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Sir Keir Starmer announces plans to lower legal migration | Politics News

Labour has announced its plans to reduce net migration – with Sir Keir Starmer accusing the Conservatives of having “repeatedly broken their promises” to get the number down.

It marks another attempt by the Labour Party to appeal to Conservative voters.

Figures published after Rishi Sunak called the general election showed a net of 685,000 arrived in the UK last year – down from a record of 764,000 in 2022.

General election latest: ‘Ridiculous’ to say NEC is independent

The 2023 figure is still three times the number in 2019 when the last election took place. The Conservatives promised in their manifesto that year to get net migration down.

In 2012, when the data from the Office for National Statistics starts, net migration was just under 200,000.

Sir Keir said he wanted to see any government he leads ban “the practices employed by businesses who exploit the migration system by illegally undercutting working conditions”.

The announcement tonight mirrors policies proposed by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper in November last year, and some bear similarities to current government objectives.

Sir Keir added: “With Labour, Britain will be less reliant on migration by training more UK workers.

“The Tories have repeatedly broken their promises to bring down net migration. Since 2010, they have published four manifestos promising to bring down net migration.”

The Labour leader said he wants to compel parts of Whitehall to cooperate so “migration triggers a plan to train UK workers and improve jobs”.

Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street.
Pic: Reuters
Labour is trying to outflank the Conservatives on migration. Pic: Reuters

Employment sectors like health and construction that have been reliant on migration to fill “skill gaps” will be made to draw up workforce plans, with another pledge to reform the points-based migration system.

The aim, according to Labour, is to “fire up skills training rather than look overseas”.

One pledge is to ban employers and agencies that break employment law from hiring overseas workers.

Another is to stop the “workplace exploitation” of foreign workers being used to undercut wages.

Some in the Conservative Party have claimed Labour are rebranding policies the government has already enacted.

The government previously pledged to increase the threshold on salaries required for visas, and pledged to scrap “cut-price shortage labour from overseas” by scrapping discounts to visa salary requirements for those in short-staffed sectors.

Those employers looking to get on the shortage occupation list have to show they are also training domestic workers.

Conservative candidate Jonathan Gullis tweeted that “nobody buys” Sir Keir’s plans.

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A spokesperson for Reform UK, which is campaigning heavily on reducing immigration, said: “Sir Keir’s first suggestion is to prosecute a law that already exists about illegally paying below minimum wage, the other is a pious wish.

“Labours offer is nothing new and will make no difference. If you want to make a change, Vote Reform to freeze immigration.”

South West Water: Parent company of utility responsible for fixing contaminated supply in Devon announces surge in profits | Business News

The parent company of South West Water has insisted it is focused on returning safe water supply to Brixham in Devon as it announced an 8.6% increase in underlying operating profits to £166.3m.

Around 17,000 households in the Brixham area have been told to boil their drinking water since last week following an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis which left hundreds of people ill.

The condition, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, is caused by a water-born parasite, and South West Water has said it was most likely triggered by animal faeces entering a damaged pipe.

Pennon Group, the listed company which owns South West Water, Bournemouth Water and Bristol Water, said normal service had been returned to 85% of customers as it announced its annual financial results.

“Whilst the results we are announcing today are based on our performance for the last financial year, we are 100% focused on returning a safe water supply to the people and businesses in and around Brixham,” said Susan Davy, the group chief executive.

“Normal service has returned for 85% of customers, but we won’t stop until the local drinking water is returned to the quality all our customers expect and deserve. Our absolute priority continues to be the health and safety of our customers and our operational teams are working tirelessly around the clock to deliver this.”

The company also revealed it is paying out about £3.5m in compensation to customers affected by the parasite outbreak in Devon.

Read more:
People still scared to drink tap water after disease outbreak

‘Robust’ results – but firm defends money for shareholders

Describing financial results which include a 10% increase in revenues to more than £907m as “robust”, Ms Davy said dividend payments to shareholders, increasing by 3.8% to 44.37 pence per share, had been reduced to cover the cost of a £2.4m fine for multiple pollution incidents.

“At a time when media, public and regulatory scrutiny is high, it is important we do what is right for all. In the context of the wider group performance, we have carefully considered Ofwat’s new dividend guidance for water businesses. We have… adjusted the final dividend quantum by £2.4m, equivalent to the South West Water Court fine in 2023/24, signalling we are listening, clearing the way for long-term shareholder value.”

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Pennon Group’s net debt rose by 10% to £5.18bn, a debt ratio of more than 63%, and capital expenditure rose by almost 80% to £642.4m.

Water companies are currently negotiating with regulator Ofwat over their spending and revenue plans for the next five years, and South West Water has proposed a 20% increase in customer bills.

Gavin & Stacey to return for ‘last ever episode’ on Christmas Day, James Corden announces | UK News

Hit sitcom Gavin & Stacey will return for its “last ever episode” on Christmas Day, James Corden has announced.

Corden posted a picture on his Instagram of himself and co-creator Ruth Jones holding a script.

The text on its cover reads: “Gavin & Stacey: the finale. Written by James Corden and Ruth Jones 2024.”

In the caption, Corden added: “Some news…It’s official!”

“We have finished writing the last ever episode of Gavin & Stacey. See you on Christmas Day, BBC One. Love Ruth and James.”

The series, which is primarily filmed in South Wales, first aired in 2007 and lasted for three series, before returning for a special in 2019.

James Corden and Ruth Jones announce final ever episode of Gavin & Stacey. Pic: James Corden
James Corden and Ruth Jones. Pic: James Corden

The comedy follows the blossoming romance of Gavin Shipman (Matthew Horne) and Stacey West (Joanna Page). Shipman is from Essex and West is from Barry in Wales.

Corden and Jones appear as their respective best friends Smithy and Nessa.

Nessa’s catchphrase – “what’s occurring?” – is one of many widely quoted lines from the programme.

Other well-known actors in the cast include Rob Brydon, Melanie Walters, Alison Steadman and Larry Lamb.

A Christmas Day return for the series had been rumoured earlier this year after reports in US media.

Jones had previously denied the claims, but now the show’s comeback has been officially confirmed.

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The last special ended on a cliffhanger as audiences eagerly awaited Smithy’s response to Nessa’s marriage proposal.

The 2019 special was watched by around 18 million viewers.

Rishi Sunak announces £500m military aid package to Ukraine | Politics News

Rishi Sunak is to announce a £500m military aid package to Ukraine in its war against Russia alongside the UK’s largest provision of munitions so far.

Some 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, and four million rounds of ammunition are included in the package.

The announcement comes during a downswing for Ukraine as Russian forces have been gaining the upper hand in recent weeks.

Read the latest updates on Ukraine-Russia war

Moscow took the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on 17 February and has been progressing ever since, occupying other villages.

Last month, Russia launched an airstrike into Ukraine’s western region of Lviv, near Poland’s border, which saw one cruise missile briefly fly into Polish airspace, according to Warsaw.

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The prime minister will travel to Poland on Tuesday to make the announcement, which takes the UK to £3bn in military aid to Ukraine this financial year.

Mr Sunak said: “Defending Ukraine against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe. If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border.

“Ukraine’s armed forces continue to fight bravely, but they need our support – and they need it now.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps reiterated the UK was “the first” to provide NLAW anti-tank missiles, modern tanks and long-range missiles to Ukraine.

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The crisis in the Middle East has also turned global attention away from the conflict in Ukraine, as Israel continues to bombard Gaza.

However, in a major win for Ukraine, a $60.8bn (£49bn) bill was passed by the US House of Representatives to which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his thanks saying American lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track”.

During his visit, Mr Sunak will also meet with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk before heading to Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The government will offer to deploy an RAF Typhoon Squadron to carry out NATO monitoring over Poland next year with the aim of strengthening the two country’s ties.

Vape ads on social media ‘need to stop’ as regulator announces crackdown | UK News

Vape ads across social media platforms “need to stop” and advertisers pleading ignorance is not an excuse, the advertising regulator has warned.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) – which regulates non-broadcast adverts – launched a crackdown on e-cigarette advertisers, warning the law prohibits them from marketing vapes containing nicotine that are not licensed as medicines on most social media.

It is currently illegal for retailers to sell disposable vapes to under-18s and the devices can not be displayed across almost all media or targeted at children.

Therefore, brands or retailers cannot promote them in paid-for posts or in non-paid-for posts on non-private accounts, such as on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook.

Vape ads will be permitted online in limited spaces like company websites, provided they do not target or appeal to children. They can only contain factual claims about the products.

CAP said it had sent enforcement notices to vape manufacturers and retailers with clear rules and underlining that ignorance was not an excuse, adding it would not hesitate “to apply sanctions” against those “unwilling or unable to comply”.

Advertisers have until 28 March to fall in line with the rules.

After this, CAP said it would carry out enhanced monitoring and would take action if it found ads that were breaking the rules.

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Pupils ‘can’t last a lesson’ without a vape

Last year, the regulator issued an enforcement notice to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers requiring them to stop paid promotions on TikTok.

Using AI-assisted monitoring, CAP found that the companies promoting vapes or incentivising others to do so through social media were “typically small traders” who were “most likely in ignorance” of the rules and the law.

CAP secretary Shahriar Coupal said: “Our enforcement notice leaves traders in no doubt about their obligations under both and makes clear that e-cigarette promotions through social media channels need to stop.

“For those that fail to do so, we and our enforcement partners won’t hesitate to sanction them.”

Read more:
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Five children fall ill after smoking ‘unknown substance’ in vape

The crackdown comes ahead of a spring budget in which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is considering a “vaping products levy” which would be paid on imports and by manufacturers of vapes to make the habit unaffordable for children.

Rishi Sunak announced plans to ban disposable vapes amid concerns about their growing use among children, especially following reports of nicotine dependency in school.

The Scottish and Welsh governments will also ban single-use vapes, which is set to be introduced by the end of 2025.

Princess Eugenie announces birth of second child | UK News

Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank have announced the birth of their second child.

In an Instagram post, Eugenie, the 11th in line to the throne, confirmed she had given birth to a boy, named Ernest George Ronnie Brooksbank.

The baby replaces Prince Edward as the 13th in line to the throne.

“Jack and I wanted to share the news that we had our little boy, Ernest George Ronnie Brooksbank on 30th May 2023 at 8.49 weighing 7.1Ibs,” she wrote.

“He is named after his great great great Grandfather George, his Grandpa George and my Grandpa Ronald.

“Augie is loving being a big brother already.”

Eugenie, the youngest daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, gave birth to her first child, August Brooksbank, in February 2021.

The princess, 33, shared a picture of Ernest, wearing a knitted blue-and-white hat, asleep in a Moses basket, and one of August tenderly stroking his brother’s head.

Buckingham Palace has said in a statement: “A small announcement we are pleased to share.

“Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank are delighted to announce the safe arrival of their son, Ernest George Ronnie Brooksbank. Ernest was born on Tuesday, 30th May, and weighed 7lbs 1oz.

“Her Royal Highness has shared photographs on her Instagram account this afternoon.”

Britain's Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank pose in the Picture Gallery after they announced their engagement, at Buckingham Palace, London January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Brady/Pool
Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank

Ernest is the first of Elizabeth II’s great-grandchildren to be born since her death last September.

A heavily pregnant Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York, joined the Windsors to witness her uncle Charles’s coronation in Westminster Abbey at the start of May, with Mr Brooksbank seated next to the Duke of Sussex in the third row.

Buckingham Palace has said in a statement: “A small announcement we are pleased to share.

Andrew Lloyd Webber announces death of eldest son | Ents & Arts News

Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced the death of his eldest son.

Nicholas, a 43-year-old composer, had been moved to a hospice as he battled gastric cancer.

His Oscar-winning father said the family “are all totally bereft” after he died on Saturday.

“I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital,” Lloyd Webber wrote on Twitter.

“His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft.”

Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a composer, scoring the BBC’s Love, Lies And Records, and a theatrical and symphonic version of The Little Prince.

He also produced his father’s Symphonic Suites at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London.

He was diagnosed with gastric cancer 18 months ago.

Lloyd Webber said the recent advancement of his illness had left him “absolutely devastated”.

The 75-year-old, best known for musicals including Cats, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Starlight Express, missed the opening of Bad Cinderella at New York’s Imperial Theatre as a result.

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File photo dated 04/06/22 of Andrew Lloyd Webber performing during the Platinum Party at the Palace staged in front of Buckingham Palace, London. An anthem written by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of 12 new pieces of music commissioned by the King for his coronation. Issue date: Saturday February 18, 2023.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has won three Grammys, four Tony Awards and an Oscar

What is gastric cancer?

Gastric cancer – or stomach cancer – is when cells form in the lining of the stomach and grow abnormally.

If the cancer is found at an early stage, it can be treated.

There are many symptoms, some of which may be hard to spot – the NHS says they include:

• Heartburn or acid reflux

• Issues with swallowing

• Feeling or being sick

• Indigestion

• Feeling full very quickly

• Loss of appetite and weight loss

• Pain at the top of the stomach

• Feeling very fatigued

• A lump at the top of the stomach

According to Bupa, around 6,600 people in the UK get stomach cancer each year.

The recent controversies which piled pressure on Nicola Sturgeon as first minister announces resignation | UK News

Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to step down as first minister comes after a number of controversial issues piled pressure on the SNP leader.

Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish government came under fire last month after transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was housed in an all-female prison before being moved to the male estate.

The 31-year-old had been found guilty of attacking two women while a man and was initially housed in Cornton Vale near Stirling.

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The case caused controversy amid a debate around self-ID and the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Act, which was blocked by the UK government.

Following public backlash, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Keith Brown ordered an urgent case review into the management of transgender prisoners.

Although the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) concluded that women were ‘not at risk of harm’ during Bryson’s stay at Cornton Vale, the Scottish Conservatives branded the report a “whitewash summary” and called for it to be published in full.

Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: “We still have no idea why a double rapist was sent into a women’s prison or what involvement SNP ministers had in his removal following the public backlash.”

Read more:
Nicola Sturgeon resigns as Scotland’s first minister

Women ‘not at risk’ when transgender rapist housed in female-only jail

But despite mounting problems, the SNP has maintained a strong lead in polling.

Questions over husband’s loan to SNP

Ms Sturgeon was also recently questioned over her husband Peter Murrell’s £107,000 loan to the SNP.

She said she could not recall when she first found out about the loan, and insisted that “what he does with his resources is a matter for him”.

During a press conference earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon said: “The resources that he lent the party were resources that belonged to him.”

In December, it emerged that Mr Murrell, who is the party’s chief executive, made the loan in June 2021 to help with “cash flow” following a Holyrood election campaign.

Following the election in May, SNP MP Douglas Chapman quit as the party’s treasurer, claiming he was not given enough information about finances to do his job.

It came after three other members of the SNP’s finance and audit committee also resigned.

Police Scotland is also currently investigating what happened to an estimated £600,000 raised by party activists to be ringfenced for a second independence referendum campaign.

The SNP has denied any wrongdoing.

During Ms Sturgeon’s press conference announcing her resignation, a journalist asked: “Have you been or do you expect to be interviewed by the police who are looking into your party’s finances?”

The first minister replied: “I’m not going to discuss an ongoing police investigation. I wouldn’t do that on any issue and I’m not going to do it now.”

Ms Sturgeon has led the party and the country since 2014 after taking over from her predecessor, Alex Salmond, making her the longest-serving first minister since devolution to Holyrood.

Jessie J announces she is pregnant after suffering miscarriage just over a year ago | Ents & Arts News

Jessie J has announced she is pregnant after suffering a miscarriage just over a year ago.

The 34-year-old singer urged fans to “please be gentle” with her after sharing the news, saying she was “happy and terrified”.

The Price Tag artist, whose real name is Jessica Cornish, posted a video on Instagram to reveal the happy news, which included photos of her positive pregnancy test and shots of her growing bump.

“Honestly, ya girl just wants to ugly cry in public in a catsuit eating and chocolate covered pickle with no questions asked,” she wrote in the caption.

Several famous faces, including Stacey Solomon, who recently announced her own pregnancy news, Kelly Rowland, Ruby Rose and Paloma Faith, sent their congratulations to the singer.

“Oh Jessie I’m so happy for you. Love you,” wrote Solomon.

“You look completely radiant and full of joy. Many congratulations, my love,” added fellow British artist Ellie Goulding.

Read more:
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‘Heartbreaking but beautiful’

Back in November 2021, Jessie J revealed she had experienced a miscarriage, and she opened up about her loss on an episode of the Diary of CEO podcast last year.

Hosted by Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett, she told him: “The day that I found out that the baby had died, I didn’t have anyone to just fall apart on and that’s what I needed, that’s what I wanted.”

Jessie J announces she is pregnant
Pic: Instagram

She has shared words of supports for others who have suffered baby loss on multiple occasions.

Previously, she said that in a “heartbreaking but beautiful way” the experience had “put life into perspective” for her.

In the past, she has also opened up about her fertility struggles and revealed during a 2018 concert that doctors had told her at the age of 26 she might never be able to have children.

Buckingham Palace announces Camilla’s Queen’s companions – not the traditional ladies-in-waiting | UK News

The Queen Consort has appointed the women who will support her as she carries out her official and state duties.

Camilla, 75, will have six Queen’s companions, not traditional ladies-in-waiting, in addition to her private secretary and deputy private secretary, Buckingham Palace has said.

They are her friends:

• Sarah Troughton
• Jane von Westenholz, mother of the woman who introduced Prince Harry to his future wife Meghan Markle
• Fiona, the Marchioness of Lansdowne, an interior designer
• Lady Katharine Brooke
• Baroness Carlyn Chisholm, a non-affiliated peer
• Lady Sarah Keswick, whose husband, Sir Chips Keswick, retired as Arsenal chairman in 2020 after spending 15 years on the board at the north London football club, according to Tatler

It is believed their duties will be similar to those carried out by the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting.

Some of the ladies will appear publicly with Camilla for the first time at a Violence Against Women and Girls reception on Tuesday at the palace.

There is still a role for the ladies-in-waiting who worked for the Queen: Lady Susan Hussey, Mary Morrison and Dame Annabel Whitehead will now be known as ladies of the household.

They will continue to assist the King in hosting formal occasions at Buckingham Palace.

Camilla has also appointed her equerry – Major Ollie Plunket, of The Rifles, who will look after her diary and accompany her at official events.