Parliament hit by cyber-attack

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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The UK Parliament has been hit by a cyber-security attack.

MPs were reportedly informed about the hack on Friday night and later told of difficulties in accessing their emails away from the Westminster estate.

A parliamentary spokeswoman said the lack of email access for MPs, peers and their staff was due to the steps being taken to manage the issue.

She said they were investigating the incident and liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre.

The spokeswoman said “unauthorised attempts to access accounts of parliamentary networks users” were discovered.

She added: “Parliament has robust measures in place to protect all of our accounts and systems, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect and secure our network.

“As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network.”

‘Not a surprise’

IT services on the parliamentary estate are working normally and a message sent to MPs urges them to remain “extra vigilant”.

But a number of MPs have confirmed to the BBC they are not able to access their parliamentary email accounts remotely.

It comes just over a month after 48 of England’s NHS trusts were hit by a cyber-attack.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “We have seen reports in the last few days of even Cabinet ministers’ passwords being for sale online.

“We know that our public services are attacked so it is not at all surprising that there should be an attempt to hack into parliamentary emails.

“And it’s a warning to everybody, whether they are in Parliament or elsewhere, that they need to do everything possible to maintain their own cyber security.”

The latest attack was publicly revealed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard on Twitter who had also asked his followers to send any “urgent messages” to him by text.

Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, later tweeted: “Sorry no parliamentary email access today – we’re under cyber attack from Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin or a kid in his mom’s basement or something…”

The government’s National Security Strategy said in 2015 that the threat from cyber-attacks from both organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies was one of the “most significant risks to UK interests”.

The National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, started its operations in October last year.

The National Crime Agency said it was working with the NCSC but the centre was “leading the operational response”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40394074

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Camden tower evacuations: Rosie’s story

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

Cladding on 27 tower blocks in England have failed fire safety tests.

Camden Council was the first authority to evacuate residents of one estate late on Friday.

Despite being told the buildings are unsafe, 83 people refused to leave their homes.

Rosie Turner was one of them. This is why.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40394432

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Cladding fire tests failed by 27 high-rise blocks

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionWatch: Camden resident confronts council chief

Cladding on 27 tower blocks in 15 council areas in England has failed fire safety tests, the government says.

This comes after Camden Council became the first authority to evacuate residents over fire safety concerns, asking people living in four high-rise buildings to leave late on Friday.

The council said it had no option but to move residents of 650 flats on the Chalcots estate while work takes place.

Theresa May said “necessary” steps will be taken to find people accommodation.

The council’s Labour leader, Georgia Gould, said the council had acted “as swiftly as we possibly can” to ensure people’s safety.

Ms Gould said the fire service “told us they could not guarantee our residents’ safety in those blocks”.

“I know it’s difficult, but Grenfell changes everything and I just don’t believe we can take any risk with our residents’ safety and I have to put them first.

“I offered to pay for fire stations to be stationed outside all of those blocks so we could have a couple of days to get the work done but the message was there was absolutely nothing I could do to make those blocks safe that night.”

  • Combustible cladding found on Teesside flats
  • Confusion and anger after evacuation

She said that if people still choose to not leave their homes then it would “become a matter for the fire services”.

Media captionAir beds laid out in Swiss Cottage leisure centre

Mrs May said: “We are making sure that the authority has the ability to do what is necessary to ensure people have somewhere to stay and that the work is done so that those tower blocks will become safe for them to return to in future.”

Other high-rise buildings, such as some used by the NHS, are also being tested.

The Department for Communities and Local Government have named six of the 15 local authorities where high-rise buildings have failed fire safety tests as:

  • Camden – where residents have been evacuated from four blocks on the Chalcots estate
  • Brent – where a housing association tower block, Elizabeth House, has cladding but London Fire Brigade advises it is not a risk
  • Hounslow – where Clements Court tower in Cranford is to have outer cladding removed
  • Manchester – where 78 panels are being removed from one area of the Village 135 development in Wythenshawe
  • Plymouth – where three blocks on the Mount Wise Tower estate were found to have cladding made from similar material to Grenfell Tower
  • Portsmouth – where the city council is removing cladding from Horatia House and Leamington House in Somerstown

The estate’s cladding is similar to Grenfell Tower in west London, where a fire is feared to have killed 79.

The Metropolitan Police say manslaughter, health and safety, and fire safety charges will be considered in relation to that blaze.

Chalcots was refurbished between 2006 and 2009 by the same firm, Rydon, that oversaw work at Grenfell Tower in 2015-16.

Camden Council says it will remove external thermal cladding from five tower blocks on the Chalcots estate.

It also said there were concerns about the insulation of gas pipes going into flats, and fire doors.

The council initially announced the evacuation of one tower block, Taplow, but later extended the move to all five tower blocks it had checked.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the council then announced that one of the five – Blashford – did not need to be evacuated, and residents could return, because it is smaller and has “several different design elements”.

At the scene

By Cherry Wilson, BBC News

Children jump on the climbing frames and kick around a ball in the playground outside Swiss Cottage leisure centre.

It would seem like a typical Saturday for families, except many are laden with bags or suitcases after leaving their homes.

Locals say they are weary, after a chaotic night of mixed messages about whether or not they can stay in their homes.

Pamela Woodward, 72, and her husband are walking away from the centre with two black suitcases, after being told they will be put up in a hotel.

They stayed in their tower block last night after being told at 2am that someone would be back to collect them – but no-one returned.

Pamela said: “It’s disgusting. We’ve lived here for 30 years and there’s been two fires since the cladding was fitted and they’ve all been contained.

“I think there has been a big cock-up. I feel terrible. I just want to be at home. I’ve been up all night waiting for them.”

  • Confusion and anger after evacuation

Emergency accommodation was set up at Swiss Cottage leisure centre and at the Camden Centre in King’s Cross.

But Camden Council, which said it already spent £500,000 on hotel rooms, said it would reimburse residents who have paid for their own temporary accommodation.

Ms Gould urged them to stay with family and friends if possible and encouraged remaining residents to vacate their blocks.

The decision to evacuate the buildings was made at 18:30 BST on Friday.

The work is expected to take three to four weeks. Residents will be allowed in at the weekend to collect more possessions under escort from the fire brigade.

Media captionWatch: Meet Rosie, who refused to leave Taplow Tower

Bob O’Toole, chairman of Chalcots Estate residents’ association, told BBC Breakfast that contractors had been working overnight in several of the tower blocks.

“A lot of people are annoyed because of the way [the evacuation] was done. They’re saying it was left too late in the evening. But Camden Council didn’t get the information till late, and they acted on that as quickly as possible.”

One resident, Belinda, says she is among a number of tenants who are refusing to leave their flats “because we think it’s unnecessary and some don’t know what they will do with their pets.”

She said council lawyers accompanied by police have advised her to vacate the building, but added: “They know they can’t force us to leave without legal documents which will take them time to put together.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said the local fire service for the Chalcots Estate found multiple other failures in fire safety and, as a result, had made “this quite correct decision”.

“Public safety is absolutely paramount, you cannot put a price on people’s lives. So local authorities have to do whatever it takes to get their buildings safe.”

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The estate recently underwent a £66m refurbishment

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said councils across the country needed to deal “swiftly and effectively with the scale of the fire safety challenge” posed by the Grenfell Tower fire and the government’s emergency Cobra committee should meet to plan a stronger response.

“This is now a nationwide threat and the prime minister needs to get a grip,” he added.

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, said: “This is a civil emergency. The government must guarantee funding for local councils to do everything necessary to keep people safe and compensate those who have had their lives disrupted.”

Local MP Tulip Siddiq backed Camden Council’s decision to evacuate the estate saying it was “not an ideal situation” but the safety of residents “needs to come first”.

What happens to pets?

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Camden is working with the RSPCA and animal welfare officers in the neighbouring borough of Islington to help residents with pets.

Twelve dogs, six cats, two budgies, a cockatiel, a parrot, two hamsters, a guinea pig, three tanks of fish, and a hedgehog have been registered with officials.

“The borough is working really hard to let people take their pets with them to hotels,” says Zenon Brown from the RSPCA. “A lot of people do not want to be separated from their pets, understandably.”

But there are temporary holding facilities for animals within Islington, and local animal welfare groups have offered volunteer and fostering support for pets.

“As much as possible we are trying to keep pets and owners together,” says Joe Clarke from Islington Council. “But we are also offering help and support… where that can’t be facilitated.”

Camden Council agreed a contract with Rydon Construction to refurbish the Chalcots estate in May 2006 at a cost of £66m.

The work took more than three-and-a-half years. Five towers received new cladding and 711 flats were modernised with new wiring, heating, kitchens and bathrooms.

Media captionCouncil leader Georgia Gould: “People are very, very distressed”

David Clixby, who lives in a nine-storey council tower block in Billingham, Cleveland, has contacted the BBC to say residents have been notified that the building has been “partially clad” in combustible cladding.

“We are being allowed to stay in our flats until the work starts on Monday, as the fire services have said they are safe enough for us to stay. The council have put 24-hour security in each block until work starts.”

Friday night’s announcement came as the Metropolitan Police said the Grenfell Tower fire started in a fridge-freezer, and outside cladding and insulation failed safety tests.

A national operation to identify buildings with cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower has seen local authorities send samples for independent tests.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said 14 residential high-rise buildings in nine local authority areas have now been found with cladding that raises safety concerns.

Do you live in one of the 27 tower blocks that have failed fire cladding safety tests? Are you a resident in one of the affected tower blocks on the Chalcots estate? Email us at haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40391395

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Dan Evans: Great Britain Davis Cup player fails drugs test

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 23, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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‘I made a mistake’ – Evans admits failed drugs test

British number three Dan Evans has announced he tested positive for cocaine in a drugs test taken in April.

The 27-year-old, who has played for Britain in the Davis Cup, learned of the failed test earlier this week and said he had “let a lot of people down”.

“I made a mistake and I must face up to it,” said the world number 50.

A player can be banned for up to four years for an anti-doping violation, according to International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules.

The ITF said Evans provided the positive sample at the Barcelona Open on 24 April and he will be provisionally suspended from 26 June.

“It’s really important you know this was taken out of competition and in a context completely unrelated to tennis,” said Evans, from Birmingham.

“I do not condone for one second to anyone that this is acceptable behaviour.

“I have let a lot of people down – my family, my coach, my team, sponsors, British Tennis and my fans. I can only deeply apologise from the bottom of my heart.

“This has been a sad and humbling experience.”

Evans last played on 10 June at Surbiton, retiring with a calf injury before withdrawing from events in Nottingham, London and Eastbourne.

He was ranked 772nd in the world in April 2015 but had reached a career-high ranking of 41 in March this year.

He lost all three of his matches last month, going out in the first round at the French Open, Madrid Open and Rome Masters.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the governing body of British tennis, said it was “very disappointed” by the news.

“We absolutely condemn any form of drug-taking and will support the process which needs to take place,” said LTA performance director Simon Timson.

“We are in touch with Dan and we will offer appropriate guidance, support and education to him on how best to address the issues he now faces.”

How long will Evans be banned for?

Evans has accepted the finding and the ITF said the ban will begin on Monday, “pending determination of the case”.

A ban of two years is possible if it can be proved the substance was taken “in a context unrelated to sport performance”, according to the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme guidelines.

“What is always key in these situations is whether the panel decide that the person has taken this drug intentionally or not,” said BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller.

Spaniard Jose-Manuel Roman Gomez was given a four-year ban after testing positive for cocaine in 2015, while French world number 30 Richard Gasquet had a two-year ban overturned in 2009.

An ITF panel accepted Gasquet’s claim that the substance was in his system after he kissed a woman who had taken cocaine in a nightclub.

Former world number one Martina Hingis was given a two-year ban in 2008 after testing positive for cocaine while competing at Wimbledon the previous year.

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Pundits react to Evans’ failed drugs test

‘Evans has had chances’

John Lloyd, BBC Sport commentator and 1977 Australian Open finalist:

The bottom line is how many chances do you get?

He has had so many in his career where we have written him off, done things like not trained and done the things he needed to, got in trouble and then came back.

It looked like he had finally broken through that with some tremendous performances and he was a world-class player. Now this has happened.

At some stage it has to change. It is very sad.

Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent:

Dan Evans won’t be playing at Wimbledon and he can expect to serve a significant period out of the game.

He gave a deeply heartfelt apology but he is going to pay a very, very high price for that mistake.

Cocaine is on the banned list. It is classed as a stimulant and prohibited in competition.

Evans will have to prove that he didn’t know this was an anti-doping violation but that will be difficult based on the evidence we have so far.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/40387574

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Brexit: EU leaders says UK offer could ‘worsen situation’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 23, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionMay: I want to give EU residents certainty

European leaders have criticised the UK’s offer to EU nationals after Brexit – with one senior figure claiming it could “worsen the situation” for them.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the plan was “below expectations” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there had been “no breakthrough”.

Theresa May conceded there were differences between the two sides.

But the prime minister said those who had “made their lives and homes” in the UK would have their rights guaranteed.

She also suggested that while rights would be enforced by British courts, they could also be enshrined in international law if the agreement was included in the final treaty of withdrawal.

  • QA: What is UK offer?
  • May unveils Brexit offer for EU citizens
  • Brexit: What is at stake in EU-UK talks?
  • Brexit: All you need to know

Both the UK and the rest of the EU say they want to come to an arrangement to secure the status of the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons living in EU countries.

Media captionEU chief’s one word response to May’s plan

Under plans announced on Thursday by Mrs May, the UK envisages giving all EU citizens the right to stay after the UK’s exit – due on 30 March 2019 – and granting those resident for at the least five years the same rights to welfare, pensions and education as UK citizens.

However, no cut-off date for the package has been specified by Downing Street and further details of the plans will not be released until Monday.

The offer has received a mixed response from EU leaders with some describing it as a “good start” but calling for more detail.

Speaking at a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was a “long way to go”.

“That was a good beginning but – and I’m trying to word this very carefully – it was not a breakthrough,” she said.

“We don’t want a wedge to be driven between us. We do want to make our interests very clear and if there is no guarantee for the full freedoms, then this exercise will have to lead to a situation where there are certain effects on the future relationship between the UK and the 27 member states.”

Mr Tusk, who represents the other EU 27 nations, said the EU would “analyse line by line” the UK’s proposals when they were published in full but his “first impression is that the UK’s offer is below our expectations and that it risks worsening the situation of citizens”.

And Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta – who currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU – warned of people being “treated differently” depending on when they arrived in the UK.

Who will police the new rules?

By political editor Laura Kuenssberg

While complex, this summit was perhaps a brief respite from the brooding turmoil in her own party, where questions about the viability of her leadership lurk. Governing is doing, not fending off enemies – and at least today, Theresa May has done that.

There was also a big hint about how the British negotiators hope to get round one of the big obstacles. As we’ve discussed before one of the big gaps between the two negotiating sides here are who will police the rules on citizen’s rights. So, if something goes wrong, who can they appeal to, how will their rights be protected.

The EU side is adamant that it can only be the European Court of Justice. Theresa May has been totally insistent that it can’t be them.

At the press conference this afternoon she repeated that it would be the British courts in charge. So far, so the same. But she then tantalisingly – if you are a nerd like me – said that because the rights would be agreed as part of the withdrawal treaty, they would be therefore subject to international law.

Therefore, theoretically, that means they could be enforced by an international court of some variety. Lawyers suggest that is not likely to be the Hague, but could be some kind of new organisation that had British and European lawyers involved. Read more

EU nationals in the UK currently have a right to permanent residence, granted after they have lived in the UK, legally and continuously, for five years.

The European Union has said EU citizens should continue enjoying the same rights as they do now on a lifetime basis, enforceable by the European Court of Justice. But the UK’s view is that British courts should have jurisdiction as they will be enshrined in UK law.

Media caption“There are still so many unknowns” on future of EU citizens says ex-Czech Europe Minister

Mrs May said there had been a “very positive” discussion with other EU countries. She acknowledged differences over their enforcement but said she “remained of the view that this is a fair and serious offer”.

  • ‘Devil in the detail’ of EU citizens deal
  • EU prepares to move agencies from London

“Let’s be clear about what we’re saying. What we’re saying is that those citizens from EU countries who have come to the United Kingdom, those EU citizens who have made their lives and homes in the UK will be able to stay and we will guarantee their rights,” she said.

The PM said the issue would be one of the first to be discussed and she wanted an agreement as soon as possible.


In response to claims by the former chancellor George Osborne, in an article for the Evening Standard, that she had “blocked” calls for the UK to offer a unilateral guarantee of rights in the aftermath of last year’s referendum, she said that was “certainly not my recollection” of events.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, founding member of the 3million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – said the UK’s offer was “disappointing” and “really falls short of our expectations”.

“It is like a teaser this statement, it gives you general direction of travel potentially, but there are things in the statement that need to be unpicked.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the government to guarantee all UK-based EU citizens full residency rights, saying the current offer “doesn’t go far enough and leaves uncertainty for those who have been here for less than five years”.

“These are people who are working here and have families here – we have to end their uncertainty.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40378913

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Grenfell Tower: Fire started in Hotpoint fridge-freezer, say police

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 23, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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The Grenfell Tower fire in London started in a fridge-freezer, and outside cladding and insulation failed safety tests, police say.

The Metropolitan Police say manslaughter, health and safety, and fire safety charges will be considered.

A total of 79 people are feared dead after the blaze destroyed 151 homes in the Kensington tower block and nearby.

In Salford, cladding is to be removed from nine of its residential tower blocks because of safety concerns.

The city’s mayor Paul Dennett said: “Government tests are under way but is already clear the cladding on our blocks must be removed. There will be no waiting around… while there are any questions about the safety of our residents.”

Meanwhile, the government has ordered immediate testing of the Hotpoint fridge-freezer that was involved in the Grenfell fire. The model was manufactured between 2006 and 2009.

Whirlpool, which acquired the Hotpoint brand in 2014, said: “We offer our most profound condolences to the victims, those who have lost loved ones, homes, and possessions, and to their friends and families.”

Nine of those who died on 14 June have been formally identified so far. Nine people remain in hospital, with three people still in critical care.

Police said the fire had not been started deliberately and the speed with which the fire spread was “unexpected”.

A national operation to identify buildings with cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower has seen local authorities send samples for independent tests.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said 14 residential high-rise buildings in nine local authority areas have now been found with cladding that raises safety concerns.

The buildings identified are:

  • Braithwaite House, one of eight blocks tested on an Islington Council estate
  • Clements Court tower in Cranford, west London, where Hounslow Council says it will remove the outer cladding from the building

There are 14 buildings where problematic cladding has been found and is being removed.

The Department for Education said all bodies responsible for safety in schools in England are being instructed to carry out checks to identify any buildings that may require further investigation.

One building is being checked in Northern Ireland as a precautionary measure.

But no buildings giving cause for concern have been found in Wales, while the Scottish Government said no council or housing association high-rise block in Scotland had cladding of the type used in Grenfell Tower.

The Metropolitan Police said four more victims – three men and one woman – have been formally identified.

But a spokesman said: “We have not named the victims or issued further details on request of the families. The families of all these victims have been informed.”

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Met Police

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Photographs released by police showed the charred remains inside a flat

Preliminary tests on the samples of insulation showed it burned soon after the test started, and more quickly than the cladding tiles.

However, they both failed the police’s safety tests – which are similar to those being carried out by the UK government.

Some 250 specialist investigators have been deployed to find out what happened.

Every company involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower will also be looked at as part of the investigation.

  • Football proceeds to be given to victims
  • School pupils go green for Grenfell

Det Supt Fiona McCormack said all criminal charges are being considered “from manslaughter onwards”.

Media captionInsulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted “soon after” safety tests started, police say

She said officers had been in the tower “from top to bottom”, adding that next week a lift would be installed to the outside of the building.

She added the forensic search “may not be complete until the end of the year”.

“There is a terrible reality that we may not find or identify everyone who died due to the intense heat.”

What do I do if I have a Hotpoint fridge freezer?

By Kevin Peachey, BBC News

Anyone who has a white Hotpoint fridge freezer model number FF175BP or graphite fridge freezer model number FF175BG should register their appliance with the manufacturer to receive any updates.

Generally, the model number is found on a bar code on a sticker behind the salad container in the fridge.

These models were manufactured between March 2006 and July 2009. About 64,000 were sold but it is not known how many are still in use.

Owners should ring 0800 316 3826 or visit the Hotpoint website.

Fires connected to fridge freezers and other electrical appliances are relatively common.

More general advice on registering an appliance, should there be a recall, and other safety tips are available online on charity Electrical Safety First’s page.

‘Didn’t pass any tests’

Det Supt McCormack says the tests carried out on the cladding and insulation were “small scale” but added: “All I can say at the moment is they [the tiles and insulation] don’t pass any safety tests.”

The cladding, insulation, fixings and installation will be examined, both individually and in terms of how they worked together.

“The investigation will be exhaustive,” said Det Supt McCormack.

“As we learn more, the scope and scale may well grow. We will look at the refurbishment. We are looking at the panelling and the entire facade of the building.”

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Getty Images

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Samples from the tower block in Camden were found to be a safety concern, and are now removed

She said she wanted to hear about anyone who was in the tower, whether or not they were meant to be in the building.

She said: “I do not want there to be any victims of this tragedy that we do not know about.

“Our priority is to understand who was in Grenfell Tower. We are not interested in people’s reasons for being in Grenfell Tower.”

She said she was concerned they did “not have the complete picture” and reassured people not to be nervous about contacting them.

Media captionAndrew Hosken accompanies two fire experts inspecting a tower block in East London

“There may well be people who no one has contacted us about – who they know were in the building or have close links to Grenfell Tower.

“The Home Office has assured us that they are not interested in people’s immigration status and we are not interested in looking at that.

“What we are interested in is making sure that we know who is missing and we take every possible step to establish if they are safe and well.”

Whirlpool said it was working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that it could assist with the ongoing investigations.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40380584

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Brexit: ‘Dreamer’ Tusk says UK may yet stay in the EU

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionDonald Tusk: Dreaming of a Brexit ‘miracle’

European Council President Donald Tusk has quoted lyrics from John Lennon’s Imagine to suggest the door remains open to the UK staying in the EU.

Ahead of a Brussels summit he said of that prospect: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

Theresa May, who has insisted that the UK will honour the referendum vote to leave, will outline her plans for the issue of expats’ rights later.

Speaking at the summit she hailed the “constructive” start to Brexit talks.

The gathering of 28 EU member states’ leaders comes the day after measures to enable Brexit dominated the Queen’s Speech. Mrs May’s Conservatives are still trying to secure the Commons support needed to pass their programme.

Mrs May told reporters as she arrived: “I’m going to be setting out some of the UK’s plans particularly on how we propose to protect the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens as we leave.

“That’s been an important issue. We’ve wanted it to be one of the early issues to be considered in the negotiations. That is now the case. That work is starting.”

She also said she would be raising other important issues, including how European leaders could work together to stop the spread of extremism online and ensure there was no “safe space” online for terrorists.

Brexit negotiations began on Monday.

Speaking before the summit, Mr Tusk said: “It is a most difficult process, for which the EU is well prepared. You can hear different predictions coming from different people about the possible outcome of these negotiations – hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal.

“Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU.

“I told them that, in fact, the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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Getty Images

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His comments were raised at a press conference in Brussels later with President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, who said: “In Europe, I never have illusions because I don’t want to lose them.”

But Mr Tusk said: “I still have dreams. Politics without dreams – it would be a nightmare.”

“If you had my experience from my part of Europe you would know that miracles do happen and some of my political dreams have come true… but at the same time I am a realist, this is why first of all we should start our negotiations as effectively as possible and the final decision… this is a decision for Britain and UK citizens.”

‘Cliff edge’

Earlier Chancellor Philip Hammond told BBC Radio 4′s Today he wanted an early agreement on the principle of a “transitional” period to reassure business there would not be a “cliff edge” when the UK leaves the EU at the end of March 2019.

He also denied that a series of controversial Conservative manifesto commitments had been dumped in the wake of the disappointing election result.

He told Today that the manifesto was for a five-year period, but the Queen’s Speech programme had been for the first two years, which are dominated by the process of Brexit.

Both the UK and the rest of the EU say they want to come to an arrangement to secure the status of about 3.2 million EU nationals living in the UK, and 900,000 Britons overseas, but nothing has been decided so far.

UK opposition parties have urged the government to make a unilateral guarantee to the EU migrants – but ministers have insisted a reciprocal deal is needed to ensure British expats are protected.

Media captionPhilip Hammond on Today backs a post-Brexit transitional arrangement

Mrs May will not be present when the leaders of the remaining 27 EU states hold a brief discussion about Brexit after her presentation. They are expected to consider the relocation of the two EU agencies governing medicine and banking which are currently based in London.

Of the 27 bills in the Queen’s Speech, eight related to Brexit and its impact on immigration, trade and sectors such as fisheries and farming.

At the centre was the so-called Repeal Bill, which will copy over all EU laws into UK law, with Parliament then deciding which bits to retain.

With MPs voting on the speech next week, the Conservatives are hoping an arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party will be in place to support their minority government.

But despite both sides saying they were confident of a deal being agreed, sources suggested to the BBC the DUP were “getting to the limits” of what they were requesting in return for supporting the Tories – with the chances of a plausible long-term deal, rather than a short-term bargain to get the Queen’s Speech through, diminishing.

Media captionJeremy Corbyn, speaking after the Queen’s speech, said austerity must come to an end

As well as clearing the Commons, Brexit legislation will also have to navigate the House of Lords, where the Tories also do not have a majority.

Another potential obstacle could emerge if the approval of the Scottish Parliament is needed for the Repeal Bill.

Speaking in the Commons after the Queen’s Speech, Mrs May said there was a “possibility” the bill, which is needed to stop EU law applying in the UK, could require Holyrood’s consent.

At the two-day summit, where the agenda is formally dominated by immigration, security and the economy, Mrs May will also brief her counterparts on the UK’s commitment to a new £75m plan designed to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Africa to Europe.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40362594

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Trump: I did not record ex-FBI chief James Comey

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

Image copyright

Image caption

Donald Trump and James Comey have given very different accounts of their interactions

US President Donald Trump says he did not make secret recordings of ex-FBI chief James Comey despite an earlier hint to the contrary.

He said in a tweet: “I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

Days after he fired Mr Comey in May, the president had tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations…”

He has been under pressure to produce the tapes amid inquiries into alleged Russian meddling in the election.

The House Intelligence Committee had earlier this month asked the White House to hand over any such recordings.

James Comey was heading the FBI inquiry into alleged Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, and whether the Trump team had any links to Moscow, when he was fired on 9 May.

In the days that followed, a succession of stories appeared in US newspapers with allegations that Mr Trump had asked Mr Comey to drop aspects of his investigation relating to the president’s campaign team.

It was in that context that Mr Trump sent his tweet, hinting that there were tapes of the conversation.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40375143

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Grenfell Tower: Seven high rises ‘fail fire-risk tests’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionTheresa May is booed on her latest visit to meet Grenfell Tower residents

Seven residential high-rise buildings in four local authority areas have been found to be covered in combustible cladding following safety tests.

Landlords are being told and more checks carried out, number 10 said.

It comes as further tests are being carried out on about 600 high rises across England.

Cladding is thought to have contributed to the rapid spread of fire at Grenfell Tower, in which at least 79 people are believed to have died.

Extra checks by the fire service would determine whether the buildings were safe and what – if any – action needed to be taken, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

He pointed out that a failed cladding test did not necessarily mean a building was unsafe – that would depend on the amount of cladding used and where it was fitted.

Arconic, an engineering and manufacturing company, said one of its products, Reynobond PE (polyethylene) – an aluminium composite material – was “used as one component in the overall cladding system” of Grenfell Tower.

“We will fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy,” a spokesman for the US-based firm said.

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The latest test results came as new footage emerged showing the prime minister being booed after her latest visit to meet residents of Grenfell Tower.

Theresa May has been widely criticised for her response to the Grenfell fire, with some people calling for her resignation.

In the video taken during a private, unannounced visit on Wednesday evening, cries of “shame on you” are heard but she does not appear to respond as she is ushered into her official car by waiting security officers.

Media captionMohammed Abdur Rahim, who lost family in the fire, says a third world country would have handled it better

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, councils were told to give details to the government about cladding used in their tower blocks by 20 June.

Cladding is typically fitted to the outside of high-rise buildings to improve insulation and tidy up the appearance of often ugly blocks.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is now co-ordinating tests on it – with up to 100 able to take place in a day.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said no-one would be left to live in unsafe buildings.

“They will be rehoused if they need to be and landlords will be asked to provide alternative accommodation where that’s possible,” she said.

Arnold Tarling, a member of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection, said removing combustible cladding from buildings around the country could cost “hundreds of millions of pounds”.

“Problems with cladding and problems with properties doesn’t just affect social housing. It goes across the whole range of properties,” he told BBC 5 live. “There could be office blocks clad with it.”

Earlier, there had been some confusion after Downing Street said 600 tower blocks had “similar cladding” to Grenfell Tower.

The Department for Communities and Local Government later clarified that the figure of 600 referred to the number of buildings with cladding of any kind.

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Samples from the tower block in Camden were found to be combustible, and are now removed

One of the blocks found to have combustible cladding is on Camden Council’s Chalcots estate, in north London.

Workmen are now removing panels found to have been made up of aluminium with a polyethylene core, said the council.

Its leader Georgia Gould said the panels were “not to the standard” that the council had commissioned, and it would be informing the contractor behind the work that they would be taking legal advice.

Three tower blocks in Plymouth have also been found to be clad in combustible panels, local Labour MP Luke Pollard has said.

He is calling for the government to pay for cladding on the Mount Wise buildings to be “urgently” replaced.

John Clark, CEO of Plymouth Community Homes, said tests showed the cladding was “aluminium coated with a polyethylene core”.

He said extra fire safety precautions were being introduced, including 24/7 monitoring, additional fire protection in stairwells and checks on fire doors.

Residents’ fears in Tottenham high rise

By Jim Reed, BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme

Media caption‘These things should have been checked out before people moved in’

Residents at a 22-storey block of flats in Tottenham, north London, have been sent an email – seen by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme – saying the building has the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.

Rivers Apartments – which is shared ownership, so classed as social housing – was built just two years ago, with the cladding incorporated as part of the design.

It is understood the block is clad in Reynobond PE, the same brand of cladding believed to have been used on Grenfell Tower.

The programme was told the tower passed all building regulation checks by Haringey Council.

Unlike Grenfell Tower, this block does contain modern safety features, such as a sprinkler system.

Newlon Housing Trust, the housing association that part-owns the block, said it had arranged with the fire service to carry out more checks.

It is still waiting for final test results to confirm it is the most flammable type of cladding.

It says the cladding on the building may have to be replaced.

Grenfell Tower is coming to be seen as a “political symbol of inequality”, the BBC’s Iain Watson said.

The new Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, told the Commons the “burnt-out carcass” of the tower revealed the “true face” of her constituency, with poverty, malnutrition and overcrowding existing alongside wealth.

In her maiden speech, she criticised people who think social tenants have “no right to live in an area like desirable Kensington”, and called for fire service cuts to be reversed.

Mrs May said she expected to name the judge who will lead a public inquiry into the fire within the next few days.

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“We want to ensure when the judge takes charge, people feel they can have full confidence in the inquiry,” she said.

“No stone will be left unturned. For any guilty parties there will be nowhere to hide.”

She also said that an inquiry into whether cladding in Grenfell Tower met fire safety regulations would be published in the next 48 hours.

Since the Grenfell fire on 14 June, more than £700,000 has been paid out to survivors – none of which will have to be repaid, said Mrs May.

Resources, including healthcare and accommodation, would be available to everyone affected by the fire, regardless of their immigration status, she added.

The fire destroyed 151 homes – most in the tower block itself, but also a number of surrounding properties.

Mrs May said that 164 “suitable properties” had now been found for those made homeless, and they were in the process of being checked before residents can move in.

The new properties include a block of 68 flats in Kensington, bought by the City of London Corporation and allocated to Kensington and Chelsea Council.

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The new flats in Kensington Row are 1.5 miles from Grenfell Tower

On Wednesday, the PM apologised for “state” failures following the Grenfell blaze. Later that day, Kensington and Chelsea Council confirmed that its chief executive Nicholas Holgate was resigning.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May said the council “couldn’t cope” in the aftermath, and that it “was right” that Mr Holgate had stepped down.

NHS England said that 10 patients across four London hospitals are still receiving care following the fire in West Kensington. Five of them are in critical care.

One of the hospitals which has looked after patients, King’s College Hospital, confirmed it had treated three people with an antidote to cyanide poisoning – although it did not confirm whether they were given it as a precautionary measure.

The 600 figure does not include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have autonomous powers in housing.

The Scottish government and Welsh ministers have said that none of their council high-rise blocks has cladding of the type said to have been used in the Grenfell Tower.

Similarly, there is no evidence of Grenfell Tower-type cladding used on tower blocks managed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and checks on other high-rise buildings owed by housing associations or private developers are continuing.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40366646

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Theresa May apologises: Grenfell response ‘not good enough’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on June 21, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40358672

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