29 March 2018


29 March 2018

While browsing Facebook, I often come across articles with headlines like “100 genius hacks guaranteed to make a parent’s job easier” and “10 of the best parenting hacks ever”.
I don’t know why the algorithms target me with this content. I’m not a parent and have no plans to become one in the near future. But when the only alternative is to continue scrolling through incessant photos of food, or selfies with those annoying dog filters, I sometimes find myself clicking through.
One parenting hack which is always included is using internet access as leverage:
“If you want today’s wifi password you must 1) tidy your room 2) do your homework and 3) unload the dishwasher.”
This is an approach which the Ecuadorean embassy appears to be using with Julian Assange. The Wikileaks founder has had his internet turned off after calling Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office minister, a “snake” on social media.
Well, I guess grounding him wouldn’t have made much difference.
In other news, it was one year ago today that Theresa May’s letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was signed and delivered. Which means the UK has one year left as an EU member state. I’m going to enjoy it whilst it lasts.


Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot by Taliban militants. She was targeted for campaigning for female education, and was shot in the head in 2012 when she was just 14 years-old. Details of the visit have been kept secret but the Nobel Peace Prize winner is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Police investigating the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal believe the pair first came into contact with a nerve agent at their home. Specialists have found the highest concentration of the nerve agent on the front door of the address in Salisbury. Counter-terrorism detectives, of which there are 250 working on the case, will continue to focus their enquiries around the property during the coming weeks, and possibly months. However, Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for policing, reassured those living close by that the “risk remains low”.
In related news, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the show of support for the UK marks a turning point in how the world deals with Russia. Twenty-seven countries, plus the Nato mission, have expelled a total of 154 Russian diplomats in response. Johnson said this represented a moment when “a feeling has suddenly crystallised” and countries were saying “enough is enough” after years of provocation.
Christine Shawcroft, the chair of Labour’s internal disputes panel, has resigned after it was revealed that she had lent support to a council candidate suspended for anti-semitism. Alan Bull, who had been selected as a local candidate in Peterborough, was suspended after sharing an article regarding the Holocaust being a hoax. Leaked emails show that Shawcroft contacted members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) calling for Bull’s suspension to be lifted so he could stand in May’s local elections. She has said she is “deeply sorry”.


The outcome of the biggest UK hostile takeover bid since Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury’s in 2010 will be known by one o’clock today. GKN shareholders are voting on whether to stay independent or accept the £8.1 billion bid from turnaround specialist Melrose Industries. GKN investors, who appear evenly divided, faced a final plea last night, with Melrose claiming GKN directors are planning to sell 90% of the company – putting thousands of jobs at risk.
With a week to go before the reporting deadline, just half of UK companies required to report their gender pay gap have done so. As of 8am on Wednesday, 4,827 employers had reported their gender pay gaps on the government portal. The Government Equalities Office estimates that 9,000 will be captured by the reporting requirement. All employers with more than 250 staff must report their gender pay gap. Public sector employers have until 30 March and the deadline for the private sector and charities is 4 April.
Grant Thornton – the UK’s fifth largest accountancy firm by revenue – will no longer bid for audit contracts from the UK’s largest listed companies after reaching the conclusion that it is too difficult to compete with the so-called “big four” – PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG. However, it will continue to audit the five FTSE 350 companies with which it already works. Currently, the big four audit 98% of the FTSE 350. Grant Thornton’s move will likely increase pressure on policymakers to tackle the big four’s dominance and intervene in the market.
Conviviality, the owner of Bargain Booze, is close to going into administration after failing to raise £125 million in emergency funds. The company said it would appoint administrators within 10 business days, putting 2,600 jobs at risk. It has been reported that PwC is likely to be appointed unless there is a last-minute rescue by the banks.


What happened yesterday?
The day was characterised by further drops among US technology stocks, which affected the wider market due to the sector’s contribution to the record-breaking gains over the last year.
The so-called FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (owned by Alphabet) – had suffered their worst one-day drop as a group on Tuesday, and they fell further during yesterday’s trading on the back of concerns over regularity scrutiny and a more defensive mindset from investors.
Apple was down 1.1%, Amazon fell 4.38%, Netflix dropped 4.96% and Alphabet, owner of Google, shed 0.17%. However, Facebook did manage to reverse some of the declines seen in previous days, gaining 0.53%.
These movements brought the Nasdaq, where all of these companies are listed, down by 0.85% to 6,949.23, whilst the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell marginally, ending the day down 0.04% at 23,848.42.
It was a slightly rosier picture on the FTSE 100 which climbed 0.64% to 7,044.74.
Shire led the way, rising 14.01% after Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical revealed it was considering a takeover bid for the Irish pharmaceutical.
At the other end of the spectrum, Evraz dropped 6.05%. It was joined in the day’s bottom five by fellow mining companies Antofagasta, Anglo-American and Glencore, which dropped 3.9%, 3.82% and 2.85% respectively.
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.01% against both the dollar and the euro at $1.4077 and €1.1436.

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UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence
(07:00) Nationwide House Price Index
(09:30) Consumer Credit
(09:30) Current Account
(09:30) Gross Domestic Product
(09:30) Index of Services
(09:30) M4 Money Supply
International Economic Announcements
(09:00) Unemployment Rate (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Personal Income (US)
(13:30) Personal Spending (US)
(15:00) Chicago PMI (US)
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)


In The Telegraph, John Hemmings looks at the dynamics behind the –  at least temporary – resolution of the North Korea nuclear crisis. He urges caution but describes recent developments as a remarkable achievement, pointing out that conflict seemed imminent just months ago, and praising President Trump and President Moon Jae-in.
Writing in The Times, Iain Martin argues that, with a year to go until Brexit, “the emphasis should be on using it as an opportunity to improve the conditions of the country” rather than “refighting old battles”. He contends that anger amongst Remain supporters must give way to acceptance and that the substantial majority of voters want politicians to get on with preparations. He goes on to highlight potential benefits, saying it will lead to improved education and training and higher environmental standards. 


During the Cold War, RAF crew manning Vulcan bombers, a delivery system for a nuclear strike had it been ordered, carried eye patches. This was because the flash resulting from a nuclear detonation could cause blindness to those on board and they needed one good eye to continue operating and get themselves to safety. 


House of Commons
Oral Questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)
Business Statement: Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Andrew Leadsom
Backbench Business: Debate on a motion on autism – Dame Cheryl Gillian
House of Lords
Oral Questions
British citizens' confidence in the future relationship with the EU - Baroness Ludford
Introduction of new UK passports and status of existing ones post-Brexit - Lord Lee of Trafford
National border controls, facilities and staffing along with registration of EU citizens - Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Findings of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report 'EEA workers in the UK labour market' - Baroness Hamwee
Family Relationships (Impact Assessment and Targets) Bill [HL] - Committee stage - Lord Farmer
Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL] - Committee stage - Lord McColl of Dulwich
Effect of EU withdrawal on health and welfare of UK citizens and residents - Baroness Brinton
Humanitarian crisis in Syria - Lord Roberts of Llandudno
Scottish Parliament
General Questions
First Minister’s Questions
Ministerial Statement: Every Child, Every Chance: Scotland's First Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-2022
Scottish Government Debate: Scotland's Support for the (UNESCO) Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Stage 1 Debate: Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
Legislative Consent Motion: Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill - UK Legislation
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
No business scheduled
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled