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News Round-Up

Dec 18: Mone admits lies over PPE firm links; Huge tunnel in Gaza; Pay inequality remains

Here are the headlines on Monday, December 18

Time 6:30 am, December 18, 2023

Labour puts pressure on ministers after Mone admits lies over PPE firm links

Michael Gove is facing calls to appear before MPs to answer questions over PPE firm Medpro after Baroness Michelle Mone (pictured) admitted she stands to benefit from a deal between the government and the firm.

The Cabinet minister, who was chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the pandemic struck, was name-checked by Lady Mone in her first major broadcast interview since the scandal emerged.

The interview, on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme, saw Lady Mone admit she did not tell the truth about her links to the PPE firm – while insisting that she and her husband have ‘no case to answer’. The company is currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), while the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has since issued breach of contract proceedings over a 2020 deal on the supply of gowns.


Israel’s ‘killing rage’ undermining legal basis for Gaza action, warns Wallace

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace has warned Israel that it risks undermining the legal basis for its action in the Gaza Strip, adding to growing international pressure over the escalating conflict.

Writing in the Telegraph, the senior Tory warned against a ‘killing rage’ and said Israel’s ‘original legal authority of self-defence is being undermined by its own actions’.

The intervention by Wallace, who left office earlier this year, is the latest warning to Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration amid deepening concern over the scale of civilian casualties.


Israel finds large tunnel at Gaza border, raising pre-war intelligence questions

The Israeli military said it has discovered a large tunnel shaft in Gaza close to what was once a busy crossing into Israel, raising new questions about how Israeli surveillance missed such conspicuous preparations by Hamas for the militants’ deadly October 7 assault.

The entryway to the tunnel is just a few hundred metres from the heavily fortified Erez crossing and a nearby Israeli military base.

The military said it stretches for more than 2.5 miles, links up with a sprawling tunnel network across Gaza and is wide enough for cars to pass through. The army said on Sunday that the tunnel facilitated the transit of vehicles, militants, and supplies in preparation for the October 7 attack.

Government to face court action over development of Rosebank oil field

The offshore oil and gas regulator and the government are facing legal action over the approval of the Rosebank oil field.

Campaign group Uplift claims the Energy Secretary failed to show how Rosebank – one of the largest untapped oil reserves in UK waters – aligns with the government’s net-zero plan for 2050. In a separate case, Greenpeace says the approval process did not consider the pollution that would come from burning the oil once produced and that the project itself would be too damaging for marine wildlife.

The government said it ‘strongly rejects these claims’ and will contest any challenge.

Gove set to confirm council funding to rise by 6.5% – report

Michael Gove is set to announce a 6.5% increase in funding for councils in England, according to reports, amid growing fears about the number of local authorities facing effective bankruptcy.

The Financial Times said that the communities secretary would provide increased government assistance for English local councils, with a provisional package for 2024/25 worth around £64bn.

Council leaders across the country are grappling with major shortfalls in their finances, with Birmingham City Council and Nottingham City Council among those declaring themselves essentially bankrupt in recent months.


Home Office struggling to source planes for Rwanda plan – report

The Home Office said it has ‘robust plans’ for flights to Rwanda, following reports airlines have so far refused to sign contracts to take part in the flagship asylum policy.

The Sunday Times reported that firms have so far declined to sign up over fears of damage to their reputations from taking part in the plan.

According to the paper, ministers have since appointed an agent to source a commercial aircraft supplier willing to ferry migrants to the African nation if and when the scheme becomes operational. A failure to do so raises the prospect of the Ministry of Defence and the RAF stepping in.

Pay inequalities remain constant, research suggests

Pay inequalities at the country’s biggest companies have remained constant this year despite the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new report.

The difference in median pay between chief executives and other employees in the FTSE 350 was 57:1 last year, slightly up from 56:1 in 2021, latest figures showed.

Across the larger FTSE 100 companies, the gaps were wider, with a median chief executive/employee pay ratio of 80:1, said the High Pay Centre.]

Listen to the latest Car Dealer Podcast

Redgate Lodge’s Scott Sibley joins the Car Dealer team for this week’s podcast. Headlines on the show include Lookers announces mass redundancies before Christmas, Sytner swoops on Rybrook showrooms, and James Baggott can’t get a bank account.

Network Rail manager in charge when passengers were left stranded steps down

A Network Rail manager who was in charge when passengers were left stranded on trains near London Paddington for more than three hours will leave her post at the end of the year.

Michelle Handforth, managing director for the Wales and Western region, which includes Paddington, has announced her intention to step down and her successor will take over on January 1, Network Rail said. The three-hour delays came after multiple system faults and damaged rails led to repeated hold-ups in the weeks before the incident on December 7.

On Sunday, Network Rail initially said she had stepped down after the chaos but later said she had resigned before then.

Church of England blesses same-sex couples for first time

A couple have become one of the first same-sex partnerships to receive a blessing at a Church of England service.

Prayers of love and faith were granted to Catherine Bond and Jane Pearce on Sunday morning, celebrating their shared ‘love and friendship’ and ‘commitment to one another’.

Blessing same-sex couples was sanctioned by the House of Bishops just days ago and they were allowed to be handed out from Sunday. Not all clergy members agree with the decision to permit the blessing for same-sex couples – some welcome it as progress, others believe it has gone too far, and many hold that the real change needed is marriage recognition.

Drivers warned to expect ‘daily delays’ as 21m leisure trips planned

UK drivers are expected to make 21m leisure trips between Monday and Christmas Eve, leading to warnings of daily delays.

Getaway traffic will climb slowly at the start of the week before jumping from 2.2m trips on Thursday to 3.2m on Friday, the last working day before Christmas Day, the RAC said.

Some 13.5m leisure journeys by car are expected between Friday and Christmas Eve, up 20% on the equivalent period last year. Congestion is likely to peak on Friday as drivers embarking on getaway trips compete for road space with commuters and business traffic.

Weather

A breezy and cloudy day with spells of rain, reports BBC Weather. The rain will be most frequent in Wales and central England. Drier further north. Temperatures will be a very mild 11 to 13 degrees.

Cloudy and wet tonight for most due to a band of heavy rain moving in from the west. Drier and clearer further north.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.



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