Julian Ashby Stands Down As Chair Of Regulation Committee

The Regulator of Social Housing issued a statement about the resignation on 19 January

Homes and Communities Agency

Homes and Communities Agency

Julian Ashby has announced today that he is standing down as Chair of the Regulation Committee with immediate effect.

Julian’s tenure at the Regulator of Social Housing was due to end in March this year and he will be taking up a new appointment as Chair of Paradigm Housing Group Limited from April 2018. Mr Ashby has chosen to stand down at this point to ensure that there is an appropriate and transparent separation between chairing the regulator and taking up his new role.

The Deputy Chair, Simon Dow, will chair the Regulation Committee whilst a longer-term appointment is completed in the next few weeks.

Mr Ashby has been Chair of the Regulation Committee since 2012 when the regulator became part of the Homes and Communities Agency. He successfully led the committee through extensive changes, including a complete revision of the regulatory framework in 2015 and the changes made following the ONS reclassification of housing associations to the public sector. He also oversaw the regulator’s successful response to the failure at Cosmopolitan, and the introduction of the system of In Depth Assessments.

Julian Ashby said

I have thoroughly enjoyed and been privileged to have had the opportunity of chairing the Regulator of Social Housing. We have ensured that the regulator has kept pace with developments in the sector, and through the introduction of requirements such as stress testing have helped the sector withstand its various challenges while continuing to build and manage the homes that the country so badly needs.

I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of my fellow committee members and all staff at the Regulator of Social Housing. It is through all their efforts that I feel I leave the regulator in a strong position as I move onto new challenges. I wish them all the best in the future.

Simon Dow said

Julian has provided excellent leadership of the regulator over the last six years. His experience of the social housing sector and his balance of support and challenge have proved invaluable in maintaining the effectiveness of regulation through a period of significant change.

CMA Provisionally Finds Fox/Sky Deal Not In The Public Interest

The CMA has today published the provisional findings from its in-depth examination of the proposed acquisition of Sky Plc by 21st Century Fox

Studio Camera

Studio Camera

Following a referral from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the deal on two grounds: media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.

The CMA has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns, but not because of a lack of a genuine commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK.

The media plurality concerns identified mean that, overall, the CMAprovisionally concludes that the proposed transaction is not in the public interest.

Further detail is set out below.

Media Plurality

Media plurality goes to the heart of the UK’s democratic process and as such is given protection in law.

The CMA has provisionally found that if the deal went ahead, as currently proposed, it is likely to operate against the public interest. It would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which controls Fox and News Corporation (News Corp), increasing its control over Sky, so that it would have too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms (TV, Radio, Online and Newspapers), and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.

The MFT’s news outlets are watched, read or heard by nearly a third of the UK’s population, and have a combined share of the public’s news consumption that is significantly greater than all other news providers, except the BBC and ITN.

Due to its control of News Corp, the Murdoch family already has significant influence over public opinion and full ownership of Sky by Fox would strengthen this even further.

While there are a range of other news outlets serving UK audiences, the CMAhas provisionally found that they would not be sufficient to moderate or mitigate the increased influence of the MFT if the deal went ahead.

Broadcasting Standards

The CMA’s investigation also examined a range of evidence to understand whether Fox, Sky and the MFT have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards in the UK. Here, it has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is not likely to operate against the public interest.

Its investigation has provisionally concluded that, overall, Fox has a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards in the UK. It is an established broadcaster here, having held licences for over 20 years. The CMA took account of the policies and procedures Fox has in place to ensure broadcasting standards are met.

It found that while there were issues with the compliance arrangements at Fox News when it was broadcasting its unedited simulcast international feed into the UK, this did not outweigh the detailed and effective policies and procedures that Fox has in place in relation to its UK focused channels.

The CMA also provisionally found that Sky has a good record in this regard, consistently complying with broadcasting regulation. It also has comprehensive and effective policies and procedures in place to ensure broadcasting standards are met.

Its investigation took account of the fact that before 2012 there were serious shortcomings at the MFT controlled newspaper the News of the World, which had failed to comply with both press standards and the law.

However, News Corp has subsequently put in place processes and procedures to address these. The CMA has provisionally found that, since then, its newspapers’ record of compliance with press standards does not raise concerns.

The investigation also considered the recent allegations of sexual harassment against Fox News employees in the United States.

While these are serious, the CMA has provisionally found that these are not directly related to the attainment of broadcasting standards and do not call into question Fox’s or the MFT’s commitment to broadcasting standards in the UK.

Anne Lambert, Chair of the independent investigation Group, said:

Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda.

We have provisionally found that if the Fox/Sky merger went ahead as proposed, it would be against the public interest. It would result in the Murdoch family having too much control over news providers in the UK, and too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.

Our in-depth investigation also considered whether the deal would be against the public interest regarding broadcasting standards. Due to their existing track record in the UK, and the range of policies and procedures the companies involved have in place to ensure broadcasting standards are met, we did not find public interest concerns in this regard.

Next Steps

The CMA has now set out a series of potential options for addressing these problems identified in its public remedies notice.

It also now welcomes responses from interested parties to its provisional decision and proposed possible remedies, including in view of the announcement by Fox on 14 December 2017 that it had agreed the sale of certain assets, including its interests in Sky, to The Walt Disney Company.

These will be carefully considered before the CMA’s report is finalised and provided to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by 1 May 2018. He will then make the final decision on the proposed deal.

Commission Receives Annual £5m Interim Funding Boost

The Charity Commission publishes update on current and future funding model

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has been awarded funding from the Government of £5 million per year to help it respond to significant increases in demand on its core regulatory functions, including registration and compliance.

This funding has been awarded as a interim solution, while the Commission considers longer term, more sustainable funding models.

This includes the regulator consulting on whether the largest charities should make a modest contribution to the Commission’s enabling work, aimed at helping over half a million trustees across England and Wales manage their charities effectively and efficiently. The Commission now plans to launch a formal consultation later in the year.

Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, says

The Charity Commission does vital work regulating this vibrant sector and ensuring the public can support charities with confidence.

I am delighted that this funding will mean the Commission can meet the increasing demands for its services and help charities continue to improve lives up and down the country. It is important that the sector continues to innovate, and this includes the Commission considering a range of funding models for the future.

William Shawcross, Chairman of the Charity Commission, says:

I am pleased that the additional transitional funding from Government acknowledges the unprecedented rise in demand on the Commission’s services in recent years. The new money will help us continue to increase the effectiveness of our core regulatory functions in the short term, as we explore this longer term solutions.

It is right that we consider whether those in the sector with the broadest shoulders should make a contribution towards aspects of our work, and I am pleased that we will shortly be publishing a consultation on whether and how we do this. We would plan to use these funds to increase and improve the services and support we offer and want to encourage charities to step forward and feed in their thoughts.

The Commission is now working on detailed proposals, including whether to charge large charities. It expects to launch a consultation that will ask for charities’ views on:

  • The practicalities and implications of a system for charging the largest charities. The details are under consideration by the Commission, but it expects to consult on proposals that would see it receiving around £7.5million a year through contributions from the 2,000 largest charities on the register, namely those with annual incomes of over £5million.
  • The enabling work charities and trustees would like to see the Commission expanding or developing. The Commission will be keen to hear from charities of all sizes and types about their current and future needs for support and enabling work from the Commission. This element of the consultation is likely to focus in particular on smaller charities. Recent research revealed that 80% of trustees are responsible for charities that do not have paid staff; they consequently look to the Commission for authoritative advice and guidance on managing their charities effectively and efficiently.

Border Force Seizes Rare Live Lizard At Heathrow

Specialist Border Force officers have seized a live lizard at Heathrow Airport following a suspected smuggling attempt

Varanus Bengalensis

Varanus Bengalensis

The juvenile monitor lizard (Varanus Bengalensis), which was about 30cm long, was seen scurrying around the staff area of Terminal 4’s baggage sorting area. It is not known where the reptile’s journey started, but it is believed to be a Bengal variety of monitor lizard.

Officers from the Border Force Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) team were contacted following the discovery on Wednesday, 17 January and the reptile was seized under CITES regulations.

Border Force CITES team Higher Officer Jan Sowa said:

Baggage handler staff were probably quite amused when they saw this lizard on the loose, but this could easily have ended tragically.

We don’t know for sure, but we think the reptile may have been placed in luggage in an attempt to bring it into the UK illegally. This must have caused it considerable distress so it’s a miracle it did not die from shock, the cold or being run over.

Border Force’s specialist CITES team takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and, working together with our partners in the UK and internationally, we are determined to bring it to an end.

The reptile is being housed at a specialist centre near Heathrow while the CITES team make efforts to find a suitable home for it.

Monitor lizards take several years to reach adult size but once fully grown they can be up to 2 metres long. Juveniles are usually fed on a diet of crickets.

The Border Force CITES team, based at Heathrow but covering the whole of the UK, are highly regarded specialists in the field of endangered species and work closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, National Crime Agency and police forces on investigations and provide expert advice on import and export issues.

They also act as the main point of contact for other enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations in endangered species-related issues.

Prime Minister To Host Burns Supper In Downing Street

The Prime Minister will host a traditional Burns Supper in Downing Street this evening (Monday) in celebration of the life and works of the famous Scottish bard

10 Downing Street

10 Downing Street

Scots from a variety of business sectors, food and drink suppliers, educational institutions and politics will join the Prime Minister and Mr May, the Secretary of State for Scotland and others for a three-course meal in the State Dining Room.

Glasgow-based ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ winner Gary Maclean will take over the Downing Street kitchen for the day to prepare the menu, made up of fresh produce from a range of Scottish suppliers.

Guests will be welcomed into Downing Street by a piper from the Scots Guards.

The Prime Minister, who will give a welcome address to guests this evening, said:

Scotland is a greatly valued part of our United Kingdom and its contribution to the UK is immense – economically, socially, and culturally.

And Robert Burns is a great example of that, as one of our finest poets, famous world-wide.

I’m very much looking forward to this evening and the chance to celebrate a great poet, a great nation and an enduring Union.

Some of the courses being prepared by the head chef, who is also a senior lecturer at Glasgow City College, are the very ones that impressed the judges during the BBC2 cookery show.

Mr Maclean said:

I’m incredibly honoured to cook for the Prime Minister and showcase the best Scottish produce, sourced from local farms and dairies for this evening’s Burns Supper.

A Burns Supper is an institution in Scottish life and it’s wonderful to be able to be part of such a celebration of the works of our national bard in Downing Street.

Mr Maclean will be joined in the kitchen by his team, which includes his fellow MasterChef contenders, Matthew Healy and James Villiers, and James McGuire, who works for Braehead Foods.

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