VIRTUAL TEACHERS: UK university to trial ‘hologram’ lecturers

London – VIJAY SHAH via LEO KELION and BBC News

A university in the United Kingdom will become the first in the world to introduce ‘holographic’ teaching staff for its students, according to a report by national broadcaster BBC News. 

Imperial College London is bringing in 3D projection technology that will emit ‘holograms’ of lecturers who are unable to attend their lectures in person. While the teacher will not be physically present, the futuristic technology will carry across their voice and body movements. Similar technology was used for a Tupac Shakur music concert at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in 2010, and has also been adopted by airports and train stations.

 

The new technology, which was launched officially this past Thursday, will be at first used solely for students learning at Imperial’s Business School, but the university expects the technology to become more commonplace, perhaps eventually superseding video conferencing and Skype. The technology also means lecturers can broadcast to several halls, holding the same lecture simultaneously, which will cut down on teaching hours.

“The alternative is to use video-conferencing software but we believe these holograms have a much greater sense of presence,” Dr David Lefevre, director of Imperial’s Edtech Lab, told the BBC.

“The lecturers have a high-definition monitor in front of them which is calibrated so they can point at people and look them in the eye. They can really interact.”

Unlike previous such projections, more than one person can be included in Imperial’s ‘holograms’. Projected users also do not have to be even in the same country as the lecture hall for the technology to ‘beam’ their image in front of scholars.

The Imperial technology was developed with the Canadian firm, Arht Media. Lecturers using the technology must stand in a special ‘capture studio’ in front of a black background. The university will be able to make use of two such studios in Los Angeles, USA and Toronto in Canada, alongside a portable projection kit for visiting guest speakers.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Nicolas Babin, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Nicochan33

Simon Hewitt, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/shewitt_vp

“‘Hologram’ lecturers to teach students at Imperial College London” – Leo Kelion, BBC News/BBC (1 November 2018) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/technology-46060381

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:8oCongresoInnovacion05.JPG” – Thelmadatter, Wikimedia Commons (12 December 2013) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:8oCongresoInnovacion05.JPG

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MOVEMBER: UK charity launches annual moustache-growing drive to fight cancer

Ilford – VIJAY SHAH

British charity The Movember Foundation has launched its yearly Movember campaign to highlight its war on prostate cancer, which claims the lives of 11,000 men a year in the UK and will affect one in eight British males, according to figures by Prostate Cancer UK.

Every November, men are encouraged to grow moustaches in any style they choose to help raise money to help fight cancer, as well as partake in other fundraising activities. The Movember campaign has broadened its scope in recent years from prostate  cancer to increasing awareness in men’s general health, mental illness, testicular cancer and suicide prevention.

 

The Movember Foundation is also encouraging participants to commit to walking, running or jogging sixty kilometres in November 2018, with each kilometre representing one of the sixty men who take their lives every hour in the UK. The charity is also supporting Mo-ments, fundraising occasions that men and women can organise and host.

The charity aims to use the funds from Movember to support men recovering from cancers of the reproductive system, formulate new mental health approaches to prevent the high rate of suicides nationally among young men and healthcare campaigns for males to live longer and healthier lives.

Supporters of the campaign, informally known as Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, have become a distinctive presence in offices across the country, with the charity’s moustache logo now being highly recognised. This year’s November is being partnered with leading men’s products sellers Gillette and L’Oreal Men Expert alongside gym chain The Gym. The Movember campaign is also being supported by Prostate Cancer UK, the country’s leading research NGO into this dangerous form of the illness.

Movember is a worldwide movement, also taking place in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Spain. In 2014, 700,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas took part.

SOURCES:

Movember Foundation UK, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MovemberUK/

“Movember United Kingdom – Home” – Movember Europe https://uk.movember.com/?utm_medium=social_paidl&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=Global_Signup_2018&fbclid=IwAR2l0Y2smzUKwV_g4M0VlC45a16b5zc6BU2N571fJEiQO7wqeudOT6o42Xg

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Movember (8140182094).jpg” – Eva Rinaldi and Movember via Wikimedia Commons (31 October 2012) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Movember_(8140182094).jpg

LOVE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE: Rural matchmaking programme returns to British television

London – VIJAY SHAH via BBC

While city dwellers have many means and places at their disposal to find their special someone, it is more of a challenge for their country cousins. With smaller villages and fewer places to meet up, not to mention the toughness of rural life, people in the country have to work that little bit harder to couple up.

 

The United Kingdom’s public service broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been a helping hand to lonely countryside hearts lately, with a difference. They will be meeting their other half via the concrete jungle, with the programme showing how people from the city try to settle down with their rural sweetheart in a world very different from their own. Their hit programme, Love in the Countryside, which helps country singletons find love, is now returning to its channel BBC Two for a second series, reports the BBC’s news division.

Love in the Countryside is presented by Sara Cox, who herself grew up on a farm, returning to the fields to help those who rely on the land for their livelihoods find love with like-minded people. The show has even helped cross boundaries, getting urban people desperate to leave the rat race of city life for a more serene marriage and relationship out in the provinces. The show follows the new couples as they adjust to very different settings and lifestyles. The programme is produced for the BBC by Boundless, an agency owned by international media producer Fremantle.

Speaking with the BBC, Cox said: “I’m so excited about dusting off my wellies and heading back out into beautiful British countryside to help find love for more rural romantics.”

The programme’s controller, Patrick Holland, commented: “Love in the Countryside brought a fresh tone and joy to BBC Two’s evening schedule and with Sara Cox at the helm, we are excited to see how the series can grow and develop.”

The BBC is currently on the lookout for rural singletons looking to bring back an urban significant other, or city types searching for a more tranquil setting for their love story. Interested people can apply via the BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/takepart/love_countryside or email: LoveInTheCountryside@boundlessproductions.tv

SOURCES:

HEM Journalism Portal, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-journalism-portal

media.info UK tv, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/minfoUKtv

BBC Press Office, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/bbcpress

“Love in the Countryside returns to BBC Two for a second series to help more country singletons find love” – BBC Media Centre/BBC (7 October 2018) https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2018/love-in-the-countryside

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free stock photo of countryside, couple, field” – Scott Webb, Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-couple-love-people-136395/

FOUR MONTHS OF SNOW?: UK may see harsh winter this December

London – VIJAY SHAH via CONNOR BOYD and Mail Online

As autumn officially begins in the United Kingdom, the country has been warned that there is the chance of four months of snow, reports the newspaper Daily Mail. Experts say there could soon be the arrival of wintry conditions set to outclass even the ‘Beast of the East’ phenomenon that has gripped the nation in previous winters.

In summer 2018, the country experienced a record-breaking heatwave that lasted three weeks and saw reservoirs and rivers dry out and hosepipe bans instated. Now this winter could see weather records being broken again, this time in snowfall. Some meteorologists say the cold snap could kick in from November and extend into the first couple of months of the New Year.

 

Cold fronts sweeping from the Arctic region and the Atlantic Ocean could create a perfect storm of sustained snow, combined with the presence of the four-yearly El Niño weather system, seeing icy temperatures from December to February, according to forecaster James Madden, from the company Exacta Weather in an interview with the Daily Express newspaper. The expected cold snap could rival the ‘big freeze’ of 2010, the Mail claimed. A decline in solar activity is also expected around this winter, further exacerbating the frosty situation. El Niño may weaken the air currents which keep Britain warm, creating what meteorologists call a ‘Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW)’, which was responsible for the difficult winter of 2010.

Madden told the Express: All our long-range projections have been showing for quite some time that December is likely to be a colder than average month overall and we are expecting several widespread snowy periods.

‘This year we are expecting potentially hazardous winter conditions from early on in the season.”

However, such a scenario is highly unusual, even for the UK’s infamously variable weather, and the Met Office, which measures, studies and reports on the country’s weather, said predictions become difficult to make for longer than a 30-day period.

SOURCES:

Rabia Ali/Facebook

“Britain could be set for FOUR MONTHS of snow in ‘coldest winter for a decade’ following record-setting summer heatwave” – Connor Boyd, Mail Online News/Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group/Associated Newspapers Ltd (21 September 2018) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6194981/Britain-set-FOUR-MONTHS-snow-coldest-winter-decade.html?ito=social-facebook

IMAGE CREDIT:

“NX2961 : Winter at Kiltersan” – David Mapley, geograph (27 June 2008) http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/862525 © Copyright David Mapley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

WINGLIGHTS360 ON KICKSTARTER: Funding a new revolution in cycling safety

London – VIJAY SHAH

If you are a cyclist, or just happen to know someone who lives and breathes hi-viz, Lycra, and the wind through their hair while getting about on pedals and two wheels, you will know that cycling is a fun, adventurous and healthy sport. But like any sport, cycling comes with risks, and especially for urban cyclists, the roads of our cities are hazardous places where dangers can be unexpected.

 

On any road network, junctions pose the most danger for cyclists. According to the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 75% of the 19,000 bicycle accidents a year in the country happen at junctions, where cyclists are forced to contend with often heavy traffic flows, large vehicles and blind spots. Many of these accidents are caused by drivers not spotting cyclists or being unaware of a cyclist making a turn at a crossroads. Today, a quarter of accidents involving cars and cycles are caused by drivers’ failure to judge cyclists’ paths, especially at night, where hand signals by cyclists may not be noticed by drivers. It is this type of statistic that has also discouraged many from taking up daily cycling. Whilst the number of commuters has increased by 144% over the last decade, 68% of non-cyclists still believe it is too dangerous to cycle on the roads, making cycle safety a key issue now more than ever.

Unlike cars, bikes have no way of indicating changes in direction, but a freshly minted technology startup dedicated to producing innovative cycling safety equipment has a solution to help reduce the large numbers of cycling injuries and deaths on Britain’s roads.

CYCL, a London-based cycling technology startup managed by co-founder and chief technology officer, Agostino Stilli, launched a revolutionary new product, WingLights, in 2015, with help from public donations raised via Kickstarter crowdfunding. This simple, yet ingenious, technology involves LED devices attached to the cyclist’s bicycle handlebars, which behave like the turn signals on motor vehicles. Designed to be lightweight, waterproof, shockproof and robust for outdoors use, the product was featured on the BBC programme ‘Dragons’ Den’ in 2017, where it was backed by dragon Nick Jenkins. The gadget was publicised on WIRED, Business Insider and Forbes, and was adopted as the ‘Future of Transport’ by the UK Government.

WingLights began to light the way for cycling safety innovation and in the three years since they were launched, CYCL has fitted 50,000 devices to bikes, including the entire delivery fleet at the British arm of  the takeaway restaurant chain Domino’s Pizza.

Three years after its launch, CYCL has returned to Kickstarter to raise money for the latest iteration of WingLights, inspired by the feedback left by the gadget’s users and the original project’s supporters from Kickstarter. One story in particular stuck out. A cyclist going for a coastal ride in Dorset lost both her front and back lights and retained visibility on her route only by tapping WingLights repeatedly for hours before getting home safely (the original WingLights switch off automatically after 45 seconds). There was a clear need for a steady light mode to provide constant visibility.

 

CYCL’s design team went back to the drawing board, developing an enhanced version of the WingLights with permanent white/red side light functions. They also added an improved utility function where all the cyclist needs to do is snap the gadget on the ends of the bike’s handlebars and switch on: one tap for flashing indicators, and a continuous hold for steady side lights.
The new version, WingLights360, also comes packed with a helpful selection of new key features to help keep cyclists safe. Constructed from CNC aluminium for strength and lack of bulk, the devices are attached to the handlebars using magnets, and when not in use, can be tucked away on the person as a handy keyring. Perfect for the commute, they are now USB rechargeable, with a 3 hours battery operation interval and can be charged in under 30 minutes. The product has already become hot property before its impending launch with Forbes magazine naming WingLights360 their Forbes’ Top Cycling Gadget for 2018.

CYCL is one of a breed of startups catering to previously unexplored and poorly catered-for technological markets and is highly passionate about improving cyclists’ safety on the roads. The firm’s co-founder, Luca, said: “We have created a product based on the concept that motor vehicles have white and red side lights. We wanted to recreate this for the bicycle market, to ensure cyclists’ positioning and intentions are clear to other road users”.

CYCL officially launched the WingLights360 fundraiser to the general public this past Tuesday (11 September 2018). You can donate to the fund at this Kickstarter page. Send enquiries to info@cycl.bike .

cycl.bike

 

SOURCES:

Agostino Stilli/CYCL.

“Compatibility” – CYCL/Indive ltd https://cycl.bike/compatibility/

IMAGE CREDITS:

CYCL

 

SOCIAL HOUSING: British government launches report on tenant experiences, housing reforms

London – VIJAY SHAH

The UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has unveiled a report detailing the experiences of people living in social housing and the inequalities and stigma they face as social tenants, HEM News Agency exclusively reports.

Ministers with the MHCLG, formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government, launched through their social media outlets a document, the ‘Social Housing Green Paper‘, as part of an ambition to tackle the widespread stigma against families and individuals residing in council-owned and housing association-owned properties and estates. The paper also highlights the government’s intention to give support to ‘thriving communities’ based around social housing in the United Kingdom.

 

The green paper forms part of the governmental open consultation on a ‘new deal for social housing’, which may signal a change of direction for the country’s ruling Conservatives, who have been castigated by liberal sections of British society for enacting policies that have targeted the welfare state , an attack on the poor and deprived, according to critics of government policy.

In it, the MHCLG has proposed ‘fundamental reforms’ in the social housing sector in order to benefit users, give greater rights and voices to renters and to re-balance the relationship between tenants and landlords, as the national housing crisis forces more and more to rent from private landlords and associations.

The paper also proposes changes to the controversial ‘Right to Buy’ policy. Instituted by the late prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the 1980s, this policy allowed council tenants to buy their rented homes direct from the council, but has been criticised for causing a explosion in sometimes exploitative buy-to-lets and reductions in the numbers of available social housing. One change put forward is to give local government bodies greater powers to replace homes purchased by former tenants.

The paper was released today on the UK government’s official online portal, along with a promotional video which summed up the main points of the consultation document.

SOURCES:

HEM Businesses, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-businesses

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/mhclg

“Open consultation A new deal for social housing” – Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government/GOV.UK (14 August 2018) https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-social-housing

TODDLER ACID ATTACK: Worcester 3-year-old deliberately assaulted with chemical

Worcester – VIJAY SHAH via HARLEY TAMPLIN and Metro

A three-year-old child was the deliberately-targeted victim of a shocking acid attack in the English town of Worcester, leaving the boy with severe injuries, according to local police in a report published by online paper Metro today.

West Mercia police, say that the child was attacked intentionally, but as this was a breaking news story, there have so far been no details published as to the motive or circumstances of the attack. The horrific incident took place yesterday late afternoon while the child was with guardians at a Home Bargains store at the Shrub Hill Retail Park in Tallow Hill, a district of the normally peaceful town. The child was ferried to a local hospital with serious burns to his arms and face.

 

Police sources have released CCTV camera footage of three men in casual summer clothing they urgently need to speak to. The images can be found on the Metro article linked below this one.

Officers have arrested one suspect, a 39-year-old man from Wolverhampton on suspicion of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and is now in police custody.

Chief Superintendent Mark Travis said: “At this time we are treating this as a deliberate attack on a three-year-old boy.”

‘The incident will rightly shock the local community and I would like to reassure local people that we are carrying out a thorough investigation to identify those responsible. ‘At this time, the motive for the attack is unclear.

‘Officers are working hard to establish exactly what happened and what the substance involved was.

‘The three men in the photo may have information vital to our investigation. I am sure someone will recognise them and I would urge anyone with information to contact us as a matter of urgency.”

SOURCES:

HEM Newsbreakers, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-newsbreakers

Metro, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/MetroUK

“Boy, 3, left with serious injuries after ‘deliberate’ acid attack” – Harley Tamplin, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (22 July 2018) https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/22/boy-3-seriously-injured-deliberate-acid-attack-7745481/?ito=twitter

IMAGE CREDIT:

“SO8555 : Shrub Hill Retail Park, Worcester” – Jaggery, geograph (29 July 2017) http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5491172 © Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

‘LITTLE SCRATCHERS NURSERY’ – Parents complain after toddler son kicked from preschool for scratching classmates

Hull – VIJAY SHAH via ADAM SMITH and Metro

The family of a 2-year-old boy in the United Kingdom has lodged a formal protest after his nursery had him booted out for attacking other preschoolers, claiming that the suspension would ‘ruin his future’, tabloid news site and paper Metro reports.

Danny McKenzie-Love previously attended the Panda Nursery daycare centre in the east Yorkshire city of Hull, but he found himself without a place after nursery staff claimed he was assaulting other children by scratching their faces. He was suspended, although Panda Nursery have promised to let Danny back in if his behaviour improved.

 

According to Danny’s grandmother, Sharon Love, the trouble started soon after her grandson began attending the preschool. She told Metro: “He has only just turned two and we took him for half-an-hour over the Easter holidays and within that half an hour he scratched a bairn (child).

‘After the Easter break, he went back again and scratched another little girl’s face so her mother took her out of the nursery altogether. The day after he scratched another little girl and they suspended him for a week.”

After complaints from other parents about the little kid’s reign of scratchy terror, Panda Nursery’s directors ordered a meeting and told Sharon and Danny’s mother Charley that their child would no longer be allowed to attend as his behaviour was a threat to the other children. The grandmother however complained about the decision, stating that Danny had not been given a ‘fair chance’ and that the nursery was warned about his ‘tendencies’ to scratch the faces of other toddlers.

Sharon said: “He doesn’t swear or throw things – he is a really good bairn but now and then he will go for another child.’

She added: “Sometimes in the street we have got to watch him with other children. We haven’t got to the bottom of it and we don’t know what the problem is yet. ‘He has got challenging behaviour but they haven’t given him a chance. They haven’t worked with him and I am so disgusted. He has only just turned two and is only a baby but they have pretty much expelled him.”

A spokesman for the nursery, based at Marvell House in Cranbourne Street, said: “We take the safety and care of all the children in our nursery extremely seriously.

‘As a result of a number of incidents involving this child we were unfortunately left with no option but to suspend him until his behaviour improved, he has not been expelled and we said that once the behaviour issues had been addressed we would welcome him back to the nursery. ‘We explained that the risk of further incidents meant that we had to act formally to ensure we could continue to provide a safe and caring environment for all the children attending the nursery.”

SOURCES:

Metro, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

“Nursery kicks out boy, 2, for scratching other kids and his family is livid” – Adam Smith, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (28 April 2018) http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/28/nursery-kicks-out-boy-2-for-scratching-other-kids-and-his-family-is-livid-7506132/?ito=social

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Stand Child Red Looking Look Girl Naughty Little” – Max Pixel https://www.maxpixel.net/Stand-Child-Red-Looking-Look-Girl-Naughty-Little-474126

 

LONDON STABBING EPIDEMIC: Sixth teen attacked in just 1.5 hours

London – VIJAY SHAH via MARK HODGE, ALEX MATTHEWS and The Sun

Six teenagers were stabbed in the space of just ninety minutes as the UK capital of London experienced a wave of violence largely against young people, giving the city a higher murder rate than New York for the first time in modern history.

Tabloid newspaper The Sun reported that six youths were stabbed in just 1 1/2 hours yesterday, including a boy of just 13 years of age, who was left fighting for his life. The wave of stabbings began with a man in his twenties being attacked in the east London district of Walthamstow, The Sun stated.

 

The stabbing of the 20-something happened on Friday lunchtime. Then at 5.30 pm local time, a 15-year-old was stabbed in East India Dock Road in the Poplar area of east London, followed by three males, two aged just fifteen, attacked in Grove Road, Mile End thirty minutes later. Then at exactly 6.57 pm, the thirteen-year-old was stabbed in Newham, east London, and was quickly taken to hospital by ambulance where he is in a ‘critical condition’. Then ten minutes later, another teenage male was stabbed in Ealing Broadway, west London, taking Friday’s toll of casualties to seven in the space of a handful of hours, according to Sun reporters.

In Ealing Broadway, a witness told The Sun Online how they chanced upon one of yesterday’s stabbing victims lying in a pool of his own blood. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Before I saw him, I heard a commotion as I approached but thought nothing of it.

“But then when I got there I saw a young male lying with blood visibly on his chest.

“And when I spoke to another witness, she said she saw three men fighting and two of them ran off after the chap had been stabbed three times.

“She said he had been stabbed once in the heart, or chest area, once in the stomach and once in the upper thigh.

“He didn’t move at all. It was really eerie. He was just very still for the whole time I was there.”

She added: “Youngsters don’t see the value in life at the moment.”

In Walthamstow, where the stabbing spree kicked off, police and ambulance crews and vehicles were reported to be ‘swarming’ over the site of the incident. Locals took to social media network Twitter to give their accounts and shock at the senseless violence. 

One witness said: “Another Stabbing on my road in Walthamstow. This is getting out of hand.

Another resident added: “Good lord, another stabbing in Walthamstow. Stay safe if you’re in London these next few days, very scary.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Officers and LAS attended the location.

“The victim – believed to be aged in his 20s – has been taken to hospital.

“We await an update as to his condition.”

The wave of stabbings and shootings in London over the past few weeks saw an innocent young woman, Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, aged only 17, gunned down by unknown assailants while chatting with a group of friends outside near her home in Tottenham, north London. She was believed to have been caught in the crossfire of a gangland feud between rival gangs in Tottenham and the neighbouring Wood Green, a phenomenon the British media had referred to as ‘postcode wars’.

Last Monday, Amaan Shakoor, aged 16, was shot dead after a gunman blasted him in the face outside a leisure centre in Walthamstow in a gangland killing. Friends believed he was the victim of mistaken identity. Also yesterday, Israel Ogunsola, eighteen years, was stabbed near his home in Homerton, east London. He was believed to have been friends with Tanesha Melbourne-Blake.

Scotland Yard said it is currently investigating 55 suspected murders since the beginning of 2018 – including the deaths of two children whose bodies were found in Sussex.

The Met police and London Mayor Sadiq Khan are under increasing pressure to put an end to the bloodshed after eight murder probes were launched in London in January, 15 in February and 22 in March.

SOURCES:

Sherrie Bachell via Facebook.

“BLOODY SPREE London knife crime worsens – Seven stabbed including SIX in 90 minutes as boy aged just THIRTEEN left fighting for his life” – Mark Hodge and Alex Matthews, The Sun/News UK/News Group Newspapers Limited (6 April 2018) https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5981153/mile-end-stabbing-attack-walthamstow-london-latest/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Scotland Police Cordon” – Michel Curi, Flickr (22 December 2014) https://www.flickr.com/photos/119886413@N05/16056676866

BLUE PASSPORTS: British PM urged to explain passport decision to UK workers

London – VIJAY SHAH via PA/Aol

The British prime minister Theresa May has been urged to explain her government’s decision to provisionally award the printing of the UK’s post-Brexit passports to a French firm, reported AOL via news agency Press Association.

The UK plans to change the colour of its passport to dark blue from the current maroon once it leaves the European Union (EU) next year. Supporters of the withdrawal, dubbed ‘Brexit’ have called for a new passport design that reflects ‘Britishness’, but have been angered by the Government’s choice of awarding the tender for the new travel documents to the French-Dutch security printers Gemalto, rather than continuing their current contract with Basingstoke-based company De La Rue. Gemalto offered the cheapest price for the tender, which will only involve producing the blank passport books and biometric chips.

 

The CEO of De La Rue had earlier this week expressed scorn at the tender award, saying the PM should explain herself in person to the printery’s workers in the north-east of England. Martin Sutherland said that it was “disappointing and surprising” that the blue passport so championed heavily by Leave supporters as an ‘icon of British identity’ would be printed outside the country, in France.

Home Office ministers however said that the tendering process has not been finalised and that De La Rue would have the right to appeal the interim decision to award passport manufacturing to Gemalto.

Mr Sutherland said: “I think we have heard over the last few weeks and months ministers more than happy to come on the media and talk about the blue passports and the fact that the blue passport is an icon of British identity.

“Now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.”

Sutherland said his firm had been producing passports for the UK for the last ten years “without a single hiccup” but had been “undercut on price” and would appeal against the decision.

Referring to the factory employees of De La Rue’s printing unit in Gateshead, he said: “I’m going to have to go and face those workers, look at them in the whites of the eyes and try and explain to them why the British government thinks it’s a sensible decision to buy French passports not British passports.”

He added: “I would actually like to invite Theresa May or Amber Rudd (the British home secretary) to come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon.”

Mr Sutherland said that his firm was “not allowed to compete for the French passport contract”.

Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, branded the decision “completely wrong and unnecessary”.

Sir Bill said: “I think it is incongruous to say the least. It is completely unnecessary and it is symbolically completely wrong.

“Whatever the conditions which led to the decision in terms of pricing, the fact is that this is a symbolic event.”

Former cabinet minister Priti Patel told The Sun, a UK tabloid newspaper: “This should be a moment that we should be celebrating. The return of our iconic blue passport will re-establish the British identity.

“But to be putting the job in the hands of the French is simply astonishing. It is a national humiliation.

“I would urge Amber Rudd and the Government to look again at the powers they have to see what they can do.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake told the Press Association: “The blue passport saga is turning into a farce.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are running a fair and open competition to ensure that the new contract delivers a high quality and secure product and offers the best value for money for customers.

“All passports will continue to be personalised with the holder’s details in the United Kingdom, meaning that no personal data will leave the UK.

“We do not require passports to be manufactured in the UK. A proportion of blank passport books are currently manufactured overseas, and there are no security or operational reasons why this would not continue.”

SOURCES:

Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

“May urged to explain passport decision to British workers” – Press Association via Aol. (22 March 2018) https://www.aol.co.uk/news/2018/03/22/may-urged-to-explain-passport-decision-to-british-workers/?ncid=webmail

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Fly Away Home” – King Huang, Flickr (12 January 2009) https://www.flickr.com/photos/kinghuang/3193491202