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July 4 election

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Rishi Sunak has announced the next general election will be held on July 4.

Speaking to the nation in the pouring rain, a drenched Mr. Sunak declared, “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future.”

He stated: “Earlier today I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament. The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on July 4.”

Mr. Sunak’s decision to call a snap election this summer is a significant political gamble, as the Conservatives are currently trailing the Labour Party by about 20 points in opinion polls.

Concluding his remarks, the PM said: “Over the next few weeks I will fight for every vote. 

“I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative Government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk, can restore pride and confidence in our country and with a clear plan and bold action can deliver a secure future for you, your family and our United Kingdom.”

Downing Street has issued the following statement formally confirming the general election has been triggered: 

The Prime Minister has today asked His Majesty The King to proclaim the Dissolution of Parliament. His Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify that He will comply with this request.

Parliament will be prorogued on Friday 24 May. Dissolution will take place on Thursday 30 May. The General Election will take place on Thursday 4 July. The new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday 9 July, when the first business will be the election of the Speaker and the swearing-in of members, and the State Opening will be on Wednesday 17 July.

The following events will now take place:

  • Parliament prorogued on Friday 24 May
  • Dissolution to take place on Thursday 30 May
  • General Election on Thursday 4 July
  • The new Parliament will be summoned on Tuesday 9 July
  • State Opening on Wednesday 17 July

Migration numbers fall further as measures have major impact

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Home Secretary James Cleverly. Picture by Ravi Soodi / Home Office. CC BY 2.0 DEED

Government action cuts migration on key routes by 25% in the first 4 months of 2024, compared to the same period in 2023.

Visa applications across key routes have fallen by a quarter in the first 4 months of 2024, as the Home Secretary’s package to reduce unsustainable migration continues to deliver. 

Government measures to tighten student visas, which came into force in January, have prevented most international students starting courses this year from bringing family members with 79% fewer student dependent applications in the first 4 months of 2024.

Students can also no longer switch their visa before completing their course, preventing people using the route as a backdoor to work in the UK, while clamping down on institutions which undermine the UK’s reputation by selling immigration not education. There more than 30,000 fewer student visa applications made between January to April 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. 

Data also shows that in the first full month the restrictions on care worker dependants were in place, there was a 58% fall in Health and Care dependant application numbers, from 15,100 in April 2023 to 6,400 in April 2024. The government has been clear that the unprecedented rise in care worker dependant visa numbers had been both disproportionate and unsustainable. Together with efforts to crack down on abuse, through our changes requiring firms sponsoring migrant care workers in England to be CQC registered, we are determined to see these numbers continue to fall.

Today’s monthly visa figures come ahead of the ONS’s net migration stats for the year ending December 2023 being published tomorrow and the government’s quarterly immigration statistics for the year ending March 2023. However, the ONS figures do not take into account the major package measures announced in December which have already started to have an effect.

Today’s monthly data provides an up to date picture of visa applications across key routes, with early signs that the government’s tough measures are reducing legal migration.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said:   

The plan to deliver the largest ever cut to legal migration in our country’s history is working. This monthly data is the most up to date picture of visa levels, showing that on current trajectories legal migration continues to fall across key routes.

The British people deserve an immigration system that puts their interests first. Our approach is about control and fairness; to the highly skilled coming here who deserve a decent wage, to taxpayers who shouldn’t be relied on to support them, and to British workers who shouldn’t be undercut.

We will continue to keep these measures under close review and if needed, we will not hesitate to go further.

Taken together, the Home Secretary’s package to reduce legal migration will mean approximately 300,000 people who arrived in the UK last year would no longer be able to.  It includes:   

  • increasing the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas by 48% to £38,700
  • restricting care workers from bringing dependants with them and requiring care providers acting as sponsors in England to register with the industry regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to crack down on worker exploitation and abuse within the sector   
  • abolishing the shortage occupation list and replacing it with a new immigration salary list, with employers no longer able to pay migrants less than UK workers in shortage occupations   
  • raising the minimum income requirement for the family visa to reach the level of the Skilled Worker visa, currently £38,700 by early 2025 

Delivery of this comprehensive series of measures is part of the government’s wider plan to crack down on rising migration, both legal and illegal, and reform the immigration system. The plan is working, with small boats crossings down by around a third last year, and work continues to tackle this global challenge including by working with international partners and clamping down on the criminal gangs with stepped up enforcement.     

It comes as the government continues a programme of work to grow and support the domestic social care workforce. Led by the Department of Health and Social Care, this includes better training, clearer career paths and improved job prospects through a new accredited qualification.  The Department for Work and Pensions has also announced plans this week to see unemployed Brits filling roles once filled by foreign workers, to help build our domestic workforce and reduce reliance on cheap overseas labour.

Now that the Safety of Rwanda Act has passed and the treaty with Rwanda has been ratified, the government is entering the final phase of operationalising this landmark policy, with the first flight set to take off to Rwanda in early July.

Source: Home OfficeDepartment for Work and PensionsDepartment of Health and Social Care and The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP

Royal Mint unveils official D-Day 80 Coin

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The design has been recreated by sand artist Jehan-Benjamin Tarain on Gold beach, where nearly 25,000 British troops landed in 1944. Photo credit: Royal Mint

The official UK coin to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings has been released by The Royal Mint.

Ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, The Royal Mint has unveiled the official UK 50p coin in tribute to fallen Allied troops and veterans.

The reverse (tails), designed by David Lawrence and with support from Imperial War Museums, depicts Allied soldiers disembarking a landing craft onto the beaches of Normandy with offensive aircraft in the sky above.

The design is accompanied by the inscription: “D-DAY 6 JUNE 1944 UTAH OMAHA GOLD JUNO SWORD”, the code names given to the five assault beaches that formed at of part of ‘Operation Overlord’.

D-Day Coin In Production

In the early hours of 6 June 1944, troops from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and other Allied nations stormed five beaches in Normandy, France, aiming to break through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defences. Known as D-Day, this date marked the beginning of the liberation of Europe.

To mark the coin’s release, French sand artist Jehan-Benjamin Tarain, with support from Sam Dougados a fellow sand artist, has recreated the D-Day 80 coin design on ‘Gold’ beach, where nearly 25,000 men of the British 50th Division landed. Scaled at 35 metres in diameter, the sand art took 5 hours and 30 minutes to create.

D-Day Sand Art

Rebecca Morgan, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said:

“Coins have long served as reminders of pivotal moments in history. We are proud to unveil this tribute to the courage and resilience of British and Allied troops eight decades ago, which will serve as a permanent reminder of their sacrifices and bravery.”

David Fenton, Assistant Director of Commercial at Imperial War Museums said:

“We are delighted to be able to support The Royal Mint’s D-Day 50p coin to mark the anniversary. D-Day was the largest combined naval, air and land operation in the history of warfare. This coin is a poignant reminder of those who fought so bravely and sacrificed so much during this intrepid mission.”

D-Day Coin In Production

The sand artist responsible for leading on the creation, Jehan-Benjamin Tarain (also known as Jben), said:

“This project has been extremely special. The Royal Mint’s commemorative coin marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day is a fitting tribute to all that served during World War II. My team and I feel very fortunate to have played a role in helping to translate the craftmanship seen in the design of this coin into a piece of sand art on one of the beaches where troops landed. This collaboration plays an important reminder of the united allied effort between French and British forces 80 years ago.”

The official 50p coin is available to purchase via The Royal Mint’s website: royalmint.com/D-Day-80

Photos: Copyright 2024 Royal Mint

Faster resolution for small claims and away from court following new mediation rules

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More small claims will be resolved faster and away from court following new rules requiring mediation. 

The change, which comes into effect today (22 May 2024), means parties in money claims up to the value of £10,000 must take part in a free one-hour mediation appointment, provided by HMCTS’ Small Claims Mediation Service. 

These types of claims often include issues such as businesses recovering debt from customers, individuals contesting parking tickets, or disagreements over payments for goods and services – such as a homeowner suing builders for not completing work as agreed. 

Today’s move could see an extra 5,000 judicial sitting days per year made available, which judges can dedicate to efficiently resolving cases less suited to mediation.  

Justice Minister Lord Bellamy KC said: 

We know successful mediation is quicker and less stressful than court battles. While not every case will be resolved in this way, by embedding mediation into the courts process, thousands more undoubtedly will.  

Crucially this will improve the experience for those embroiled in a dispute, while freeing up time for our judges to focus on the most complex cases and keep our courts running smoothly.

About 85,000 of small money claims cases progressed through the County Courts in 2022. Parties in 20,000 of these cases opted into voluntary mediation, and the HMCTS service was able to help settle more than half of those. 

It is anticipated integrating mediation into the court process will result in tens of thousands of successful out-of-court resolutions.  

To support this, HMCTS has more than doubled the number of mediators employed, from 25 to 64. Extra administrative staff have also been recruited, and online systems improved.  

Akeela Amijee, a mediation service manager with HMCTS, said:  

Mediation is a brilliant service and making it an integrated step in the court journey is incredibly exciting. We are absolutely ready for this expansion and it’s going to make a really positive difference to a lot of people. I’ve never had anybody say they wish they hadn’t had their mediation session, even when they don’t settle. 

Going to court and standing in front of a judge can be nerve-racking for people, not to mention the time and money spent travelling to a court. Mediation works because it allows people to be heard and get everything off their chest in a calm, non-judgemental environment. We are neutral and take out any of the hostility between parties, which means an hour is often more than enough time to resolve these cases.

Mediation sessions are generally organised within 28 days, which is often much quicker than the wait for a court date. It is also a cheaper alternative to court as there is no hearing fee to pay. 

HMCTS mediators speak to each side separately and work between the two to find a solution each side can agree on. If the parties do not agree on a resolution at mediation, the case will progress to a hearing before a judge.    

If a party does not attend the required mediation appointment without good reason, the judge may apply a sanction at the final hearing. This could include a fine, covering the cost of the wasted mediation appointment, or in extreme circumstances having their claim or defence dismissed. 

Mediation will not take place where there are safeguarding concerns, for example in instances where there is domestic abuse or where there are vulnerable parties. 

Rebecca Clark, Chair of the Civil Mediation Council, said: 

Being involved in a dispute is stressful and time-consuming. By mediating, people are given the opportunity to explore ways to resolve matters consensually, and if they choose to settle, to reach an acceptable outcome more quickly than through the courts.  

Embedding mediation into the small claims process normalises a more conciliatory approach to dispute resolution, benefitting society as a whole.

Integrated mediation is being rolled out initially to new claims made on paper and through HMCTS’ ‘legacy’ systems. These cases represent more than 70 per cent of these types of claims.  

Cases submitted through Online Civil Money Claims (OCMC) will be included in the scheme  at a later date. 

James South, Chief Executive of CEDR said: 

CEDR welcomes the introduction of mediation as a required, integrated step in small claim money disputes under £10,000, being implemented by HMCTS.  

This is an important and common-sense next step in the development of mediation within the civil justice system and will hopefully open the way for even deeper integration of the use of mediation across the courts in England and Wales.

Borrowdale rainforest in the Lake District to become a new National Nature Reserve

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Looking down at the Borrowdale rainforest towards the Jaws of Borrowdale | © National Trust Images / Paul Harris

Today (Wednesday 22 May), Borrowdale has been announced as the latest in the ‘King’s Series of National Nature Reserves’ (NNRs) by the National Trust and Natural England.

The new 721 hectare (1,782 acre NNR) is made up of vitally important habitats, including temperate rainforest, ancient woodland pastures and carefully selected areas where these can be expanded and reconnected.

It is in the heart of the Lake District, renewing the National Trust’s commitment to celebrating and enhancing this rare habitat. 

Borrowdale is one of a handful of NNRs across the country containing rare temperate rainforest habitat with the woodlands comprising the largest remaining piece of England’s native rainforest. With the valley regularly experiencing the highest rainfall in England, it’s as wet as a tropical rainforest albeit much cooler, resulting in lush woodlands, dripping with mosses, ferns and lichens. 

Some of these ancient trees, including the veteran sessile oaks which gave Derwent Water its name, have grown up on steep slopes that have remained undisturbed for centuries and are a refuge for rare specialist species of lichen like lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria) and mosses including Hallers’s apple-moss (Bartramia halleriana). They also provide the ideal breeding habitat for otherwise declining birds including the redstart, pied flycatcher and tree pipit. The woodlands are also one of the few remaining strongholds for native red squirrels. 

Alongside its care and enhancement of the precious landscape, the conservation charity is aiming to modify some carefully selected sections of the existing paths to make them more accessible and help everyone to be able to explore this unique site. 

Jane Saxon, General Manager for the North and West Lakes, National Trust says:

“The new declaration is a testament to the increased focus on caring for and enhancing the rainforest while celebrating the impact this unique landscape has had on the natural and cultural heritage of the Borrowdale valley. 

“By creating this nature reserve, we are actively managing the woodlands for nature conservation and access through compatible practises. 

“Today, less than 1% of the land in the UK is covered by temperate rainforest, and as such it’s particularly important to conserve this rare habitat for future generations. This declaration is a step towards a successful joint management approach for nature with our tenants and spreading awareness on how unique and precious this nature reserve is.” 

Pete Barron, local resident and conservationist said:

“With having lived within sight of this woodland now for 30 plus years, it’s part of my life. When I go for a walk first thing in the morning, I go to Johnny Wood and I do a circuit round by the Beck. The access and special qualities of the woods are highly valued by the local community all year round.” 

Jean Johnston, Senior Advisor at Natural England said:

“England’s rainforests are vitally important for wildlife, climate and water management. These are ancient and special places of huge value to local people and visitors alike. We warmly welcome this renewed commitment to making sure they are looked after so that they are in the best possible health. We look forward to working with the National Trust and its farming tenants to help make the woods and ancient wood pastures even bigger and better than they are now” 

Guy Shrubsole, author of The Lost Rainforests of Britain, commented:

“It’s fantastic that Borrowdale’s amazing temperate rainforests are being declared a National Nature Reserve, in recognition of their great ecological significance. 

“Like all of Britain’s temperate rainforests, the Atlantic oakwoods of Borrowdale remain fragmented and under pressure – so I very much hope this new declaration inspires farmers and landowners in the surrounding landscape to get involved in rainforest restoration, and benefit from some of the new government funding available for this. 

“By reconnecting rainforest fragments, we can make these rare, beautiful habitats more resilient to the climate crisis, whilst also helping reduce flooding downstream.” 

Traditional fell farming is another integral part of Borrowdale’s cultural history, helping to shape the land and will play a key role in Borrowdale’s future. 

To help ensure the success of the project and the best outcome for the valley, the National Trust is consulting with and working alongside local farmers, many of which are already doing important conservation work. Helping them access payments for their efforts will be an essential part of the management of the NNR and the surrounding land. 

Anne Cornthwaite, a National Trust tenant farmer at Ashness farm said:

“At a time when there are really big changes happening within British farming, it is very exciting to see the small changes we made ten years ago in the way we delivered our environmental stewardship at Ashness Farm, has contributed to Moss Mire being bestowed this most amazing status as a temperate rainforest within a National Nature Reserve.” 

Over time, and in consultation with farmers and local landholders, plans are for the NNR to grow to include other vital parcels of woodland in the area. Re-connecting parcels of woodland will help create wildlife corridors and improve the resilience and overall health of the forest. 

Jade Allen, National Nature Reserve Officer for the National Trust said:

“We are incredibly excited for the launch of our new Borrowdale Rainforest National Nature Reserve project.  It is a big step towards caring for and enhancing the incredibly special rainforest of Borrowdale. 

“Our hopes for the future are for the woodlands to be thriving and regenerating, for the biodiversity here to be improving, and to start reconnecting the woodland fragments for a more resilient ecosystem. 

“By working with our local farmers and community, we are looking forward to better connecting people with the woodlands, wider nature and history of Borrowdale.”

Dame Judi Dench and school competition winner place Sycamore Gap seedling in The Octavia Hill Garden at Chelsea Flower Show

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Dame Judi Dench and competition winner Charlotte Crowe with the Sycamore Gap seedling in The Octavia Hill Garden at Chelsea Flower Show | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

A seedling, grown from seeds collected from the Sycamore Gap tree after it was felled last September, has been placed in The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judi Dench was joined by competition winner, 7-year-old Charlotte Crowe from Henshaw C.E Primary School in Northumberland, to place the precious seedling in the Trust’s beautiful, plant-filled wildlife garden on Monday 20 May, prior to the show’s public opening.

Passionate about trees, Dame Judi was very concerned by the news of the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree last autumn; There was unprecedented public reaction to the loss, in Northumberland and beyond.

The much-loved tree had stood within a dip in Hadrian’s Wall for around 200 years before it was felled in an act of vandalism last September.

The seedling is one of a collection of small seedlings and buds propagated at the conservation charity’s Plant Conservation Centre in Devon and the first to be on show to the public since photos of them were first shared by the Trust in March.

Cared for by expert horticulturists, the delicate seedling will return to the Plant Conservation Centre after the show and be quarantined, before rejoining the other seedlings to continue to grow.

Charlotte won the opportunity to join Dame Judi in the Trust’s Show Garden through a competition at her school near Hexham in Northumberland, the closest school to the iconic Sycamore Gap. Organised by the National Trust, pupils were invited to draw a picture of the tree and write a short poem about what it meant to them.

Charlotte’s winning entry talks about the ‘mindful, famous, historical, magnificent tree.’ When asked about her win Charlotte said:

“I am so happy that scientists are trying to grow the tree back as it means a lot to our school. I was so surprised that I had won the competition and am excited to go to London because I have never been before.”

The National Trust, working together with Northumberland National Park, Historic England and the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership are planning a range of responses to the tree’s felling in the coming months, which will include work with local schools, tree planting initiatives in Northumberland, and artistic interpretations.

Andrew Poad, the National Trust’s General Manager for Hadrian’s Wall said:

“The response to the tree’s felling has been extraordinary and demonstrates how the tree was special to many, many people, including Charlotte and Dame Judi.

“This is a memorable moment as we continue to share the story of this much-loved tree and we are delighted that they could both join us to place the seedling in The Octavia Hill Garden today.”

The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust reflects Octavia Hill’s belief, as a founder of the National Trust, that everyone needs access to nature, beauty and gardens. Laid out as a series of ‘outdoor sitting rooms’ (gardens) – a core idea from Octavia – the garden will give visitors space where they can feel connected to the plants and wildlife around them.

The addition of a Sycamore Gap seedling to the garden is representative of the many stories illustrated throughout the garden rooms showcasing the diverse work of the National Trust, indicative of the incredible legacy of Octavia Hill.

Andrew Jasper, Director of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust, added:

“Placing the Sycamore Gap seedling within the garden at Chelsea reflects the National Trust’s important role in preserving both our nation’s heritage and our shared horticultural heritage through plant conservation.

“The huge outpouring of emotion after the tree was felled showed that our deep-rooted feelings of connection to our natural heritage are as powerful today as they were in Octavia Hill’s lifetime. We hope that those who visit the garden at Chelsea this week will feel that beneficial connection to the natural heritage that we care for and also take inspiration from seeing the seedling – when we first saw the seedlings germinate, we knew there was hope for the tree’s future.”

Designed by award winning garden designer, Ann-Marie Powell, and conceptually located on an urban brownfield site, the beautiful, plant-filled wildlife garden is designed to stimulate physical, mental, and social well-being.

The Sycamore Gap seedling can be seen in The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 21 to 25 May. 

The National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre (PCC) plays a crucial role in conserving rare and historically important plants for the Trust’s gardens and parklands. What began from a single desk in April 1982 has now expanded to a purpose-built facility that is central to the Trust’s work to conserve its vast living collections. Since it began, the centre has conserved thousands of genera from Acer to Zanthoxylum. 

Set in an undisclosed location, the PCC has been propagating plants completely peat-free for more than 30 years, including those that have traditionally relied on peat, such as rhododendrons. From heritage apple trees and giant Himalayan lilies to rare shrubs and half-tonne tree ferns taking three people to move, the PCC works with a huge range of plants and on equally huge timescales: some plants can be nurtured at the centre for as long as 20 years.

The winning poem about the Sycamore Gap tree by 7-year-old Charlotte Crowe from Henshaw C.E Primary School near Hexham:

I went to see Hadrian’s Wall and I saw a tree.
It was a mindful tree.
It was a mindful, famous tree.
It was a mindful, famous, historical tree.
It was a mindful, famous, historical, magnificent tree.
It was a mindful, famous, historical, magnificent, welcoming tree.
I really hope sycamore gap grows back.
When I go and see the tree it brings back lots of memories.

UK and Albania working innovatively to build on migration partnership success

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Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street. Photo credit: UK Gov. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

The Foreign Secretary David Cameron will see first-hand how the UK’s relationship with Albania is delivering for both countries during a visit to Tirana today (Wednesday 22 May).

As Europe faces a growing migration crisis, the partnership between the UK and Albania stands out as a leading example of disrupting the business models of callous people smuggling gangs, significantly reducing dangerous small boats crossings, and providing a more prosperous future for young Albanians. 

This visit comes after the Prime Minister spoke to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama earlier this month to discuss the shared challenge of migration and the need for greater collaboration across Europe.

During the visit, he will hold talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama, as well as the Albanian President Bajram Begaj and Foreign Minister Igli Hasani on a range of issues including tackling illegal migration, organised crime, Western Balkan security and both countries’ steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.  

Foreign Secretary, David Cameron said:  

Our partnership with Albania is delivering for both our people and playing a key role in tackling illegal migration. Small boat arrivals from Albania to the UK fell by over 90% in 2023, which means that fewer Albanians are falling into the hands of criminal gangs and making dangerous channel crossings.

Together we are reinforcing our partnership, strengthening European security, investing in the next generation of young people, building trade ties, and addressing corruption and organised crime to ensure that we build a stable and prosperous future for our countries.

The Albania partnership is a benchmark for how the UK wants to work with partners globally, delivering results in reducing illegal migration to the UK, but also in helping to provide opportunities for Albanian people to stay and prosper in their own country. 

Under the new returns agreement, signed with the Albanian government, the UK has removed 26,000 people in the last twelve months including nearly 6,000 Albanians. 

The Foreign Secretary’s visit comes as the Prime Minister finishes a visit to Vienna, to meet Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, where the two leaders agreed stronger action must be taken to tackle the pressing issue of illegal migration, including designated safe third country partnerships such as the UK’s Rwanda model.

The Prime Minister also announced £25 million for the National Crime Agency to scale up operations to disrupt the operations of people smugglers in the Channel, making sure the UK’s borders are protected.

While in Tirana, the Foreign Secretary will announce that there are judiciary to judiciary discussions ongoing which will develop a programme to support Albanian judges. This will deploy UK expertise to train Albanian judges to learn best practice and provide expert guidance on tackling money laundering, asset recovery and corruption. He will also announce a new programme to support the Albanian State Police to reform and modernise so they can clamp down on crime groups that are threatening the livelihoods of Albanian and British citizens through people smuggling and the drugs trade.

Both these initiatives will equip Albania with the best possible tools to fight the gangs that are encouraging people to risk their lives crossing the Channel and fuelling drugs crime in the UK. A strengthened Albanian judiciary and police force will be more able to counter the criminals enabling people smuggling in the area, and will help make Albania a safer, more prosperous place to live in. This follows the announcement, made when the Minister for Illegal Migration visited Albania earlier this month, of £1.6m of UK funding invested in number plate recognition technology and drones to help the Albanian authorities track down criminals and fight illegal migration.  

The Foreign Secretary will visit the Pyramid of Tirana, originally built at the end of the Communist regime as a mausoleum for the former dictator, and now revitalised as a hub of innovation and technology for young Albanians. Launching the British cultural centre at the Pyramid, Lord Cameron will discuss with young people how the UK is helping them stimulate growth and prosperity in Albania, including through cyber security, scholarships, and support to entrepreneurs, providing a future of opportunities for the next generation of Albanians. 

The Foreign Secretary will also announce the UK’s commitment to explore the options for financing Albania’s railway development using our £4bn UK Export Finance allocated for Albania during Prime Minister Rama’s visit to the UK in 2023. Projects being explored include the railway between the port of Durres and Kosovo’s capital Pristina and the railway between the town of Rrogozhina and coastal city of Vlora. Both routes will improve regional connectivity and prosperity. 

The innovative initiatives announced today will continue to reinforce the UK’s partnership with Albania, sustaining our joint efforts to prevent small boat arrivals to the UK from Albania and build a stable and prosperous future for both countries. 

BAE Systems win contract for new Swedish CV90 combat vehicles

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British multinational arms, security, and aerospace company, BAE Systems has signed a contract with the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration, FMV, for new CV9035 MkIIIC vehicles, as well as associated integrated logistic support.

This new contract will provide new-build CV90s to help replenish the Swedish Army’s fleet.

These new CV9035 MkIIICs will replace CV9040 vehicles donated to Ukraine by the Swedish government. In addition, the Swedish government is procuring more new-build CV90 vehicles to expand Ukraine capabilities. The contract will provide the opportunity for other nations to join in the procurement of CV90MkIIICs.

“These new CV9035 MkIIICs will extend the capabilities of both the Swedish and Ukrainian armies and provide crews improved combat awareness, increased mobility, protection, and lethality,” said Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, Managing Director of BAE Systems Hägglunds, which designs and produces the CV90.

The new CV9035 MkIIIC is built to the same standard as the newest CV90 mid-life upgrade program for the Netherlands. The vehicles will be equipped with a new turret which provides a leap forward in design and functionality. It also offers significant ergonomic improvements to benefit the vehicle’s crew. The vehicle is built on years of combat-proven experience, continuous improvements, and data gathering from the CV90 User Club, which comprises the nations operating CV90 fleets.

BAE Systems’ CV90 infantry fighting vehicle provides world-leading combat capability in the 20-38 ton class. It can integrate a wide range of weapon systems, providing all-target capability to land forces around the world. With a total of 1,700 vehicles ordered in 17 different variants, the CV90 has covered more than eight million kilometers. It has been selected by 10 European nations, eight of them NATO-members, and has seen combat in Afghanistan and Ukraine, as well as operations in Liberia.

New nuclear power plant earmarked for North Wales

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Wylfa, sitting on the North Wales coast, is ideally-suited to host one given its proximity to cooling water and nuclear heritage. Wylfa's previous power station stopped generating energy in 2015. Photo: © Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Wylfa in Anglesey is the government’s preferred site for the UK’s third mega-nuclear power station – putting North Wales in prime position to benefit from a boost to its economic prosperity and support the UK’s long-term energy security.

The government is kickstarting talks with global energy firms to explore building the new power plant, which could provide enough clean and reliable power for the equivalent of around 6 million of today’s homes for 60 years.

It brings the UK closer to its ambition for up to a quarter of its projected electricity needs to come from homegrown nuclear power by 2050, to strengthen the nation’s energy independence.

The government is exploring building a major nuclear power station, similar in scale to Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk. This new project would revive the nuclear history of Wylfa and bring thousands of jobs and investment to the area, boosting the local economy.

Wylfa, sitting on the North Wales coast, is ideally-suited to host one given its proximity to cooling water and nuclear heritage.

Great British Nuclear – tasked with delivering the world’s fastest small modular reactor competition – recently secured Wylfa and Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire as two possible sites for new nuclear projects. It was the first time the government acquired land for new nuclear since the 1960s.

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Claire Coutinho, said:

We are powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in 70 years.

Anglesey has a proud nuclear history and it is only right that, once again, it can play a central role in boosting the UK’s energy security.

Wylfa would not only bring clean, reliable power to millions of homes – it could create thousands of well-paid jobs and bring investment to the local area.

The UK is delivering the biggest expansion to nuclear power in 70 years and suitable sites will be critical to meet ambitions to quadruple nuclear capacity by up to 24GW by 2050. This will come from a mix of traditional large-scale power plants and small modular reactors, which can be rolled out more quickly and at scale.

Meanwhile Great British Nuclear aims to announce successful bidders for the small modular reactor competition by the end of this year.

Gwen Parry-Jones CEO of Great British Nuclear said:

Having agreed to purchase the Wylfa site earlier this year, GBN looks forward to working with the government on the market engagement programme for large scale gigawatt providers and also delivering this vital project in the years to come.

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said:

This is significant and welcome news for Wales that promises to bring thousands of high-quality jobs to the local economy.

Alongside the revival of nuclear power at Wylfa, recent measures we have announced include a Freeport for Anglesey, £17 million in Levelling Up money for Holyhead and electrification of the North Wales rail line which show that the UK government continues to deliver for Anglesey and for North Wales.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies.

Sue Ferns Senior Deputy General Secretary of Prospect union said:

Wylfa represents the best site in Europe for a large-scale nuclear power station. With this announcement this has now been recognised by the UK government.

Gigawatt scale new nuclear power stations are vital to hitting net zero and for our energy security. But they also maintain well paid and highly skilled jobs, meaning this project would be a major boost to the Welsh economy.

Now we need a laser-like focus on delivery of new nuclear to make sure skills and experience are not lost, and costs are reduced as we progress.

Tom Greatrex Chief Executive of the NIA said:

The government is absolutely right to pursue more large-scale nuclear alongside the SMR programme: it is proven technology that delivers clean, sovereign power and can transform communities with thousands of high quality, long term jobs and apprenticeships. Wylfa is an ideal place for a big nuclear project, and the community knows nuclear.

We welcome the government’s engagement with potential partners internationally, and we urge them to move forward at pace. A large-scale project at Wylfa would be the single biggest inward investment in Welsh history, and a huge step towards both energy security and net zero for the whole country.

Main photo: © Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Game-changing AI technology rolled out to all radiography departments in England to help cut cancer waiting lists

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Game-changing AI technology will be rolled out to all radiography departments in England in a matter of weeks – backed by £15.5 million in new Government funding.

Cancer waiting times are set to fall thanks to new AI technology that locates cancer cells 2.5 times quicker than doctors alone.

Game-changing AI will start being rolled out to every NHS radiotherapy department in England in a matter of weeks – backed by £15.5 million in new Government funding.

It works by automatically reviewing a CT or MRI scan, helping doctors quickly distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy organs and to prevent healthy organs from being damaged during radiation treatment.

Trained health workers will of course review any report before administering any treatment – helping tens of thousands of cancer patients each year get faster treatment.

The UK is at the forefront of embracing and embedding AI into the healthcare system, and with it already being used in 90% of stroke units in England – which is speeding up diagnosis and treatment.

Today’s announcement is another major step to help cut NHS waiting lists, relieve pressure on hospitals, free up staff time, and support people in care settings to live more independently. 

This comes as the Prime Minister speaks at the AI Seoul Summit today [Tuesday 21 May] – building on the global momentum that Bletchley kickstarted, it will look at ways to harness the potential of AI to help humanity and advance global cooperation on AI safety. The two-day summit will look focus on three key themes: innovation, safety, and inclusivity.

The Bletchley Summit – which took place last November – was the first time ever that nations, AI firms, academia, and civil society came together to consider the risks of AI and tackle them together.

It resulted in the historic Bletchley Declaration, which was signed by 27 countries and the EU. This committed the signatories to take a global approach to a global issue – highlighting the reality that risks arising from AI have no borders. The AI Seoul Summit continues to harness this ‘Bletchley Effect’ to take further collaborative international action on AI safety, ensuring the enormous benefits of the most powerful models are realised.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

Thanks to Bletchley we have created a legacy of international collaboration which means we are matching the pace of the technology.

AI-powered medical advances – like in radiotherapy – are evidence of this and we must take advantage of them.

That’s why we are pumping £15.5 million into the NHS so it can be rolled out across England – to help cut waiting lists and make the UK the number one place for AI innovation.

This announcement runs alongside a series of cross-government measures – announced this week – which are encouraging innovation and harnessing the potential of AI. This includes:

  • Finalists of this year’s Manchester Prize: a DSIT competition with an annual £1 million prize pot dedicated to AI for public good innovations. Announced today, it will support projects in energy, environment and infrastructure, with each of the 10 teams receiving £100,000.
  • An AI tool that will help work coaches support people back to work: From the autumn, an aid to free up work coaches to spend more time focusing on claimants’ job needs to help them into work quicker is set to rollout across all jobcentres.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said:

This is an exciting breakthrough in our work to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment, and AI is helping to make our healthcare system faster, simpler and fairer. 

Thanks to such innovation, as well as our measures to help people quit smoking, and our work to grow the number of doctors in clinical oncology and radiology by a quarter since 2019, I’m pleased to say survival rates across almost all types of cancer are improving.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. Picture by Lauren Hurley / DHSC

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

When the Prime Minster and I hosted the world’s first AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park last year, we put safely harnessing AI right at the top of the global agenda.

We knew that this rapidly evolving technology had the potential to not only improve lives, but save them too. AI is already transforming the world for the better, from cutting NHS waiting times and speeding up diagnoses to tackling issues like climate change through initiatives like the Manchester Prize.

I’m in the Republic of Korea at this week’s AI Seoul Summit to discuss how the UK is leading the charge when it comes to utilising AI to help humanity and driving forward the global momentum I kickstarted at Bletchley on safely realising the transformative benefits of AI.

“We are backing the future of British innovation” – Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Dr Imogen Locke, national speciality adviser for radiotherapy at NHS England said: 

The NHS is embracing AI and its benefits for cancer patients and every radiotherapy department will soon be able to offer the latest technology to help diagnose and treat patients more quickly.  We are seeing a record number of referrals for suspected cancer, and game-changing tools like AI will help the NHS continue the significant progress made in tackling the longest waits for patients.