The Telegraph 2024-03-12 10:00:35

Rishi Sunak announces new gas power stations to ease risk of blackouts

Britain will build new gas power stations, Rishi Sunak has said, as he vows not to risk blackouts to achieve net zero.

The country will need gas as a back-up when there is not enough wind or sun to create renewable energy, the Prime Minister says in an article for The Telegraph.

Despite having pledged to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 to achieve net zero carbon emissions, Mr Sunak says new gas power stations will ensure energy security and therefore the safety of the nation.

Writing in The Telegraph, he says: “When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, this is how we will keep your lights on and your bills down.

“It is the insurance policy Britain needs to protect our energy security, while we deliver our net zero transition.”

He adds that the approach of the Labour Party – which has pledged to create a green electricity system by 2030, five years earlier than the Tories – would “put us at risk of blackouts”.

Mr Sunak is seeking to draw a dividing line between the Conservative Party’s approach to net zero and that of Labour.

The Government said the move to back new unabated gas plants – meaning their emissions are not captured – was a “common sense” approach to net zero, that would ensure the country met its green goals in a “sustainable, pragmatic way”.

The Prime Minister has faced criticism from Tory MPs who feel he is moving too fast on his green targets and has been urged to reverse course ahead the election.

Mr Sunak says: “We will deliver net zero, but not by piling thousands of pounds worth of costs on to hard-pressed households, and not by imperilling national security by relying on the likes of Russia.”

He says the war in Ukraine has underscored the need to be self-sufficient for its energy needs, after Russia squeezed gas supplies to Europe, ramping up prices.

Under the proposals, which will be announced by Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary, on Tuesday, the Government will extend the life of existing unabated gas power plants and support the building of new ones to supply power until at least 2035 through a mechanism ultimately paid for by household energy bills.

There are 32 gas-fired power stations in the UK, many of them built in the 1990s and coming to the end of their life. The last new unabated gas plant was announced in 2018. Meanwhile, electricity demand is expected to grow significantly as more households adopt electric cars and heat pumps.

In addition, a parliamentary report last year said the UK was not on track to meet its 2035 clean energy goal because of delays to the construction of new nuclear, onshore and offshore wind. Last month, a separate report by Public First warned that delays to new nuclear power stations would leave the UK at risk of blackouts by 2028.

The announcement comes in a package of proposals to reform the electricity market, which include a plan to make power cheaper in areas with more onshore wind and solar power.

The Government said the plan would ultimately save households £45 on their annual electricity bill, although it could mean power is cheaper in Scotland than England.

A No 10 source said: “We will get to net zero but we will not be so ideological like Labour and ram it through so fast that it imposes costs that people in this country frankly can’t afford.”

Ms Coutinho will outline the plans during a speech at Chatham House in which she is expected to say the UK “must be realistic” in its move toward clean energy.

She is expected to say: “There are no two ways about it. Without gas backing up renewables, we face the genuine prospect of blackouts. Other countries in recent years have been so threatened by supply constraints that they have been forced back to coal.

“There are no easy solutions in energy, only trade-offs. If countries are forced to choose between clean energy and keeping citizens safe and warm, believe me they’ll choose to keep the lights on.

“We will not let ourselves be put in that position. And so, as we continue to move towards clean energy, we must be realistic.”

The Government said the decision was based on new modelling out on Tuesday from consultancy Baringa that it said showed new unabated gas would be necessary in a green electricity system by 2035.

The Climate Change Committee, parliament’s advisers on net zero, have said a green electricity system by 2035 would be more expensive and risky without unabated gas.

The Government plans to support new gas plants through its existing capacity market, which ensures generators produce power at times of peak demand, and which is paid through energy bills.

The move angered some environmental groups, who say it shows the Government is backsliding on net zero and may threaten green investment.

But the Government insisted support for new gas plants was compatible with its pledge for a clean electricity grid by 2035.

It pointed to the UK’s success in reducing its carbon emissions compared with other developed economies, as new analysis from Carbon Brief showed they are at their lowest point since 1879.

Tory backbenchers have repeatedly called for Mr Sunak to scale back his net zero ambitions, such as placing quotas on the sale of electric cars, to win over voters.

Labour has said it supports the use of unabated gas in its energy mix in line with the Climate Change Committee’s advice, which says it could produce around 2 per cent of electricity.

Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, said: “Of course we need to replace retiring gas-fired stations as part of a decarbonised power system, which will include carbon capture and hydrogen playing a limited back-up role in the system.”

Dr Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said the plan would “make Britain more dependent on the very fossil fuel that sent our bills rocketing and the planet’s temperature soaring”.

He added: “With the energy secretary and the prime minister banging on about building more gas plants, they could further put off green energy investors, which will surely damage our energy security, not improve it.”

The move was backed by the gas industry, which argues that it is necessary as a transition fuel to net zero.

Mark Horsley, the chief executive at Northern Gas Networks, said: “The Government is right to recognise the need for a secure energy system in the transition to net zero.

“Renewables are intermittent – [they] must be a major part of the net zero solution, but we need to accept that [they] can never power the UK alone.”

Rishi Sunak
Boosting gas capacity is the insurance policy Britain needs

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Police ‘broke rules by logging misgendering complaint against JK Rowling as hate incident’

Police broke freedom of speech rules by recording a “misgendering” complaint against JK Rowling as a “hate incident”, a woman’s group has said.

India Willoughby has claimed that Northumbria Police had formerly logged a “non-crime hate incident” (NCHI) over an online row in which the transgender TV personality was publicly called a male by the Harry Potter author.

While Northumbria Police deemed that Rowling had not committed a criminal offence, Willoughby leapt on the force’s response to suggest they had officially backed up her view that Rowling is transphobic.

However, Police were accused of breaching new rules on NCHIs, published last year, designed to protect freedom of expression and ensure hate incidents were not recorded just because someone was offended.

The new code of practice was issued in response to a retired police officer, Harry Miller, winning a freedom of speech legal battle after an NCHI was logged against him and he was visited by police for expressing the view online that trans women were not women.

The updated guidance states that members of the public have the right to “express personally held views in a lawful manner” and that police must consider freedom of expression protections when deciding whether to log NCHIs.

Maya Forstater, executive director of the Sex Matters campaign group, won a landmark legal case in 2023 which is referenced in the rules. It established that so-called “gender-critical” beliefs – that men cannot become women – are protected in law.

‘Protections for freedom of expression’

“Guidance issued last year makes it clear that a non-crime hate incident should not be recorded for saying that sex matters,” Ms Forstater said.

“That guidance reinforced protections for freedom of expression and expressly stated that a non-crime hate incident should not be recorded on the basis of someone being offended.

“JK Rowling’s comments clearly don’t meet the threshold for a non-crime hate incident.

“If they have been recorded as such, Northumbria Police should be required to defend its decision to record a woman speaking in factual terms about a man who has persistently hounded her as a ‘hate incident’.”

Rowling was accused of committing an offence by repeatedly referring to Willoughby as a male and using male pronouns. Willoughby was born male but identifies as female and holds a gender recognition certificate.

The writer expressed the view that Willoughby was “a classic example of the male narcissist who lives in a state of perpetual rage that he can’t compel women to take him at his own valuation.”

Willoughby claimed to have been told by police the incident had met “the threshold” to be logged as an NCHI and ensured an official record had been made of Rowling’s “horrendous comments, which are putting the trans community in danger”.

Under the new guidance issued last year, police forces were told NCHIs should only be recorded in cases which were motivated by intentional hostility to an individual and pose a “real risk” of escalating into significant harm or a future criminal offence.

‘Accurately sexing trans-identified men’ not discrimination

The rules state that forces should “utilise judgment and common sense” when deciding whether to formally log incidents and ensure doing so would “not conflict with freedom of expression protections.”

Rowling has regularly denied being transphobic but has expressed the view that accepting that trans women are literally women and therefore granting biological men unfettered access to female spaces poses a risk to women’s rights and safety.

She has said that no law compels people to “pretend to believe that India is a woman” and that “accurately sexing trans-identified men” is not discrimination.

The latest row between the pair erupted after Willoughby gave an interview in which the former newsreader revealed the police complaint and claimed Rowling had caused “putrid” online pile-ons with her comments.

The 58-year-old said: “I am a woman regardless of what JK Rowling says. To deliberately misgender me is grossly offensive, it is a hate crime, and it should be treated [in the same way as] calling a black person the n-word.”

Northumbria Police said it had nothing to add to its statement last week, in which it acknowledged Willoughby’s potential “upset” but said comments “did not meet the criminal threshold”.

The force declined to confirm whether or not Willoughby’s claim that an NCHI had been recorded was accurate.
Asked about claims it had breached rules over logging of incidents, the force said it had no further comment.

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Boeing whistleblower found dead

A former Boeing employee who exposed alleged safety problems at the company has been found dead.

John Barnett died from “self inflicted” injuries in a hotel car park on Saturday in South Carolina where he had been due to testify in a lawsuit against his former employer.

The 62-year-old drew public attention to what he said were bad practices at Boeing’s factory in Charleston, where he worked for seven years as a quality control manager.

He exposed alleged errors in the company’s manufacturing process, claiming that employees had deliberately fitted substandard parts to aeroplanes because of pressure to produce them quickly.

Some of the concerns were upheld by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2017, and Boeing was forced to take remedial action.

After his retirement the same year, Mr Barnett sued the company for allegedly denigrating his character and hampering his career progression because he had identified problems at the factory.

He had been attending interviews for the case in Charleston last week, but failed to turn up for a cross-examination by his own lawyers on Saturday.

A Charleston County Coroner confirmed on Monday that he had been found dead in his truck in a hotel car park, apparently from “self-inflicted” injuries, the BBC reported.

His death comes as Boeing faces intense scrutiny over its manufacturing process after a section of an Alaska Airlines plane’s fuselage fell off mid-flight over Oregon in January.

The incident did not result in any passenger deaths, but the plane was forced to return to the ground after the cabin rapidly depressurised. Passengers have sued the airline and manufacturer over what they say was a traumatic event.

A six-week investigation by the FAA, published last week, found “multiple instances” where Boeing and one of its suppliers “allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements”.

The regulator said it had discovered “non-compliance issues in Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control” and ordered the company to launch an action plan to fix the issues.

The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation.

The negative publicity from the Alaska Airlines incident and the scrutiny of its manufacturing process has seen Boeing’s share price fall 25 per cent so far this year.

The company has said that 2024’s employee bonus payments will be linked to safety and quality, not revenue.

A Boeing spokesperson told the BBC: “We are saddened by Mr Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

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Digital fingerprint on Princess of Wales’s family photograph suggests multiple images merged

The digital fingerprint of the Princess of Wales’s family photograph suggests that she merged multiple images using Photoshop.

Analysis of data embedded in the image indicates that a copy and paste function was used, most likely in the section featuring her face.

The method appears to be confirmed by the clear horizontal line stretching across the Princess’s chest, albeit not exactly in line.

The “metadata” suggests that the photograph was taken on Friday at Adelaide Cottage, the family’s Windsor home. The first edit was made at 9.54pm that evening, with the second at 9.39am on Saturday morning.

Data show that the image was saved in photo editing software Adobe Photoshop twice on an Apple Mac.

The photograph was taken on a Canon 5D mark IV, which retails at £2,929, using a Canon 50mm lens, which is priced at £1,629. The Prince of Wales took the photograph. 

The photograph’s various inconsistencies were highlighted by social media users.

The most obvious error concerned Princess Charlotte’s wrist, part of which appeared to be missing.

Others commented that the Princess of Wales was not wearing her wedding ring.

Meanwhile, her zip was not aligned on her jacket and her right hand, tucked around Prince Louis’s waist, was blurred and inconsistent with the rest of the image.

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‘Sexual abuse’ affected my relationships with women, says Earl Spencer

Earl Spencer has said the sexual abuse he allegedly suffered as a private school pupil has affected his relationships with women.

In a book to be published this week, the Earl, who is the younger brother of the Diana, Princess of Wales, claims he was molested by a female assistant matron at Maidwell Hall prep school in Northamptonshire in the 1970s.

He writes that the alleged paedophile, who was in her late teens or early 20s, sexually abused him and other pupils while they were in their dormitory beds at night.

Discussing the book on ITV’s Lorraine morning show, the 59-year-old was asked about how the alleged abuse had affected his relationships with women in his life.

He said: “I think that’s logically the case. I have to have been affected. This isn’t all about me. I look at my friends and contemporaries from this school and other schools that were equally bad and I can see the effect on them psychologically is so hard.

“The good thing is, you could plonk me anywhere in the world and I’m going to survive because I went through this.

“At the same time, something small but important in me died during those five years in that school.”

‘This is so appalling’ 

Earl Spencer told Lorraine Kelly that he did not plan to write the memoir, A Very Private School.

He said: “I just kept a little folder on my computer and I put memories of this school in there.

“Then I suddenly realised I had 700 headings and themes of nightmarish things that happened at the school, and happy ones – I made friends and had a good education.

“Then I met a friend who had been there who had his life completely devastated. He was sexually assaulted very seriously many times.

“He had never told anyone about it, and he told me, and I said ‘this is so appalling’ and he just grabbed my arm and said ‘someone has to write about this’.

“At that stage I was wondering if I would write it, because it’s quite a thing to take on, but then I thought ‘right, I’m going to do this now’.”

Maidwell Hall has described the allegations as difficult to read and has made a referral to the Local Authority Designated Officer.

A spokesman for the school has urged other pupils with similar allegations to come forward and report them to either the school, the local authority or the police.

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Potholes are your problem to fix, council tells 101-year-old woman

 A 101-year-old woman was told by her council that the potholes on her road were her problem to fix.

Residents in Watchet, Somerset, claim that they live on “the most potholed road in England” and accused their local authority of refusing to repair it.

Residents in the seaside town say they are unable to safely use the lane, which has a total of 21 potholes.

“They said we could do the work ourselves and fix them – absurd,” said Brian Pankhurst, 79. “We are all elderly residents and don’t have that kind of money.”

The lane’s residents include Sheila Nicholls, who at 101 is one of Somerset’s oldest people.

She said the situation was “awful” and “very unsafe”, with six people having fallen over on the road surface and two of those ending up in hospital.

‘‘How can you tell a 101-year-old to fill their own potholes,” Mr Pankhurst said.

Their road leads on to the former West Somerset Mineral Line, which is an 11-mile long route of a Victorian-era railway. It is now a popular walking and cycle route that connects the town to Washford village.

Somerset council admitted “there are some potholes” but insisted that the lane was “still accessible for walkers” and that it was not solely responsible for the lane’s upkeep because it was a public right of way.

Local authorities are required to maintain all public roads, whereas a public right of way is a privately owned road that the public are entitled to use but which the local authority is not necessarily required to maintain.

“This lane is a public right of way, not a public road, which is used by residents to access their properties,” a spokesman said.

“Therefore, the responsibility for the upkeep of this lane is complex and there will need to be a shared approach to maintenance going forward.”

‘Absolutely appalling’

But Mr Pankhurst said it was unacceptable that the council had not repaired the lane since locals alerted it to the potholes two years ago.

“Since an email in October from the council saying they would come and take a look, we haven’t heard anything. They think if they ignore us they can get away with it,” he said.

“The council are trying to say it is our responsibility, but if it

’s our responsibility why was it tarmacked in the first place?

“It is not a private road, it is a footpath – and that is public. Why should we be responsible for maintaining it? That is absolutely appalling.”

Locals signed a petition in 2022 asking that the council resurface the lane rather than filling each pothole individually.

‘Getting worse and worse’

But rather than listening to their concerns, he says the council’s highways team told them it “was nothing to do with them”.

“It has been going on for two years and it is getting worse and worse,” he said.

“They have tried to blame it on cars – but people have barely got cars round here as we are all retired; it is absurd. Everyone is getting fed up with it.”

The council spokesman added: “We do understand people’s concerns and we are going to work with residents to try to come to a workable solution.”

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Met chief hits out at ‘armchair commentators’ who criticise police

Sir Mark Rowley has attacked “armchair commentators” who criticise the police, as he defended officers who arrested an anti-Hamas protester.

The Met Commissioner said policing was “complex, challenging and messy” and officers were often forced to act quickly and decisively without the benefit of seeing a full incident unfold.

He said they were also forced to do their job in the “glare of hundreds of people who were ready to film their every moment” and then were quick to criticise them on social media.

His comments came in the wake of a row at the weekend over the arrest of a man carrying an anti-Hamas placard at a pro-Palestinian rally.

Niyak Ghorbani, 38, an Iranian man who was carrying a sign reading “Hamas is terrorist”, was pulled to the ground and handcuffed by officers during Saturday’s march through central London.

He was arrested over an allegation of assault but was later de-arrested after officers reviewed footage of the incident.

The incident has led to criticism of the Met, with Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, accusing the force of failing to tackle “the mob” and putting free speech at risk.

He said: “This shameful incident is the logical endpoint of consistently prioritising ‘community relations’ over even-handedly enforcing the law: the mob is emboldened and free speech is threatened.

“It’s a chilling inversion of what law enforcement is about. Two-tier policing must end.”

But in a lengthy statement, first published on the LinkedIn website, Sir Mark hit out at what he called “armchair commentators”.

He said: “The reality is that policing is complex, challenging and can look messy. We expect officers to arrive on the scene quickly and act with limited information based on what they see.

“They don’t have the benefit of being able to watch a full incident unfold before deciding what to do, they have to be decisive and act quickly. And they do so in the glare of hundreds of people ready to film their every moment.

“There aren’t many professions where from the minute you arrive at an incident to the minute you leave, you are filmed and then critiqued by an army of armchair commentators.

“Yet this is what happens to our officers and they still come back to work the next day.”

Sir Mark also warned of the impact this was having on his officers, claiming it could put people off remaining in or joining the police.

He said the Met would always support its officers and criticised those who attacked the police for “point scoring”.

“No police officer should be subject to abuse just for doing the job that the public and senior leaders ask and expect of them. We won’t accept it, and where it crosses the line into criminality we will take action.

“It is right that we are accountable and we will continue to explain ourselves in reasoned discourse and debate. But I will always stand up for my officers when they are abused or used for point scoring.”

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