the Office for National Statistics
Here are this week’s headlines:
- MPs vote that animals cannot feel pain
Reported by Sarah Mullane
This month, MPs have voted, with an 18 majority for the government, that animals do not in fact feel pain or have emotions. During a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, Caroline Lucas brought forward a new ‘Clause 30’ which would move the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law, following exit of the European Union.
The debate resulted in a vote of 313 against and 295 in favour, with it appearing that all conservative and DUP members voted against the transfer of the protocol. This result is likely not to come as a surprise to many, as the Conservative party have long demonstrated their lack of consideration for animal welfare laws, including repeated debates on the status of fox hunting. Both Theresa May and David Cameron pledged within their manifestos to hold a free vote on overturning the ban on fox hunting, however, both scrapped their plans after public uproar and lack of support. Despite this, an overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs have expressed their support in repealing the ban.
Current animal welfare legislation is mainly sourced from the EU, with less than 30% of legislation in this area actually coming from the UK itself. Following this recent decision, the RSPCA has urged the importance of incorporating animal sentience into UK law, highlighting that current protection under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) does not extend to animals in the wild and laboratories, but instead expressly exempts them. The head of RSPCA’s public affairs, David Bowles, has expressed the decision as a “backward step for animal welfare.”
By refusing to incorporate this vital EU protocol into UK law, the government is entirely contradicting a vast quantity of scientific evidence which supports that not only do animals have feelings, but that in some cases their feelings and emotions are far greater than that of humans. Relying solely on the Animal Welfare Act (2006) would mean accepting that the only animals deserving of protection are those which are domesticated, and that no animal, whether a pet or not, is capable of being classified as ‘sentient.’ Not only would this admission leave all non-domesticated and profitable animals open to exploitation, but it would also undermine the UK’s claim in being a leader in high standards of animal welfare, instead demonstrating our lack of consideration and respect for those which we should be protecting.
Find out how your MP voted on fox hunting here.
- Bank of England pays men 25% more than women
Reported by Anna Flaherty
The Bank of England has carried out its first report investigating the gender pay gap. Based on the average hourly earnings, the results showed that men were paid a quarter more than women. Mark Carney, bank governor, has said that the reasoning for this was because there were more men than women in the top senior roles. He said that: “We are working hard to address this imbalance through inclusive and diverse recruitment.” He seemed to suggest that most men and women in the firm were paid the same amount of money, and that the only reason the statistics appeared negatively was due to few women being high up in management. However, surely this still presents the issue of inequality, as the workforce is not fully diverse at all levels of an employee’s career.
Despite this particular organisation showing stark differences in pay between genders, the overall gender pay gap in Britain fell from 9.4 to 9.1 per cent in the year leading up to this April. The Office for National Statistics stated that this was the smallest gap there has been in over 20 years, showing how the inequality is perhaps ameliorating.
However, particularly in the area of financial services, the gender pay gap seems to still be an issue that hasn’t been greatly improving. In order to remedy this, by April 2018, all UK firms and public sector organisations with over 250 employees will have to submit what the gender pay gap is in their business. This shows how positive action is being made in order to tackle the slow rate of improvement.
- Autumn Budget 2017 brings new housing schemes for first-time buyers
Reported by Radhika Morally
The Autumn budget was revealed by Philip Hammond this Wednesday 22nd November, which makes this his second Budget as Chancellor. Although it covered a range of issues, including: Renting, Transport, Tax and the Grenfell Tower fire survivors, there were several notable changes to housing matters.
The most significant of which was the change in the obligation to pay stamp duty for certain groups. Stamp duty is to be completely eradicated for first-time buyers on property up to £300,000, and for those in London and other expensive areas this will apply to the first £300,000. The remaining £200,000 will be charged at 5%.
This will result in 95% of all first-time buyers benefitting from this scheme, with 80% not needing to pay stamp duty. The reduction will apply immediately in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but will not apply in Scotland unless the Scottish government decides to adopt the policy.
In the rest of the UK therefore, stamp duty is paid on all residential properties with a value over £125,000. Above this the duty rate is staggered, beginning at 2% and increasing alongside the value of the property being bought.
Although the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) claims that the main beneficiaries would be existing homeowners since it expects all house prices to rise by 0.3% over the next year as a result of the change, the Chancellor insists that young people will benefit.
Mr Hammond has said of the changes: “This is our plan to deliver on the pledge we have made to the next generation that the dream of home ownership will become a reality in this country once again.”
Support on a wider scale for young people in particular includes £44 billion worth of investment in capital loans and funding guarantees, with the aim of building 300,000 net homes per year by the mid 2020’s. A further £400 million has been allocated to regenerating housing estate and £1.1 billion to identifying and preparing strategic sites for development.
- Harrods set to begin its biggest retail development
Reported by Megan Kearns
Harrods has begun a three-year refurbishment of its Knightsbridge store in order to raise its appeal to wealthy shoppers from China and south-east Asia. In the stores 170-year history this is said to be its biggest redevelopment as a planned £200m is being spent on refurbishment which includes pumping money into China’s most popular social media platforms to raise Harrod’s presence and altering signage to make it easier for Chinese customers to navigate the store.
Michael Ward, the boss of Harrods, comments that “Our Hong Kong and Chinese customers are extremely important to Harrods so are considered part of our redevelopment plans,” he said. “For us, the future is in the east and we have been focusing on that for a number of years.” This comment arguably reflects researched that one in every £5 spent in London by Chinese visitors is spent in Harrods.
In an interview with South China Morning Post he continued to say that “Many of our Hong Kong customers have second homes in London and may have children at boarding schools in the UK. “They spend a significant amount of time in London and at Harrods, so we don’t see them as tourists, even if they do get to benefit from tax-free shopping.”
In line with the refurbishment aimed to attract more shoppers from China and south-east Asia, Harrods recently opened a tearoom branch in the British House, Beijing which currently showcases more than 100 British brands.
Furthermore, Harrods only last month reported its eighth consecutive year of increased profits and annual sales, for the first time ever, were over the £2bn mark. Harrods noted this “significant boost in trade” is a result of a “weakening of the British currency” so perhaps hope increasing Chinese and south-east Asia custom may ensure further years of increased profits.
Read more here.