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Kate: Privacy watchdog launches probe into Princess of Wales’s hospital notes ‘breach’ | UK News

A probe has been launched into reports that hospital staff attempted to view the Princess of Wales’s private medical records.

The hospital in central London where the princess was treated in January has launched an investigation into the claims, according to reports.

At least one member of staff was alleged to have been caught trying to access the royal’s notes, the Mirror reported.

Royals latest: William ‘deeply frustrated’ at Kate speculation

Kate attended The London Clinic in January for abdominal surgery – and she has not attended a public engagement since.

An Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We can confirm that we have received a breach report and are assessing the information provided.”

Hospital bosses are said to have contacted Kensington Palace after the apparent breach came to light.

The clinic refused to comment on the claims but told the Mirror: “We firmly believe that all our patients, no matter their status, deserve total privacy and confidentiality regarding their medical information.”

Kensington Palace said: “This is a matter for The London Clinic.”

Sky News has contacted Kensington Palace and The London Clinic.

Police officers outside the London Clinic, in central London, where the Princess of Wales is recovering after undergoing successful abdominal surgery, Kensington Palace has announced. The Palace refused to confirm what Kate was being treated for but confirmed the condition was non-cancerous. Picture date: Wednesday January 17, 2024.
The London Clinic in January. Pic: PA

Conspiracy theories flourish

Conspiracy theories have flourished on social media following Kate’s absence from public life after her surgery, with many speculating about her whereabouts and health.

A poll for Sky News found more than half of people in the UK have seen conspiracy theories on social media about why the Princess of Wales is absent from public life – but it hasn’t dented trust in the Royal Family.

Footage emerged of the royal out shopping with the Prince of Wales at the weekend at the Windsor Farm Shop close to their Adelaide cottage home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Online speculation increased after news agencies pulled a Mother’s Day photograph of Kate and her children after irregularities were spotted, which led to the princess admitting to “editing” the image and apologising for any “confusion” caused.

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Two public appearances since operation

The future Queen has been photographed in public twice since her operation.

In a picture published on 4 March, she was seen in the front seat of a car driven by her mother, Carole Middleton, in the Windsor area.

She was also photographed sitting next to the Prince of Wales in a chauffeur-driven car last Monday, when he attended the Commonwealth Day service in London and she was driven to a private appointment.

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Kate could walk to church on Easter Sunday – report

Kensington Palace has been drawing up plans for Kate to make a “soft return” to public life, according to a report in The Times, with the possibility of her walking to church on Easter Sunday.

Meanwhile, Simon Lewis, the late Queen’s former communications secretary, told Sky News that William and Kate’s engagement on social media is a “Faustian bargain”.

“I think every single member of the Royal Family is very aware that the Royal Family must be visible and must be visible in a way that is contemporary. And I do think the use of social media by the members of the Royal Family has been absolutely spot on,” he said.

“It’s about long-term communication of what the institution stands for and what the members of the Royal Family are doing. And I think that requires a different kind of communication and also requires a different way of thinking about how stories unfold.”

Heaters being sold on TikTok and Temu ‘could explode’, watchdog says | UK News

​​​​​​​Electric heaters that could explode, cause electric shocks or start house fires are being sold on TikTok and Temu, consumer group Which? has warned.

The watchdog bought and tested eight heaters costing as little as £7.20 from TikTok Shop and Temu, finding that six were unsafe.

Testing found the £7.20 XH-1201 1200W portable electric heater bought from TikTok was a fire hazard and also an explosion threat, which could cause electric shocks.

Which? found 16 sellers listing the heater on TikTok, quoting 223 sales.

An identical £16.98 portable space heater purchased from Temu from a listing that stated 2,100 had been sold was similarly found capable of giving users an electric shock, causing a fire or blowing up, Which? found.

Another heater, the X7 Portable space heater sold for £14.99 on Temu, had not been properly assembled and the live parts were easy to access, running the risk of electric shock.

The seller Which? bought from had sold 353 of them, but researchers found two more sellers listing identical products and claiming 8,900 sales between them.

The NFJ004 Portable electric heater costing £15.99 on TikTok was so badly made that it too could give owners an electric shock, catch fire or explode, testers found.

Overall, three of the five heaters bought through TikTok for Which? tests were “dangerously unsafe” and the instructions for a fourth were lacking key safety warnings, while all three heaters bought through Temu presented a danger to anyone using them.

Only one of the eight heaters Which? tested from TikTok and Temu was both safe to use in the home and legal to be sold in the UK.

When Which? searched for ‘electric heaters’ on TikTok, it found five videos within the first 100 results promoting the dangerous products, which were marked “paid partnership” or “commission paid”. The videos had more than 100,000 views between them.

Both TikTok and Temu have removed all heaters that failed the testing, along with 27 listings for identical dangerous heaters.

However, Which? said it had found that more similar listings had since appeared in their place.

It has called for online marketplaces to have more legal responsibility for unsafe and illegal products sold to consumers via their platforms.

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Which? head of consumer protection policy Sue Davies said: “It’s vital that the government urgently gives greater legal responsibility to online marketplaces for unsafe products so that they are forced to take action to prevent dangerous products ending up in people’s homes.”

Temu said all four heaters identified by Which? as safety hazards had been removed from the platform.

The platform said: “We deeply regret any concern or inconvenience caused by the safety issues identified in four electric heaters on our platform. The safety of our customers is our highest priority, and we have taken immediate action to address this issue.”

TikTok said: “If TikTok finds merchants or products that violate their policies, they remove them.”

A Department for Business and Trade spokeswoman said: “Manufacturers and suppliers are required to place only safe products on the market and are responsible for issuing instructions on how a product can safely be used. If anyone has concerns about an unsafe product, they should provide the relevant information and we will consider it.”

Stats watchdog launches investigation into government’s asylum backlog claim | Politics News

The UK’s stats watchdog has launched an investigation into the government’s claim that it cleared the legacy backlog of asylum claims in 2023.

Rishi Sunak and his administration faced criticism on Tuesday for saying they had cleared all the applications to remain in the UK by asylum seekers made before 28 June 2022.

In total, 4,537 claims from the backlog still needed a decision as of Tuesday – but Mr Sunak’s spokesman said since these had been reviewed, the government considers them “cleared”.

Now, the Office for Statistics Regulation has launched an investigation into the announcement.

In total, the government had 92,000 claims to address from before June 2022 to meet the pledge made by Mr Sunak.

Numbers published by the Home Office showed that, in total, 112,138 initial asylum decisions were made between 1 January and 28 December, compared with 31,766 in all of 2022.

Some 86,800 of these decisions were for legacy cases, while, 25,338 were for non-legacy cases.

In total, 51,469 asylum applications were granted, while 25,550 were refused – meaning 67% were accepted. But it also means that 35,119 “non-substantive” decisions were made.

According to the Home Office, this is where the government withdraws the claim, it is paused, declared void or the applicant failed to complete a part of the application.

The 35,119 figure is more than two and a half times the 13,093 examples of non-substantive claims recorded in 2022.

The government has said that the remaining 4,537 more complex cases typically involve “asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum”.

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Government ‘committed’ to HS2 after watchdog rates project as ‘unachievable’ | Politics News

HS2 has been rated as “unachievable” as part of an annual report from a government watchdog.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) gave the first two phases of the rail link – from London to Birmingham, and from Birmingham to Crewe, a “red” rating, saying the whole plan may need to be “reassessed”. Both legs have faced a series of delays.

The project has been hit by ever-increasing costs – with estimates rising from £33bn in 2010 to at least £71bn.

The initial opening date of 2026 has fallen back to 2033, with the line possibly not reaching Manchester until 2040.

The government announced further delays to HS2 earlier this year in an effort to “balance the books” after inflation hit the cost of materials.

But analysis exclusively leaked to Sky News showed the two-year pause in works would end up being three-and-a-half years, and was likely to cost the taxpayer at least £366m.

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The government announced earlier this year the construction of the HS2 will be delayed by two more years due to

In its report, the IPA said: “Successful delivery of [HS2] appears to be unachievable.”

The watchdog added there were “major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

As a result, it said the project “may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed”.

This latest criticism comes in the same month that HS2 Ltd’s chief executive, Mark Thurston, announced he would be resigning from his post in September.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Spades are already in the ground on HS2, with 350 construction sites, over £20bn invested to date and supporting over 28,500 jobs.

“We remain committed to delivering HS2 in the most cost-effective way for taxpayers.

“HS2 will bring transformational benefits for generations to come, improving connections and helping grow the economy.”

Jeremy Clarkson’s Sun column about Meghan was sexist, press watchdog rules | UK News

A Jeremy Clarkson column about Prince Harry and Meghan in The Sun newspaper was sexist, a press watchdog has ruled.

The column – headlined “One day, Harold the glove puppet will tell the truth about A Woman Talking B*******” – contained a “pejorative and prejudicial reference” to the sex of the Duchess of Sussex, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) said.

Clarkson, 63, wrote in December last year: “I hate her. Not like I hate Nicola Sturgeon or Rose West. I hate her on a cellular level.”

He told how he lies awake at night “dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her” – claiming “everyone who’s my age thinks the same way”.

“But what makes me despair,” he added, “is that younger people, especially girls, think she’s pretty cool.”

The article, published on 16 December 2022, saw IPSO deluged by more than 25,000 complaints from the public – the highest number it has ever received.

It was a “serious breach” of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice – a set of rules newspaper and magazines who are members of IPSO have agreed to follow – the watchdog said on Friday.

More on Duchess Of Sussex

However, separate complaints that the article was inaccurate, harassed the Duchess and discriminated against her on the grounds of her race were not upheld.

IPSO chairman, Lord Faulks, said of the ruling: “We found that the imagery employed by the columnist in this article was humiliating and degrading toward the Duchess.”

 Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex and Meghan Markle The Duchess of Sussex 
Prince Harry and Meghan. Pic: AP

The Sun “failed to meet the high editorial standards” expected by IPSO, he added.

Further explaining why the column was sexist, the IPSO complaints committee ruled: “Specifically: the writer’s claim that the Duchess exercised power via her sexual hold over her husband which, in the view of the Committee, was a reference to stereotypes about women using their sexuality to gain power.

“[It] also implied that it was the Duchess’ sexuality – rather than any other attribute or accomplishment – which was the source of her power.

“To argue that a woman is in a position of influence due to ‘vivid bedroom promises’, to compare the hatred of an individual to other women only, and to reference a fictional scene of public humiliation given to a sexually manipulative woman, read as a whole, amounted to a breach of Clause 12 (i).”

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The ruling added: “The Editors’ Code of Practice protects the right of commentators to challenge, to shock, be satirical and entertain, but it states that the press must avoid discriminatory references towards an individual.

“By holding publications to account, we promote the standards of journalism set out in the Editors’ Code of Practice.

“We will take action where these standards are not met, such as in this article which contained pejorative and prejudicial language in an article discussing a woman.”

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Prince Harry’s phone hacking trial explained

‘I’ve rather put my foot in it’

Clarkson issued a grovelling response at the time after his own daughter, Emily, was among thousands who condemned his comments.

He tweeted: “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people.

“I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”

The Sun also apologised after a huge backlash, saying it “regretted” publishing the column last December. It also removed it from its website and archives.

However, the Sussexes snubbed the apologies and suggested Clarkson has a track record of spreading “hate rhetoric”.

Now the tabloid has been ordered to inform its readers of the findings by publishing a summary written by IPSO on the same page where the column usually appears.

It must also be flagged on the front page of The Sun and on the homepage of its website.

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Special programme: Harry in Court

IPSO investigated two specific complaints made by the charity The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, and the WILDE Foundation, a platform created to help women, girls, and victims and survivors of abuse.

Both organisations said they were affected by breaches of the code.

In a statement, The Sun said: “After Jeremy Clarkson’s column was published in December, both The Sun and Jeremy Clarkson apologised. We said we regretted publishing the article and removed it from our website.

“The Sun accepts that with free expression comes responsibility.

“Half of The Sun’s readers are women and we have a very long and proud history of campaigning for women, which has changed the lives of many.

“The Sun is committed to its work campaigning to strengthen legislation on domestic abuse, helping to provide beds in refuges and empowering survivors of abuse to seek help. Our most recent campaign, Baby Bank on Us, is raising money to help women struggling with the alarming costs of living and a newborn baby.

“Ipso has ruled that The Sun published a column about the Duchess of Sussex which contained a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the duchess’s sex. The committee did not uphold separate elements of the complaint that the article was inaccurate, harassed the Duchess of Sussex, and included discriminatory references to her on the ground of race.

“The Sun is today publishing the summary of Ipso’s findings.”

The ruling comes as Prince Harry takes on the British press in a series of court battles.

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The Duke appeared in court weeks after he and the Duchess said they were involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase in New York involving paparazzi.

Anti-strikes law would ‘strip workers of unfair dismissal protections’, watchdog warns | Politics News

The anti-strikes bill could be in breach of international law and strip workers of unfair dismissal protections, the equalities watchdog has warned.

The government is facing renewed calls to drop the “nasty” Minimum Service Legislation (MSL) bill following a scathing report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The EHRC said it is “concerned that an employee would lose automatic unfair dismissal protection” if they fail to comply with a notice ordering them to work on days of industrial action.

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The organisation warned staff could also be sacked if their trade union has failed to take reasonable steps to ensure minimum service levels are in place during a strike, as “they would not know” before participating in a walkout if that is the case or not.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said: “The EHRC is right to warn that this draconian legislation could see striking workers losing a vital right – protection from unfair dismissal.

“The Conservatives are trying to keep people in the dark about the true nature of this legislation. But make no mistake – this bill is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal.”

Mr Nowak accused the government of launching a “brazen attack” on workers’ rights which will likely “poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them”.

“It’s time for ministers to protect the fundamental right to strike and drop this nasty bill,” he said.

What does the anti-strikes bill mean?

Under the government’s draft Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, the right to strike would be restricted by imposing “minimum service levels”.

That means if the bill becomes law, some trade union members would be required to continue working during a strike.

The bill does not set out what the minimum service levels would be for each industry, but they could include maintaining core service provision in emergency services and ensuring key transport, travel and trade routes don’t completely shut down on strike days.

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What does the anti-strikes bill propose?

The government has argued the legislation is necessary to ensure minimum safety levels at a time of widespread industrial action.

But the plans have drawn backlash from unions and opposition MPs.

Critics say, thanks to the proposed changes, bosses would be legally able to fire employees who ignore a “work notice” ordering them to work on days of industrial action.

The EHRC contrasted this with similar laws in Italy, where “legislation provides that an individual cannot be dismissed for failing to comply with a Minimum Service Level agreement”.

It said the bill in its current form raises “several human rights considerations”, specifically in relation to Article 4 (Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour), Article 11 (Freedom of Assembly and Association) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report also criticised ministers for failing to properly consult on the legislation with worker and employer organisations.

“It is not clear why this more collaborative approach – as practised in some states in Europe – was not pursued in the current bill,” the watchdog said.

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Anti-strike bill: The arguments and what it means for workers

The intervention comes days after the Joint Committee on Human Rights criticised the bill “for failing to meet human rights obligations”.

Last week, a House of Lords report also expressed concerns the bill would give ministers too much power while providing virtually no detail on what counts as minimum service.

There was a further backlash when the Regulatory Policy Committee, another independent watchdog, ruled the government’s impact assessment of the legislation was “not fit for purpose” in a damning report last month.

And in January, 50 civil liberty groups – including Oxfam and Human Rights Watch – warned the bill would allow “a further significant and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly”.

Sky News has contacted the government for comment.

British police forces ‘shot through’ with Chinese surveillance cameras, watchdog warns | UK News

Britain should be more concerned about Chinese-made CCTV cameras on the streets than spy balloons 60,000ft above ground, a watchdog has warned.

New findings from the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC) said British police forces are “shot through” with Chinese cameras, drones and other surveillance equipment.

The watchdog’s survey also suggested bodies using the equipment were “generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies supplying their kit”.

There have been growing concerns in recent days about the threat of Chinese spy balloons after the US shot down four objects flying in its airspace this month, prompting the UK to review its security measures.

Washington declared one of the aircraft as Chinese spyware.

There are now security fears over police using Chinese-made drones.

All police forces across England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence, and the National Crime Agency (NCA), were asked in June last year about their use and governance of CCTV and other surveillance cameras.

The watchdog said several of the respondents claimed their camera systems use equipment which there had been security or ethical concerns about.

Fraser Sampson, of the OBSCC, said: “It is abundantly clear from this detailed analysis of the survey results that the police estate in the UK is shot through with Chinese surveillance cameras.

“It is also clear that the forces deploying this equipment are generally aware that there are security and ethical concerns about the companies that supply their kit.”

He added: “There has been a lot in the news in recent days about how concerned we should be about Chinese spy balloons 60,000 feet up in the sky.

“I do not understand why we are not at least as concerned about the Chinese cameras six feet above our head in the street and elsewhere…”

Mr Sampson said it should be considered whether it is appropriate for bodies to use equipment made by companies with “such serious questions hanging over them”.

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Mystery surrounds flying objects

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The OBSCC said 39 of the 47 bodies and forces contacted for the survey responded, which was “disappointing”.

Around 18 said their external camera systems use equipment that had security or ethical concerns, while at least 24 gave the same response when asked about internal camera systems.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) spokesman said: “Following government guidance where governmental departments have been instructed to cease the deployment of such equipment around sensitive sites, UK Policing will conduct necessary reviews to ensure national security standards are met.

“Model contractual terms and conditions are widely used across policing, and these include specific provisions for equality, diversity and human rights. These are imposed on contracted suppliers and would be used to enforce any breach of contract.”

The Telegraph also reported that more than two-thirds of drones operated by police forces in the UK are made by a Chinese firm that is blacklisted in the US.

A Home Office source told the newspaper on Tuesday that Home Secretary Suella Braverman had “concerns” about the use of Chinese technology in the UK and would want police to make sure all their data is “secure and not vulnerable to any interference by a foreign state”.

Press watchdog IPSO launches investigation into Jeremy Clarkson Meghan article | UK News

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) is launching an investigation into Jeremy Clarkson’s article in The Sun about the Duchess of Sussex.

The UK’s newspaper and magazine industry regulator said it had received more than 25,100 complaints about the piece, in which he said he “hated” the Duchess of Sussex.

Clarkson wrote in his column, published in December as the couple shared their headline-grabbing Netflix documentary series, that he was “dreaming of the day when [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her”.

But his remarks sparked a huge backlash, with Clarkson’s daughter Emily, as well as many others, speaking out against him.

The column became the most complained about ever and was removed from The Sun’s website at his request, with the publisher apologising.

Clarkson also addressed some of the backlash towards the imagery used in his piece, which he said was a reference to a scene in the television series Game of Thrones.

He wrote: “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game Of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people. I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”

In a later statement, the presenter revealed he had emailed the couple to apologise over his piece.

However, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex dismissed the apology saying it was part of “a series of articles shared in hate”.

They also said that Clarkson “wrote solely to Prince Harry”.

It comes after it was reported that Amazon Prime Video is likely to cut ties with the TV host following the backlash over his column.

The streaming service has worked with Clarkson since 2015, with the TV star hosting hit shows The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm.

Series two of Clarkson’s Farm will launch as planned in February, while the next series of The Grand Tour is still set to launch later in 2023.

However, as first reported by US entertainment site Variety, it is understood Amazon could stop working with the star beyond seasons of the shows that have already been commissioned.

Clarkson, who also presents ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, admitted in second statement that both broadcasters were “incandescent” over his column.

UK ‘chronically’ underspending on climate change adaptation, warns watchdog | Climate News

The risks of heatwaves, droughts, flooding and failing critical infrastructure are increasing in the UK due to global warming, but the government has been too slow in acting to limit them, according to a new report from its climate change watchdog.

Adapting to higher temperatures and the more intense heatwaves and storms they are predicted to bring, requires investment of around £10bn a year, says the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Spending on everything from flood defences, to more heat-resilient homes, to improved drinking water supplies is falling well short of what is needed to insulate the UK from climate impacts, according to the report.

“It is no secret that the UK is now experiencing a range of damaging consequences of climate change, but adaptation in the UK remains chronically underfunded and overlooked. This must change,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee.

When it comes to reducing the risk of climate change itself through its net zero strategy, the government has been clear in defining priorities, says the report.

The same approach has to be used in adapting to the warming that is inevitable due to global warming that’s already under way, it warns.

Key recommendations include improving drainage in urban areas to cope with flooding from extreme rainfall; making more use of “nature based solutions” to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea and rivers; and increasing the ability of the public water system to cope with drought, including investment in new reservoirs and “interconnectors” between water companies.

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The Daily Climate Show

The committee also singled out the need to “climate-proof” infrastructure like roads and railways and the need to retrofit homes to cope with excess heat.

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The Office for National Statistics recently estimated 2,800 excess deaths were linked to heatwaves last summer.

Some actions require direct investment, particularly things like flood defences or tree planting to reduce flood risk, the report finds.

However, many others can be funded by changing planned investments to factor in things like increased temperatures or flood risk, when it comes to improving water supplies, or building new roads, bridges or railways.

“Integrating climate risk into economic and financial decision-making across society is essential for urgently needed investments in our national climate resilience to materialise,” said Ben Caldecott, a co-author of the report.

A failure to invest now, will ultimately cost more, the report argues. It cites a Bank of England study from last year that found climate risks would become a “persistent drag” on banks’ and insurers’ profits of around 10-15% a year.