Visits to UK rise amid fall in pound

Tourists outside Buckingham Palace watching as guardsmen take part in the Changing of the Guard in central London

The number of visitors to the UK rose to 3.5 million in June, up 7% from the same month last year, according to official figures.

The number of visitors from North America shot up by 34%.

While in the UK, the visitors spent £2.2bn, a rise of 2%, .

The increase comes as the weak pound makes the UK more affordable for visitors, but also follows terror attacks in London and Manchester.

Meanwhile, UK residents took a June record of 7.2 million trips abroad, up 4%.

However, with the fall in the value of sterling putting them at a disadvantage, the amount they spent leapt by 15% to £4.6bn.

The big increase in visitors from North America, from 483,000 in June of last year to 650,000 this year, was “clearly buoyed by the particularly sharp drop of the pound against the dollar since mid-2016”, according to Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club.

The number of visitors from Europe rose by 2% to 2.241 million.

The best month so far this year was April, with 3.7 million visitors coming to the UK – up 19% from a year earlier.

Over the April-to-June quarter the number of visitors from overseas rose to 10.75 million, up 8% from the same period a year earlier.

But while holiday visits were up by 20% to 4.7 million over the same three months, business visits were down by 4% at 2.4 million.

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and this continued growth demonstrates the industry’s increasing importance as a key driver of economic growth across our nations and regions.”

Google’s stance on neo-Nazis ‘dangerous’, says EFF

Stop Fascism protest sign outside the White House

Decisions by Google, GoDaddy and Cloudflare to eject a neo-Nazi site from their services were “dangerous”, a US-based digital rights group has said.

The Daily Stormer had denigrated 23-year-old Heather Heyer who died while protesting against a far-right rally in Charlottesville.

This led to a backlash in which multiple web firms kicked the site off their platforms.

But this response.

The tech companies have not yet commented on the EFF’s statement.

“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the EFF said.

“Because internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.”

It added that it believed “no-one” – including the government and private companies – should decide who is able to speak or not.

Google and GoDaddy said earlier in the week that it was cancelling the Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains as it had violated the terms of service.

And Cloudflare’s chief executive explained that he made his decision after the site’s administrators .

The Daily Stormer is currently inaccessible on the open web, after various domain providers and hosting firms – including one in Russia – banned it from their services.

However, it has relocated to the dark web.

Dark web network Tor has said it has no plans to stop the Daily Stormer from using its technology.

“Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us,” the Tor Project explained .

But the list of businesses that have shut out the Daily Stormer and other neo-Nazi or white nationalist sites has now grown very large.

Payment giants Mastercard, Visa , Paypal and American Express all said this week that they would take a tough stance on sites that engaged in illegal activities.

Paypal, for example, mentioned sites that incite hate, racial intolerance or violence.

And music streaming services offered by Google, Deezer and Spotify have said they would remove music that incites violence, hatred or racism.

Spotify said: “We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”

Kit Kat accused of copying Atari game Breakout

kit kats

Kit Kat’s maker Nestle has been accused of copying Breakout, the 1970s computer game, in a marketing campaign.

Atari, the company behind some of the most popular early video games, has filed a suit alleging Nestle knowingly exploited the game’s look and feel.

a game similar to Breakout but where the bricks were replaced with single Kit Kat bars.

Nestle said it was aware of the lawsuit and would defend itself “strongly” against the allegations.

Breakout was created as a successor to “Pong” by Apple founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

In the advert, which is titled “Kit Kat: Breakout”, a row of people, of varying ages and appearance, share a sofa and play a video game during their work break. In the game depicted, a primitive paddle moves side-to-side to bounce a ball into a collision with the horizontal bars ranged across the top of the screen.

Atari alleges that the similarity with its original game “is so plain and blatant that Nestle cannot claim to be an ‘innocent’ infringer”.

The legal complaint against Nestle, filed in a San Francisco court on Thursday, claims that the Swiss chocolate maker had hoped to exploit “the special place [Breakout] holds among nostalgic Baby Boomers, Generation X, and even today’s Millennial and post-Millennial ‘gamers'”.

Nestle’s spokesperson said: “This is a UK TV advert that ran in 2016. The ad no longer runs and we have no current plans to re-run it.

“We are aware of the lawsuit in the US and will defend ourselves strongly against these allegations.”

Pay growth to stay weak, says forecast

Pressure on incomes looks set to continue, with pay rises forecast at 1% over the next year, a survey predicts.

Despite falling unemployment, wage growth is weak because the supply of labour has also gone up, says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The CIPD said for every low-skilled job, there were 24 applicants.

There were also 19 candidates for every medium-skilled job and eight for every high-skilled vacancy.

The CIPD’s quarterly Labour Market Survey of employers, carried out in association with the Adecco Group, said the workforce had been boosted by more workers from other EU countries, as well as by older workers and former welfare claimants.

The report’s author, Gerwyn Davies, who is senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said pay had been expected to rise along with employment, but such predictions were “the dog that hasn’t barked for some time now”.

“We are still yet to see tangible signs of this situation changing in the near term,” he added.

“The facts remain that productivity levels are stagnant [and] public sector pay increases remain modest, while wage costs and uncertainty over access to the EU market have increased for some employers.

“At the same time, it is also clear that the majority of employers have still been able to find suitable candidates to employ at current wage rates, due to a strong labour supply until now.”

Not all recent surveys back up the CIPD’s view. Last week, found that the UK labour market was tightening, with employers finding it harder to recruit staff.

The survey, carried out by market research firm Markit for the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said that pay rates for both permanent and temporary staff were rising quickly because of a continuing fall in the number of job applicants.

Markit said last year’s Brexit vote was also driving some EU nationals home, making it harder to fill a wide variety of jobs.

Drunk air passenger arrests up 50%

Inside duty free shop

Arrests of passengers suspected of being drunk at UK airports and on flights have risen by 50% in a year, a Panorama investigation has revealed.

A total of 387 people were arrested between February 2016 and February 2017 – up from 255 the previous year.

Meanwhile more than half of cabin crew who responded to a survey said they had witnessed disruptive drunken passenger behaviour at UK airports.

The Home Office is “considering” calls for tougher rules on alcohol.

The arrest figures obtained by Panorama came from 18 out of the 20 police forces with a major airport in their area.

Trade body Airlines UK said it should be made illegal for people to drink their own alcohol on board a plane.

A total of 19,000 of the Unite union’s cabin crew members were surveyed and 4,000 responded, with one in five saying they had suffered physical abuse.

A former cabin crew manager with Virgin, Ally Murphy, quit her job last October after 14 years and told Panorama: “People just see us as barmaids in the sky.

“They would touch your breasts, or they’d touch your bum or your legs. I’ve had hands going up my skirt before.”

In July 2016 the aviation industry introduced a voluntary which most of the big airlines and airports signed up to.

The code’s advice included asking retailers to warn passengers not to consume duty-free purchases on the plane, while staff are also asked not to sell alcohol to passengers who appear drunk.

Panorama found more than a quarter of cabin crew surveyed were unaware of the code of practice and, of those who had heard of it, only 23% thought it was working.

One anonymous crew member told Panorama: “The code of conduct isn’t working… We’re seeing these incidents on a daily, a weekly, a monthly basis. It’s the alcohol mainly in the duty free that is the significant problem.”

  • Entering an aircraft when drunk or being drunk on an aircraft is a criminal offence, with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment
  • Licensing laws which prevent the sale of alcohol outside permitted hours do not apply to airside sales of alcohol at UK international airports. Bars can remain open to serve passengers on the earliest and latest flights – from 04:00 in some cases
  • About 270 passengers passed through UK airports last year* and travellers spend an estimated £300m on alcohol at UK airports each year – around a fifth of total retail sales of £1.5bn**
  • The Civil Aviation Authority reported a 600% increase in disruptive passenger incidents in the UK between 2012 and 2016 with “most involving alcohol”. They say the increase is partly down to improved reporting of incidents

Sources: Airlines UK* and UK Travel Retail Forum**

Manchester Airport is one of the signatories but when Panorama’s undercover reporter asked at World Duty Free whether she could open alcohol bought at a duty-free shop to consume on the plane, she was told “officially probably not, unofficially I think you’ll get away with it”. Another shop in the airport did give the right advice.

World Duty Free said it was committed to dealing with the issue and that it displays “clear advisory notices at till points, on till receipts and on carrier bags that remind customers that alcohol purchases cannot be opened until their final destination is reached”.

Airlines UK, which represents carriers such as Virgin, British Airways and EasyJet, wants the government to amend the law to make consumption of a passenger’s own alcohol on board an aircraft a criminal offence.

Airlines can limit the amount of alcohol sold to passengers on board flights.

Low-cost airline Jet2 has already banned alcohol sales on flights before 08:00 and managing director Phil Ward agreed further action was needed.

“I think they [airports] could do more. I think the retailers could do more as well.

“Two litre steins of beer in bars, mixes and miniatures in duty free shops, which can only be there for one reason – you know, they’re items that are not sold on the high street.

“We can’t allow it not to change.”

A House of Lords committee report earlier this year called for tougher rules on the sale of alcohol at airports.

Committee chair Baroness McIntosh of Pickering said: “We didn’t hear one shred of evidence to show the voluntary code was either working now or had any possible vestige of success in working any time soon.”

The Home Office said it was considering the report’s recommendations, which include revoking the airports’ exemption from the Licensing Act, “and will respond in due course”.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “I don’t accept that the airports don’t sell alcohol responsibly. The sale of alcohol per se is not a problem. It’s the misuse of it and drinking to excess and then behaving badly.”

She said they were working with retailers and staff to make sure they understand the rules.

Clarks in sexism row over Dolly Babe girls’ shoe

Dolly Babe shoe and Leader shoe

Clarks has been accused of “everyday sexism” for a calling a girls’ school shoe “Dolly Babe”, while the boys’ equivalent is called “Leader”.

The girls’ shoes carry a heart-patterned insole, while the boys’ insoles are decorated with footballs.

The shoe manufacturer has removed the Dolly Babe from its website following “customer feedback” about the name.

“We are working hard to ensure our ranges reflect our gender-neutral ethos,” Clarks said.

“We apologise for any unintended offence caused.”

However, the girls’ shoe is still available online from retailers including and and the Leader remains on sale.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, said the situation was unacceptable and “almost beyond belief” in 2017.

Skip Twitter post by @NicolaSturgeon

It is almost beyond belief that in 2017 a major company could think this is in any way acceptable. Shows what we are still up against.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 13, 2017


End of Twitter post by @NicolaSturgeon

Miranda Williams, a councillor and cabinet member for children and young people in Greenwich, southeast London, first took Clarks to task on Twitter this week.

Skip Twitter post by @M_Williams07

Looking at school shoes from @clarksshoes – appalled to find a Dolly Babe range for girls but a Leader range for boys @EverydaySexism

— Miranda Williams (@M_Williams07) August 6, 2017


End of Twitter post by @M_Williams07

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, also criticised Clarks. “To call a pair of shoes for a girl Dolly Babe is dreadful. It’s wrong in all sorts of ways … this is just really silly,” he told the BBC.

Carolyn Harris, shadow minister for women and equalities, described the situation as “blatant discrimination”, while Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat peer and shadow Brexit minister, called the name choices “depressing”.

Skip Twitter post by @SarahLudford

So depressing that in 2017 @clarksshoes could have marketed 'leader' range of shoes for boys and 'dolly babe' for girls.

— Sarah Ludford (@SarahLudford) August 13, 2017


End of Twitter post by @SarahLudford

Lesley Williams, a Gloucestershire councillor, tweeted that it was “offensive”:

Skip Twitter post by @LabourLesley

Dolly Babe range for girls? C'mon Clarks don't you understand how offensive this is? Dolly? Babe?

— Lesley Williams (@LabourLesley) August 7, 2017


End of Twitter post by @LabourLesley

Clarks said it was removing the Dolly Babe shoe, which it described as an “old and discontinued line”, from its stores.

The row follows another claim of sexism levelled against Clarks earlier this month by Jemma Moonie-Dalton, who about trying to buy school shoes for her seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son at a Clarks store in east London.

“In the boys’ section the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weatherproof with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind,” she wrote. “In contrast, the girls’ shoes have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather.”

Clarks said it was creating more unisex shoes in response to customer feedback and promoting its gender-neutral stance both online and in store.

But Williams said Clarks from a similar controversy last summer. In a that went viral, Welsh mother Laura Greenwood accused Clarks of making girls’ shoes that are “fussy, impractical and prone to scuffing – quite unlike your sensible, practical, durable ranges designed for boys”.

The row comes as the Advertising Standards Authority plans to .

The move, announced last month, follows complaints about adverts such as one for Aptamil baby milk formula that showed girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys becoming engineers.

Energy price cap on pre-payment meters tightened by Ofgem

About three million households are set to benefit from a tightening of the price cap on pre-payment energy meters, according to regulator Ofgem.

The regulator says the move will cut the average bill for pre-payment customers by up to £19 a year.

The change, which takes effect on 1 October, is set to cut the average annual bill for dual fuel pre-payment customers to £1,048 from £1,067.

On Sunday, looking at ways to reduce energy costs.

The independent review, launched by the government, will examine how the UK can keep household bills down while also meeting its climate change targets.

A temporary price cap on pre-payment meters was introduced in April this year. It is updated by Ofgem every six months to reflect the estimated cost of supplying energy.

Ofgem said the change to the cap would reduce bills for electricity customers by about £19 a year on average, while the cap on pre-payment gas prices would remain broadly unchanged.

Many pre-payment meter customers pay through token- or coin-operated machines. Some of these customers may have had difficulties paying in the past. Others include some tenants whose landlords have the meters installed in properties.

Ofgem has found previously that competition among suppliers for pre-payment customers is less developed than for those who pay by direct debit, cash or cheque. This means that there are fewer tariffs available and they are generally more expensive.

Figures published in August last year showed that pre-payment customers paid an average of £220 a year more than those on the cheapest deals.

‘Huge gap’ in living standards for ethnic groups

People shopping in Kingston

There are still “huge gaps” in living standards between different ethnicities living in Britain, research suggests.

A typical Bangladeshi household earns £8,900 less than that of a white British household, while a Pakistani household earns £8,700 less, according to the Resolution Foundation.

The think tank said a typical black African family also earned £5,600 less than that of a white household.

But it said incomes for these ethnic groups were now beginning to grow.

According to the Resolution Foundation’s research, Bangladeshi households income grew 38% between 2001-03 and 2014-16, almost three times as fast as the 13% growth seen by white households over the same period.

Pakistani households saw their income grow by 28%, it found.

Male Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers saw median pay increase by 28% since 2001, compared to just 1% for men of other ethnicities, said the report.

The think tank said the large gap in living standards between white households and those of ethnic groups in Britain was partly down to differences in female employment within the families.

In white households 72% of women were employed, but in Pakistani and Bangladeshi households the rate was almost half this at 37% and 35% respectively.

Nonetheless, the report found that the rate of female employment within these ethnic groups had increased significantly since 2001.

It found male employment for Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black men had also “increased substantially” over the same period.

Resolution Foundation senior economic analyst Adam Corlett said these “impressive employment gains” had helped their overall incomes grow at a faster rate than that of white households.

But he said the gap in living standards between ethnic groups and white British households remained “significant and persistent”.

“Differences in living standards between ethnicities in Britain too often go ignored,” he added.

Google employee anti-diversity memo causes row

google image

A Google employee’s opinion criticising the firm’s diversity initiatives is causing a furore at the firm.

In an internal memo, a male software engineer argued the lack of women in top tech jobs was due to biological differences between men and women.

“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he wrote in the piece which was widely criticised.

But the author said he had received “many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude”.

Posted on an internal discussion board, the article was published in full by tech website Gizmodo.

It argues that “the abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership”.

The unnamed author says women generally “prefer jobs in social or artistic areas” while “more men may like coding”.

Skip Twitter post by @justkelly_ok

I experienced this at Google, and was frustrated that they did nothing about rhetoric that was harming employees.

— Kelly Ellis (@justkelly_ok) August 5, 2017


End of Twitter post by @justkelly_ok

The article prompted a response from the search engine giant’s new head of diversity Danielle Brown, who said “the heated debate” over the issue had “compelled” her to say a few words.

In an internal email, published by tech website Motherboard, she said the article was “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages”.

“Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate,” she added.

“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”

UK ‘must prepare a Brexit fallback’

Mervyn King

The UK needs a “credible fallback” in case no EU trade deal is reached during Brexit negotiations, former Bank of England governor Mervyn King has said.

Lord King said British negotiators needed to show Brussels the country has an alternative over a bad trade deal post-Brexit.

The former governor, who served between 2003 and 2013, said no deal was “not the first preference of anybody”.

He said the government “probably wasted a year” on its contingency plans.

The first round of Brexit negotiations at the .

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Brussels might delay trade talks due to a lack of progress on the cost of the UK’s “divorce” settlement.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord King said: “We are where we are, and we are in a negotiation and it’s important that the negotiation succeeds.

“But it cannot succeed without a credible fallback position and that is something which I think is a practical thing that the civil service ought to be taking a lead on.”

Previously Prime Minister Theresa May has said: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

By Simon Jack, business editor

Mervyn King described the coverage of the Brexit debate both before the vote and since as “hysterical”.

When asked his own view of the economic impact of leaving the EU, he said: “I don’t know – that’s the only honest answer.”

One thing he is sure about is that as the UK approaches the Brexit negotiations, we must be prepared to walk away otherwise our position lacks credibility.

By walking away he means falling back on a trade relationship governed by the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

“If you are going to have any success in this negotiation you need to have a fallback position that the other side understands and thinks is credible,” he said.

“It is not first choice but we have to have an option otherwise the other side won’t listen. This ought to be something people can agree on irrespective of whether they voted for Brexit or not.”

If the UK left the EU without a trade deal with the 27 other nations it would rely on World Trade Organisation rules, and trade agreements between Europe and other countries may not be available to Britain.

On Thursday current governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney announced that uncertainty over Brexit was reducing growth in the British economy.

As a result the bank lowered this year’s growth forecast from 1.9% to 1.7%.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Households have cut spending since Brexit, says Bank of England’s Mark Carney

Mr Carney said: “Uncertainties about the [UK’s] eventual relationship [with Europe] are weighing on the decisions of some businesses.”

Lord King said: “I don’t know what the economic consequences of Brexit will be, that’s the only honest answer.”

Previously, Brexit minister Steve Baker said the government was preparing for all possible outcomes over Brexit talks, but added a no-deal with Brussels was unlikely.

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