Friday 25th October: As HMG announces a deal with the French company EDF to go ahead with the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point with substantial Chinese investment, Dr Simon Taylor, University Lecturer in Finance at Cambridge, explains what lies behind the decision. Other alternatives might, he suggests, be a better bet for Britain. Dr Taylor writes:
On 21 October 2013 the British government confirmed at last that it had agreed with the French power company EDF (Electricité de France) the building of two European Pressurised Water (EPR) nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, near Bristol. The 3,200MW reactors will contribute around 7 per cent of the UK’s power needs by 2023. The deal is controversial in a number of ways: it depends on a 35 year power price guarantee by the government to EDF; it also grants the project company a British government guarantee on the debt raised, for a fee; and there are many people who just don’t like nuclear or see it as competing against other low carbon power sources.
One theme picked up by the media, including the BBC’s prestigious Newsnight programme, was the fact that this project would be built and run by an international consortium, led by EDF but with a large minority investment from China. The Daily Telegraph described the deal as “a symbol of the UK’s lost power”. Where, the journalists asked, was the British component? The long, sorry story of the loss of British leadership in civil nuclear power after an early lead in 1956, is told in my book on the causes of the financial crisis at the privatised nuclear company, British Energy.
Friday 18th October: This week the government announced that it will introduce a maximum life sentence for the worst cases of human trafficking and exploitation. Here, the Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP reflects on the problem, the obstacles to tackling human trafficking and modern slavery and how the government intends to bring more perpetrators to justice.
Human trafficking is the second largest organised crime in the world; it is an evil which threatens the liberties of millions – and constitutes a new form of slavery. At any given time the profits of traffickers worldwide are estimated in excess of £32 billion each year. The crime has its global and local aspects. The Coalition, which through its Human Trafficking Strategy of 2011, aims both to prevent trafficking activity and maintain effective care for victims, continues to review how to tackle the evil which threatens the liberties of millions and is a new form of slavery.
You might expect that a problem that had been ‘abolished’ such a long time ago would no longer trouble our society. Yet important as those achievements were, the ‘unconsenting’ are still enslaved today. The solutions to Human Trafficking must be global. This is where the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), supported by the Foreign Office and Dept for International Development, is doing some very good work.
Friday 11th October: John Marenbon writes:
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, will not have missed the news from the latest OECD study that England's 16 to 24-year-olds are falling behind their Asian and European counterparts and have scored amongst the lowest results in literacy and numeracy. It is precisely such low achievement that the new national curriculum aims to to tackle. Indeed, the inclusion of Latin as a National Curriculum language at primary level will go some way to tackle poor literacy, since learning Latin improves standards in native and other languages. It is therefore bizarre that the national curriculum option for Latin is withdrawn, when pupils reach the secondary stage.
Education officials explain that pupils should not leave school unable to speak any modern language apart from their mother tongue. They imply the aim is a practical one: pupils need to be equipped with a living language if they are to converse for business or pleasure with other nationalities in languages such as French, Spanish, German or Italian.
Friday 4th October: As the party conference season draws to a close for another year, Politeia Director Sheila Lawlor reflects on the messages to take away from the Conservative gathering.
The Conservatives made the journey home from their Manchester party conference buoyed by their leaders' aspirations: aspirations for a better Britain with lower taxes, a benefit system to ensure the young ‘earned or learned’ and a promised freeze of fuel duty – the sequel to deficit reduction and economic growth. So, as the party prepares for the 2015 election, the question will be: are the Tories ‘new’ or ‘blue’?
The evidence from the BBC, if it is to be trusted, suggests that the party is nothing if not ‘new’. The pictures from Manchester showed a visually smooth conference, a smart hall packed with glossy under 30-somethings who could also be seen queuing for the cameras for the ‘random’ interviews or packing the Paxman studio to give their ‘take’ on the speeches. It came as no surprise that they endorsed modernisation and trumpeted the importance of reaching out to ‘the young’. The beautiful hairdos and slick voices represented the triumph of PR over substance. This was no land, it seemed, for old men (or women), and certainly not for Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader, invited to address the fringe, but whose security pass was apparently withdrawn.
Friday 27th September: At its conference in Brighton, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to freeze the price of energy after the next election if his party are in government. But, argues David Mowat MP, this will only serve to further hamper the ability for UK energy companies to attract the investment that is essential for a secure energy supply in the coming years.
On Tuesday, Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour Government would cap energy prices for its first two years.
At first glance, this seems like a great idea. Many people have struggled because of the rising costs of gas and electricity over recent years and the cost of living is set to be a key theme of the next general election.
However, Britain is facing a looming energy crisis: over the next decade, due to power stations reaching the end of their operating life and EU Directives, a total of 20GW of generating capacity needs replacing.
This is an unprecedented challenge. Ofgem have said that meeting it (and the additional “Green” targets we have imposed upon ourselves) will require an investment of £200bn by 2020. The “cliff edge” effect we face is steeper than any other Western country.