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Today’s headlines

01 November 2015

MPs demand pollution and noise assurances on Heathrow Airport expansion

Expansion of Heathrow Airport should be contingent on a number of environmental conditions being met, MPs have said. The Airports Commission backed a third runway at Britain’s biggest airport in July. But a new report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said failure to address issues surrounding climate-changing emissions, air quality and noise could leave the Government’s decision more susceptible to legal action. Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies, chairman of the committee, said:  “Even without expansion, aviation is on track to exceed its climate change target. We heard evidence that those targets might be met in theory, but at present there is a policy vacuum and evidence-based scepticism as to whether they can be met in practice.” Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said he was confident an expanded airport would be able to meet EU air quality limits.  More info.

Labour to launch pro-EU campaign

Labour is to launch a campaign for the UK to stay in the EU today, and will say the country’s economic stability depends on its continued membership. The campaign, led by ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson, will be run separately from the cross-party Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, led by former Marks and Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose. In an official video released before the campaign launch on Tuesday, Mr Johnson outlined the benefits of Britain remaining in the EU, arguing it’s about jobs and businesses. “It’s about a better future. A future that comes from Britain taking our place at the top table and not turning our back on the world,” he said. “We can’t put jobs, business – our future – at risk. That’s why I’m in for Britain.” A total of 213 of Labour’s 231 MPs have signed up to the campaign, including the entire shadow cabinet. More info.

Energy department officials criticise proposed energy price cap

Proposals unveiled by Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to cap energy prices for customers who do not switch provider came under renewed fire on Monday with officials at the department of energy and climate change publically dismissing the measures. The CMA proposed the measures in July after a year-long investigation into the energy market revealed households had paid £1.2bn a year too much for their electricity supply. On Monday, the energy department published a response, which warned: “the safeguard tariff could entrench disengagement if people felt that [it] was approved by the regulator and once on it they would be less inclined to switch.” The CMA did not comment further on DECC’s response. It has a deadline of June 2016 for its final report, although says it expects to publish it by next April.  More info.

CBI summit finds business leaders worry about skills shortage

A snapshot poll take at the Confederation of British Industry summit found that attracting skilled staff was the main concern of 36 per cent of the 350 business leaders attending. Access to finance, another traditional concern of business leaders, was a worry for just 8 per cent. With the government committed to reducing net migration in the UK, concerns have been raised that the number of skilled workers entering the country will fall, exacerbating the issue. Speaking at the event, Carolyn Fairbairn, the newly appointed director-general of the CBI, called for an immigration cap that limits the number of skilled workers from outside the EU to 20,700 a year to be raised, “to enable you to bring in the best talent from around the world”. Most delegates also said they welcomed the move by the chancellor to implement 0.5 per cent levy on company payrolls above £3m, in an attempt to create 3m apprentices by 2020. But Ms Fairburn said the new levy “must priorities quality over quantity.”  More info.

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