The Telegraph 2024-07-08 12:13:09

Rachel Reeves to bring back house-building targets

Rachel Reeves will reinstate compulsory house-building targets as part of an overhaul of Britain’s planning rules.

In her first major speech as Chancellor on Monday, she will confirm that Labour will overturn Michael Gove’s decision to water down planning targets.

The announcement will raise fears that Labour will push councils to build on green belt land to help it meet its promise of building 1.5 million new homes over the next five years.

Speaking to business leaders in the Treasury, Ms Reeves will promise moves to speed up the construction of key infrastructure, and to attract private investment.

She will argue that changing the planning system is the sort of tough decision required to “fix the foundations of Britain’s economy”.

“Last week, the British people voted for change,” she will say. “And over the past 72 hours, I have begun the work necessary to deliver on that mandate.

“Our manifesto was clear: sustained economic growth is the only route to improving the prosperity of our country and the living standards of working people.

“Where governments have been unwilling to take the difficult decisions to deliver growth – or have waited too long to act – I will deliver. It is now a national mission. There is no time to waste.

“I want to outline the first steps this new Government has taken to fix the foundations of our economy, so we can rebuild Britain and make every part of our country better off.”

The Conservatives went into the election in 2019 pledging to reach a target of 300,000 new homes a year, with mandatory building targets for all local authorities.

But in December last year, following a Tory backbench rebellion, the then-housing secretary Mr Gove watered down these mandatory local targets.

He rewrote the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) to say the targets were only aspirational, and to give town halls a series of ways to curb house building if it would damage a local area.

Labour’s manifesto pledged to “immediately” rewrite the NPPF “to undo damaging Conservative changes, including restoring mandatory housing targets”.

It said that while local communities will continue to “shape house building in their area”, Labour would “not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need”.

The manifesto also pledged to build on more green belt sites if necessary by taking a “more strategic approach to green belt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places”.

‘Legacy of chaos’

In her speech, Ms Reeves will claim that Conservative rule had hampered growth and had left us trailing other major economies.

“We face the legacy of 14 years of chaos and economic irresponsibility,” Ms Reeves will say. “New Treasury analysis I requested over the weekend exposed the opportunities lost from this failure.

“Had the UK economy grown at the average rate of OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] economies since 2010, it would have been over £140 billion larger.

She added: “This could have brought in an additional £58 billion in tax revenues last year alone to sustain our public services. It falls to this new Government to fix the foundations.”

Labour’s manifesto outlined a slew of reforms to speed up planning and boost house building.

It said the party would ensure councils have up-to-date local plans on where housing and industrial development was needed and would fund the employment of hundreds more planning officers.

It also said that while a Labour government would prioritise brownfield sites for the construction of new homes and industries, this will “not be enough to meet our housing need”.

The party promised to build on more green-belt land, especially lower-quality “grey belt”: which is land technically in the green belt but is not of a particularly high landscape value.

However, the manifesto said the party would “prioritise the development of previously used land wherever possible, and fast-track approval of urban brownfield sites”.

Labour also promised a new generation of new towns, inspired by those planned by the post-war Attlee government such as Stevenage, in Herts, and reforms to speed up the construction of new infrastructure, such as road and rail links.

Elected mayors will be given greater powers to plan housing in their areas, and compulsory purchase rules will be changed to speed up building.

The aim is to deliver the biggest increase of social and affordable housing in a generation. Developers will be told to provide a greater proportion of affordable homes.

Sir Keir Starmer will meet England’s mayors on Tuesday. The Prime Minister said on Sunday that he would work “alongside them, sharing the ambition”.

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France election 2024 live: French PM to resign as Left-wing coalition wins most seats

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal says he will resign as final results early on Monday showed the Left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) won the biggest share of the seats in the French National Assembly.

The outcome means France is now staring down the barrel of a political deadlock and faces a hung parliament, putting the country in an uncertain and unprecedented situation.

The leftist coalition scooped up 182 seats, followed by Emmanuel Macron’s centrists in second place with 168 and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally with just 143 despite leading in the first round. 

That means all three main blocs are well short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly.

Mr Attal is part of Mr Macron’s Ensemble bloc, which will have to form alliances to run the government.

“Our country is facing an unprecedented political situation and is preparing to welcome the world in a few weeks,” Mr Attal said, who plans to offer his resignation on Monday.

But with the Olympics looming, he said he was ready to stay at his post “as long as duty demands”. 

The NFP immediately said it wanted to govern.

“The will of the people must be strictly respected … the president must invite the New Popular Front to govern,” said hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

In a statement from his office, Mr Macron indicated that he wouldn’t be rushed into inviting a potential prime minister to form a government. 

It said he was watching as results come in and would wait for the new National Assembly to take shape before taking “the necessary decisions”.

Ms Le Pen, thought to be eyeing what would be her forth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow”.

“The tide is rising,” she said. “It did not rise high enough this time.”

“The reality is that our victory is only deferred,” she added.

Joyous scenes in Paris

In Paris’ Stalingrad square, Left-wing supporters cheered and applauded as projections showing the alliance ahead flashed up on a giant screen. 

Cries of joy also rang out in Republique plaza in eastern Paris, with people spontaneously hugging strangers and several minutes of nonstop applause after the projections landed.

Marielle Castry, a medical secretary, was on the metro in Paris, when the projections were first announced.

“Everybody had their smartphones and were waiting for the results and then everybody was overjoyed,” said the 55-year-old. 

“I had been stressed out since June 9 and the European elections. … And now, I feel good. Relieved.”

However, there were also reports of unrest, with demonstrators clashing with police in Paris.

Pictures showed fires raging in city streets, blocking roads.

Meanwhile, in the cities of Rennes and Nantes, protesters threw fireworks and bottles at riot police, who returned tear gas.

The government said it deployed 30,000 police for Sunday’s runoff vote amid fears of protests turning violent.

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Watch: King fist-bumps West Indies cricketer

The King is no stranger to delivering the odd fist bump in place of a handshake. And as he hosted the West Indies cricket team at Buckingham Palace on Saturday, he demonstrated his prowess by sharing a friendly “spud” with player Mikyle Louis.

The King was taught some Caribbean hand gestures and greetings, including a traditional handshake and the “spud”, courtesy of Louis and his elder brother, seam bowler Jeremiah Louis, who has also been called up for the Windies.

He appears to have enjoyed the engagement so much that his loyalties were torn ahead of the team’s first Test against England at Lord’s on Wednesday.

Afterwards, team captain Kraigg Brathwaite gave a mischievous smile as recalled his conversation with the monarch. “He said he would probably be supporting the West Indies and we’re very grateful,” he said.

The King, as head of the Commonwealth, was likely being diplomatic.

However, he revealed that he would like to see more young people take up the sport in England. “The King wished us good luck and I hope we put on a good show for the young people,” Jeremiah Louis said. “He told me he would like to see more youngsters playing cricket in England.”

While his father, Prince Philip, was an avid cricket fan, the King has not always displayed flair for the sport. Just this month, he joked with garden party guests about his poor performance on the cricket pitch when he was at school, while more recent attempts to show off his cricketing skills have had mixed results.

An attempt at batting, during a visit to the Glamorgan County Cricket Club in Cardiff in July 2021, saw him dissolve into giggles when he missed the ball. “I need to get my eye in!” he laughed, before successfully hitting the second ball to cheers and applause.

At the palace, the King expressed his gratitude on being presented with a West Indies team shirt signed by the players, although he indicated – while touching his back and grimacing – that he was a touch too old to wear it competitively.

The King referred to his long standing back pain, attributed to numerous falls from horses over the years while playing polo, as he chatted to the players. He was also keen to express his deep concern at the devastation wrought across the Caribbean by Hurricane Beryl.

As he passed along the line of players assembled in the newly restored East Wing, he asked them whether they had managed to make contact with their loved ones since Beryl washed over the islands with such ferocity, leaving thousands across the region without power and water.

The King, who has made a “substantial” donation to the relief effort and spoke to the prime ministers of Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica on Friday, also asked them whether their homes and communities had been affected by the storm.

Team captain Kraigg Brathwaite said: “It was great to meet the King. I told him that the hurricane devastated the islands and caused a great deal of damage and now we’ve got even more to play for to make West Indians proud.

“I said that we want to bring some joy back and put a smile on their face. We want to give people something to cheer for. It’s the least we can do.”

He added of the forthcoming Test, which begins on Wednesday: “The history between the two teams goes way back and to be here, playing England, is great. I told His Majesty we were looking forward to the series. I never thought I’d meet the King and it’s good to be here talking to him.”

Jane Miller, the British High Commissioner for Guyana, who was also at the palace alongside her counterparts from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, said West Indians would be extremely proud to see their national team greeted by the King himself.

“Cricket is huge in the West Indies,” she said. “It’s the national sport and for the players to come here to Buckingham Palace and to be met and recognised by the King is wonderful for everyone back home.”

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Suella Braverman’s Tory leadership campaign dealt blow as key ally abandons her

Suella Braverman’s prospective Conservative leadership campaign has been dealt a blow after a key ally abandoned her. 

The former home secretary has seen the campaign organiser from her Autumn 2022 leadership bid switch allegiance to Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, who is also widely expected to throw his hat into the ring to replace Rishi Sunak.

Danny Kruger, co-chair of the New Conservatives, a right-wing grouping of MPs, is understood to be now backing Mr Jenrick, who quit his Cabinet post over the refusal by Rishi Sunak to take a tougher approach to immigration.

Both Mrs Braverman and Mr Jenrick pushed Mr Sunak to block any appeals against Rwanda deportation on human rights grounds, have called for the UK to quit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and proposed a cap on net migration, which was finally accepted for the Tories’ election manifesto.

However, Mrs Braverman has faced criticism from some MPs for her attacks on the campaign’s blunders before the polls closed and is the only prospective candidate to have suggested an accommodation with Reform UK leader Nigel Farage.

“These interventions have made her so unpopular that it’s not going to work. There’s a lot of affection for Suella but some of the things she has done showed a lack of judgement. It’s a pity,” said a senior Tory.

“Private polling is clear. It basically says that party members want the policies of Nigel Farage and the presentation of [Lord] David Cameron.”

Mrs Braverman and Mr Jenrick as well as former health secretary Victoria Atkins all took to the airwaves on Sunday to present their assessment of the Tory defeat – although all refused to say whether they would be standing.

Kemi Badenoch, the former business and trade secretary, is seen as a frontrunner with Priti Patel, another former home secretary, and Tom Tugendhat, the former security minister, also said to be considering pitching for the leadership.

On Sunday, speaking to GB News’s Camilla Tominey, Mrs Braverman said that parts of the Tory party still wanted “more of the same”, but she warned: “We’ve all got to be searingly honest, it’s going to be uncomfortable for some people, or we don’t have any hope of fixing it.”

She said she was having “lots of conversations with colleagues” surrounding a potential leadership bid. “I’m very flattered and very encouraged by what people are saying to me. But this is a really difficult time for our party, there are lots of things to think about,” she added. “We need to agree on the diagnosis of the problem before we reach a resolution on the prescription.”

Mr Jenrick said that migration was “at the heart” of the loss of trust in the Conservatives, citing the number of votes the party had lost to Reform UK.

Echoing the words of Ms Braverman, he said: “I’ve been a member of this party since 1997 when I was 16 years of age. I’ve been with it through thick and thin. I want to ensure that it has the right diagnosis of what’s gone wrong, and that diagnosis is not about personalities. It’s about principles and ideas.”

One Tory said one of the two should stand aside as it would be a mistake for both to challenge for the leadership. “Robert has appeal to the right because of his stance on migration but has an urbanity that also appeals to the centre of the party,” they said.

Ms Atkins, who is from the One Nation centre-left grouping in the party, appeared to pitch herself as a unity candidate. She said that the Tories must talk as a “unified party” and insisted that the public was still “instinctively Conservative”, wanting lower taxes and to “thrive in their personal lives and their livelihoods”.

Supporters of Ms Patel also portrayed her as a unity candidate, in being from the Right of the party but having drawn support from those from the centre and left in the form David Gauke and George Osborne.

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Major General charged with sexual assault

A special operations general has become the most senior officer in centuries to be charged with sexual assault.

Maj Gen James Roddis, who recently left the British Army, is due to attend Bulford Military Court Centre late this month to enter a plea.

Maj Gen Roddis, who was one of the pallbearers who helped carry Prince Philip’s coffin in 2021, has received a number of accolades over his military career.

They include a Distinguished Service Order which is given for highly successful command and leadership during active operations.

He was made an MBE and also earned two Queen’s Commendations for Valuable Service in 2008 and 2017.  

Until recently Maj Gen Roddis, who has been charged under Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, was the director of strategy for Strategic Command – an organisation comprised of special forces and intelligence units with a focus on the cyber and electromagnetic domains.

In 2014, Maj Gen Roddis was the commanding officer of The Highlanders, which consisted of troops from the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who were then the last Scottish battalion to serve in a combat role in Afghanistan.

The last time a Major General faced court-martial was in 2021 when Maj Gen Nick Welch was convicted of fraud regarding school fees.

Welch, who left the military in 2018, was convicted of a single fraud charge in March 2021 and was jailed for 21 months for falsely claiming more than £48,000 in allowances to pay for his children’s boarding school fees.

It is unusual for an officer of Roddis’ rank to face court martial.

In 1815 Sir John Murray, a Lieutenant General, was convicted of abandoning his siege guns without due cause in the Napoleonic wars. He was cautioned and denied permission to become a member of the Order of the Bath.

Roddis’ case is expected to go to trial later this year before a jury of military officers, according to the Mail on Sunday. 

The 52-year-old married father of three was charged after the Service Prosecuting Authority, the military equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, reviewed his case.

The Telegraph contacted Maj Gen Roddis for comment.

An army spokesman said: “We expect very high standards of behaviour from all our personnel and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously.

“Ex-Major General James Roddis will appear at Bulford Military Court Centre on 17th July 2024 charged with Sexual Assault contrary to Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. We will not offer further comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

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Bergerac will return to screens with a new face as the troubled detective

Bergerac will return to TV screens with a new face in the leading role.

The original crime drama aired on the BBC from 1981 to 1991, and followed Jim Bergerac, a detective on the Channel Island of Jersey.

Bergerac will now be played by Damien Molony, who was Hal Yorke in BBC Three’s Being Human, in a reimagining of the original material which is being produced by UKTV.

Producers have promised a modern twist on the much-loved crime classic, which originally starred John Nettles in the role of the troubled titular detective.

The new series will feature My Family actress Zoë Wanamaker and Life on Mars star Philip Glenister and will differ from the original in format, following one case over six episodes, rather than having a crime in each instalment.

Stars including Happy Valley’s James Norton and Poldark’s Aidan Turner had been linked to the role before it was secured by Mr Molony, who said: “I’m incredibly excited to be stepping into the role of Jim Bergerac.

“John Nettles has left an incredible legacy with big shoes to fill, and I hope I can bring a fresh new take on this iconic character. I can’t wait for audiences to join me on this journey.”

Bergerac will begin as a man grappling with grief and alcoholism following his wife’s recent death, and struggling to care for his daughter.  Like the original series, the action will take place in Jersey.

Tricia Warwick, chief executive of Visit Jersey, said: “For many, the words ‘Jersey’ and ‘Bergerac’ are synonymous, and we are delighted for the iconic TV series to return to our island’s beautiful shores for filming this summer.

“The modern re-imagining of Bergerac presents an opportunity to celebrate the show’s legacy in Jersey, whilst reaching a new generation of fans who will be eager to ‘jet set’ to the featured locations.”

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Racially diverse cast to play Anglo-Saxons in BBC drama

Anglo-Saxons will be played by a diverse cast in a new BBC historical drama about the Battle of Hastings.

The eight-part series King and Conqueror will tell the story of Harold and William’s epoch-defining struggle for the throne of England in 1066.

Some Anglo-Saxon characters, including a real 11th-century leader, will be played by a diverse set of actors.

Jason Forbes and Elander Moore have joined the cast of the drama which boasts James Norton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in starring roles.

Adding diversity to a high medieval period setting follows the BBC’s “colour-blind” casting of non-white stars as Tudor courtiers in another upcoming historical drama, Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light.

King and Conqueror is a CBS Studios co-production series acquired by the BBC.

When announced in 2023, CBS Studios executive Lindsey Martin said the scripts would offer “a bold and fresh take on a story that has endured for nearly 1,000 years”.

The BBC said at the time that the series would bring “Harold and William to life” with details of their personal lives, adding: “In the UK we learn about William the Conqueror, the Battle of Hastings and King Harold’s gruesome death in our school history lessons – but those headlines are all most of us can remember.”

The cast includes Norton as Harold Godwinson and Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau as William, Duke of Normandy, alongside co-stars Juliet Stevenson and Clemence Poesy.

Without any official announcement, further details have emerged of greater diversity in the cast, with up-and-coming talents Forbes and Moore chosen for the roles of Anglo-Saxons.

Forbes will play the fictional character Thane Thomas, with the “thanes” being a layer of nobility in the ethnically homogeneous society of Anglo-Saxon England.

Moore, of Trinidadian descent, will play the real historical figure of Morcar, an Earl of Northumbria who fought against Viking and Norman invaders, before being subdued by William after the battle of Hastings.

Morcar, whose parents were Anglo-Saxon nobles, later rebelled against William’s rule. The colour-blind approach has drawn criticism, with historian and sometime BBC collaborator Dr Zareer Masani saying: “Some of us, including people of colour, grew up thinking actors ought to look like characters they played.”

He warned that going against this approach could be “hugely confusing and downright misleading” adding that it was “absolutely crazy that they’ve applied this colour-blindness to a period when Britain was at its least multicultural, before even the Norman Conquest”.

Cambridge historian Prof David Abulafia, referencing the recent decision of the Anglo-Saxon England journal to scrap its name, said: “ Since the whole series will undoubtedly bear little relation to historical fact, I think we shall have to put up with the bizarre notion that there were black earls in Anglo-Saxon England.

“All the more so, since we are no longer supposed to talk about ‘Anglo-Saxons’. If they didn’t exist, we can do what we like.”

Several period series have chosen to disregard realistic depictions of historical demographics to facilitate a diverse cast.

Bridgerton, based on a series of romantic novels, has cast non-white stars for the roles of multiple Regency-era nobles, and Queen Charlotte.

It emerged in April 2024 that the follow-up series to the acclaimed Wolf Hall would employ a diverse cast to portray courtiers in 16th-century England, including the portrayal of white historical figures.

Lady Margery Seymour, the mother of Jane Seymour, would be played by Sarah Priddy, a British actress of Bahamian descent. Seymour’s sister-in-law Anne would be played by Cecilia Appiah, a British mixed-race actress, and Thomas Wyatt, the Tudor courtier and poet who introduced the sonnet to England, by Amir El-Masry, an Egyptian-British actor.

The BBC and CBS Studios have been contacted for comment.

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Justin Welby says wife felt pressured to have abortion

The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed that years ago his wife felt pressured into having an abortion by hospital staff who feared their child would have a disability.

The Most Rev Justin Welby’s daughter, Ellie Welby, 32, was born with dyspraxia, a condition causing difficulty in coordination and movement.

Speaking to the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, the Archbishop said when his wife, Caroline, was pregnant, it was “expected” that she would ask for a termination if a disability test she was offered came back positive.

He added that staff brought up the cost of raising a child with a disability when advising him and his wife on their decision.

The Archbishop said: “Before [Ellie] was born, during the pregnancy, there was some concern and a test was offered, but it was made very, very clear to my wife that if the test was taken and proved positive, it would be expected that we ask for a termination.

“It was not a neutral process, because they said it’s expensive.”

Support for families

The Archbishop’s comments came during a motion on disabled children put forward by the Ven Pete Spiers, an archdeacon from Liverpool, challenging the assumption that bringing a disabled child into the world is a tragedy.

Archdeacon Spiers urged healthcare providers to improve the support they give to the parents and families of disabled children and called on the Government to ensure they are provided with unbiased information about their unborn child’s condition.

He also implored the Church to consider ways of improving the human dignity of disabled children by offering better advice and support to parents and families.

The Archbishop told Church leaders gathered in York that his daughter was “exceptionally precious”. He said: “She’s precious because she’s wonderful, she’s kind, she is someone who gets cross and gets happy and gets sad. She’s not that severely disabled.

“She’s been chucked off a bus, or tried to be on one occasion, by a ticket inspector who didn’t believe that her disability card was genuine.”

‘Belief in human dignity’

He added that his family once discussed: “What would happen if she was healed, what would it look like? And one of the other children said: ‘She wouldn’t be Ellie.’

“I hope that this motion passes, not just because of Ellie, but because of our belief in human dignity.”

The motion, which passed by 312 votes to none, included emotional testimonies from other speakers who either lived with a disability or who cared for people with a disability.

The Archbishop has previously said he does not pray for his daughter in relation to her disability because it is part of her.

Under the current law, abortions are permitted until 24 weeks in most circumstances. However, if there is a “substantial risk” of a child being “seriously handicapped”, then an abortion can take place up to birth.

The Church has long campaigned against abortions on the grounds of disability, describing the law as “discriminatory” during a 2013 parliamentary debate.

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