16 May 2019

Natalie Northridge

16 May 2019

Good morning,

What do Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos all have in common? Aside from being amongst the world’s growing number of super rich the three all have a passion for space travel.  

The billionaire space race between Elon Musk (Tesla), Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) is heating up. The finishing line? Who can be the first to send a commercial, tourist “flight” into space

However, for Musk and Bezos, the race does not stop there - both want to see people start colonies beyond earth’s atmosphere. Musk is famously reaching for the stars and wants to start a colony on Mars. Bezos has set his sights slightly lower - he aims to colonise the moon instead... and then create pods which will orbit the earth, and house people. More recently both have announced plans to send satellites into orbit to supply the whole world with faster wifi from space. That’s one way of extending your phone battery life.  

If you think this all sounds like a bit of a billionaire midlife crisis you are not alone. Critics of the trio question the rationale behind these goals, as well as the practicality of the mission. Many have also pointed out that the billions of dollars spent on creating ways to colonise the moon or our neighbouring planets could be far better spent on more immediate issues such as tackling climate change. Maybe if these funds were poured into saving the planet, we wouldn’t have to leave it for redder shores.  

However, despite its critics, the billionaire space race is very much on, and we might see the first space tourists taking off soon. Branson’s “Virgin Galactic” has already sold 600 tickets to space, although the date of the first flight is yet to be confirmed. Musk’s SpaceX, which initially aimed to send commercial flights to space by the end of 2018, has now set 2023 as its new goal. Musk is also aiming to put people on Mars as early as 2025. Bezos, who uncovered his Blue Origin spacecraft last week, is aiming to be ready to fly by 2024, although some Blue Origin executives have suggested that a commercial flight could actually be possible this year. 

So how much would a flight into space cost? A seat on Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceship would only set you back $250,000. Bargain! But for now, we can only wait to see whose astronomical wealth will launch them onto the podium first as the confirmed winner of this very twenty-first century space race. 



President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over “foreign advisories” infiltrating US computer networks The President has signed an executive order to stop US companies from using foreign telecoms networks. Trump has not named any company specifically, although analysts suggest that the national emergency is mainly directed at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. The order gives the secretary of commerce the power to "prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security". Huawei has responded by saying that the move won’t make the US any stronger or more secure. 

The Jeremy Kyle show has been permanently pulled from air following the death of a contestant. Steven Dymond was found dead last week, shortly after failing a lie detector test on the show. The show was initially suspended, however after mounting pressure from Downing Street and mental health charities, ITV’s chief executive Carolyn McCall announced that the show will not be returning to air. The Jeremy Kyle show had been aired since 2005, and its daily episodes frequently had 1.5m viewers.  

Ahead of the upcoming European elections, German chancellor Angela Merkel has stated the Europe needs to position itself to stand up against China, Russia and the US. In an interview with the German Newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, she stated that “The old certainties of the post-war order no longer apply.” In the same interview, she also highlighted Brexit as the biggest turning point in recent EU history, and stated that Germany aims to be carbon neutral by 2050- although she admitted that this will be a challenge.

Business & Economy


Ofcom and the UK government are enforcing new rules whereby telecoms and pay-television companies will have to alert customers when their contract is set to end and of any better deals that might be available. The move comes as part of an aim to tackle “loyalty penalty” and increase transparency, in order to ensure that customers are given the best deal. The new rules will come into effect in February 2020. (£) 

A senior figure at Huawai UK has told Sky News that the company are willing to go the extra mile to reassure countries that their tech does not pose a threat to security. There have been concerns surrounding Huawai’s equipment providing 5G networks, as the company have a legal obligation to cooperate with China’s intelligence agencies. In a controversial move, the UK has backed Huawai’s technology, however the US is still firmly against allowing the company to provide a 5G network. 

American Airlines pilots raised concerns about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max in November, months before Ethiopia crash, according to audio obtained by CBS and the New York Times.  Though Boeing reportedly promised a software fix, this had not been carried out when Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 Max crashed four months later, killing 157 people. At present, 737 Max planes worldwide are grounded as investigators believe a software problem caused by faulty sensors contributed to both crashes. Earlier this month, Boeing admitted that they knew about another problem with the 737 Max aircraft a year before the fatal accidents but did not take any action. 



What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 closed ahead yesterday, up by 55.4 or 0.8% at 7296.95. The rise was led by Auto Trader Group plc, up by 21.80 or 3.83%. Other risers included TUI AG (up 14.40 or 1.79%), despite reporting a 3% decrease in bookings since last year yesterday morning, due to Brexit uncertainty and grounding of Boeings 737 Max aircraft. The travel company do expect an improved performance in the second half of the year. The biggest faller on the FTSE 100 was kingfisher, down by –8.80, or –3.64%. The pound was down 0.3% against the US dollar and the euro at £1.2866 and £1.1483 respectively. 

American markets have managed to salvage earlier losses after Donald Trump announced a delay of up to 6 months on imposing tariffs on auto- imports from the EU. The S&P – which initially fell 0.7% yesterday closed 16.55, or 0.58% up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 114.97 or 0.45% up and the Nasdaq was up by 87.65 or 1.13%. 

Housing Development Finance Corporation 
EZZ Steel Company DRS (Reg S) 
Angling Direct  
Ascent Resources 
Clearstar Inc (DI) 
Centralnic Group 
Cyanconnode Holdings  
Escape hunt 
MyCelx Technologies Corporation (DI)  
Union Jack Oil 
Woodbois Limited

Equatorial Palm Oil  
Victrex plc 
Wey Education  
Trading Announcements: 
Global Ports Holding 
Midwich Group 
Anglo Pacific Group 
Fidelity European Values 
Maintel Holdings 
Midwich Group 

Columns of Note

This week in The Times, Alice Thompson examines the negative impact that budget cuts are having on children with learning difficulties in the state school system. State schools are falling short in helping prepare children with learning difficulties for the future. Cuts have led to a lack of support in schools for children with mental and physical disabilities, and families of children with special needs are increasingly being forced to fend for themselves. Additionally, many children with learning difficulties are slipping under the radar, due to the cost of diagnosis. (£) 

In The Guardian, B Jessie Hill looks at the vote in Alabama, which will instate a near blanket ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Hill calls such anti-abortion laws an attack on the 1973 landmark ruling recognising that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy is a constitutional right. Although previous anti-abortion rulings have been overturned, as they are indisputably unconstitutional, Kavanaugh’s appointment to the supreme court can be viewed as a win for anti-abortion activists. Hill cautions that the future of Roe is uncertain, and that if Ruth Bader Ginsberg stands down, or Trump wins a second term, the banning of abortion in certain states is likely. 

Did you know?

The United Nations estimates that there are over three million shipwrecks on the ocean floors.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral Questions 

Exiting the European Union (including topical questions) 

Business statement  

Business questions to the leader of the house – Andrea Leadsom 

Backbench Business 

The definition of Islamophobia – Wes Streeting, Anna Soubry 

The International day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia – Nick Herbert, Crispin Blunt, Peter Kyle, Stewart Malcolm McDonald 


Flooding in Oxford West and Abingdon – Layla Moran 

House of Lords
Oral questions 
Increasing the number of social workers and improving their retention rate - Baroness Donaghy 
Increasing the priority given to teaching climate change science - Lord Redesdale 
Eradicating Japanese knotweed - Lord Greaves 
When the Government expect to report to Parliament on the outcome of discussions on Brexit with the official Opposition. - Lord Dykes 
Mental health of children and young adults in the UK - Baroness Royall of Blaisdon 
Equality of opportunity and beneficial quality of life for young people. - Baroness Grender 
Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill - Second reading - Lord Bethell 
Scottish Parliament 
General Questions 
First Minister’s Questions 
Members’ Business 
Community Pharmacy Scotland – Alexander Stewart 
Scottish Parliament
General Questions
First Minister’s Questions
Members’ Business
Community Pharmacy Scotland – Alexander Stewart
Portfolio Questions
Scottish Government Debate
Impact of Brexit on Scotland’s Food and Drink
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
No business scheduled.

Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled.