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Tuesday's Business and Politics round-up

20 Feb 2018

Person reading a daily news round up on their tablet Good morning,

Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out completely scrapping tuition fees yesterday, but called for better value for students in England. Mrs May launched an independent review into university funding and tuition fees, which will be led by author and financier Philip Augar.

Mrs May announced that the current university fees will remain frozen for at least another year as the review is carried out. However, abolishing the fees would result in higher taxes and limited number of university spaces, said the Prime Minister.

The overriding aim of the review will be to make post-secondary education “more flexible and diverse than it is today.”

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Mad Max: Brexit road

Brexit Secretary David Davis will aim to reassure the public about economic and social prospects after the UK leaves the EU, telling business leaders in Austria that Britain will not be “plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction.”

In the latest of the Government’s “road to Brexit” speeches, Mr Davis will say that that fears about a “race to the bottom” in workers’ rights, environment standards and City regulation are “based on nothing.” The Government in fact wants to oversee a race to the top in global standards with potential for improvement, the Brexit Secretary will state.

“We will continue our track record of meeting high standards after we leave the European Union. Now, I know that for one reason or another there are some people who have sought to question that these really are our intentions … these fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing – not history, not intention nor interest,” Mr Davis will say.

He will also call for continued close co-operation with the EU on regulations and standards, which would help to achieve “frictionless” trade with the bloc.Nevertheless, EU leaders have previously said that the UK will not be able to create its own regulations and expect them to be recognised across the EU market.

Corbyn and the city

Looks like today is a big one for political speeches, with Labour leader also aiming to send a message to the public. Jeremy Corbyn will vow to introduce reforms in the City of London if he becomes prime minister, making it harder for asset strippers to take over UK companies. He will say that finance should be “the servant of industry, not the masters of us all” and will call for a “fundamental rethink” of how the finance sector is regulator.

Mr Corbyn will use the case of Melrose Industries Plc’s bid for GKN Plc as an example where government action to prevent the takeover is justified. “Take GKN, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious engineering firms, which employs 6,000 workers across the UK. And yet GKN is currently facing a hostile, allegedly debt-fuelled takeover bid by Melrose, a company with a history of opportunistic asset-stripping.”

In a speech to the EEF manufacturers’ organisation later today, Mr Corbyn will also say, “For 40 years, deregulated finance has progressively become more powerful. Its dominance over industry, obvious and destructive; its control of politics, pernicious and undemocratic.

Question time

Senior executives of Oxfam will be questioned by MPs on the International Development Committee, following the scandal over the way the charity handled claims of sexual misconduct by its staff in Haiti. The charity’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring and Chair of Trustees Caroline Thomson will appear before the Committee and will have to provide more information about the safeguarding policies that were in place at the time of the event.

Representatives from Save the Children will also face questions about the charity’s response to the issues raised, while the Department for International Development will be asked to reveal details about its knowledge of the situation in Haiti.
The investigation follows allegations published in the Times that Oxfam aid workers working in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 had used prostitutes. The charity released a part of its internal report yesterday, saying it wants to be “as transparent as possible” about the decisions it made and that “more needed” to be done to protect “problem staff” from working at other charities.

Oxfam has agreed to stop bidding for UK government funding until it can show it can meet the standards required and has set up a commission to investigate allegations of exploitation by its staff.

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