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It is welcome news that UK Government has dismissed reports that it was considering a scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel cars as a short-term economic stimulus measure. In a typical scrappage scheme, the government would pay car owners to scrap their current vehicle in return for credit against a new one, thereby stimulating the manufacturing sector. However, scrappage schemes are generally not a desirable policy, because they tend to be an inefficient use of public funds, work against the grain of transport decarbonisation, and send mixed price signals alongside Electric Vehicle subsidies.
George Floyd’s appalling murder and the global outrage it triggered has evolved into a broader protest about black disadvantage and racism in western countries.
Many people of goodwill, including many white people, have joined marches in the UK. Young friends of mine who have been on the marches tell me I should tread carefully writing about the issue because I cannot know what it feels like to be black in Britain.
The Coronavirus has challenged all sectors of the UK economy, and electricity markets have been no exception. Electricity demand is down by as much as 20%, causing periods of negative electricity prices and unprecedented strain on the Electricity System Operator (ESO), run by National Grid. The ESO is responsible for ensuring that the system can respond to lightning strikes and faults at power stations, and that power lines don’t become overloaded. To do this, the ESO takes “balancing actions”, paying to turn down some generators and paying to turn up others.
I recently gave evidence to the Public Services Committee in the House of Lords on how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the future role, priorities and shape of public services.
A number of key themes and issues were raised during the session that will be important in the months and years ahead. Many of these reflected the findings from our report Ending the Divide which provided some early insights into the impact of the pandemic on the Government’s health and social care agenda.
On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd gasped, “I can’t breathe.” On March 13, Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police who stormed her home as she slept. On February 25, Ahmaud Arbery was killed in the middle of the day by two white men, a retired policeman and his son. They got in their car, tailed him, and shot him twice.
The Government this week published a Command Paper, setting out its approach to implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.
The Protocol gives Northern Ireland a special economic status – within the UK’s customs territory, but in regulatory alignment with the EU single market for goods. The Protocol also requires provisions to be put in place to ensure that goods “at risk” of entering the EU single market via the land border with the Republic of Ireland are subject to the correct checks and controls. The continuation of the Protocol is subject to the ongoing consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly after four years.
Just as the main talks on a permanent Brexit agreement are currently bogged down, the EU had begun to panic that the already agreed Irish Protocol was also stuck in the doldrums. The UK government had thus been under heavy pressure to begin tangible preparations to enact the measures agreed in last December’s revised Protocol. Brussels was demanding border infrastructure, computer systems for customs declarations and an office in Belfast to house EU officials who would oversee the customs measures.
Both Wall Street and the City of London are speculating whether the next innovation in monetary policy will be the use of negative interest rates as a deliberate tool. The new Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, has changed the Bank’s position from that of the previous Governor, Mark Carney, who made clear that negative interest rates were not a proposition he was seriously considering. The central bank’s Chief Economist, Andrew Haldane, and one member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Silvana Tenreyro, have canvassed the idea.
When the coronavirus crisis first hit the UK, the greatest fear was that it would overwhelm the NHS. Ministers and clinicians had seen the catastrophic impact overseas – in first-rate health care systems such as Italy’s – and worried that hospitals here faced total collapse. Thanks to swift and concerted efforts, that fear has not been realised.
However, it is now clear that Covid-19 has hit hardest in this country’s care homes instead. New data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of deaths recorded in care homes in England and Wales this year is more than double the average from previous years. This is a national tragedy. Families across the country are grieving for loved ones.
Digital contact tracing looks set to dominate the political agenda for the coming weeks, if not months. Without a vaccine, and in the absence of widespread population immunity, the only methods to stop the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are those of standard epidemic control such as case isolation, physical distancing, contact tracing and increasing hygiene measures.