Falkland Islands people to self-determine their own future.

Today the Guardian newspaper reported that Alicia Castro, the out-going Argentine ambassador to the UK, said that about Corbyn that “he is one of ours” and “he shares our concerns”.

In a referendum held in 2013 the people of the Falkland Islands voted 99.8% to retain their current political arrangements.

Theresa May makes statement over Alexander Litvinenko report

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Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has made a statement in the House of Commons following the publication of a report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

May said:

“There is a strong probability that they were acting under the direction of the Russian domestic security service – the Federal Security Service or FSB. And the Inquiry has found that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, the then head of the FSB, and by President Putin”.

She added:

“In particular, the conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing. It goes without saying that this was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour. But we have to accept this does not come as a surprise. The Inquiry confirms the assessment of successive governments that this was a state sponsored act”.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, rejected the allegations saying that they were “not transparent, not objective or unbiased”.

British Government express concern over Israeli decision to take ‘state land’

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The British Government has expressed concern over news that the Israeli Government has taken over land on the West Bank and defined it as ‘state land’.  The taking of the 385 acres of land is the largest such declaration since 2014.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said:

“The UK’s long-held position on Israeli settlements, and that of our international partners, is clear: they are illegal under international law, are an obstacle to peace and undermine the prospects for a two-state solution. The UK strongly opposes any moves which take us further away from an enduring peace settlement”.

A spokesman for the US State Department had already said:

“We strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question frankly the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution”.

 

Justine Greening Announces £30 million of new funding to help refugees over winter

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Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, has said that the Government will be spending £30 million to help ensure that refugees can survive the winter months.

Greening said:

“As the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues, we will make sure we help refugees who have lost everything and desperately need our support.

We are helping people inside Syria, enabling millions to stay in neighbouring countries, and for those who have made the perilous journey to Europe, we are stepping up our support to ensure they can cope with worsening weather conditions.

Many children and their families have been left with nothing but the clothes on their back and are in desperate need of basic essentials. As the coldest months of winter are upon us, warm clothes, hot water and warm blankets will help protect the most vulnerable”.

The Government confirmed that the money will be spent in numerous ways including £2.75 million to UNICEF, £9.75 million to the UNHCR, £3 million to IFRC and £11 million to the StartFund. There will be an additional £3 million spent  on essential equipment such as clothing, blankets and shoes.

A report chaired by Grant Shapps recommends BT Openreach sell-off

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A report backed by 121 backbench MPs from across the political parties, and chaired by Grant Shapps, has recommended that BT should be forced to sell-off their Openreach service.

The report was led by Grant Shapps, the former Conservative Party Chairman, as part of the British Infrastructure Group which aims to promote infrastructure development in the UK. The report concluded:

“We deserve better. We should be leading the world on digital
investment and innovation. Instead we have a company that clings to outdated copper technology with no long term plan for the future.
We need to start converting to a fully fibre network so we are not left behind the other nations rushing to embrace digital advancement. But we will only achieve this by taking action to open up the sector and formally separate BT and Openreach. The benefits this will bring are potentially enormous”.

BT responded by saying that the report was “misleading and ill-judged”.

Sir Stuart Peach named as new Chief of the Defence Staff

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE ADC is to be appointed Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, in succession to General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB CBE ADC in May 2013.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE ADC

Sir Stuart Peach has been named as the new Chief of the Defence Staff to take over from Sir Nicholas Houghton this summer.

In a statement David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said:

“I want to thank General Sir Nick Houghton for his many years of dedicated service to this country – especially the years he has led our armed forces in an ever more unstable world.

I’m confident that Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach is the right man to continue General Sir Nick Houghton’s great legacy. For over a decade Sir Stuart has delivered exemplary leadership of the armed forces, with an extraordinary record of achievement. His experience as Commander Joint Forces Command and Chief of Joint Operations will be invaluable as we continue to ensure our brave armed forces remain among the most capable and agile in the world”.

Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, said:

“I am delighted to announce that Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach will assume the role of Chief of the Defence Staff this summer when General Sir Nicholas Houghton retires.

Sir Stuart has been an outstanding VCDS and I look forward to working closely with him in taking the fight to Daesh and ensuring we have the best Armed Forces to keep Britain safe”.

Government Condemns Attack in Somali

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James Duddridge, the Minister for Africa and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has condemned an attack by Al Shabaab on Somali civilans.

The attack by the group took place at a beachside restaurant in Mogadishu. The number of deaths has yet to be confirmed and the Somali Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, called the attacks “barbaric”.

Duddridge said in a statement:

“I condemn this barbaric and indiscriminate attack on Somalis who were simply meeting with family and friends on Lido Beach. Our thoughts are with the people of Somalia, its government and the families of those injured and killed.

Attacks such as this are attempts to reverse the progress made by Somalia on its path toward peace and stability. The gains made so far in returning security to large parts of the country and in developing federal institutions within a federal state show how far Somalia has come. These are the foundation stones of a future Somalia that will provide the peace and prosperity that its people deserve. Elections in 2016 will further reinforce this progress.

The UK stands alongside Somalia as it confronts those who seek to destroy what has been achieved”.

Mark Carney Rules Out Short Term Interest Rate Rise

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Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has ruled out any short-term increase in interest rates. In a speech he said that based on the evidence and global changes he didn’t feel that there were sufficient inflationary pressures at the present time.

Carney said:

“It is clear to me that, since last summer, progress has been insufficient along these dimensions to warrant a tightening of monetary policy. The world is weaker and UK growth has slowed. Due to the oil price collapse, inflation has fallen further and will likely remain very low for longer. This may mean modestly weaker cost growth through this year, with the likely path for inflation, both headline and core, softer as a result. In short, recent developments suggest that the firming in inflationary pressure we had expected will take longer to materialise”.

He added that:

“That means we’ll do the right thing at the right time on rates”.

Labour Publish Report into 2015 General Election Loss

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The Labour Party have published a report into why they lost at the 2015 General Election and how to repeat mistakes in the future. The report was written by Dame Margaret Beckett, the former Foreign Secretary.

Beckett said in a statement about the report:

“The reaction to the 2015 result was inevitably an emotional one for Labour because it was such a surprise. There was certainly no complacency in the Labour ranks, but the polls showed us neck and neck with the Tories, when clearly we weren’t.

There are certainly lessons to learn from defeat. This report has been a key part of recognising areas we need to improve on and building on aspects of our campaign that performed well.  Labour gained votes in the 2015 election both in the UK as a whole and in England and Wales. There was a small swing to Labour, 1.5 per cent. This was the first election since 1997 when Labour’s share of the vote went up.  However, we know this was not enough to deliver a Labour Government.

As part of this reports’ process, we have consulted far and wide. We have had responses from tens of thousands of party members, we have spoken with many political figures and those who were closely involved in the campaign, and we have taken input from pollsters, pundits and academics.

The road to re-election is a marathon, not a sprint. If we learn the lessons of defeat in 2015, we can take the steps needed to rebuild a society in which the common good, and greater prosperity for all go hand in hand, and elect a Labour Government”.

In the report she wrote:

“We have consistently heard four reasons for our defeat both from pollsters and from those on the doorstep:

 – Failure to shake off the myth that we were responsible for the financial crash and therefore failure to build trust in the economy

 – Inability to deal with the issues of ‘connection’ and, in particular, failing to convince on benefits and immigration

 – Despite his surge in 2015, Ed Miliband still wasn’t judged to be as strong a leader as David Cameron

 – The fear of the SNP “propping up” a minority Labour government.”