Labour MPs to get Free Vote on Syria

Labour MPs to get Free Vote on Syria
Jeremy Corbyn is expected to grant Labour MPs a free vote on extending UK air strikes against so-called Islamic State into Syria, the BBC understands, but the Labour leader is believed to want his party to take a position of opposition to military action.

Mr Corbyn has been meeting his shadow cabinet team, many of whom are likely to support air strikes. It comes as David Cameron continues to try to build support for the extension of strikes from Iraq to Syria.

The prime minister has said he will only call a vote when he is confident of winning, and needs enough Labour MPs to back military intervention to make up for any Conservative rebels.

Ahead of the shadow cabinet meeting, Labour said 75% of party members it polled over the weekend had opposed bombing. However the survey was called into question with one Labour MP calling it a “rather vague consultation”.

A free vote means Labour MPs would not be instructed to vote with the leadership. Mr Corbyn had previously suggested he wanted to agree a united position within his shadow cabinet and for Labour to approach the question “as a party”. But he was warned of resignations from his front bench if he attempted to force his party to vote with him.

No date has been set for a Commons vote on air strikes – Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the government was “continuing to build” its case.

Mr Corbyn has written to Mr Cameron requesting a two-day Commons debate to be held ahead of any vote. A single day, the Labour leader said, “would inevitably lead to important contributions being curtailed”.

Tax on Sugary Drinks Backed by MPs

Tax on Sugary Drinks Backed by MPs
A tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as part of a “bold and urgent” set of measures to tackle child obesity in England, MPs say. The Commons’ Health Committee said there was now “compelling evidence” a tax would reduce consumption.

Its report, which puts pressure on ministers who have so far been resisting a tax, also proposes a crackdown on marketing and advertising.

Food industry representatives say a new tax would be unfair on consumers.

The government will be setting out its plans early next year when it publishes a child obesity strategy, but has said a tax is not something it favours.

Where different ages get their sugar intake from - by food groups.

The cross-party group of MPs acknowledged no single measure would provide a solution to the problem. But the committee’s report said calls for a tax could “no longer be ignored”. It pointed to evidence from Mexico which introduced a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks of 10% and saw a 6% reduction in consumption.

The MPs urged the government to use the strategy to take strong action on the issue, pointing out that a fifth of children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to a third by the time they leave.

As well as a tax, the committee called for:

  • A crackdown on price promotions of unhealthy foods
  • Tougher controls on marketing, including the use of cartoon characters to promote unhealthy food
  • A ban on advertising unhealthy foods on television before 21:00
  • Clearer labelling of products showing sugar content in teaspoons
  • A drive to force industry to reduce sugar in food and drink as has happened with salt

The MPs said the government in England should work with its counterparts in the rest of the UK on these points.

Internet shopping – Online Sales up on Black Friday

Internet shopping – Online Sales up on Black Friday
Internet shopping ‘steals show’ over discounting weekend imported from US, with online sales on Monday forecast to be up by almost third to £943m. Britain’s retailers are hoping the flat reaction to Black Friday on the high street, when shoppers preferred trawling the internet to visiting a department store, will pay off on Cyber Monday as the pre-Christmas discounting spree moves online.

Imported from the US like its Black Friday cousin, Cyber Monday is forecast to bring in more than £900m for online retailers – up nearly a third on last year. By the end of Cyber Monday, total sales over the four-day shopping event will surpass £3bn in the UK, some analysts have predicted.

The absence of midnight openings and crowded shops last Friday underlined the role of digital shopping in the multibillion pound outlay by consumers.

Springboard, a company which tracks shopper numbers, said online shopping had “stolen the show” over the Black Friday weekend. Footfall across the UK for the weekend was down 9.6% on the year, said Springboard, noting that retailers had spread offers out over several days this year rather than limiting them to Friday.

Highlighting a wider trend for internet sales increasing their share of trade, analysts said retailers with reliable web operations were expected to do best out of the long weekend of pre-Christmas discounting.

Experts were predicting that online sales on Black Friday would have set a one-day record of just more than £1bn.

The only retail destinations to buck the downward trend brought about by internet shopping were retail parks, which over the weekend had a 4.9% rise in footfall on a year ago. Their shopper numbers were down on the Friday but rose on Saturday and Sunday, probably as a result of shoppers picking up purchases bought online using click and collect services.

“The volume of activity in retail stores over the Friday and Saturday of the Black Friday weekend is lower than last year and the evidence clearly points to the fact that much of this is due to a significant increase in shoppers using online to participate in the event,” said Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard. “The growth of click and collect in supporting store visits should not be underestimated, particularly for retail parks, with many shoppers now opting to buy online but to then visit stores to pick up their purchases.”

Online sales on Black Friday are expected to have risen to £1.07bn this year, up 32% on the same big shopping day in 2014, according to predictions from data company Experian and the trade group Interactive Media in Retail Group. If the forecast proves accurate it will be the first time that UK online retail sales exceed £1bn in a single day, they added. They predict Cyber Monday sales of £943m, up 31% on a year ago.
Spending online and in-stores over the four-days was expected to hit £3.49bn, according to figures from the Centre for Retail Research and Voucher Codes.

Online retailer Amazon said Black Friday had been its busiest UK day on record with more than 7.4m items sold, at a rate of around 86 a second.

Sound Testing Services for London & the UK

Sound Testing Services for London & the UK
London is a massive UK city containing over 5 million properties. In this overcrowded environment it is essential that noise transference between properties in kept to an absolute minimum for the occupant’s wellbeing.

APT Sound Testing Services undertake UKAS accredited Part E sound testing throughout London and the UK. We have extensive knowledge regarding the way different materials and construction methods can influence the results of a sound test, to ensure your company achieves complies with Sound Testing Regulations Part E.

Pre completion sound testing under part E has been a mandatory requirement since July 2003. All new build properties and conversions which were built after this date require 10% of each party wall/floor construction type to be tested. Sound Testing is to be carried out between pairs of rooms separated by party walls or floors. In usual circumstances the room/s to be sound tested will be the living rooms and bedrooms, which are classed as the two main habitable rooms.

The sound test procedure involves setting up a noise source in a room on one side of the party wall or floor and measuring the noise on both sides of the partition.

Airborne sound tests may also be required between horizontally and vertically separated pairs of rooms. The sound tests are undertaken by using a sound source, amplifier and loudspeaker to generate a high noise level in one room (the source room). Noise measurements are then taken in both the source and receiver rooms using a prescribed number of source and microphone positions. The background levels in the receiver room are measured and the reverberation time in the receiver room is also measured. From the results, the airborne sound insulation (DnT,w + Ctr) is calculated and compared to the requirements of Approved Document E.

For vertically separated rooms, an Impact sound test may also be required. This sound test is undertaken using a tapping machine which drops a series of weights onto the floor of the upper room. The noise level in the lower (receiver) room is measured for a prescribed number of source and microphone locations. The background levels in the receiver room are measured and the reverberation time in the receiver room is also measured. From the results, the impact sound insulation (LnT,w) is calculated and compared to the requirements of Approved Document E.

UKAS Accredited Sound Testing Our sound test engineers carry all the latest Norsonic equipment, which are class one rating and all of our acoustic testing/sound testing, is completed to a strict quality controlled standard. We provide full UKAS Accredited sound testing.

Pre-completion sound testing is generally carried out at the request of the Building Control Officer. The guidance contained within Approved Document E gives detailed recommendations for the partitions to be tested and for the number of sound tests that should be carried out. We recommend that the proposed sound testing is agreed in advance with the Building Control Officer prior to the London sound testing.

We can undertake both acoustic airborne sound testing to allow for speech, television etc, and impact sound testing to allow for footfall etc. This is in accordance with the requirements of Approved Document E of The Building Regulations and the relevant European and International standards.

The testing methods for airborne and impact sound insulation testing in London are in full accordance with: the suggested methods presented in BS EN ISO 140-parts 4 and 7: 1998.

If you are in the construction stage of a new project and are not sure if your design will pass the building regulations then visit our Sound Testing Services website and we will check your acoustic design and offer advice (if required) for the wall or/and floor partitions. Alternatively if you require sound testing for your London project please contact us now on 01525 303905.

Drax Chief Warns over Government’s Gas Plans

Drax Chief Warns over Government’s Gas Plans
Consumers could be exposed to soaring energy prices under new Government plans, says Dorothy Thompson, boss of coal-fired power generator Drax. She also believes that plans to phase out coal fired power plants and replace them by stations run on gas would leave the UK dependent on imported gas.

The plans were part of a major policy speech on Wednesday by the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd. Coal currently accounts for around 30% of UK power generation. But in her speech, Amber Rudd said that one of the most cost effective ways of reducing harmful emissions was to replace coal-fired power plants with gas.

However, the Drax chief executive warned that this could leave the UK with the wrong energy mix.

“Coal and gas today produce over half of our electricity. If you replace all the coal stations with gas you would then be dependent on imported gas for over half our electricity,” Mrs Thompson said. “I think that’s probably the wrong balance.” And she said that being too reliant upon gas could hit household energy bills too. “We would be so exposed if the gas price soared. Suddenly, the end-consumers’ bill would soar and we would have nothing to balance it out with,” she said.

Shares in Drax closed down more than 4% on Wednesday after Amber Rudd’s speech, wiping tens of millions of pounds the company’s value.

Drax’s huge power plant, in North Yorkshire, is the UK’s biggest coal-fired power generator. But almost half its output is now from biomass – burning eco friendly wood pellets.

“If you want to replace coal and you want to replace it quickly… the best way to do it and the most affordable way to do it, is to use biomass,” said Mrs Thompson.

The company is converting the third of its six units to run on biomass. To do more it will need to win subsidies in three renewables’ auctions planned by the government in this parliament. Failure to win contracts could force the closure of those units over the next decade.

While Amber Rudd’s speech made no specific reference of supporting biomass, Mrs Thompson believes biomass can compete in energy generation. “We are confident that if the government correctly structures the auctions, as they are now planning to do, that we will win,” she said. ‘A challenge’

Mrs Thompson welcomed the Energy Secretary’s move to bring clarity to where energy policy is going. “In my industry, which is about long term investment, clarity is important,” she said. But she warned that getting a new generation of gas plants built would not be easy.

She said: “There are an awful lot of gas plants that are going to be required because we have not only got coal closures, we have also got gas closures so it is quite a challenge they are facing. They recognise that if there are going to be new gas stations, they are going to need special support contracts because the economics don’t work today and have not worked for quite a long time.”

Royal Mail Profits Lower

Royal Mail Profits Lower
Royal Mail has reported a near 15% fall in half-year profits with revenues little-changed across its business. Letter volumes fell 4% in the six months to the end of September but the fall was offset by a 4% rise in parcel volumes.

Royal Mail reported adjusted pre-tax profit of £240m against £287m a year earlier. It said performance for the full financial year would depend on Christmas – its busiest time of year. Royal Mail said its “transformation costs” increased by £47m in the period with some 3,000 staff opting to take voluntary redundancy. It said the total cost of restructuring the business this year was likely to be at least £180m.

The rise in the number of parcels came as a result of gaining new customers, Royal Mail said. But despite the increase in parcel volumes, revenues from Royal Mail’s UK parcels business – which includes its letters division – dipped 1% in the period. The fall in UK parcel revenues however was offset by an 8% rise in revenues across the rest of Europe.

Although letter volumes continued to fall, the 4% drop in volumes in the six months to the end of September was at the lower end of the range forecast by Royal Mail. Shares in Royal Mail rose 5.8% to 480.5p in early trade. Its shares were boosted because the 2% fall in underlying operating profits to £342m – Royal Mail’s preferred profit measure – was less than expected, and the firm also said UK operating costs would be “at least” 1% lower this year.

Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail said the company had delivered a “resilient performance” in what she described as a “competitive trading environment”. The half-year results are the first to be published by Royal Mail as a completely privatised company after the government sold its remaining shares in the business last month.

Royal Mail increased its half-year dividend payment to shareholders to 7p per share from 6.7p per share a year ago. Royal Mail said little about the review of the way in which it was regulated, announced by communications regulator Ofcom in June, other than to say it had submitted its response to the review in September and agreed there was a need to consider the effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework.

Ofcom has said the review is expected to be completed and a revised regulatory framework in place during 2016.

Planning your Stag or Hen Party in Newcastle

Planning your Stag or Hen Party in Newcastle
So your best mate is about to get married. Whether you’re planning a stag party or a hen party, you have a pretty good idea of what will make for an evening that none will soon forget. But have you ever considered that maybe the biggest party your mate have thrown for him or her before their wedding day could be even bigger and better than what one might expect? What we mean is, what are you planning for the party before the party?
 

Planning Your Stag Party
It’s no secret that a lot of stag parties begin with the “kidnapping” of the groom-to-be by his friends who are taking him out to who-knows-where and will be gone until who-knows-when. While most ladies know by now what goes on at a stag party and brides-to-be are generally willing to accept it as something that their mates have planned, there’s a better way to go about it. Rather than whisk your mate away for one last rowdy night, plan an even bigger event that begins in the daytime and goes on into the night or even make a weekend of it. For lads, there are all sorts of things you can do that will get everyone amped up for the evening ahead. Go-karting and paintballing can be a great way to get the party started, and if you really want to take things over the top, plan a day of quad-biking for the groom and all of your mates!
 

Hen Parties to Remember
You ladies know you like to have a good time as much as the boys do, but there’s also that side of you that enjoys a tea party and a bit of pampering before a night on the town. What better way to get ready than by spending the afternoon with friends, enjoying tea or a bit of bubbly while receiving a Swedish neck and shoulder massage and having your hair done? A pamper party is a great prelude to a hen party and a fantastic way to extend the happy occasion of your friend’s upcoming wedding. If you’re in the bridal party as well and have gotten a bit fatigued by all the dress fittings and other details that bridesmaids are involved with, then imagine how exhausted the bride-to-be must be by now! Treating your dear friend to a pamper party before going out on the town will show her just how much you care about her well-being after all the months of fretting over every last detail leading up to her wedding day. It will also put you all in the best possible frame of mind for going out in the evening for that last big hurrah!
 

The NE1 Experience
NE1 Experience specialises in stag and hen parties, birthday parties and corporate parties in Newcastle. If you’re planning a stag or hen party in Newcastle, don’t miss out on our exciting packages for daytime and evening parties for the ladies and the lads. Our packages include a fantastic night on the town in Newcastle, a centre for nightlife in the North East. Enjoy all the best that the city centre has to offer and let our comprehensive hotel and transport services handle the details of where you will end up and how!

NE1 Experience are based in the city centre itself, we are from Newcastle and have teamed up with local businesses to bring you the most trusted and genuine events, the finest of accommodations with leading reviews and facilities, and the best contacts in the area. Our impressive stag and hen party packages have some prime casino deals on offer, along with luxurious pampering parties, and some real action packed, thrill seeking ventures, like Go-Karting, Quad-Biking and much more.

It’s also worth remembering that, because we know the City so well, ‘The Experience’ work hard to ensure all participating venues are honest, first-rate bars and nightclubs with promotions – many with special offers exclusive only to NE1 experience.

Contact NE1 Experience For more information about our event packages, call us today on 07740 3000 40 or visit the NE1 Experience Stag  & Hen party website today and let us help you enjoy a fabulous stag party in Newcastle.

Redcar Owner Loses £530m on Steel Plant Liquidation

Redcar Owner Loses £530m on Steel Plant Liquidation
The Thai owner of the Redcar steelworks has said that it lost almost 29bn baht ($800m, £530m) from the liquidation of the Teesside plant. Parent company Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) said it expected “zero recovery” from the Redcar operation.

The Teesside furnaces and coke ovens were closed with a loss of 2,200 jobs in October.

Its liquidation meant SSI recorded an overall third quarter loss of 33,122m baht (£600m). Group Chief Executive Mr. Win Viriyaprapaikit, said: “At present, the company on a conservative basis expects zero recovery after the completion of the SSI UK liquidation.”

Redcar was founded in 1917, producing steel that was used to build iconic structures such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

SSI bought the plant from Tata Steel in 2011.

Mr Win said that SSI had been hit by a collapse in demand worldwide and in the last quarter alone sales from its upstream business, which included Redcar, fell 15%. He said: “Global steel over-capacity and demand imbalance since late 2014 and the continuous decline in steel prices resulted in a huge operating loss for the group this year.”

Gender Pay Gap Almost Unchanged, says ONS

Gender Pay Gap Almost Unchanged, says ONS
The BBC News Website is reporting that according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gender pay gap has changed “relatively little” over the last four years. The gap between men and women’s pay for full-time workers was 9.4% in April 2015, compared with 9.6% in 2014.

While that was the narrowest difference since the figures were first published in 1997, there has been little change overall. Since then the pay gap has remained at around £100 a week, the ONS said.

According to its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), men working full-time earn an average of £567 a week, while women earn £471. 

However, among part-time workers, women earn more than men.

In fact this “negative” pay gap widened in April 2015 to 6.5%, from 5.5% in 2014.


bar chart

The ONS figures also show that average weekly pay for full-time employees was £528 in April 2015, up by 1.8% from the previous year. After inflation is taken into account, earnings were up by 1.9%, the first real terms increase since 2008.

That was helped by the fact that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell by 0.1% in the year to April, while wages rose.

On an annual basis, the median amount that workers earned before tax was £27,600.

UK’s Coal Plants to be Phased Out Within Ten Years

UK’s Coal Plants to be Phased Out Within Ten Years
The UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced. Ms Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on “polluting” coal is “perverse”.  “We need to give a clear signal to people who are in the market for building gas stations that coal will no longer crowd out new gas.”

Environmentalists are concerned little is being done to promote renewables.

Currently, coal provides almost a third (28%) of the UK’s electricity, but Ms Rudd said “We are tackling a legacy of underinvestment and ageing power stations which we need to replace with alternatives that are reliable, good value for money and help to reduce emissions.” Ms Rudd also said investment in nuclear power is vital to the government’s policy.

She believes that plans for new nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa in Wales and Moorside in Cumbria, could eventually provide almost a third of the low carbon electricity the UK needs.

The speech comes amid concerns that the UK could suffer from blackouts as a result of short supplies, brought about in large part from the closure of a number of power stations that have come to the end of their working lives.

Tony Lodge, who has published a report on the UK’s energy needs for the Centre for Policy Studies, said Britain is on the verge of an “energy crisis” with electricity demand set to outstrip available supply in the near future. “We have called for an independent person separate from government to give a lead on security of supply. If we don’t have that we could be in real trouble in 18 months.”

However, National Grid and many experts have dismissed these concerns.