Superfast Broadband roll-out: Reaching the final 5% ‘hardest to reach properties’

Last August, I blogged highlighting that the Government’s superfast broadband programme had extended fibre broadband to 2 million premises. This August, the Government has trumpeted the fact that it has now extended fibre to a further million premises, taking the total to 3 million since 2010.

MPs will debate this and other issues related to superfast broadband on 12 October. One of the key concerns likely to be raised, and now the main focus for the Government, is how, where and when the final 5% of hardest to reach areas will get access to superfast broadband.

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Will the wheels fall off the diesel car boom in the UK?

Allegations by the US Environmental Protection Agency that Volkswagen distorted the results of emissions tests on diesel cars caused the company’s share price to fall significantly at the beginning of this week, and has raised questions about the veracity of emissions testing across the world.

These allegations have also thrown the spot-light on one of the most significant changes the automotive industry has seen in recent years – the massive growth in the number of diesel cars, particularly in the UK and Europe.

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Devolution deals and the powers offered to localities: a menu with specials?

At the time of writing, ‘devolution deals’ have been agreed with four local areas within England: Greater Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Cornwall. A number of others are reported to be in the pipeline (North-East, Liverpool, West Midlands, Tees Valley, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire): the Government announced that areas seeking a deal in time for the 2015 Spending Review would have to submit proposals by 4 September 2015.

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Using survey data to investigate migrants and benefits

Last week, the Daily Express published a story with the headline “Migrants ‘milking’ benefits system: Foreigners more likely to claim handouts”, drawing upon figures from a Migration Watch report that investigates the economic characteristics of migrants in the UK in 2014. The purpose of this post is not to critique the claims made by the newspaper nor the report itself, but rather to investigate whether the source of the data, the Labour Force Survey (LFS), is capable of providing evidence that is robust enough to support these claims.

As the study points out, migrants in the UK do not uniformly match the age profile of their host country as a whole and predominantly fall into the 25-44 age bands. It follows that analysis of benefit claims by migrants should be broken down by age, yet the picture that emerges of the differences between the UK-born and non UK-born population is not entirely clear. The charts  below – taken directly from the report – show that claimant rates for certain benefits are higher among the non UK-born (e.g. housing benefit) while for others they are lower (e.g. out-of-work benefits). The implication is that a nuanced narrative might be more appropriate than broad statements about migrants’ likelihood to claim.

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RAF kill an estimated 242 enemy combatants in Iraq

The Ministry of Defence has released figures giving the estimated number of enemy combatants killed in Iraq from RAF air strikes. An estimated 242 enemy combatants were killed between October 2014 and May 2015, the highest number falling in January 2015, with 50 deaths. The Ministry says there are no known incidents of civilians being killed as a result of RAF air strikes in Iraq since September 2014.

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Matching majorities: examining proposals for English Votes for English Laws

Future bills (including finance bills) and secondary legislation introduced to the Commons and certified as being English only will require a double majority before being passed into law, according to plans announced by Leader of the House Chris Grayling this morning. A new system will produce two results: one for all MPs, another just for English MPs.

What impact will these proposals have on the passage of legislation? To what proportion of legislation will they apply – and how many divisions may conclude differently as a result? This blog uses the House of Commons Library’s divisions database (2001 – present) to address these questions using historic data.

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120 Second Places: A springboard for UKIP in 2020?

Just under a year ago I published a blog taking a retrospective look at the 2014 European Parliament and local elections to consider what UKIP’s 2014 successes might mean for the Party’s General Election chances. That blog and another since highlighted the fact that while UKIP’s recent history has been characterised by relatively successful European elections followed by poor general election performances, signs were pointing to a slightly different outcome this time. Indeed, most political commentators were unsurprised by the 10-point boost to UKIP’s vote share relative to 2010, and perhaps as testament to the curiosities of a FPTP system, equally unsurprised by the lack of seats this translated to.

Despite winning only a single seat in May, UKIP hailed the General Election as a step in the right direction, citing it as evidence that their “2020 strategy” – building a platform of support to challenge in the next General Election – is on track. Besides the almost 3.9 million votes cast for UKIP, one of the main justifications for this optimism was the number of seats in which the UKIP candidate came second. While in 2010 the party registered zero second place finishes, in 2015 they achieved 120 – almost twice the number managed by the Liberal Democrats and two-thirds that of the Conservatives. But does this really point towards more seats in 2020? A closer look at this subset of seats and the way in which those second place finishes were secured could help answer this question.

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