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Transgender children could be ‘forcibly outed’ under new proposals, charities warn | UK News

Transgender children will be “forcibly outed” under the government’s draft guidance on gender identity in schools, according to a coalition of charities.

A joint statement by a group of organisations including Mermaids, Stonewall, and Amnesty International UK, said the guidance “seeks to deny the existence of transgender pupils, discouraging them from coming out and being their authentic selves, and could lead to young people being forcibly outed to parents and teachers”.

The long-awaited draft guidance was issued in December, and offered proposals for schools and colleges in England on how best to support pupils who are questioning their gender.

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‘I socially transitioned at school’

It said “parents should not be excluded” from decisions taken by a school or college relating to requests for a child to “socially transition”, or in other words, a child who wishes to change their name, pronoun or their clothing.

‘A risk of significant harm’

Exceptions are allowed in “rare” circumstances “where involving parents would constitute a significant risk of harm to the child”.

It also said teachers and staff should “not be required” to adopt the child’s chosen pronoun, and should not have to accept all requests for social transition.

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Trans golfer on hatred after tournament win

But the charities have said the proposals will “erase decades of progress in making schools places that value difference and reject discrimination”.

They want ministers to withdraw the guidance and “rethink” their approach, and some of the signatories have published their own guide for those responding to the consultation, advising “schools and colleges should only engage with parents with the explicit consent of the child or young person in question”.

‘Lots of individual interpretation’

When the Department for Education guidance was published before Christmas, Sky News heard from schools and parents with experience of children questioning their gender at school.

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‘Pronouns are a matter of respect’

Kevin Sexton, executive headteacher at Chesterfield school in Liverpool, said the draft guidance offers a “pragmatic pathway” advising schools, though still left “lots of areas” for individual interpretation.

But one parent who we called Carrie, to protect her identity, spoke of her “scary” experience as the school her child attended changed her child’s name and pronouns without consulting her.

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In response to today’s statement, the department told Sky News: “All schools are expected to follow official guidance over advice from special interest campaign groups. Once the official guidance is final, we expect that schools follow it.

“This guidance will support schools in making decisions which are in the best interests of their pupils.

“Our draft guidance reflects the law, which schools have a duty to follow. It takes a parent-first approach and prioritises children’s safety and wellbeing, whilst recognising that treating children as though they are of the opposite sex can have significant psychological effects on a child.”

The guidance is currently open to public consultation until 12 March.

Constance Marten and Mark Gordon trial: Taxi driver was ‘suspicious’ of on-the-run couple with baby | UK News

A taxi driver became “suspicious” and felt “uncomfortable” after picking up a couple who were on the run with their newborn daughter, a court has heard.

Constance Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial at the Old Bailey accused of the manslaughter of their baby Victoria. Her body was found in a Brighton shed last February.

It is alleged the pair travelled across England and lived off-grid in a bid to keep the infant after four other children were taken into care.

A police investigation began after a placenta and Marten’s possessions were found in a burnt-out car on the M61 near Bolton last January.

In a statement read to the court on Wednesday, taxi driver Abdirisakh Mohamud said he became “suspicious” while driving the couple to a Tesco Extra branch in Enfield, north London, after they hailed him just after midnight on 8 January 2023.

Mr Mohamud said the male passenger – believed to be Gordon – asked if he was a Muslim, whether he was “trustworthy” and if there were cameras in the cab.

The man then asked: “Are you sharing this conversation with anyone?” Mr Mohamud replied: “No”, jurors heard.

Mr Mohamud said he questioned the couple on why they were wearing blue COVID facemasks, to which the woman replied she was a Muslim and said it was her “hijab”. The man also said he “had a problem with his hair,” the witness said.

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The taxi driver said he feared “something was not right” and decided to drop the couple off early in Green Lanes in Haringey, north London.

“The more I thought about it, the more concerned I felt about the baby,” he said.

Baby sounded like ‘cat meowing’

The Old Bailey heard that the couple spent hundreds of pounds on taxis, including £475 for a three-hour trip from Haringey to Newhaven in East Sussex.

Taxi driver Hasan Guzel made the trip early on 8 January, and said the woman – believed to be Marten – had what appeared to be a bag under her coat.

During the journey, he then began to hear what sounded like a “cat meowing,” the court heard.

“I was annoyed at first because I thought she had a pet without telling me. I could see it was a baby, I could see the noise was coming from a baby,” he said.

“I thought why didn’t she tell me about this, it’s been nearly four hours we have been travelling.”

He said when he dropped them off in Newhaven he was “concerned as to what they were going to do next” as it was cold and dark.

CCTV played to jurors on Tuesday showed the first glimpses of baby Victoria.

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CCTV shows Constance Marten

On Wednesday, the jury saw more security camera footage of the couple in Whitechapel, where Gordon brought a two-person tent and camping equipment.

Both defendants deny manslaughter by gross negligence between 4 January and 27 February last year.

Marten and Gordon also deny perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child.

The trial continues.

UK could send aircraft carrier to ‘plug a gap’ in Red Sea | Politics News

The UK could send an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea amid the ongoing attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the armed forces minister has suggested.

James Heappey indicated an aircraft carrier could be deployed to the region to replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower – nicknamed the Ike – when it is returned to America.

Alongside the US, the UK has launched a series of airstrikes against Houthi targets in the region following attacks by the rebel group on commercial shipping interests in the Red Sea.

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The UK warship HMS Diamond is stationed in the Red Sea to protect shipping in the key trading route, while US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the USS Dwight D Eisenhower was sent to the region to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel”.

In an interview with the House magazine, Mr Heappey suggested a UK aircraft carrier could be sent to the region to “plug a gap”.

“There’s no real need for more carrier mass – for more carriers to be in the region than the Ike can provide. She’s a very capable ship,” he said.

“So our judgment was that with the Ike on station – the Eisenhower on station – and with jets available from Akrotiri, that we were able to meet the challenge as it is now.”

He indicated the Royal Navy could step in “when the Eisenhower goes home, if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments, or if the situation deteriorates and we need more”.

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“The fact is the Eisenhower can’t stay there forever,” he added. “And so there’s a thing about just maintaining a carrier presence in the region where we might cooperate with the Americans to provide a capability there.”

The UK currently has two aircraft carriers in service – the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Earlier this week Rishi Sunak urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East after three US troops were killed in a drone strike on a US base in Jordan.

US President Joe Biden has blamed Iran-backed militias for deaths, which have come after months of strikes by the Houthis against US forces since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

10,000 people a year could die as a result of heatwaves, MPs warn | UK News

Up to 10,000 people a year in the UK could die as a result of heatwaves if nothing is done, MPs have warned.

According to a report from the Environmental Audit Committee, the increased frequency of extreme heat events could also cost the economy £60bn a year.

The committee’s Conservative chair, Philip Dunne MP, urged the government to act, because “there is a lot of work that needs to be done”.

The UK Health Security Agency issued its first ever ‘level 4’ heat alert in July 2022 when 40C was recorded for the first time.

While globally, 2023 was confirmed as the hottest year on record by a significant margin.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dunne said: “It’s here, it’s a present danger, and it’s coming at us quite quickly.

“We need a plan now.

“The longer we delay it, the more at risk we’re going to be.”

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Wildfires spotted in the Highlands

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were an estimated 4,500 heat-related deaths in 2022.

But MPs say the annual rate could rise to 10,000 by 2050 if there is no intervention.

Extreme heat increases blood pressure and heart rate, raising the risk of illness or death caused by dehydration and heatstroke.

Over-65s and those with existing conditions are most at risk, while there are impacts on mental health too.

The committee heard evidence that suicide risk in the UK is twice as high when the temperature is 32C rather than 22C.

The report recommends the Met Office should name heatwaves in the same way as storms to help raise awareness of the threats.

Climate change experts agree that public perceptions must be urgently changed.

“It’s clear that Britain still thinks of itself as a cold country that celebrates periods of heat by talking about going to the beach and eating ice cream, when in actual fact it’s an extreme weather event that leads to thousands of deaths,” Bob Ward, Policy Director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute said.

Other recommendations include creating more parks and ‘green infrastructure’.

This is considered particularly important in urban areas, like London, which can be 8C warmer than surrounding areas.

The committee is also calling for a national strategy to retrofit homes and offices with passive cooling measures, like external shutters, to help save lives and boost productivity.

“The problems we have with heat are primarily because we have homes and offices that are not well designed for dealing with it,” Mr Ward told Sky News.

“Most people who die [in heatwaves], die in overheated homes. Most of the people who are less productive in heat are in offices that are overheating.

“There needs to be an urgent retrofit program to make our homes and offices much better at dealing with heat.”

Read more:
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A government spokesperson said: “We have set out a robust five-year plan to respond to the impacts of a changing climate and strengthen our national resilience – with action to improve infrastructure, promote a greener economy and safeguard food production.

“We are the first major economy to halve our emissions and have already taken steps to manage the risks of climate change – with new warning systems to alert the public to heatwaves and our Environmental Land Management schemes supporting farmers to make their land more resilient to the changing climate.”

“Nearly half of homes in England now have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C. This is up from just 14% in 2010 and we are investing billions to ensure homes and buildings are even more energy efficient.”

Alison Hammond to succeed Paul O’Grady as host of ITV’s For The Love Of Dogs | Ents & Arts News

Alison Hammond is to take over from Paul O’Grady as host of ITV’s For The Love Of Dogs.

The popular show goes behind the scenes at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home as it tries to find new owners for its animal residents.

O’Grady hosted the programme for more than a decade until his death last year.

Hammond, 48, who is known for shows such as This Morning and The Great British Bake Off, said she was keen to get started and “make lots of furry friends”.

“I am very aware that I can never replace the iconic Paul in this wonderful series,” she said.

“But if I can continue to shine a light on the brilliant work done at Battersea and help to tell the stories of these beautiful dogs, then it will be an absolute privilege to give it my all.”

The animal shelter’s boss, Peter Laurie, said everyone was excited about working with Hammond and “introducing her to the incredible animals in our care”.

For The Love of Dogs has won several National Television Awards and TV Choice Awards, and was also nominated for a BAFTA.

Paul O'Grady arrives at the Battersea Dogs' Collars and Coats Gala fundraising ball
O’Grady hosted the show for more than a decade

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ITV commissioning editor Satmohan Panesar said the show would return in the spring and feature the same “fun and warmth” shown by O’Grady.

“As Paul O’Grady always said himself, the stars of the show were the dogs themselves, but the impact that he had and the legacy he leaves will never be forgotten by any of us,” said the ITV executive.

O’Grady died unexpectedly in March, with more than £130,000 donated to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home in the days afterwards.

In December, animal rights group PETA posthumously named him their person of the year in recognition of his years of campaigning.

Morrisons to sell 337 petrol forecourts as part of £2.5bn deal | Business News

Morrisons has agreed to sell its petrol forecourts to Motor Fuel Group (MFG) as part of a £2.5bn deal that will also help drive the provision of electric vehicle charging.

The supermarket chain and MFG – both majority-owned by US private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) – confirmed the agreement months after Sky News first reported on the infancy of the talks.

The deal will see Morrisons’ 337 fuel forecourts acquired by MFG, along with 400 other sites nationwide for the development of ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging.

Morrisons also takes a 20% stake in MFG under the proposals, which will allow the formation of a strategic partnership.

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Morrisons said the transaction would not result in any compulsory redundancies.

A statement also committed to supermarket-style fuel pricing, which is typically market-leading, amid sharp criticism of the industry from the competition regulator last year.

The sector was found to have overcharged customers in 2022, prompting the creation of a price transparency mechanism.

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What happens to fossil fuel jobs?

“Value-for-money supermarket fuel will remain the offering on Morrisons forecourts, with the Morrisons brand above the door,” the company said.

“Morrisons will continue to supply food and groceries across the 337 Morrisons petrol forecourts, with the opportunity to expand its supply into the MFG estate over the medium term through its fast-growing wholesale operation.

“MFG will invest and install ultra-rapid EV charging infrastructure across the sites acquired by MFG, significantly expanding MFG’s market leading nationwide EV network.

“MFG is targeting the installation of 800 ultra-rapid 150kW EV chargers, in hubs, within the first five years alone. These chargers can add 100 miles of range in approximately 10 minutes.”

The statement added: “The proposed transaction will create significant synergies across fuel retail and ancillary services, as well as scale advantages and growth opportunities for both businesses.”

If completed, it will echo a deal announced last year that saw Asda acquiring EG Group’s petrol stations in the UK and Ireland.

Morrisons was expected to use a significant chunk of the proceeds of the deal to pay down part of its £5.7bn debt pile and allow wider investment in areas such as convenience shopping.

CD&R’s £7bn takeover of Morrisons in 2021 was scrutinised by competition regulators partly on the basis of the buyout firm’s existing ownership of MFG.

The Competition and Markets Authority ruled that the sale of 87 of MFG’s petrol forecourts would be sufficient to alleviate its concerns.

That deal has since been completed.

Earthquake strikes Scottish island | UK News

An earthquake has struck the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said the 3.3 magnitude quake hit at 7.30pm on Monday.

It said movement was felt on the Isle of Mull itself, on surrounding islands and on the mainland, mainly from within around 31 miles (50km) of the epicentre.

Reports described residents saying “the whole house creaked”, “all the windows and doors rattled” and “the sofa seemed to vibrate”.

Others told BGS they “thought someone had crashed into the house” and “it was like a large explosion nearby”.

The quake’s epicentre was in the northwest of the island near the village of Dervaig.

One resident posted on X: “Anyone else here on the Isle of Mull think we’ve had a couple of earth tremors this evening? Like a rumbling train in a tunnel and lasting for a good number of seconds.”

Another person wrote: “We heard a weird bang and the glasses and plates in the dresser started rattling.”

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Earlier on Monday, a 2.3 magnitude earthquake was recorded at Moidart in the Highlands at around 2.24pm, while a 1.1 magnitude quake hit Morvern, also in the region, at 1.10pm.

All three quakes were at a depth of 7km.

Northern Ireland: Protests outside and leaks from inside but the deal to restore power-sharing is done | UK News

There were protestors outside the talks and someone was leaking secret talks from inside but it did not thwart breakthrough.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson emerged from a lengthy meeting of the DUP Executive with support for a deal to restore power-sharing.

He said his party would end its boycott of devolved government once the UK government honoured commitments it has made.

The government is now expected to table legislation to address Unionist concerns about the Brexit border in the Irish Sea.

The legislation is designed to strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and limit the impact of the trade border.

The agreement is set to end two years of stalemate at Stormont and comes after months and months of negotiation.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leaving his party's HQ after briefing senior members on government proposals Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leaving his party’s HQ after briefing senior members on government proposals Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Unionists felt betrayed when Boris Johnson agreed to a trade border between GB and Northern Ireland to “get Brexit done”.

The previous year, he had told the DUP conference that no British prime minister could ever countenance such a move.

Frustrated by what they regarded as a threat to Northern Ireland’s position within the UK, Unionists pulled out of power-sharing.

Rishi Sunak’s new deal with the EU – the Windsor Framework – addressed some, but not all, of their concerns about sovereignty.

Read more: 150,000 public sector workers walk out in Northern Ireland’s biggest strike in recent history

But a crisis in public services in Northern Ireland has piled pressure on the Democratic Unionists to restore devolved government.

Earlier this month, the UK government pledged an eye-watering £3.3 billion to support the efforts of any new Stormont administration.

Rishi Sunak can take much credit but this complex deal represents a huge leap of faith by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Jamie Bryson, a loyalist activist and fierce opponent of compromise, was live tweeting from a DUP source inside the meeting.

But the party leader has faced down his critics to restore the power-sharing at the heart of the peace process.

“It’s all over bar the shouting,” one DUP source said, and there will be plenty of noise about this decision.

But Northern Ireland seems set to have a devolved government in place within days and that signals a historic moment.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, who topped the poll in the election, is poised to become the first Nationalist First Minister.

Around 125 firefighters tackling Wembley flat block fire | UK News

Around 125 firefighters are tackling a fire in a block of flats in west London.

Twenty fire engines responded to a report this afternoon of a blaze on Elm Road, Wembley.

London Fire Brigade says part of the building’s roof is alight.

The block and surrounding buildings have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, the brigade says.

Wembley Fire. Pic: HARROW ONLINE
Emergency services attended to the scene. Pic: Harrow Online

Elm Road fire: Pic: GSV
A view of Elm Road: Pic: Google Street View

It added that nearby residents are being advised to keep their doors and windows shut to stay safe from any smoke in the area.

A statement said: “People are advised to avoid the area as crews respond.

“One of the Brigade’s 32 metre turntable ladders is being used as a water tower to help extinguish the fire.

“Control Officers have taken eight calls reporting the fire, with the first received at 16.42. Firefighters from Wembley, Park Royal, Northolt and surrounding fire stations are at the scene.”

So far, the cause of the blaze is not yet known.