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The Markets Committee of the City of London Corporation has today (Monday 29 November 2010) voted in favour of revoking the outdated byelaws at its three food markets, which have been overtaken by national and EU legislation.

A lengthy consultation period revealed only one area of real contention: the licensing of the fish porters at Billingsgate. The City of London Corporation does not employ porters, and the licence is only a permit to work, although it recognises the emotional significance to the porters themselves and its historical connotations. However, nobody has made a coherent business case to continuing to licence only 20% of the Billingsgate workforce.

The proposals to revoke the byelaws, some of which date from 1876, have been supported by the fish merchants and their representative body, London Fish Merchants’ Association, who say that their businesses are being adversely affected by the portering arrangements.

Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Markets Committee at the City of London Corporation, says:

“I am very pleased that members have voted in favour of revoking these obsolete byelaws, which are not needed in modern markets. The City of London Corporation recognises that Billingsgate’s porters have opposed the plans and argued that the market’s future is now under threat. We do not share that view at all.

“We are committed to helping Billingsgate flourish and we are confident about its future. Today’s decision is proof of that, and it now paves the way for the Union and the porters’ employers to begin productive negotiations about modernising working practices.”


Andrew Buckingham

Michael Bear Lord Mayor Michael Bear delivers a speech to guests at Lord Mayor of London?s Banquet on November 15, 2010 in London, England. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has recently returned from a visit to the Far East, addressed the audience of the newly appointed Lord Mayor of London Michael Bear in London's Guildhall. He asserted that Britain's position on the world stage, both financially and militarily, is not in decline.


Commenting on today’s statement by the Home Secretary the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Michael Bear said:

"Immigration is an emotive issue that provokes broader public concerns about its impact on jobs and communities. But the City operates in a global business environment and international firms need the flexibility to recruit the best people.

"The Government has listened to legitimate business concerns, particularly with regards to intra-company transfers, and we appreciate that. We now wait to see how this measure will be implemented. The devil, as always, will be in the detail.

"London is a truly international city, home to talented individuals from all corners of the globe, and we must ensure it remains so for many generations to come."

The City of London’s Policy Chairman, Stuart Fraser, added:

"The Government made a specific pledge to reduce immigration and the City understands this is a pledge that must be kept.

"However, immigration, along with regulation and taxation, has long been an area of concern for the international business community.

"The City has a history of openness - to the top firms and the top people from around the world - long may this continue. Highly skilled workers are not a burden on the state; they generate wealth and are positive contributors to the UK economy and indeed to wider society.

"Obviously a balance has to be struck and these proposals go a long way in providing the certainty and predictability international firms will require if they are to continue to invest in the UK in the years to come."

Sanjay Odedra

British Airways Boeing B777 First cabin


British Airways cabin crew are to be balloted for fresh strikes in their long-running dispute with the airline.

Joint Unite leader Tony Woodley accused BA's management of "victimising" union members at the airline.

Mr Woodley said the union was "left with no choice" but to call the ballot in a bid to resolve the dispute.

Mr Woodley said: "British Airways' latest offer is not acceptable to our members, a point we made clear to the airline earlier this month. Regrettably, we have not found it possible to resolve the outstanding issues concerning cabin crew since then.

"BA told us it was a business in crisis. They demanded structural change. These changes have been made and this business is now in profit with senior management filling their wallets with the spoils.

"Yet BA is determined to continue with this vicious war against its workforce. It is time for BA to put its passengers first - and the best way to achieve this is to resolve the issues between us, which would not cost BA a single penny and yet would bring priceless stability and peace to the company.

"However, BA's continued hounding of union members leaves us no other option but to conduct a new industrial action ballot.

"This airline has conducted a year-long assault on cabin crew collectively and on many of them as individuals. We will not stand by while this airline bullies our members out of their jobs, and if it takes strike action to bring BA management to its senses, then that is the road we must, regretfully, travel."

A BA spokesman said: "Tony Woodley shook hands with us on an agreement in October and said he would let cabin crew vote on the deal with a recommendation for acceptance.

"Unite has broken this promise and instead has now chosen to create fresh uncertainty for customers and damage the interests of thousands of its own members within British Airways."


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Commander Adrian  K M Pierce Royal Navy



The naval chief in charge of a nuclear-powered submarine which ran aground on a shingle bank has been relieved of his command.

HMS Astute was on sea trials last month when it became stuck off the coast of Skye and ended up marooned for several hours.

Navy officials confirmed that Andy Coles, 47, lost his command of the submarine on Friday.

He will remain with the Royal Navy and is to be given another post.

A final decision has still to be made about whether Commander Coles will face a court martial over the incident.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: "From yesterday, November 26, he was removed from command of HMS Astute. He's going to continue with the Royal Navy. He will be reappointed to another post. It's an internal administrative matter between Commander Coles and his senior officers."

The spokesman said it was not known what the new post will be. He added that a new commanding officer of HMS Astute will be appointed in the near future.

The vessel ran aground on the west coast of Scotland on October 22. It was freed by the evening when the tide began to rise.

However, it is understood HMS Astute was damaged after a collision with the coastguard tug the Anglian Prince, which was sent to free it.

The submarine returned to its base at Faslane on the Clyde three days after the incident.


Around 140,000 local authority jobs are expected to be axed in the next year because of spending cuts, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association had predicted that 100,000 posts would go across England and Wales after Chancellor George Osborne set out the broad framework for public spending in the June budget.

But the association said that the Government's decision to front load a large proportion of the cuts into the first year, rather than allow councils to spread them evenly over the four years of the spending review, was likely to lead to more jobs being lost.

The "unexpected severity" of the first-year cuts means councils will have to trim their budgets by an average of 11% in 2011/12, said the LGA.

Some authorities will also have to deal with the "difficult impact" of the loss of the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, which channelled £450 million to different parts of the country.

The LGA called on the Government to ease the effect of reductions in next month's local government finance settlement so that councils could spread the cuts more evenly over the next four years.

National officer Brian Strutton said: "Local government frontline services will be badly damaged by 140,000 job losses predicted by LGA for next year. The Tory/Liberal Government has taken an almighty gamble with people's livelihoods by cutting public spending instead of putting the priority on growth and getting the unemployed back to work. It is not possible to deflate the economy back to growth and a balanced budget."

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: "The local government finance settlement is due shortly and will be announced in a statement to Parliament. We are not going to pre-empt that statement and any commentary ahead of formal publication is pure speculation and in this case scaremongering.

"We are working towards delivering a settlement that will help to protect frontline services and the LGA would be well placed to focus their efforts on working with councils to do the same."

A Whitehall source said the Government believed councils could protect frontline services, especially if they cut "non jobs" and tackled high salaries among senior officers.

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A new Tory peer has criticised the Government's child benefit cuts - saying they give the poor more incentive to have children than the better-off.

Former party vice-chair Howard Flight told London's Evening Standard that taking the benefit away from top taxpayers would mean they were "discouraged from breeding".

"But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible," he told the newspaper.

The remarks were swiftly rejected by Downing Street.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said: "He is not a member of the Government, he is not a frontbencher, he does not speak for the Government and we do not agree with his comments."

Mr Flight was named just days ago by Mr Cameron as one of several new additions to the Tory ranks in the House of Lords - where he is yet to take his seat.

The ex-MP was forced to resign as vice-chairman after being taped before the 2005 general election suggesting the Tories had secret spending cut plans.

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Whitehall sign; Crown copyright


The Government has deferred a decision on replacing intercity express trains on the rail network.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond also announced that news about the extent of electrification on the Great Western route would not be released until the new year.

The Government did say, however, that there would be 2,100 new rail carriages on the network by May 2019 to help overcrowding on the busiest services.

The Intercity Express Programme (IEP) - to replace Intercity 125 high-speed trains - was halted by the Labour government earlier this year and an independent review was set up which reported to the new Government in June.

The Government said it is now looking at two options - a revised bid from the original preferred bidder Agility, a consortium led by Japanese company Hitachi; and an alternative for a fleet of all-electric trains.

The Government said it would continue to assess these two alternatives, "alongside a consideration of the extent of electrification on the Great Western route" and would make a further statement in the new year.

Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I made the decision that we must carry on investing in the railway, we can't stand still. If we want growth to continue, we have to invest in our transport infrastructure."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "Today's announcement is classic political smoke and mirrors.

"Key infrastructure developments like the intercity fleet have been kicked deep into the long grass and even the carriage procurement numbers have been dressed up to look better than they are with long-term projects mangled up with the urgent replacements required to keep pace with current demand.

"The reality is that the inflation-busting fare increases kick in within weeks while the infrastructure and upgrade works we need to drag the UK's railways out of the slow lane are light years away. The profits of the train companies are ring-fenced while the services to passengers are left to rot."

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Nick Clegg has urged students to call off planned demonstrations over tuition fee rises - telling them the Government's policy would benefit less-well-off youngsters.

The Deputy Prime Minister suggested they should instead be protesting about the "scandalously" high proportion of pupils from the schools he and David Cameron attended getting places at Oxbridge.

A fresh wave of protests against increases in university tuition fees will be held on Wednesday, with a series of occupations, rallies and marches by student activists.

The Liberal Democrats have been at the centre of the storm after ditching a General Election pledge to oppose fee rises - and eventually abolish them - as part of the coalition deal.

A delegation of students is to deliver a letter to the Lib Dem leader as part of the protests, which says "no amount of twisted reasoning" can hide the fact the party lied to young voters.

"We call on you to withdraw Lib Dem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed," it says.

But Mr Clegg used a high-profile speech to insist he would defend the policy and told the students to "listen and look before you march and shout".

In fact, the coalition's proposals were "even fairer" than the graduate tax preferred by the National Union of Students, he said in the annual Hugo Young Lecture in central London.

"On higher education, I want to be crystal-clear: I will defend the Government's plans for reforming the funding of universities, even though it is not the one I campaigned for," he said.

"It is not my party's policy, but it is the best policy given the choices we face."

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The Government has been defeated in the Lords after peers voted 235 to 201 (majority 34) to restrict ministers' powers to abolish quangos.

It was the coalition's second Lords defeat in seven days and the fifth in 16 Lords divisions since the general election.

The amendment to the Public Bodies Bill was tabled by Liberal Democrat QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill, but the division was called by Labour peers and crossbench QC Lord Pannick when Lord Lester tried to withdraw it.

The highly controversial Bill gives ministers wide-ranging powers to abolish, merge or modify hundreds of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations following the Government's recent review of such so-called "arm's-length bodies".

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for the Government, sought to reassure critics by tabling a series of amendments to the proposed powers.

But they failed to satisfy peers, among them former lord chief justice crossbencher Lord Woolf, who accused ministers of treating some of the quangos "in a cavalier way".

The previous Government defeat was on the Identity Documents Bill last Wednesday, when peers voted by 220 to 188 (majority 32) to allow people who had bought a soon-to-be abolished ID card to claim a £30 refund.

On Friday the Government announced the creation of an additional 54 peers, 27 of them Tories and 15 Liberal Democrats, but it will be several weeks before they begin to take their Lords seats.

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A police officer accused of raping vulnerable women has been convicted of six counts of misconduct in a public office.

Pc Stephen Mitchell was found guilty of the charges by a jury of six men and six women after 21 hours and 16 minutes deliberation at Newcastle Crown Court. He was cleared of six counts of misconduct and one of assault. Verdicts are yet to be reached on two charges of rape, three indecent assaults and one of misconduct.

Mitchell, 42, of Glasgow, stared straight ahead as the guilty verdicts, each by a majority of 10 to two, were read out.

The Northumbria Police officer was cleared of three counts of rape, two indecent assaults and two counts of misconduct in a public office at the court on Friday. He had denied all charges, claiming that the 16 women who made complaints against him were liars.

During a five-week trial, the prosecution said Mitchell preyed on heroin addicts, shoplifters and a disabled teenager by offering them help while in custody at Pilgrim Street police station in Newcastle city centre, then demanding sexual favours afterwards.

He had a hold over one woman for three-and-a-half years, even trying to keep her on heroin after she had quit, which only ended when she went into hiding after he raped her in handcuffs at her home, the court heard.

Others were flattered then propositioned while still in custody with a view to beginning sexual relations later, the jury was told.

Mitchell claimed the women colluded against him after a rumour which he said had been made up by one claimant was picked up by others in the close-knit criminal fraternity. The officer claimed: "These people will grab any opportunity they can."

The jury will be sent out for a fifth day of deliberation on Wednesday morning. Mitchell was remanded in custody.

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