It is commonly advised that during stressful periods – for example, when work is groaning back to life from its summer slumber and political ambiguity is just floating on the breeze alongside the falling leaves and the stench of Boris Johnson’s desperation – one takes deep, slow breaths to relax.
In for three, out for three. In for three, out for three. Repeat until bored or otherwise distracted.
Unhappily for me, I live in London. If people aren’t blowing cigarette smoke directly into my mouth as they pass, then the hot, noxious soot billowing through the underground will no doubt blacken my lungs just as quickly. The last thing I need is to gulp down a double dose of the stuff in the name of mindfulness.
No, I prefer to keep my breaths shallow and my exertion minimal – either that or enlist the support of a trusty paper bag.
And I am not alone. In fact, such is the growing public awareness of air quality and its lethal potential, that in May The Times has launched a campaign for a new Clean Air Act, which would give everyone the right to be protected from toxic air.
The bill has been drawn up by a coalition of environmental groups and scientists to compel ministers to act in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, requiring air pollution monitors to be installed in every postcode and outside every school and hospital. It will be discussed today at the parliamentary launch of the Clean Air for All campaign and is expected to gain broad support across parties.
Supporters hope that the government will adopt it in the forthcoming Environment Bill. Although, as prorogation will end the parliamentary session and bring nearly all parliamentary business to a close, it’s not deep breaths we’ll be taking, but a deep sigh until the bill is debated.
The draft legislation is set against the backdrop of some stark figures. It is estimated that poor air quality in the UK cuts short the lives of 36,000 people a year and costs the economy £20 billion annually in healthcare and impact on business. Globally, that death toll is seven million. The effects are particularly pronounced for children, who can experience stunted lungs and problems with long-term cognitive ability.
Needless to say, this is an important step towards tackling an issue which clearly deserves top ranking on the political agenda.
For now, how-to guides on avoiding air pollution remain the reality for city-dwellers, but, in the long-term, hopefully this breakthrough will give us all a breather (paper bag optional).
The prime minister’s second attempt to trigger a general election has failed just as the five-week suspension of parliament begins today. In all, 293 MPs voted for the prime minister’s motion for an early poll, far short of the number needed. Opposition MPs insist that a law blocking a no-deal Brexit must be implemented first.
Theresa May has released her resignation honours list. The former prime minister has awarded 57 peerages, knighthoods and other honours to her closest aides, including controversial former advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who left office amid accusations of bullying behaviour. May had previously accused David Cameron of cronyism for his honours list, suggesting his decision to award a knighthood to his ex-communications director Craig Oliver, made her want to be sick.
According to a new report by Public Health England, almost 12 million people were prescribed potentially addictive drugs such as sleeping pills and painkillers last year, but health officials are unable to put an exact figure on addiction rates. The report concludes that long-term use on such a scale could not be justified and more needs to be done to give patients advice and access to alternative treatments.
Business & Economy
Alibaba chairman Jack Ma is due to step down from his role today, marking the end of an era for the firm. The former English teacher co-founded the e-commerce giant in 1999 and it has since become one of the biggest internet firms. Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive, will replace him.
Heathrow terminal five is set to be deserted for the second day, as the 48-hour British Airways pilot strike continues. The strike, which is the first by pilots in the company’s history, meant that more than 1,700 flights were grounded. (£)
WeWork’s biggest shareholder, SoftBank, is urging the lossmaking property group to shelve its hotly anticipated initial public offering after it received a frosty reception from investors. WeWork’s parent company, the We Company, is aiming to raise between $3bn and $4bn in its floatation, but has faceed criticism from investors over its governance and complex corporate structure. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended Monday in the red after flat GDP figures put a dampener on stocks. The index closed down 0.8% as markets braced themselves for more Brexit turmoil. Takeaway delivery company Just Eat was one of the main losers of the day, falling 2.89%. Associated British Foods also fell two per cent after reporting a fall in sales this morning and British Airways owner IAG was down 2.51% as the ongoing British Airways pilots pay dispute rumbles on.
Sterling rose 0.7% against the dollar, to $1.24 and 22% against the euro, to €1.12.
US markets were doing better despite a mixed session in Europe, where investors weighed up strong data from Germany and signs of stimulus measures against the latest Brexit developments. The rally was boosted by gains of two per cent for energy stocks and 1.4% for financials.
Meanwhile, Treasuries sold off as investors anticipate a further rate cut after Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell reiterated on Friday that the US central bank would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”. His remarks followed data which showed jobs growth had slowed to a three-month low in August.
In commodities, Brent crude was up 2.2% after Saudi Arabia replaced energy minister Khalid al-Falih, one of the most powerful figures in the global oil industry.
What's happening today?
Anexo Group Plc
Gulf Keystone Petroleum
Down. 4 Dp67
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Unemployment Rate
(09:30) Claimant Count Rate
Columns of Note
Harry De Quetteville gives his take on why the most important day of the year for Apple isn’t really that important in today’s Telegraph. Today they launch their new “pro” iPhones, which are rumoured to have better cameras and wireless charging. De Quetteville argues that this isn’t anything new: there are myriad better phones on the market that can do the exact same. So why are people still buying them? He concludes that the allure of Apple isn’t cutting edge technology; it’s stylish and simple product design, interlinked services and unwavering brand loyalty.
In this week’s New Yorker, Robin Wright argues that Donald Trump’s stunt with the Taliban was not about negotiating peace. Rather, it was a tactical move to convince voters that he knows the art of diplomatic deals. Trump had hoped to broker a deal before the presidential campaign heats up, and he was willing to do anything – like bestow credibility on a terrorist organisation – to do it. (£)
Did you know?
Pop songs have been getting shorter, in part because online streaming services, like Spotify, pay artists for the number of times a song is listened to. The shorter the song, the more likely people are to listen to it often.
House of Commons
No business due to prorogation
House of Lords
Plans to change the law in respect of the offence of rape - Baroness Kennedy of Cradley
The operation of electric scooters in relation to the Road Traffic Acts and pedestrian safety - Lord Naseby
Trade continuity agreements to take effect once the UK leaves the EU - Lord Allen of Kensington
Regulating the use of facial recognition technology and ensuring appropriate privacy safeguards - Lord Clement-Jones
Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Bill - Second reading - Viscount Younger of Leckie
Time for Reflection
Mr Ameed Versace, Strategic Engagements Director, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Creating a Sustainable Future for Crofting
Scottish Government Debate
The Impact of the UK Government's Planned Immigration Policy and Mobility Restrictions on Scotland's University and Scientific Research Sectors
Election to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
S5M-17240 Edward Mountain: Bullying and Harassment in the NHS
House of Commons
Major sporting events available on free-to-air television – Lord Grocott
Lords Science and Technology Select Committee’s report ‘Science research funding in universities’ – Lord Bassam of Brighton
When the Government expects the additional 20,000 police officers announced by the Prime Minister will be deployed on duty; and their estimate of the numbers at that date of (1) police officers, (2) special constables, (3) police community support officers, and (4) police staff in forces in England and Wales, compared with the numbers in April 2010 – Lord Harris of Haringey
Report from the Select Committee on the Rural Economy ‘Time for a strategy for the rural economy’ – Lord Foster of Bath
Impact of the convergence of gaming and gambling on the level of gambling-related harm in the UK – Lord Chadlington
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Alexander Stewart: 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
The Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP)
Citizens Assembly of Scotland