Top story: Hopes of thousands hinge on pension rescue
Hello, Warren Murray presenting the news at a decent clip.
Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group has collapsed into administration putting 13,000 jobs at risk. The owner of Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Burton has appointed administrators from Deloitte. No immediate redundancies were made, with the group’s stores and websites continuing to trade. Arcadia will have protection from creditors while a buyer is sought for all or parts of it. Green, 68, is not expected to bid. A shortfall in the Arcadia pension schemes has been put at a preliminary £350m.
Watch: UK retailer Debenhams to be liquidated
It is the biggest British corporate failure of the pandemic and brings to an end Green’s decades-long presence on the British high street. It also appears to have led JD Sports to abandon a rescue of the stricken department store Debenhams, where Arcadia is a big supplier. Nils Pratley writes: “Staff just want to know if, and how, Green plans to fill the deficit in Arcadia’s pension schemes. The main reason why a deficit in the pension fund has persisted over years is that the Greens extracted their famous £1.2bn dividend from Arcadia in 2005 which weakened its balance sheet and undermined its ability to make catch-up pension contributions in leaner trading years.” The Greens’ fortune has shrunk as Arcadia’s fortunes have faded, from being the UK’s fifth richest people in 2006 with £4.9bn, according to the Sunday Times rich list, to an estimated £950m by May 2020.
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Tier stymie – The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has ordered MPs to abstain in today’s Commons vote on the tiers system, which is due to replace lockdown rules from Wednesday. The party says support for the hospitality sector must go further than what Boris Johnson has promised. It will be the first time Labour has gone against the government in a vote on Covid restrictions.
The tiering measures are still expected to pass. The government has released 48 pages of economic and health factors that it says are behind the tiers. It says it is not possible to assess whether the economic cost will be greater than that of taking no action, but protecting the NHS has to be the priority and the loss of life from doing otherwise would be “intolerable for society”. Local authorities in tier 3, with the toughest restrictions, will be offered funds to run mass testing programmes of the public, in hopes of driving down the virus and moving to tier 2. And with pubs in tier 2 areas only allowed to serve drinks alongside a substantial meal, debate has erupted over whether a scotch egg qualifies. David Laing, a North Yorkshire scotch egg maker, said: “The likes of ours are a proper meal. The royal family have had ours.” (The Briefing doesn’t remember seeing that on The Crown, therefore can’t confirm the veracity.) Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has pledged to pay every NHS and social care worker in Scotland a £500 Covid bonus and has called on Boris Johnson to make the payment tax-free.
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Trade deals ‘pose antibiotic risk’ – Overuse of antibiotics on farm animals is rife in countries with which the UK is hoping to strike post-Brexit trade deals, a report shows. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada all feed antibiotics routinely to livestock. In the US and Canada farm antibiotic use is about five times the level in the UK, data compiled by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics shows. It is cheaper because the animals grow faster and can be kept in overcrowded conditions. But the meat is soon to be banned in the EU for safety and public health reasons. Medical experts are worried about the rise of antibiotic resistance around the world, which could leave us defenceless against common diseases. Cóilín Nunan, the Alliance’s scientific adviser, said: “Antibiotic resistance is a global problem … These free-trade agreements need to take that into account.” Nunan called forthcoming EU regulations “a huge step forward” and called on ministers to adopt them in the UK.
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‘System is strong’ – Joe Biden’s victories in Arizona and Wisconsin have been officially recognised, handing Donald Trump six defeats out of six in his bid to stop states certifying results of the presidential election. In Wisconsin a partial recount only added to Biden’s nearly 20,700-vote margin over Trump, who is mounting a desperate campaign to overturn the results by disqualifying as many as 238,000 ballots in the state, his attorneys making various allegations without evidence. Arizona officials certified Biden’s victory by about 11,000 votes: a slim margin, but making him only the second Democrat to win there in 70 years. Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, and its Republican governor, Doug Ducey, both vouched for the integrity of the election: “We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong,” Ducey said.
Watch: Key states certify presidential election results
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Amazon razing under Bolsonaro continues – A vast expanse of Amazon rainforest seven times larger than Greater London was destroyed over the last year as deforestation surged to a 12-year high under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. The Brazilian space institute, Inpe, says at least 11,088 sq km of rainforest was razed between August 2019 and July this year, the highest figure since 2008. Carlos Rittl, a Brazilian environmentalist at Germany’s Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, said the numbers were “humiliating, shameful and outrageous”, and a clear sign of the damage being done to the environment since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Rittl said one ray of light for the Amazon was the defeat of Donald Trump: “Without the backing of Trump in the US, the international pressure [on Bolsonaro over the environment] will increase and it will increase a lot.”
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Universal credit debts pile up – It has become more common for people using food banks to be in debt to the government than to family and friends or payday lenders, the Trussell Trust has said. The UK’s biggest food bank network said half of all households visiting food banks struggled to afford essential goods such as food and clothes because they were repaying universal credit debts. The organisation said monthly loan repayments deducted from claimants’ payments could reduce household incomes by up to a third. It is calling on ministers to pause all universal credit deductions, arguing it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to repay debts when they cannot afford basic essentials.
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Snack man of Europe – Britons have eaten and drunk their way through more unhealthy snacks and alcohol during lockdown than their peers elsewhere in Europe, a study suggests. The survey of 5,000 consumers in 10 European countries found that lockdown restrictions may have caused lasting positive change in food consumption: people in the UK increased their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by a third. But there have also been rises in consumption of convenience foods (29%), alcohol (29%) and “tasty treats” (34%). Britons have rediscovered a pleasure in cooking, with 42% trying more new recipes, but they also snacked 27% more often rather than eating set meals. This was greater than the other nine countries surveyed: Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden.
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Newcastle’s Premier League game at Aston Villa on Friday is in danger of postponement after Steve Bruce’s entire first-team squad were asked to self-isolate on Monday amid a growing Covid-19 outbreak at the north-east club. Jarrod Bowen made one and scored one as West Ham beat Aston Villa 2-1 and won their third straight game. Ivan Cavaleiro kept his nerve after his penalty miss against Everton, adding to Ademola Lookman’s opener as Fulham won 2-1 at Leicester despite Harvey Barnes’ late goal. Marine of the Northern Premier League Division One – in the eighth tier of the English game – have been drawn at home to Tottenham, the Premier League leaders, in the third round of the FA Cup.
The seasoned England midfielder Jill Scott was full of praise for the attitude of the young players in the Lionesses’ latest training camp, after a back three of Manchester United’s Millie Turner and the Arsenal duo Lotte Wubben-Moy and Leah Williamson all impressed. England supporters are set to go thirsty at Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final against France with the Rugby Football Union keeping the Twickenham bars shut when fans return for the first time since March. Romain Grosjean is to be discharged from hospital today having escaped from a life-threatening accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The San Francisco 49ers will play two home NFL games in Arizona after new coronavirus regulations put in place by officials in northern California forced the team to find a temporary new home. And for too long football has played tiki-taka with the issue of concussion, writes Sean Ingle, rather than tackling it head on.
Despite the collapse of Arcadia suggesting a grim outlook for the British retail sector, the stock market remains in positive mode helped by widespread optimism that a vaccination rollout will bring the pandemic under control next year. The FTSE’s heavy bias to multinational companies also helps by insulating it from the worst of the British economic weather and the index is expected to lift 0.1% at the opening this morning in the wake of its most successful month for 31 years in November. The pound rose 0.24% overnight to $1.336 and is also up modestly against the euro at €1.117.
Our Guardian print edition leads with the Labour abstention curveball and also gives prominence to how a board member at the human rights watchdog liked or retweeted social media posts criticising Black Lives Matters protesters and describing the words misogynist and homophobe as “highly ideological propaganda terms”. The picture lead is Rita Ora apologising for breaking lockdown rules – about that, the Metro says “One rule for Ora”.
The Express leads with “PM makes peace offering to halt rebel revolt” – that’s about Tory objections to the Covid tiers. The Telegraph presents it less sunnily: “Tories in revolt over PM’s tiers”, as does the i: “Tory rebels head for showdown with PM”. The Times has “Secret dossier on Covid carnage”, a sequel to the Covid impact assessment released on Monday.
The Mail and the Mirror are more closely aligned than we have come to expect, the former saying “No jab? You’re barred” and the latter going with “No jab no entry”, about how venues might be able to turn customers away if they have not had a Covid vaccine. The Sun has “10 pints of lager and a scotch egg please”, saying “Delighted drinkers were told last night they can booze in Tier 2 pubs — if they buy a Scotch egg”. Here’s cheers then.
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