Asian hornet growth ‘terrifying’ for allergy sufferer

asian hornetImage copyright John de Carteret
Image caption Asian hornets feed on pollinators, but pose no greater risk to human health than a European bee, wasp or hornet

A woman with a wasp sting allergy says the spread of Asian hornets in British Isles needs to be stopped, as it puts her life at risk.

Michelle Wason, from Jersey, says she is “terrified” of being stung by the invasive species.

In the UK eight Asian hornet nests have been destroyed, as well as 56 queens and nests in the Channel Island.

Allergy experts say there is a “strong similarity” between wasp and hornet venom.

The latest news from the Channel Islands.

Image caption Mrs Wason was taken to hospital several years ago after she was stung by a bee while on holiday in Kos

“If I were to get stung…it could mean the difference between life and death to me,” Ms Wason said.

“There are lots of people [who] have the same allergy as me and it’s terrifying, they [Jersey’s government] really need to step up and do something about it.”

The States of Jersey have been approached for comment.

In August a man was sent to hospital in the island after suffering an allergic reaction to an Asian hornet sting.

He had been standing near a gardener who had been trimming a hedge and disturbed a nest.

Ms Wason added a shortage of adrenaline auto-injectors across the British Isles, to combat the venom delivered in a hornet’s sting, added to her concern.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Insect stings can trigger anaphylaxis, where the body goes into shock

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care said it was “working closely” with manufacturers to improve the situation.

Martin Smith, from the British Beekeepers Association warned: “Asian hornets can be aggressive when disturbed.”

“If people are allergic to insect stings they should take extra care around all nests.”

Image copyright States of Jersey
Image caption The species were accidentally introduced to France in 2004, and have spread into Spain, the Channel Islands and now the UK

Dr Pamela Ewan, Consultant Allergist at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust, said it was possible the similarities between the wasp European hornet’s venom could be found in the Asian hornet.

However, she said the frequency which people were being stung by bees, wasps and hornets was “very low” in the UK.

She added there was no shortage in treatment for allergic reactions to insect stings at hospitals.

Asian hornet (Vespa velutina)

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Media captionAsian hornets: What’s all the buzz about vespa velutina?
  • Queens are up to 3cm (1.2in) in length, while workers are up to 2.5cm (1in).
  • The hornets have a dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band.
  • They nest openly in trees and hedges, unlike European hornets which often nest in cavities.
  • They hover near hives to snatch worker bees, macerate them into a pellet and take them back to their colony.
  • Their sting is no more potent than the European hornet’s.

Source: National Bee Unit / University of Exeter/ Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

George Osborne ‘regrets’ mistakes that led to Brexit vote

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Media captionGeorge Osborne: We did get things wrong

Former Chancellor George Osborne has admitted having a series of “regrets” about his time in office – saying government “mistakes” led to Brexit.

He said the Tories had got things “wrong” on immigration policy which “opened up the door in the referendum”.

He told the BBC’s Newsnight that Remain supporters had explained the benefits of EU membership “too late”.

But Mr Osborne, who served between 2010 and 2016 under David Cameron, said he had worked in the national interest.

Interviewed on Evan Davis’s last Newsnight as presenter, Mr Osborne said: “We were wrong to play into the debate that everything that Brussels did was a challenge and a battle and was wrong.”

He added the debate over immigration had proved “pretty lethal” to the result of the June 2016 referendum.

Mr Osborne said the government had been promising targets on immigration “that we couldn’t deliver and that then led to a debate about how you might deliver those targets… we definitely contributed to that argument, didn’t make enough of the value of immigration”.

‘Done such harm’

Mr Osborne, who is now the editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, said his other regrets included not focusing on fixing the banking system more quickly after the financial crash.

“Overall, faced with the gigantic financial crash and a set of difficult decisions in a hung parliament I think David Cameron, myself, Nick Clegg and others worked hard in what we felt to be the national interest to put things right in as fair a way as possible,” he said.

“Ultimately the country grew, jobs were created and we avoided the calamitous situation that a lot of European countries found themselves in this period.”

Mr Osborne denied his austerity policies had encouraged people to vote for Brexit.

But he came under attack on the programme from Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who told him he had “done such harm and damage to this country”.

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Media captionNewsnight: The pair were part of a discussion on Evan Davis’s last programme as presenter

Mr Osborne was also asked if he had any regrets over comments, attributed to him, that he would not rest until Prime Minister Theresa May was “chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

“I certainly have said things in private which you know, I probably shouldn’t have, and actually, apologised for it,” he said.

“But I worked very hard all my life to make the Conservative Party electable, and it’s painful to me to see it losing support in large areas of the country where it shouldn’t be losing that support, particularly against, actually, a Labour opposition which I don’t think is in a fit state at the moment.”

But Mr Osborne warned Theresa May not to attempt to copy the policies of Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

He said that the Conservatives lost their majority in 2017 by trying to “out-Ukip Ukip” and were not going to win the next election “by trying to out-Corbyn Corbyn”.

“Trying to bang the nationalist drum doesn’t actually work for modern conservativism and trying to outspend our political opponents isn’t going to help the Conservatives either,” he told Newsnight.

Clampdown on violence against NHS staff

Fist fight in hospitalImage copyright iStock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he will introduce new measures to help protect NHS staff from violence.

The NHS Violence Reduction Strategy expands on work previously carried out by a body that was scrapped by government more than a year ago.

A bill to double the sentence for assaults on emergency workers from six months to a year is shortly expected to become law too.

Tens of thousands of NHS staff experience violence each year.

Some staff have started wearing body cameras.

Zero tolerance

Image caption Nurse Sharon Morris was on duty in a secure unit when she was attacked by a service user

Sharon Morris, a nurse for more than 30 years, was attacked in the medium security mental health unit where she worked. The effect on her life has been profound.

It was in 2016 that the abuse happened and she still experiences flashbacks and nightmares.

“It was a patient I had been working with for a year and it all happened out of the blue. He went to attack a colleague and I stepped in.

“I remember him hitting and punching me in the head and then I passed out.”

Sharon was off sick for three months and it took another three months after that for her to feel safe enough to work with patients again.

“The worst bit is the psychological side. It’s made me feel very wary of people. For a while I would see my assailant’s face in other young men – even my eldest son, who is physically quite similar.

“There are still things that make me anxious now. I can’t read or watch things like crime programmes that contain a lot of violence.”

Image caption Shelley still works as a nurse, despite repeated attacks

Nurse Shelley Pearce was “taken hostage” by an alcoholic patient on an acute ward, who held a piece of broken plastic against her throat.

She has also experienced other serious assaults, including being head-butted.

Protecting staff

NHS Protect, the body that was disbanded in March 2017, used to support and advise hospitals in England on staff safety.

Afterwards, it was solely up to individual NHS trusts to safeguard their workers.

Speaking to the Royal College of Nursing, Mr Hancock will outline how the new strategy will work:

  • Offenders to be prosecuted quickly as a result of new partnership between the NHS, Police and Crown Prosecution Service
  • Care inspectors will scrutinise NHS trusts on quality of plans to reduce violence against staff
  • Better training for staff to deal with violent situations, including challenging circumstances involving patients with dementia or mental health issues
  • A new system so that staff can record assaults more easily

NHS England will also look at national data to determine which staff are most vulnerable to violence and what more needs to be done.

Mr Hancock says: “We will not shy away from the issue – we want to empower staff and give them greater confidence to report violence, knowing that they will see meaningful action from trusts and a consistent prosecution approach from the judicial system.”

Royal College of Nursing National Officer, Kim Sunley said: “Nurses and health care workers understand their roles aren’t risk-free but – to many – it still seems as if the threat of physical violence is a daily reality.

“These measures are another way to change this for good by increasing the accountability of employers for the safety of their staff, and ensuring those who wilfully assault healthcare workers feel the full force of the law.”

Suzy Lamplugh: Sutton Coldfield search enters day three

Suzy LamplughImage copyright REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Suzy Lamplugh was reported missing at 18:45 BST on 28 July 1986

The owner of a house in Birmingham is facing a third day of police activity at their home as forensic teams comb the property in the hunt for missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh’s body.

Ms Lamplugh, from London, disappeared in July 1986 aged 25.

Searches began at the house in Sutton Coldfield house on Monday, with police focusing on an area to the rear.

Owner Phillip Carey bought the Shipton Road home from the mother of prime suspect John Cannan.

Ms Lamplugh’s body has never been found and she was declared dead, presumed murdered, in 1994.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The property in Shipton Road, Sutton Coldfield, is being searched by police

On Tuesday, Mr Carey, 52, told the BBC he was yet to discuss with police whether he and his family would have to move out of the semi-detached house.

He said police were interested in what was underneath concrete where a garage once stood.

The iron structure was dismantled by police, Mr Carey said.

The Metropolitan Police is leading the operation, supported by officers from the West Midlands force.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Cannan bore a strong resemblance to an e-fit of a man seen with Ms Lamplugh on the day she went missing

Jim Dickie, a former Met Police deputy chief inspector who led a review of the case in 2000, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme police were likely acting on new evidence.

Ms Lamplugh disappeared after going to meet a client in Fulham. He was known only as Mr Kipper and was never traced.

No-one has ever been charged in connection with the disappearance, but in 2002 police named convicted killer Cannan as the only suspect.

He always denied any involvement and no prosecution has ever been brought, with police citing insufficient evidence.

Three days before Ms Lamplugh’s disappearance, Cannan, now aged 64, was released from prison, where he had been serving a six-year sentence for rape.

He bore a strong resemblance to an e-fit of a man with whom the estate agent was seen talking on the day she went missing – thought to be the mysterious Mr Kipper.

According to reports, Cannan was nicknamed Kipper while serving his earlier sentence.

In 1989, Cannan was jailed for life for the abduction and murder of Bristol newlywed Shirley Banks and two further rapes.

Image caption Areas at the rear of the house were being searched

Boys arrested after toddler hurt in Leigh van chase

Leo DurringtonImage copyright Family handout
Image caption Leo Durrington remains in a critical condition in hospital

Two boys have been arrested over a hit-and-run during a police pursuit which left a toddler “fighting for his life”.

Leo Durrington, 3, was knocked down by a stolen Ford Transit in Wigan Road, Leigh, at about 10:30 GMT on Tuesday.

Officers stopped and gave first aid to the boy before he was taken to hospital, Greater Manchester Police said.

Based on “information received from the public”, police later arrested two boys aged 15 and 16.

The van was later found abandoned near where Leo was struck.

Image copyright GMP
Image caption Police have released pictures of the van involved

Sgt Lee Westhead said: “Thanks to the quick work of our officers, and information received from the public, we have managed to make two arrests following this horrendous incident earlier today.

“Leo is still in a critical condition in hospital, and my thoughts are with him and his family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Greater Manchester Police, who have appealed for people with information to come forward, said the case had been referred to its professional standards branch “in line with normal force policy”.

Wigan Road was closed between Nel Pan Lane and Hill Crest Avenue while officers examined the scene.

Father of ‘Jihadi Jack’ asks Canada to help bring son home

Jack Letts
Image caption Jack Letts, from Oxford, travelled to Syria in 2014

The father of a British-Canadian national detained in Kurdish-held northern Syrian is asking Canadian officials to help secure his release.

John Letts is also pleading for their assistance in the repatriation of other Canadians being held in the region.

His son, Jack Letts, 23, dubbed “Jihadi Jack”, travelled to Syria in 2014.

He was later captured by the Kurdish-led YPG – the group fighting against the Islamic State – when he left IS territory.

Mr Letts said his son has been detained for the past 18 months and that his health is failing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The parents of Jack Letts, John Letts and Sally Lane, have asked Canada and the UK to help repatriate their son

“I need your help to save my son’s life,” he told journalists in Ottawa, where he was meeting officials on Tuesday to discuss his son’s case and those of other detained Canadians.

John Letts and his wife are facing charges of funding terrorism after sending their son money two years ago, which they say was to fund their son’s escape from Syria.

They have pleaded not guilty.

Mr Letts said they have not been able to speak openly about their son’s case in the UK due to contempt of court rules.

“In fact there’s a very good chance I’ll be sent to prison again when I fly back tomorrow,” he said.

“Unfortunately I don’t have any choice but to speak out because I love my son and think he’s innocent.”

The couple, who along with their son have dual citizenship, have made repeated attempts to get the British and Canadian governments to intervene and bring their son home.

Mr Letts said Canadian officials had been initially helpful when his son was first captured, but have since said it would be too dangerous to have him removed.

He said his son was “naive and very religious” when he travelled to Syria at the age of 18 and denies he was there to fight with IS.

Jack Letts converted to Islam while at Cherwell comprehensive school in Oxford, England.

It is unclear how much evidence exists about the true nature of his activities in Syria.

At the Ottawa press conference, Mr Letts appeared alongside Families Against Violent Extremism (Fave), which said there are currently nine Canadian adults and several children, including a number under the age of six, being held in Kurdish prison camps in Syria.

Fave said it is concerned that the families are housed in tents and lack adequate clothing to handle the approaching winter.

“These people need to be brought home to Canada and they need to be brought home now,” said Fave director Alexandra Bain.

Ms Bain said representatives from the UK-based legal Reprieve would travel to northern Syria to help facilitate their return if Canada agrees to supply the detainees with travel documents.

Canada says that there is no safe way to get these Canadians out of the region. There are also concerns they would be detained by authorities and face charges in neighbouring countries if they did manage to leave Syria.

In a statement, Canada’s Foreign Affairs department told the BBC that its ability to provide consular assistance is “extremely limited” but that it is engaged to the extent possible in the cases raised by Fave.

“Canadian diplomats have established a communications channel with local Kurdish authorities in order to verify the whereabouts and well-being of Canadian citizens,” it said.

There has been significant debate in both Britain and Canada over what should happen to returning IS fighters who are still in Syria.

Budget 2018: MPs debate ‘end of austerity’ claim

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Media captionBudget headlines in two minutes

MPs will debate the Budget later with Labour dismissing the government’s claim to be ending austerity.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said welfare cuts were continuing and public services could face a further squeeze.

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss told BBC Newsnight tax cuts would put “more money in families’ pockets”.

In the Budget Chancellor Philip Hammond used a tax receipts windfall to put money into the NHS and universal credit and bring forward income tax cuts.

The personal allowance will rise to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 in April 2019, worth £130 a year for a typical base rate taxpayer.

Mr Hammond said the £1.7bn investment in universal credit would protect claimants moving onto the new system and save millions of families £630 a year. But some MPs said it was not enough to undo cuts already made to the system in previous years.

What else was announced?

There was a freeze on beer, cider and spirits duty, saving 2p on a pint of beer, 1p on a pint of cider, and 30p on a bottle of Scotch or gin.

Wine duty will not be frozen and a bottle will go up by 8p from 1 February next year, and a packet of 20 cigarettes has gone up by 33p.

Healthier forecasts

Mr Hammond said borrowing this year would be £11.6bn lower than predicted in March, at £25.5bn.

This helped pay for the multi-billion pound boost for the NHS, as well as more money for defence, schools, welfare and above-inflation rises in the income tax personal allowance.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said the spending promises represented the biggest Budget giveaway since the independent fiscal watchdog was set up in 2010.

It was the last Budget before the UK’s scheduled exit from the EU, and came with the final relationship between the two sides yet to be agreed.

There was an extra £500m to prepare for what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal – a scenario Mr Hammond has said would require a whole new Budget.

The chancellor also promised a “double deal dividend” if the UK and the EU reached agreement over Brexit.

Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, politics editor

First off, it is, on the face of it, a big change in direction – a Tory chancellor talking about turning on the spending taps again, rather than how to scrimp and save.

You’ll see headlines about the ‘biggest giveaway’ in a generation. That’s accurate in terms of the overall numbers, and the sense that government departments on average from next year will see spending go up not down.

And it’s different certainly to see a Conservative resident of No 11 putting that ahead of finishing off the attempts to clear the deficit. This chancellor is in fact seemingly content to let the deficit float up. That would have, until relatively recently, been considered heresy round his way.

Politically, it’s a big change of priority and has allowed the government to change its rhetoric substantially.

But if you look carefully, a huge amount of that money will be gobbled up quickly by the health service. After that, by some calculations, there simply won’t be much to go around – and some departments might even still face cuts.

Read Laura’s blog

The reaction

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn: “This is a broken promise Budget”

Mr McDonnell dismissed Mr Hammond’s claim that austerity – which refers to the public spending cuts that have been in place since 2010 – was “coming to an end”.

He said: “It is now clear austerity is not over, the cuts to social security will continue and Philip Hammond gave no assurances that departments won’t face further cuts.”

There was nothing in the speech to “repair the damage to schools, the police and local councils” he said, adding that the universal credit cash was less than a third of the welfare cuts still scheduled.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the UK was “wholly unprepared” for Brexit, and Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said the Budget was “a standstill non-event”.

Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said the Budget had “significantly eased – but not ended – austerity for public services”.

He added: “Tough times are far from over. The chancellor has set out plans to spend almost all of a very significant fiscal windfall on extra spending for the NHS, bringing to a close the era of falling overall public service spending.”