UK Tells Developers To Pay More On Safety After Fire Tragedy

Britain’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove walks through Downing Street in central London on September 22, 2020 to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)


The UK government has told property developers to contribute more to remove combustible cladding from residential buildings, under revised plans to be unveiled Monday following the deadly 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove wants the industry to stump up an estimated £4 billion ($5.4 billion, 4.8 billion euros) to cover the expense of removing the dangerous cladding from buildings 11 to 18 metres tall with flats.

It marks a U-turn on heavily criticised plans announced early last year which would have required flat owners with unsafe material on their properties to access a low-interest loan scheme to help pay the removal costs.

The government would also have contributed billions.

The new proposals come after more than four years of inaction and wrangling with the property industry following the June 2017 high-rise blaze in west London that killed 72 people.

An official report has blamed highly combustible cladding fixed to the 24-storey block as the “principal reason” the fire spread, while a public inquiry into the tragedy remains ongoing.

Grenfell was Britain’s deadliest domestic fire since World War II and has left thousands of leaseholder owners of flats in other buildings stuck in perilous situations, unable to afford the removal of the cladding.

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They have also faced other rising costs, from increased insurance premiums to, in some cases, having to pay for around-the-clock fire marshal patrols.

Meanwhile most have been unable to sell or rent their flats because mortgage providers are unwilling to lend on the properties or because of other resulting restrictions.

– ‘Responsibility’ –

In a letter to the industry revealed Monday, Gove demanded developers and other firms involved provide a “fully-funded plan of action” to fix their situations by “early March”.

The minister, who took over the housing brief last September, warned he was “prepared to take all steps necessary” to fix the “broken system”.

“We now need to make sure that everyone in the development and in the construction product manufacturing sector who has a responsibility steps up to the plate,” Gove told BBC radio ahead of unveiling the plans in parliament.

He added the government was being guided by three principles.

“Firstly, leaseholder shouldn’t pay, secondly the polluter should pay in the broadest sense, and thirdly we want to work with everyone involved in order to get to a constructive solution.”

Gove noted companies involved could be stopped from getting future government and other contracts if they refuse to comply.

He cited the case of Irish company Kingspan, whose products were used in Grenfell Tower and last month saw a sponsorship deal with Formula One team Mercedes axed over its links to the disaster.

The tie-up had caused uproar among Grenfell support groups with Mercedes’ star driver Lewis Hamilton even being drawn into the controversy.

“I intervened, I talked to (Mercedes F1 chief) Toto Wolff at Mercedes,” Gove said Monday.

“He appreciated, not least because of Lewis Hamilton’s own sympathy with the Grenfell United community, and so that contract ended.”

No Scotland Independence Vote Before 2024, Says UK Minister

Britain’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove walks through Downing Street in central London on September 22, 2020 to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)


Scotland will not be given a new referendum on independence before 2024, a senior UK cabinet minister said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who heads a UK government strategy unit on policy for the country’s four nations, said a vote was unlikely in the immediate future.

“I can’t see it,” Gove, a Scot, told the Daily Telegraph when asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson would approve the move before the next scheduled UK general election.

“It’s foolish to talk about a referendum now — we’re recovering from Covid,” he added.

“It seems to me to be at best reckless, at worst folly, to try to move the conversation on to constitutional division when people expect us to be working together in order to deal with these challenges.”

Renewed calls for a vote on Scottish independence are a potential headache for Johnson, despite a 2014 referendum which saw Scots voted by 55 percent to 45 percent to remain part of the UK.

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After the result, Johnson called the referendum a once-in-a-generation event.

But Scottish National Party leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, reopened the debate after the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

Scots in that vote opted by a majority to stay part of the bloc, with Sturgeon arguing that Scotland was being forced out against its will.

Brexit changed the constitutional relationship of Scotland with the rest of the UK, she said, and has since promised a new referendum on going it alone by late 2023.

She said the strong SNP showing at the last elections for the devolved parliament in Edinburgh in May gives a democratic mandate for a new referendum.

The SNP is backed by the Scottish Greens in support for a referendum.

But Sturgeon has promised to tackle the coronavirus pandemic as a priority.

She dismissed Gove’s comments as “sneering, arrogant condescension” and a refusal “to accept Scottish democracy”, which she said only bolsters the pro-independence cause.

London, which under the Scotland Act must transfer powers to hold a referendum to Edinburgh, needed to accept the democratic choices made in Scotland last month.

“If that can’t even be respected, then the idea that the UK is a partnership of equals just completely disintegrates,” she added.


Plans To Allow Fans Back Into Stadiums ‘Paused’ Due To COVID-19 Spike

Britain’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove walks through Downing Street in central London on September 22, 2020 to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)


Plans to allow the phased return of fans to sporting venues in England from October 1 will be put on hold due to the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, ministers said on Tuesday.

A number of pilot test events, in which capacities have been capped at 1,000, have taken place and it was hoped venues would be allowed to welcome more spectators from the start of next month.

But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said a “mass reopening” would not be appropriate at the current time, dealing a devastating blow to sports bodies struggling with the financial fallout of Covid-19.

“We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning — it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans,” Gove told the BBC.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.”

Professional sport, including the Premier League and Test cricket, has largely been played behind closed doors since it returned following the coronavirus shutdown earlier this year.

Sports chiefs have warned of crippling losses due to the loss of income from gate receipts and hospitality.

The leaders of more than 100 sports bodies have reportedly written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask for emergency funding, warning of “a lost generation of activity”.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters earlier this month warned it was “critical” to get fans back into stadiums soon, with clubs facing enormous losses.

Plans to host 1,000-capacity crowds at four Super League fixtures next week now look set to be scrapped.

“It’s clearly very disappointing,” RFL (Rugby Football League) chief executive Ralph Rimmer told the BBC. “We spoke with the secretary of state last week who was very supportive in developing a road map back to full crowds and the pilot schemes were the first step in that.

“The push on the 1,000 crowds would be disappointing if that was to be pushed backwards.”

Julian Knight, who chairs the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, expressed his concern at the announcement from Gove.

“If we don’t find a route map with smart solutions to allow sports and live events to gradually reopen, we risk decimation of our sporting and cultural infrastructure,” he wrote on Twitter.


May, Leadsom Lead Race To Become Next Prime Minister

May_LeadsomTheresa May and Andrea Leadsom will battle it out to become the next leader of the Conservative Party after Michael Gove was eliminated from the contest.

After the second MPs’ ballot, Home Secretary Mrs May finished with 199 votes, Energy Minister Mrs Leadsom 84 and Mr Gove, the justice secretary, 46.

Conservative members will now decide the winning candidate, with the result due on 9 September.

The winner will become the UK’s second female prime minister.

Mr Cameron resigned after finishing on the losing side in the UK’s EU referendum, in which there there was a vote for the UK to leave.

The results were announced at Westminster by Conservative MP Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee.

Teachers Strike Over Pay, Pensions In England

Teachers in England have joined their Nigerian counterparts in embarking on a strike over pay, pensions and jobs thereby closing a plethora of schools across the country.

Teachers in London, Cumbria, the South East, North East and South West are taking part in the one-day strike. The action is part of a continuing campaign of regional strikes involving members of the NUT and NASUWT unions.

The government said the strike would “disrupt parents’ lives” and “hold back children’s education”. Large rallies have been planned for Bristol, London and Durham.

Teachers have objected to proposals by Education Secretary, Michael Gove to bring in performance-related pay, increase their workloads and make changes to their pensions.

‘No other choice’

A similar walkout by teachers took place in the east of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber region on 1 October.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the union regretted the disruption caused to pupils and parents but teachers felt they had “no other choice”.

She said: “Mr Gove has done nothing to address the crisis of low morale in the teaching profession which threatens the continued provision of high quality education.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the “overwhelming majority of teachers” would be on strike.

She said: “Teachers are committed and dedicated public service workers. They do not take strike action lightly.

“No teacher has any wish to inconvenience parents or disrupt pupils’ education, but this action is not the failure, or due to the unreasonableness, of teachers.”

Plans for a national one-day walkout before Christmas have also been announced by the two unions.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it was “disappointing” the NUT and NASUWT were taking industrial action.

The spokeswoman said: “All strikes will do is disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession