November 2009 Archives
October data from Land Registry's flagship House Price Index shows a positive monthly house price change of 0.6%.
The annual change stands at -3.4%. This is the sixth month in a row in which the fall in annual change has decreased. The average house price in England and Wales is now £159,546.
The North West experienced the greatest monthly rise with a movement of 1.9%. Wales was the region with the most significant monthly price fall with a movement of -2.3%.
Three members of the same family were jailed for a total of seven and a half years on Friday following an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs into tax fraud. A fourth family member received a suspended prison sentence.
Amarjit Singh Sidhu, Balwant Kaur Sidhu, Surjit Singh Dhindsa, and Rajinder Singh Bhattle failed to pay a total of £771,000 in income tax, National Insurance and VAT.
Amarjit was the company director of Multiple Construction Ltd, a labour supply business based in Slough. His company supplied labour to a number of construction companies based in London, whose contracts involved the construction of Wembley Stadium, Canary Wharf and White City. His wife Balwant was the company secretary.
In April 2004, the family set up a sham company run by Surjit and Rajinder - Tempaid Ltd - to evade tax and reduce the VAT liability of Multiple Construction.
The family effectively used Tempaid as a hidden bank account to under-declare the profits of Multiple Construction. Multiple Construction would issue cheques to pay false invoices sent by Tempaid. The funds were then withdrawn and used to pay employee wages in cash.
Immigration statistics covering Q3 2009 have been released by the Home Office.
The statistics show that asylum applications dropped to 5,055 for the quarter - a 24% reduction on the same quarter in 2008.
Decisions on asylum cases have risen 38% compared to the same quarter in 2008 with the grant rate for asylum falling to 12%. In December 2008, the UK Border Agency met it's target of concluding 60% of new asylum cases within six months.
Applications from Eastern Europeans to work in the UK under the worker registration scheme have stabilised at 29,085, compared to 41,265 during the same period last year and 28,060 in quarter two 2009.
The Office for National Statistics figures show that net-migration fell to 163,000 in 2008, from 233,000 in 2007, the lowest level since the eight accession countries joined the EU in 2004.
The figures also show that of those coming to the UK in 2008, 14 per cent, 85,000, were British citizens returning to live in Britain. This was more than any other individual nationality.
The public sector pay promptly drive is making a real difference to its suppliers' cash flow, according to the Government.
Nineteen out of twenty central government invoices are now paid within ten days - a 24% improvement on November 2008.
And the wider public sector has also seen improvements in payment performance. The Forum of Private Business reported this month that the average payment time for local authorities in England is now eighteen days, with 42% of all invoices paid within ten days.
The Government has now thrown down the gauntlet to the private sector to pay promptly too. Twenty-two of the FTSE 100 have so far signed up to the Government's Prompt Payment Code, launched by Peter Mandelson in December 2008. They are joined by over 640 other signatories, all committed to ensuring they pay suppliers within agreed terms.
The protections enjoyed by UK mortgage borrowers are to be strengthened under new proposals published by the Treasury on Wednesday.
Under the proposals, borrowers whose mortgages are sold onto third parties will be protected by Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulations requiring fair treatment of customers. In addition, the Government is proposing the expansion of the FSA's remit to include the regulation of buy to let mortgages and second charge mortgages.
review of rape victims' experience of the criminal justice system, published yesterday, has been welcomed by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
All the immediate recommendations from the review, led by the Victims' Champion Sara Payne, have been considered by the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, including:
New research commissioned by the Government Equality Office shows that women are deterred from becoming directors because corporate boards are dominated by "old boy networks."
The research found that women continue to be under-represented at board level despite having the right education and experience to succeed.
It also found that boardroom cultures were often inhospitable to under-represented groups and that the small number of female board directors was not down to a lack of aspiration or competence on the part of women, but a failure by companies to identify their talent.
The report noted, however, the potential of the positive action provision in the Government's Equality Bill. This will allow businesses to employ a person from an under-represented group - not just women - when all the candidates are equally qualified.
Housing Minister John Healey confirmed yesterday that the UK will be the first in the world to require zero carbon homes as a matter of law from 2016.
New-builds must have better insulated walls, windows, ceilings and floors to meet the new energy efficiency standards of 46 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year (kWh/m2/year) for semi-detached and detached homes and 39 kWh/m2/year for all other homes.
The UK Scotch Whisky Regulations came into force on Monday. They're designed to protect consumers from counterfeit products and inadequate labelling, and maintain the high standards in the Scotch whisky industry which exported £3.1 billion of whiskey overseas last year.
The Regulations will:
The Planning Portal has launched a series of visual guides for the most common home improvement projects - extensions, loft conversions and porches.
The visual guides (which apply to England only) explain in simple terms the work householders can and cannot do under new planning rules. Extensions, loft conversions and porches fall under the permitted development regime, not requiring planning permission provided certain limits and conditions are met. The guides are aimed at clarifying the guidance around these projects and are available on the Planning Portal website.
While the scale of violence against women is difficult to measure, the British Crime Survey estimates around a million women experience at least one incident of domestic violence each year and around 10,000 women are sexually assaulted each week. And at least 750,000 children witness domestic violence each year - all of whom are twice as likely to have behaviour problems.
The Government announced an ambitious strategy to end violence against women and girls this week.
The 'Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls' strategy sets out a range of actions for the police, local authorities, the NHS and government departments across three key areas - Protection, Provision and Prevention.
The employment tribunal in the Ruth Matthews 'black box' constructive dismissal case has delivered its verdict. During the five-day hearing in October, Ms. Matthews made a series of allegations against former employer Inverness Leisure complex, including overstaffing, bullying, cronyism, and favouritism. She also claimed one employee endangered health & safety by taking 27 cigarette breaks in a single shift.
The tribunal rejected Ms. Matthews's claim, however, saying she should have resigned sooner. "Had the claimant resigned at the time of, or just after, submitting her grievance, she could have demonstrated that her resignation was in response to breaches of contract [by her former boss, complex general manager James Martin]."
To help health and social care services implement the new age discrimination provisions in the Equality Bill, the Government is calling for peoples' views on the likely implications.
The Equality Bill will ban age discrimination against adults in public services. This has particular implications for health and social care because age can be a factor in decisions about some treatments and services. The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has already signalled his support for implementing the new laws by 2012 - the same deadline as for other public services.
The consultation, launched yesterday, asks for comments on a Government-sponsored review of equality in the NHS and social care, which recommended that:
As of yesterday, farmers, foresters and local authorities can apply for £1.5 million grants to help develop the supply of biomass, such as wood chips or energy crops like miscanthus, in England through round three of the Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme.
As with previous rounds, the objectives of the Scheme are to increase renewable energy generation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while contributing to sustainable land management.
About Biomass Energy
The UK has set a target to get 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Biomass energy has an important role to play in meeting this target.
It can help reduce carbon emissions because the carbon dioxide emitted as the biomass is burnt has already been offset by the carbon dioxide the crop absorbed as it grew (although these carbon savings will be affected by the energy used in the crop's cultivation, harvesting, processing and transportation) - unlike fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide that has been locked away for millions of years.
About the Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme
The Scheme provides grants to develop the supply chain required to harvest, process, store and supply biomass. It is restricted to projects based in England and is only open to small or medium-sized enterprises, local authorities and charities.
It is also restricted to cultivation of the following crops:
No. 51 - Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 4
[Continued from Immigration 101: Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 3 (#50)]
Visa letters for postgraduate doctors and dentists should include the following information:
No. 50 - Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 3
[Continued from Immigration 101: Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 2 (#49)]
A visa letter should include the following information:
No. 49 - Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 2
[Continued from Immigration 101: Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 1 (#48)]
Documents used to get the visa letter
Students must provide the documents they used to get their visa letter from the approved education provider, which will be listed on the visa letter.
If the approved education provider has assessed your qualifications in order to issue your visa letter, the provider must include details of these qualifications on your visa letter. For each qualification listed on the visa letter, the student must provide:
- the original certificate(s) of qualification; and/or
- the original transcript of results.
No. 48 - Adult Student Visas - Visa Letter: Part 1
An approved education provider must issue a visa letter or confirmation of acceptance of studies before a student can apply for a visa. The visa letter or confirmation of acceptance of studies is confirmation of the student's unconditional offer of a place on a course of study. If the student does not submit a visa letter confirmation of acceptance of studies when they apply, their application will be refused.
Note: as of 5 October 2009, approved education providers can use the UK Border Agency electronic sponsor management system to issue confirmation of acceptance for studies, which is an electronic reference number and contains all of the same information as a visa letter, to allow students to apply for a visa. From February 2010, the UK Border Agency will only accept a confirmation of acceptance for studies and will no longer accept a visa letter.
A scaffolding business has been fined for health and safety breaches after a worker fell more than 10 metres through a roof.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Mark Wilson, trading as MWS Scaffolding Services, in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, after uncovering breaches of health and safety law on a site in Waltham Forest, north east London.
Mr Wilson was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,566.80 at City of London Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Administrators at off-license group First Quench have announced they're closing 381 of the company's stores and cutting 2,000 jobs after negotiations to find a new buyer collapsed. First Quench owns a number of well-known high street chains, including Threshers, Wine Rack, Haddows, Victoria Wine and Bottoms Up.
However, Richard Fleming,of administrators KPMG, is still hopeful First Quench can shift "a significant number" of its remaining stores as "going concerns." The Guardian reports EFB Retail may be one of the interested parties. Supermarket chains may also be interested in cherry-picking sites.
"Unfortunately there was not sufficient interest in the 381 stores as part of the going concern sale, so we have no option but to close them," Fleming said.
New proposals to protect communities by making the streets safer, shutting down criminal markets and ensuring justice for victims of crime were revealed last week in the Crime and Security Bill.
The new Bill includes the following proposed measures:
The Corporation Tax Bill and the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Bill have been published. These Bills are the sixth and seventh produced by the Tax Law Rewrite project, which has rewritten a big chunk of UK tax law in recent years to make it clearer and easier to use.
The Corporation Tax Bill (the second of two dealing with corporation tax) substantially completes the rewrite of the corporation tax code. It includes provisions about losses and gifts to charities, various reliefs such as group relief, distributions, particular types of companies and activities, avoidance, and definitions.
The Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Bill includes provisions about double taxation relief, transfer pricing, advance pricing agreements and tax arbitrage. It also relocates and where appropriate rewrites some provisions which would otherwise have been left unhelpfully in the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 or one of the Finance Acts.
A new Energy Bill was introduced in Parliament last week.
The Bill has been designed with two objectives in mind: (1) protect vulnerable households; (2) develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
(1) Protect vulnerable households
The Bill contains the following measures to protect vulnerable households:
(a) Mandatory social price support (including electricity bill rebates)
Where a DIY divorce is unavailable, a pursuer should file an application for an ordinary divorce.
Before you file...
(1) Grounds for divorce
As a first step, read Divorce 101: Grounds For Divorce - Scotland (#6).
(2) Should I hire a solicitor?
Yes, you are strongly advised to retain a solicitor for an ordinary divorce.
Always ask for an estimate of costs and the hourly charging rate when you first see a solicitor, but be prepared for this estimate to change as your case goes on.
You should also ask for an estimate of 'outlays' - costs that the solicitor will have to pay out on your behalf, such as court fees, advocate fees, and property valuations.
(3) What about legal aid?
Around three quarters of Scottish adults now qualify for legal aid. If your income, after paying essential expenses such as your mortgage, tax and childcare, is £25,000 or less, you may qualify. Visit the Scottish Legal Aid Board website for more information.
(4) Court costs
If you are on a low income, you should complete a fee exemption form and request a waiver of court costs. For more information, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and visit the Scottish courts website.
A tough new compulsory licensing scheme designed to rid England, Wales and Northern Ireland of rogue wheel clampers, has been set out in the Crime and Security Bill.
Proposals within the Bill will make it mandatory for all wheel clamping businesses to be licensed under the terms of a strict code of conduct. The code will include a cap on fines, time limits on towing cars unreasonably quickly after being clamped and set out clear instructions for putting up signs warning drivers that clamping takes place.
Ministers are also looking to introduce an independent appeals process for motorists who feel unfairly penalised by firms and their employees.
Any company which breaches the terms of their licence could lose their right to practise and face up to five years in prison or a substantial fine.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said this week that serious management failings led to the death of a young boy, who drowned in a swimming pool at a Dundee leisure centre.
The seven year-old, Luke Hutton, died in September 2007 at the Olympia Leisure Complex, Dundee. At the end of a public swimming session, another child raised the alarm that Luke was missing and his body was then found in a covered wave pool following a 40-minute search.
At Dundee Sheriff Court on Tuesday, the organisation Dundee Leisure of 30 and 34 Reform Street, Dundee, was fined £40,000 having pleaded guilty to charges under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
[Continued from New Measures To Tackle Anti-Social Behaviour: Part 2]
Councils and the police now have more powers and tools to deal with anti-social behaviour than ever before. These include:
The Government has also announced new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour for people living in social housing. This includes:
- ensuring tenants are supported to challenge landlords, councils and the
police where they are failing or not acting quickly enough;
- a new housing anti-social behaviour action squad to work with landlords on
the ground to spread and embed good practice;
- new guidance for social landlords to provide them with a detailed
understanding of how to use their powers effectively; &
- a revised, Respect Standard for Housing Management, on tackling anti-social behaviour, which will be become binding on social landlords for the first time.
Where necessary industry regulator Tenant Services Authority will be able to use new enforcement powers to ensure that tenants get a good service. These can include issuing enforcement notices or even transferring the management of properties to another provider. In addition, housing associations can face fines or be forced to pay compensation to their tenants.
The Government announced millions of people across the country will get extra help to tackle anti-social behaviour this week.
New measures to tackle anti-social behaviour include:
- letting local residents know the rights and how to report anti-social
behaviour through targeted leaflets, regional events and information for local
- extra training for 10,000 frontline staff such as anti-social behaviour
co-ordinators, police and neighbourhood wardens;
- extra funding for local work to tackle anti-social behaviour such as
environmental clean up campaigns, supporting community led projects to engage
young people and creating more attractive public spaces; &
- training to help residents and community champions challenge police and councils and shape the approach to tackling anti-social behaviour.
This drive, which is being funded by a £10 million package, will target 130 local councils.
Proposals to further open up family courts to the media have been announced as part of new legislation put before Parliament this week.
Clauses in the Children, Schools and Families Bill build on changes announced in April that allowed the media to attend most family proceedings for the first time. The legislation aims to balance the need to make family courts open and accountable against the importance of protecting the welfare of children and families involved in family proceedings.
In recognition of the significance of these reforms in a sensitive area, the changes will be introduced in phases to assess their impact.
There was another twist in Jordan Wimmer's £4 million constructive dismissal case against Nomos Capital founder Mark Lowe this week, as the defendant took the stand. Lowe admitted to sending sexually explicit emails to female employees and calling Wimmer a "dumb blonde" and "decorative"; he also said he had a "marked preference" for female sales staff, which he justified as "pure commercial sense." Wimmer also produced one email in which Lowe asked her whether an internship candidate was "cute" or "blonde."
But Lowe rejected Wimmer's claims that he'd hired escorts, who accompanied him to business meetings, and a hitman to kill her. He also denied accusations that he made sexual advances towards Wimmer, saying he always treated her "in a gentlemanly way."
1. Stronger financial regulation and corporate governance
- Creates a new Council for Financial Stability, chaired by the
Chancellor and including the Chair of the Financial Services Authority
(FSA) and the Governor of the Bank of England, to focus on managing
systemic risk and protecting financial stability, both in the UK and
- Establishes a new financial stability objective for the FSA, enabling it to
place greater emphasis on monitoring, assessing and mitigating macro-prudential
risks in its supervisory and regulatory approach.
- Hands enhanced power to the FSA by:
- extending the Authority's rule-making powers to accomplish any of its objectives (not just consumer protection as at present);
- extending its information-gathering powers to non-regulated firms (including hedge funds), where information is relevant to financial stability;
- strengthening its powers to take action where firms and individuals are guilty of misconduct;
- allowing it to restrict short selling and to require disclosure of short selling.
- Includes the following provisions on remuneration:
- FSA handed task of coming up with binding rules to implement the G20 pay agreement;
- Hands FSA power to void any contract that contravenes said rules and to recover any payments made under contracts that breach rules;
- Ends multi-year guaranteed bonuses, or large bonuses paid out as a cash lump sum at year-end, and all bonuses subject to clawback.
Earlier this year, an interesting case came before the Court of Appeal concerning independent contractors and sham contracts. Miklos Szilagyi sued a company called Protectacoat Firthglow Ltd (PF).
PF specialises in the renovation of external walls and Szilagyi had worked for the company as an installer. After a short period of training, he was told to find an assistant to work with him. He was then asked to sign two documents: the first document was a 'partnership agreement' between Szilagyi and his assistant; the second was a services agreement between the 'partnership' and PF.
So far so good, except:
Yesterday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released provisional estimates of the public finances showing that in October 2009 the public sector had:
- a current budget deficit of £7.7 billion;
- net borrowing of £11.4 billion; &
- at the end of October, net debt was £829.7 billion, equivalent to 59.2% of gross domestic product.
UK "skint as a country"
On 1st January, the UK's VAT holiday will end as the tax rate returns to 17.5% from 15%.
M&S chairman Stuart Rose says we should expect another increase next year as the Government looks for ways to pay off the deficit. "We are skint as a country," he said. "The Treasury needs revenue so I would not rule it out ... this Government and the future Government have got to make some hard decisions about refilling the coffers".
Retailers, already squealing about the return to a 17.5% VAT rate, fear a further increase would kill off the recovery before it's begun.
But the Guardian estimates a VAT increase to 20% would raise an additional £12 billion a year for the public purse. And levying VAT on food - which is currently exempt - albeit at a lower rate of 5%, would bring in another £3.5 billion a year.
According to the Guardian, there's a good chance General Motors' decision last week to cancel the sale of Opel/Vauxhall to the Canadian Magna consortium will result in fewer UK redundancies.
Peter Mandelson met with GM Europe's acting chief executive Nick Reilly in London this week. Reilly told him Vauxhall workers had a "good future" under GM ownership.
No. 47 - Adult Student Visas - Acceptable Courses - Part 2
[Continued from Immigration 101: Adult Student Visas - Acceptable Courses (#46)]
What about work placements?
Adult students are allowed to do a work placement as part of their course of study, as long as the work placement is an assessed part of the course. In most cases, the work placement must be no more than 50% of the length of the course in the UK. An example is if a course is two years long and the first year of the course involves full-time study, with the last year in a work placement.
The work placement can only be more than 50% of the length of the course if there is a legal (statutory) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement.
No. 46 - Adult Student Visas - Acceptable Courses - Part 1
Adult students may only study courses deemed acceptable by the UK Border Agency. Acceptable courses include those:
Unite the union issued ballot papers for potential industrial action to its 12,000-strong cabin crew membership within British Airways this week.
The ballot papers were sent on the same day BA began to impose far-reaching changes to cabin crew working practices, changes which Unite believes are not only unworkable but also contractual - and so must be negotiated, not imposed.
The Government has announced a planning system overhaul to help cut carbon emissions.
The Department for Communities and Local Government wants to encourage homeowners, developers and businesses to install their own on-site wind turbines and air source heat pumps by dispensing with the need for planning permission.
The new rules would also apply to councils and electric car drivers who want to install electric car charger points on streets and in car parks.
A publishing company which made misleading claims about its circulation figures, and demanded payment for advertisements never placed, has been wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Rose Garland Limited, based in Heywood, Lancashire, claimed to publish 'awareness' booklets covering subjects such as road safety, fire prevention and drug awareness. The company sold advertising space in the booklets to small businesses and organisations throughout the UK between October 2006 and November 2009, and had more than 5000 customers.
The enquiry by the Insolvency Service's Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) found that Rose Garland had been cold-calling potential advertisers, offering them advertising space based on highly exaggerated claims about circulation figures. The investigation revealed that:
- One customer was told that 250,000 copies of the booklet containing his advertisement would be handed out to the police, fire brigade and ambulance staff and copies placed in casualty wards. The enquiry showed that only 6,500 copies of the booklets had ever been printed and the low distribution and poor quality made them of little or no commercial benefit to the advertisers;
The Government's open data strategy gained increased momentum this week as it was announced the public will have more access to Ordnance Survey maps from next year.
Making local and national government data freely available and accessible provides a number of social and economic benefits:
- Facilitates innovation and improvement in public services by putting
information, and therefore power, in the hands of the electorate and service
- Increases transparency and democratic accountability.
- Enables people to re-use the data in different and more imaginative ways
than may have originally been intended. (Estimates suggest that this could
generate as much as a billion pounds for the UK economy.)
- Makes people feel more connected to their community by giving them the tools to demand action on issues that matter. For example, releasing council records in re-usable form would mean that citizens can find everything from the council accounts to the number of streetlights and community wardens, to when the rubbish is collected and the hedges trimmed.
As discussed in previous blogs, 2009 has been a landmark year for British constitutional reform. In July, the Law Lords rendered judgement in the Debbie Purdy case and promptly jumped ship across Parliament Square to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom at Middlesex Guildhall, finally severing the judicial branch of government from the legislative.
Now, the Parole Board has responded to a Ministry of Justice consultation paper on its future by calling for it to become completely independent from the executive branch of government, as required by the Court of Appeal, with sponsorship transferred to HM Courts Service (HMCS).
Right Honourable Sir David Latham, Chairman of the Parole Board, said:
A cross-government action plan to improve the health of offenders was launched yesterday by Care Services Minister Phil Hope. The action plan implements many of the recommendations in Lord Bradley's study on people with mental health and learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, namely:
- Ensure prison inmates have access to the same levels of health care as the
- Develop 'care pathways' to improve continuity of care, enhance health and
social care provision, and contribute to the delivery of justice;
- Train staff across the criminal justice system to identify health issues and share information so individuals receive help.
The plan has three overarching goals: (1) to protect the public; (2) reduce health inequalities; and (3) cut levels of re-offending.
98.3% of England's bathing waters met the European Commission's minimum water quality standards in 2009, up from 96.1% in 2008, tests carried out by the Environment Agency show.
414 coastal and freshwater bathing water sites were monitored in England in 2008 and 2009, with the below results:
Employers, unions and the government joined forces yesterday to promote new guidance on preventing harassment and violence in the workplace.
The guidance, which follows a Europe-wide agreement between employers' organisations and unions, aims to give practical help and support to firms and their employees.
Harassment and violence is unacceptable behaviour by one or more individuals and can take many different forms, some of which may be more easy to identify than others:
- Workplace harassment: occurs when someone is repeatedly and
deliberately abused, threatened and/or humiliated in circumstances relating to
- Workplace violence: occurs when one or more workers or managers is assaulted in circumstances relating to work.
Victims may suffer workplace harassment and/or violence from a number of sources, including managers, workers, service users and/or members of the public, with the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, affecting their health and/or creating a hostile work environment.
The majority of business rates tax bills - one million in total - will fall next year following revaluation, the Government has confirmed.
Revaluation ensures the business rates each enterprise pays is fair and reflects changes in relative property values over time.
As a result of revaluation, 60% of business rates payers will see falls in their tax bills next year. For the minority paying more, the Government has put in place a £2 billion relief scheme self funded by businesses that will limit and phase in increases.
Overall, as a result of revaluation and the relief arrangements, one million business properties will see an average decrease in the tax bills of £770 in 2010/11.
To reduce bureaucracy for small businesses and billing authorities, the Government has also announced that organisations do not need to re-apply for small business rate relief at revaluation, a move welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses.
Other measures introduced by the Government to support businesses include enabling businesses to delay payment of corporation tax, VAT and other taxes; the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, helping businesses applying for bank loans; a £75million Capital for Enterprise Fund; Regional Loan Transition Funds from Regional Development Agencies; free business health checks; and a commitment from Government to pay suppliers within 10 days.
A consultation on guidelines to ensure the Government receives robust scientific and engineering advice was launched this week by the Government Office for Science.
The guidelines underpin the Government's commitment to evidence-based policy making and dictate the way departments obtain and use scientific advice. They stipulate policymakers should:
- Think ahead and identify early the issues on which they need scientific
advice and early public engagement, and where the current evidence base is weak
and should be strengthened;
- Get a wide range of advice from the best sources, particularly when there is
- Publish the evidence and analysis and all relevant papers.
The consultation gives scientists, academics and members of the public an opportunity to help revise the guidelines, which were last updated in 2005, and deliver a clear set of rules of engagement around the provision of scientific advice to Government.
A judge in Hong Kong has awarded 18 former Cathay Pacific pilots $7.6m in damages for unfair dismissal - eight years after they were dismissed.
The BBC reports the pilots were sacked after they started a 'work-to-rule campaign' during a labour dispute. They belonged to a group of 49 pilots, known as the 49ers, all of whom were fired. (NB. The other 31 pilots also sued, but settled with the company.)
The labour dispute centred on the pilots' claims that they were often made to fly longer than agreed hours, with insufficient break time between flights.
At the time they were dismissed, Cathay said it was because of "frequent sick days" and "a negative attitude towards management."
But Judge Ansemolo Reyes said that "the predominant reason for the plaintiffs' termination by Cathay was their perceived participation in union activities." The judge added: "By dismissing them, Cathay hoped to send a strong signal to other union members to comply with management's line or else face a similar fate as the 49ers."
He also ruled that the pilots were defamed by the company's statements.
Following the recent enactment of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act, councils must now play a much bigger role in economic development and work closely with local people and regional partners to deliver growth.
The Act contains a number of provisions to spur economic growth and boost local accountability and democracy, including:
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people for a reason related to their disability.
Recently in the case of Coleman v. Attridge Law, the Employment Appeals Tribunal ('EAT') held the Act also protects people who, although not themselves disabled, suffer discrimination or harassment owing to their association with a disabled person - so-called 'associative discrimination.'
Anyone with a home or work address in the Greater Manchester region can now make an appointment to register for their identity card, with the first appointments taking place at the end of this month.
The new National Identity Service will soon be rolled out nationwide. The cards will cost £30 cards and provide a secure and convenient way for people to prove their identity.
The Government hopes identity cards will deliver a number of other key benefits to residents, businesses and local authorities, including:
- A universal and simple proof of identity that means an end to the use of
photocopied bank statements, phone bills and birth certificates, and brings
convenience for both organisations and individuals;
- Ensures that foreign nationals living, working and studying here legally are
able to easily prove their identity and prevent those here illegally from
benefiting from the privileges of Britain; &
- Allows citizens to use the identity card, which fits in a wallet or purse, in place of a passport for travel throughout Europe.
As more than 25,000 Muslims travel to Mecca for Hajj, the Government is urging pilgrims to know their rights and report scam artists.
In previous years, some Hajj pilgrims have been ripped off by a variety of scams, including paying for a five star hotel but getting substandard accommodation, or in extreme cases, some agents have disappeared and taken pilgrims' money with them.
A man who worked as a project manager at construction firm Balfour Beatty has been given the go ahead to sue his former employer for unfair dismissal.
Alan Dransfield, 59, was employed by the company for over four years and raised concerns over health and safety in November 2008. Two months after blowing the whistle, he was told the company wanted to make him redundant.
Mr. Dransfield appealed the decision and was put on leave for five months. His appeal was ultimately dismissed, however, and he became officially redundant in June 2009.
Mr. Dransfield has now launched a claim for unfair dismissal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. At a case management meeting on 27 October, a judge gave him permission to pursue a claim worth up to £300,000, which reflects his anticipated loss of earnings.
A spokesperson for Balfour Beatty commented: "Balfour Beatty takes whistleblowing cases very seriously and investigates each one following the processes we have in place."
Former Nomus Capital executive Jordan Wimmer, who is suing ex-boss Mark Lowe for sex discrimination, unlawful deduction of wages, unfair constructive dismissal, and disability discrimination, has claimed he hired a Russian hitman to kill her.
Ms. Wimmer has already claimed she was forced to watch father-of-two Lowe have a lap dance at a Burlesque nightclub in Paris and that he invited a young Thai escort wearing "hot pants and stilettos" to a business meeting.
In August, IT company Fujitsu announced 1,200 job cuts due to the difficult global economic climate. A process of consultation with elected employee representatives of Unite union began shortly afterwards.
770 staff from the 1,200 initially targeted redundancies have already taken compulsory redundancy. But Unite says up to 6,000 staff - nearly half of Fujitsu's UK workforce - are "at risk" of losing their jobs.
The jobs announcement came on top of an ongoing pay freeze and plans to close the company's defined benefit pension plan to future accruals. Unite says this would affect 4,000 UK employees and effectively reduce their pay package by an average of 20%.
[Continued from Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act - Part 1]
The other key measures in the Act include:
- Creating a Support Staff Negotiating Body to negotiate on, and agree, a
framework for all schools in England to use when determining school support
staff pay and conditions - as the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document
does for teachers.
- Strengthening compliance with School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document to keep up the pressure on reducing teacher workloads. Local authorities will have the power to issue compliance notices to schools which do not comply with the provisions of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document - which will allow or require local authorities to intervene if schools do not comply. The Secretary of State will also be given powers to direct local authorities to issue compliance notices to schools.
The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act received Royal Assent on Friday.
The Government has set a target that one in five young people undertake an apprenticeship by 2020. It hopes the new legislation will help it meet its target, while also ensuring high quality apprenticeships.
The Act also creates a new infrastructure to oversee further education and training, by establishing Ofqual as the independent, statutory regulator for qualifications and assessment.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson has announced new measures designed to ensure the right people are on the National DNA Database, as well as defining when people should come off.
DNA and the use of forensic evidence plays an essential role in fighting crime and providing justice for victims. The UK has been recognised as the world leader in developing the use of a national DNA database and catching criminals through reviews of cold cases.
Between April 1998 and September 2009 there were more than 410,589 crimes with DNA matches, providing the police with a lead on the possible identity of the offender.
Following a public consultation which received more than 500 responses, the Government proposes to:
The number of people in work has risen by 6,000 in the third quarter of 2009 according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics this week. Unemployment has also risen more slowly than expected. At 30,000 this quarter's rise is the lowest in more than a year.
2.46 million people are currently unemployed, which equates to 7.8% of the workforce. This suggests the UK labour market is performing better than most other major economies. The EU average unemployment rate is 9.2%; while in France, it's 10%; Ireland, 13%; Spain, 19.3%.
The UK rate is also lower than the U.S. (10.2%) and Canada (8.6%).
Housing Minister John Healey has announced increased protection for 8 million tenants in social housing. From 1st April next year, the rights of tenants in council or housing association homes will be enforced by a new regulator, the Tenant Services Authority.
Over the past twelve years, the Government has installed over 700,000 new kitchens, 525,000 new bathrooms and over 1 million new central heating systems through the Decent Homes Programme.
Healey wants to keep up the momentum and has directed the Tenant Services Authority to draft national housing standards based on what tenants say matter most to them, including repairs, maintenance, and anti-social behaviour.
The Government announced new rules for migrant workers yesterday. Under measures in the draft Immigration Bill, the five current application categories available to migrants will be replaced by one clear concept - permission to stay in the UK.
Over the past three years the UK has seen the introduction of e-borders to check individuals in and out of the country and the implementation of the points based immigration system so that only those who benefit the economy can come here to work.
The Government is now proposing a new Bill to bring forward a new legal framework to simplify and consolidate 40 years of Immigration laws.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
The use of Tasers by specially-trained units slowed in the last quarter, according to new figures published yesterday.
This year every police force in the country was given the right to issue Tasers to non-firearms officers with specialist training. The move followed a 12-month trial in ten forces across the country.
The new figures record the use of Tasers for the second quarter of the year and show they were used 169 times from April to June, down from 250 in the previous quarter. Officers discharged them 36 times over the period, compared to 62 for the preceding period.
Units have now used Tasers 1,267 times since the trial began in September 2007. They were discharged 226 times.
Policing, Crime and Security Minister David Hanson MP said:
[Continued from Immigration 101: Student Visa Sponsors - Part 2 (#44)]
Overseas higher education providers (continued)
If a provider is teaching full programmes to students enrolled full-time in the United Kingdom, they will need United Kingdom accreditation before they apply for their tier 4 licence. If they are delivering a 'study abroad' programme through a third party (such as a United Kingdom university), the third party will need United Kingdom accreditation before it can apply for a tier 4 licence.
The student visitor route (see below) will be appropriate for some study abroad students, provided that they:
[Continued from Immigration 101: Student Visa Sponsors - Part 1 (#43)]
All other providers outside the system of public reviews must show that they hold valid accreditation from one of the following bodies:
A "devious and manipulative" teenager who abducted then raped a five-year-old boy just eight days after he was released under a three-year community order for the rape of another seven-year-old boy, was handed an indeterminate sentence by Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court on Wednesday.
Judge Peter Lakin said the 16-year-old had an "unhealthy and completely unacceptable sexual interest in young boys" and it was likely he would not be released for a "very considerable period of time."
The teenager lured the five-year-old to his home on the pretext of helping to look for a lost football. "You took away his innocence. What you did has had a devastating effect upon the boy and his family," the judge said.
Continued from Living Wills: What Are They? Do I Need One? - Part 3]
(2) Advance decisions / advance directives (continued)
Valid advance decisions
To be valid an advance decision needs to:
be made by a person who is 18 or over and has the capacity to make it;
specify the treatment to be refused (it can do this in lay terms);
specify the circumstances in which this refusal would apply;
not have been made under the influence or harassment of anyone else;
not have been modified verbally or in writing since it was made.
Refusal of life-sustaining treatment
Advance decisions refusing life-sustaining treatment must:
be in writing (it can be written by a family member, recorded in medical notes by a doctor or on an electronic record);
be signed and witnessed (it can be signed by someone else at the persons direction - the witness is to confirm the signature not the content of the advance directive);
include an express statement that the decision stands 'even if life is at risk.'
When might an advance decision not be followed?
Continued from Living Wills: What Are They? Do I Need One? - Part 2]
(2) Advance decisions / advance directives
You can use an advance decision (also called 'advance directive') to indicate your wish to refuse all or some forms of medical treatment if you lose mental capacity in the future. You can't use it to request treatment.
A valid advance decision has the same effect as a refusal of treatment by a person with capacity: the treatment cannot lawfully be given - if it were the doctor might face civil liability or criminal prosecution.
Limitations on advance decisions
You can't use an advance decision to:
ask for your life to be ended;
force doctors to act against their professional judgement; or
nominate someone else to decide about treatment on your behalf.
As with advance statements, bear in mind that new drugs or treatments may be introduced in the future so you may wish to allow for new treatments even if refusing a current one.
[Continued from Living Wills: What Are They? Do I Need One? - Part 1]
Living wills and mental capacity
You can still make a living will if you're diagnosed with a mental illness, as long as you can show that you understand the implications of what you're doing. You need to be competent to make the decision in question, not necessarily to make other decisions.
It's best to put your wishes in writing and explain:
why you've made your decision about how you do or don't want to be treated;
what you understand about the treatment you're agreeing to or refusing; &
why you're making these decisions now.
A living will is a statement expressing how you want to be treated if you are no longer able to take care of yourself (e.g., following a bad car accident or because of a serious medical condition).
Every adult with mental capacity has the right to agree to or refuse medical treatment and you can make your wishes known in advance.
Living wills can include general statements about your wishes, which aren't legally binding, and specific refusals of treatment called 'advanced decisions' or 'advance directives.'
(1) General written statements
- The Foundation Programme Office may sponsor migrants on the two-year
Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists.
- Where the migrant's programme of study forms part of an overseas degree course, the prospective sponsor in the United Kingdom can be an organisation linked by common ownership or control to the overseas university. But the UK Border Agency (UKBA) may ask for proof of these links before they will consider granting a sponsor licence.
What education providers must show
Education providers seeking a tier 4 sponsor licence must show that:
Notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute
After the court receives form D36, it will check:
- Arrangements for the children (if applicable) are
satisfactory or even if they are unsatisfactory there is no reason to delay
issuance of the decree absolute;
- If the petitioner filed the application, six weeks and one day have passed
since the decree nisi was pronounced; and, if the respondent filed the application, an additional
three months have passed;
- There is no other reason why the decree nisi cannot be made absolute.
Granting the decree Absolute
Provided the court is satisfied that everything is in order, it will issue the decree absolute (form D37).
After this happens, the parties are no longer married and are free to re-marry.
Financial orders / ancillary relief
Reuters reports a United Airlines pilot was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Monday on suspicion of being drunk shortly before he was scheduled to fly a transatlantic flight to Chicago, U.S.A.
The pilot - Erwin Washington, 51, from Lakewood, Colorado - was charged with "performing an aviation function whilst exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit," a London police spokesman said.
He was due to fly a Boeing 767 aircraft with 124 passengers and 11 crew members on board.
A High Court judge has reopened the Baby P judicial review case brought by Sharon Shoesmith after the late disclosure of potentially significant evidence by Ofted.
The original hearing of Shoesmith's judicial review application against Haringey Council, Ed Balls, and Ofsted ended last month.
Six weeks and one day after the court pronounces the decree nisi, the petitioner can apply for a decree absolute.
** Note: the respondent, meanwhile, has to wait an additional three months after the six weeks have expired before he or she can apply.
Forms 66 and 84B
If the couple have children, they should check that the court has sent them form D84B (notice of satisfaction) which says the judge has decided that the decree absolute need not be held up on account of the children.
The decree nisi cannot become absolute if the court sends form D66 (notice decree should not be made absolute). Read Divorce 101: Child Custody - England & Wales (#19) for more information.
[Continued from Home Information Packs: Part 4]
More on optional documents: (1) home condition reports; (2) legal summary; (3) home contents forms; (4) searches; & (5) guarantees and warranties
1. Home condition report
A Home Condition Report contains information about the physical condition of a property, which sellers, buyers and lenders will be able to rely on legally as an accurate report. It is similar to a Homebuyer Survey and lets the seller and buyer be aware of any works or repairs that are needed to the property.
- must be carried out by a certified Home Inspector;
- must be written in plain English and not include technical jargon;
- gives you comprehensive information on work or repairs needed to the property, reducing the chance of nasty surprises later on.
Optional documents (continued)
15. Additional relevant information regarding:
- Energy performance, environmental impact or sustainability;
- Potential or actual environmental hazards that might affect the property or
- Price at which the property is available for sale or was previously
- Length of time the property has been available for sale either generally or
through a particular person;
- Location or address;
- Aspect, view, outlook or environment;
- Proximity and identity of local services, facilities or amenities;
- Welsh speaking communities in the local area;
- Use of the Welsh language;
- Property's contents, fixtures or fittings;
- History of the property, including age, ownership or use of the property or
land on which it is or will be situated;
- Tenure or estate;
Optional documents (continued)
12. If the property includes commonhold property:
- Commonhold community statement;
- Information about the rights or obligations of the unit-holder under the
commonhold community statement or otherwise, including whether the unit-holder
has complied with such obligations;
- Information about the rights or obligations of the commonhold association
under the commonhold community statement or otherwise, including whether it has
complied with such obligations;
- Information about the commonhold association and any information that might
affect the unit-holder's relationship with it;
- Information about any agent of the commonhold association or other manager
of the property and any information that might affect the unit-holder's
relationship with such persons;
- Information about the membership of the commonhold association;
- Information about the status or memorandum and articles of association of
any company related to the management of the property or the
- Information about any commonhold assessment payable for the property,
including whether payments for such assessment are outstanding;
- Information about any reserve fund levy relating to the property or the
commonhold, including whether payments for such levies are outstanding;
- Information about any planned or recent works relating to the property or
- Information about the responsibility for insuring the property or the
commonhold, including the terms of such insurance and whether payments relating
to it are outstanding; &
- Information about any lease or licence relating to the property.
Jordan Wimmer, 29, of Chelsea, west London, says her boss Mark Lowe, founder and owner of Nomos Capital, branded her a "bimbo" and "stupid blonde," and forced her to quit her £500,000-a-year job as a marketing executive. The Canadian is now suing Lowe for £4 million, claiming sex discrimination, unlawful deduction of wages, unfair constructive dismissal, and disability discrimination.
Wimmer claims was forced to watch father-of-two Lowe have a lap dance at a burlesque club in Paris "under great duress." She also alleges he invited a young Thai escort to business meetings: "In spite of everyone else wearing formal business attire, [the escort] wore hot pants which barely covered her buttocks, stilettos, and no stockings."
[Continued from Home Information Packs: Part 2]
Compulsory documents (continued)
6. Evidence of title documents
- For registered property
If the property is registered, certain documents that are available on request from the Land Registry must be included in the Home Information Pack. These provide an up-to-date official record of who owns the land, and consist of:
official copies of the individual register (made up of a property register, proprietorship register and, typically, a charges register); &
an official copy of the title plan.
In the case of the sale of a commonhold interest, official copies of the register and title plan should be produced for both the unit and common parts.
- Unregistered land
For sales of unregistered land, the Home Information Pack must include copies of a certificate of an official search of the index map (from the Land Registry). Also, it must have the documents that the seller intends to rely on to provide evidence of title to the property and the right to sell it.
[Continued from Home Information Packs: Part 1]
Compulsory documents (continued)
1. Home Information Pack Index
The Index lists the contents of the Home Information Pack and provides a checklist for sellers, buyers, estate agents and enforcement authorities.
It should also note any required documents that are missing, give the reason they're missing, and list what steps are being taken to get them.
The Index should be updated whenever documents are added to or removed from the Pack.
** Download a Sample Home Information Pack Index from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
2. Energy Performance Certificate / Predicted Energy Assessment
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) give home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property, using a scale of A to G (where 'A' is the most efficient and 'G' is the least efficient).
Home Information Packs for new homes sold 'off-plan' (i.e., before they are built) will need to include a Predicted Energy Assessment (PEA). But the PEA should be replaced by an Energy Performance Certificate when construction of the property is complete.
[UPDATE: SELLERS ARE NO LONGER REQUIRED TO PROVIDE HOME INFORMATION PACKS AS OF 20 MAY 2010]
Introduction to Home Information Packs
Home Information Packs first became mandatory in 2007. The Government introduced them to: (1) give buyers property information upfront before they incur costs; (2) reduce the number of aborted sales, gazumping and gazundering; and (3) help reduce delays and wasted time for sellers.
The Home Information Packs should not include any marketing or advertising material. They should only contain the "compulsory" documents listed below and, at the seller's discretion, certain other "optional" items discussed in Part 4.
The Government has announced it plans to rename Council Tax Benefit as Council Tax Rebate as part of a campaign to encourage pensioners to claim the help they are entitled to.
Campaign groups, including the Royal British Legion, are concerned that pensioners are reluctant to claim a 'benefit.' By renaming Council Tax Benefit as a 'rebate' they hope more pensioners will take up help.
Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said today:
"Changing the name makes it clearer that many pensioners are entitled to this money back on their council tax rather than seeing it as a separate benefit that they may not want to claim. We've listened to the Royal British Legion and others who've called for this change. This is part of making sure people get proper support and respect when they retire."
General Motors (GM) has announced it will cut 10,500 jobs in Europe after it cancelled its deal to sell Opel to Canadian firm Magna.
GM has yet to say where the axe will fall, however. It employs 54,000 workers across Europe, 5,500 of whom work in Britain for Vauxhall Motors.
The BBC reports unions in Germany are planning walk-outs in protest at the decision.
The unions fear two of the four Opel factories located in Germany could close under the GM plan, whereas under the Magna agreement they had received assurances that all four would remain open.
The German government, which had backed the sale of Opel to Magna, has demanded GM repay the 1.5bn euro ($2.2bn; £1.3bn) it loaned the company.
At Vauxhall, Unite last month reached a deal with Magna to limit any UK job cuts to 600 - and all through voluntary redundancies. The union will now have to seek a fresh agreement with GM.
The man responsible for negotiating the deal on behalf of Unite members - Unite general secretary Tony Woodley, a former Vauxhall employee - was jubilant about GM's decision to hold on to Opel, describing it as "fantastic."
Next, we discussed sexual discrimination (including the gender pay gap); racial discrimination; disability discrimination; and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion, and philosophical belief.
We then considered working hour rules and rest period requirements; workplace health and safety; the right to paid holidays; and national minimum wage law. We also discussed pregnancy, maternity, and paternity rights.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA) published its annual report this week. It shows that the UK is home to over a third of all online legal high retailers.
The Government has already announced it intends to ban man-made chemicals and cannabinoids which are sprayed on herbal smoking products such as "Spice" and the chemical solvent GBL by year-end.
Commenting on the legal high phenomenon, Wolfgang Gotz, the director of EMCDDA, had this to say:
No. 40 - Decree Nisi - England & Wales
After the court receives the forms and other documents discussed in Part 39, a judge will check the sufficiency or otherwise of the divorce petition and the supporting affidavit evidence. The court will also check that financial issues and arrangements for the children have been agreed or are in the process of being resolved.
If the judge is satisfied the petitioner is entitled to a divorce, he or she will issue a certificate of entitlement to a decree and fix a date for the pronouncement of decree nisi. Conversely, if the judge is not satisfied, the petitioner will be given an opportunity to file additional evidence.
If the judge decides the petitioner is entitled to a divorce, the court will send them Form D84A (certificate of entitlement to a decree). Form D84A states the date and time that the judge will pronounce the decree nisi. There is usually no need to attend court for the pronouncement.
After the court issues the decree, it will send the petitioner form D29 (decree nisi).
No. 42 - Adult Student Visas - Provider Licence
Licence withdrawal & suspension
The licence of your approved education provider may be suspended or withdrawn at any time. The affect this has on you will depend on when the suspension or withdrawal occurs:
Simple answer: now! If you've put off writing or rewriting your will because
you think it's morbid, you're too young or for some other reason, it's time for a wake up call.
If your already have a will, will's over five years old, now's the time to review it to ensure it still fits the bill.
If you've already written a will, you should review it every five years or following any major life change. For example:
Grainger appealed the decision on the grounds that belief in climate change is "political" and a "lifestyle choice," which should not be compared to religion or philosophy.
This week, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) rejected Grainger's appeal and found that a belief that carbon emissions must be cut to avoid catastrophic climate change was capable of amounting to a philosophical belief.
In reaching its decision, the EAT held that, unlike the position pertaining to religious beliefs, Mr. Nicholson would probably need to be cross-examined on his belief in order to establish it.
The EAT also enunciated a new five-prong test to determine whether a philosophical belief is worthy of protection:
No. 39 - The Answer - England & Wales
If the respondent (or any co-respondent) want to contest the divorce petition, they should file a defence (known as the 'answer') within 29 working days of receiving the petition. The fee for filing an answer is currently £200.
Directions for trial
If the respondent (and any co-respondent) answers 'No' to the question on form D10 'Do you intend to defend the case?', or if he or she fails to send an answer within the prescribed
period, the petitioner can apply for directions for trial.
When the petitioner asks for form D80, they should tell the court the grounds for divorce, since there is a different version of form D80 for each of the five grounds:
An approved education provider is a student's immigration sponsor while they are in the UK and must comply with a number of duties.
The education provider must be approved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and have a licence to bring students to the UK.
Once they are licensed, they are given a rating and added to the UKBA tier 4 register of sponsors; they can also issue visa letters to people who want to apply for student visas.
Once an education provider has been chosen, the student should ensure it is on the Register of sponsors; if the provider is not on the register, it will not be able to sponsor the student for a visa.
Risk of Marginalisation
If Cameron disengaged from Europe - for example, by refusing to implement the Lisbon treaty - the UK would be left marginalised internationally - much as it was before Edward Heath took the country into the European Economic Community in 1973.
The Obama administration has already expressed deep concern about Cameron's Euroscepticism - particularly after he decided to abandon the European People's Party in favour of a hodge-podge of Holocaust deniers and rightwingers from Poland and Latvia.
"It's a time of tumultuous waters all around us," cautions Pierre Lellouche.
"Wars, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan, global energy, Russia, immigration, economic crisis. It's time when the destiny of Europe is being defined."
"We need to be united, otherwise we'll be wiped out ... None of us can do it alone. Whether you're big or small, the lesson is the same. And England's risk is one of marginalisation. Irrelevance."
Representative democracy vs. direct democracy
Cameron may have also heard from his friend and mentor Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California - the state is currently experiencing a severe economic crisis, which many people attribute to its penchant for referenda and direct democracy.
In 1978, for example, the California electorate voted for a 30% reduction in property taxes and set mandatory limits on future tax increases. Thirty years later, California has a $26.3 billion budget deficit; the state has issued more than $3 billion in IOUs; and its government bonds trade at near junk status.
On 26 September 2007, David Cameron penned an article for the tabloid Sun newspaper, in which he provided a "cast-iron guarantee": If ever he became prime minister, he promised, "a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from [the Lisbon] negotiations."
Yesterday, however, Cameron U-turned and abandoned his pledge, saying he could "no more hold a referendum on the treaty than ... a referendum on the sun rising in the morning."
"The Lisbon treaty has now been ratified by every one of the 27 member states of the European Union, and our campaign for a referendum is therefore over. Why?" he asked. "Because it is no longer a treaty: it is being incorporated into the law of the European Union."
But is this really true? If elected, is Cameron really prevented from holding a referendum? Couldn't he just refuse to implement the EU treaty?
Assuming the Tories win a majority of seats at next year's general election, they could withdraw from the EU or refuse to implement the Lisbon treaty. Under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, Parliament has absolute power to change or repeal prior legislation - as the saying goes, 'no parliament can bind the hands of its successors.' Consequently, Cameron's U-turn is not motivated by legal prudence; it's a political decision.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced plans to cut 3,700 jobs across its UK branch network in a bid to modernise the way the bank operates. The redundancies follow a strategic review of the bank and will take effect from May next year.
Unite National Officer, Rob MacGregor, condemned the plans as "absolute
madness" and said the cuts were being made "to fund the crisis caused by City
No. 38 - Acknowledgement of Service - England & Wales
As discussed in Part 8 of Divorce 101, the divorce procedure in England & Wales has three main stages: service of the divorce petition; decree nisi; and decree absolute.
In this blog, we continue our analysis of the first stage: service of the divorce petition.
Service of petition
After the court receives the divorce petition, it will send a copy to the respondent (and any co-respondent).
Alongside the petition, the court will send the respondent a statement of arrangements (if the couple have children) - this is served only on the respondent, even if there is a co-respondent who will be served with the other documents.
The court will also send a 'notice of proceedings' and 'acknowledgement of service' form D10.
Notice of issue of petition
The court will then send the petitioner form D9H 'notice of issue of petition,' which states when the petition was sent to the respondent, acts as a receipt for payment of court fees (if applicable), and provides a divorce case reference number.
It also tells the petitioner what to do if the respondent (or any co-respondent) fails to reply to the petition.
Acknowledgement of service
(i) Respondent's options
No. 40 - Adult Student Visas - How Do I Apply?
The application process for adult student visas depends on where you are when you apply.
Students in the UK
If you're applying inside the UK, you should first choose the course you want to study and check that it's accepted by the UK Border Agency.
Pubs, clubs, restaurants and other retail businesses remaining open past midnight on New Year's Eve will be allowed to continue charging VAT at 15% on their sales until they close or until 6am on 1 January 2010, whichever is the earlier, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury confirmed yesterday.
Similar arrangements will apply to telecommunications companies in respect of calls and texts made up to 6am on 1 January.
Alan Curbishley has won his case for constructive dismissal against West Ham United. Curbishley left Upton Park in September 2008 after less than two years in charge - in circumstances very similar to Kevin Keegan's departure from Newcastle United - claiming he was forced to resign because the club ignored a clause in his contract giving him the final word on player transfers.
A Premier League arbitration tribunal unanimously upheld Curbishley's claim and dismissed a counter-claim by West Ham for the cost of employing Gianfranco Zola, his successor, and Steve Clarke, his assistant. The tribunal will now assess how much compensation the club will have to pay Curbishley for wrongful dismissal.
"I am obviously delighted with this result," Curbishley said. "I very much enjoyed my time at West Ham and never wanted to leave, but when I joined them I insisted that my contract contain a clause confirming that I would have final say on the selection of players to be transferred to and from the club.
Subject to domicile and residency requirements, either party can file the divorce petition provided they have been married for at least one year.
Most people opt to petition their local court for a divorce, but this is not obligatory; the petition can be filed at any divorce county court or the Principal Registry in London. (NB. There is a list of all divorce county courts in leaflet D183.)
To file the petition, you will need three copies of form D8 (the divorce petition). If you have children you will also need three copies of form D8A (statement of arrangements for the children). One copy of these forms is for you to keep, one copy is for the court, and one copy is for the court to send to your husband or wife.
Colin Woods, a delivery driver for Liverpool-based Home Delivery Network (HDN), lost his job last December after he was spotted peeing on his work van. He took HDN to an employment tribunal claiming he was unfairly dismissed.
Mr. Woods admitted urinating against the van, but said he did it in an "emergency." He also claimed there had been three similar incidents in the past involving other employees who had not been sacked.
No. 39 - Adult Student Visas - What Do I Need?
To obtain an adult student visa under the UK's points-based immigration system, an applicant must have 40 points:
- A place on an acceptable course with an approved education provider
(also known as sponsorship) is valued at 30 points.
- The applicant must also show they have enough money (also known as maintenance or funds) to cover their course fees and monthly living costs for a 28-day period ending no more than one month before the visa application is submitted. This is valued at 10 points.
No. 38 - Adult Student Visas - How Long Can I Stay?
As the table below illustrates, the length of time someone can stay in the UK on an adult student visa depends on the type and length of their course:
No. 37 - Adult Student Visas - Can I Apply?
All people aged over 16 years old who want to come to the UK (or remain here) to study can apply for an adult student visa.
16 and 17 years olds should be aware that they can choose whether to apply as an adult student or a child student, depending on the type and level of course they want to study.
You do not need a student visa if:
- you are an European Economic Area or Swiss national;
- you are a British overseas territories citizen, unless you are from one
of the sovereign base areas in Cyprus;
- you are a Commonwealth citizen with permission to enter or stay in the
UK because at least one of your grandparents was born here; or
- you have no conditions or time limit attached to your stay in the UK.
A great number of people die without a will. 27 million people in the UK have not made one - that's around a half to two thirds of the adult population.
Even where a will is made, it often turns out to be invalid. This might be because the deceased failed to comply with the strict requirements of the Wills Act; or lacked the requisite mental capacity; or was unduly influenced by someone else; or the will may have been automatically revoked upon divorce or the end of a civil partnership.
In such cases, a person is said to have died intestate.
Costs of equity release
The administration costs are usually between £300 and £600 and cover completion & application fees. Sometimes these fees are refunded by the lender / reversion company. Borrowers should ask about this & also about any future costs they would have to pay if they wanted to increase the size of their loan.
Again, these should be somewhere between £300 and £600. Borrowers should ask their solicitor for a fees breakdown. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services.
In Part 2, we looked at lifetime mortgages. We'll now take a look at another type of equity release scheme - home reversion plans.
Home reversion plans
With a home reversion plan, a property owner agrees to sell all or part of their property for an agreed amount; they then receive the money as a lump sum, as income, or both.
The money paid under a home reversion plan, however, never reflects the full market value of the property. This is because whoever buys it will not get their money back until the vendor dies or moves out.
As noted in Part 1, there are two main types of equity release product: lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans. This blog discusses lifetime mortgages. (Read Equity Release: Everything You Need To Know: Part 3 to learn about home reversion.)
There are two main types of lifetime mortgage:
(1) Interest-only mortgages
Here, borrowers receive a lump sum secured against the value of their property. They pay monthly interest on the loan & can pay it off if ever they decide to sell the property.
The interest rate may be fixed or variable. But if it is variable, and the borrower's pension or other source of income is fixed, they will find it more difficult to meet their repayments if interest rates rise.
To avoid this problem, most borrowers invest the money they borrow, often in an income annuity. They use the income to pay the interest on the loan, and what is left over is theirs to spend. But because annuity rates are low and depend on your age, this type of loan is really only suitable for very elderly property owners.
What is equity release?
Equity means different things to different people. In general parlance, it simply means "fairness." While lawyers think of equity as a set of principles used to mitigate the strict interpretation and application of the common law. And in showbiz, Equity is the name of the actors' union.
In conveyancing, equity represents the difference between the value of your mortgage and the value of your property. Where the value of your mortgage is higher than the value of your property, you're in negative equity - for people in this position, equity release simply isn't an option. But if the value of your property significantly outweighs the value of your mortgage, or you've already paid off your mortgage, equity release is definitely worth considering.
Equity release allows you to unlock the value of your property, without having to move home. It can provide a lump sum or a regular income, or both. The release of money can be used in any number of ways and to decrease the value of your estate for inheritance tax purposes.
Peter Mandelson has called for a three-pronged approach to tackle unlawful peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing.
The Business Secretary said that new laws in isolation would not be enough to tackle the problem, which costs the creative industries millions of pounds each year.
He called on ISPs and the creative industries to work with Government to ensure a package is put in place which balances education, enforcement and new business models to discourage unlawful downloading.
Speaking at the C&binet creative industries conference, Mandelson confirmed proposals set out in the recent consultation on unlawful file-sharing would form the basis of measures in the Digital Economy Bill.
The Government expects that warning notifications, followed up with targeted legal action by rights holders, should be the only enforcement action required to significantly reduce the level of unlawful file-sharing. However, the Government would have reserve powers to issue an order requiring ISPs to invoke technical measures. Account suspension will be an option of last resort to deal with the most serious infringers.