Prince Charles to urge UK and Germany to reaffirm bond

The Prince of Wales will urge nations to stand up against intolerance and strive for a “better tomorrow” during a remembrance ceremony in Germany.

In a speech on Sunday, Prince Charles will also call on the UK and Germany to “reaffirm” their bond as they “begin this new chapter in our long history”.

His wife, Camilla, is joining him on their first official overseas visit since the start of the Covid pandemic.

It comes as post-Brexit trade talks are reaching their crucial final stages.

The prince will also say the global crises of the pandemic and climate change “demand” that the the UK and Germany “act together”.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall flew to Berlin Brandenburg Airport on Saturday evening in the UK’s ministerial RAF Voyager jet – the first time it has flown dignitaries since a makeover costing almost £1m.

The prince, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Saturday, was presented with a birthday cake during the flight.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be the first members of the Royal Family to attend the ceremony at the German parliament in Berlin, marking the country’s National Day of Mourning for victims of war.

The speech comes 75 years after the end of World War Two and will highlight the friendship between the two nations.

The prince is expected to say: “We must be resolute in addressing acts of unspeakable cruelty against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs, wherever they occur in the world.

“We must stand alongside each other in determined defence of the future we owe our children and our grandchildren.”

He will add: “We are heavily invested in each other’s futures, such that our national interests, whilst distinct, will always be entwined…

“Let us reflect on all that we have been through together, and all that we have learned. Let us remember all victims of war, tyranny and persecution; those who laid down their lives for the freedoms we cherish, and those who struggle for these freedoms to this day.”

The Royal Family have carried out a number of European visits since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

During a tour of Germany in May last year, Prince Charles said the bonds between the UK and Germany “will, and must endure” post-Brexit.

And when his son, the Duke of Cambridge, visited the country in 2016, William said the depth of Britain’s friendship with Germany would not change after the UK left the EU.

Ahead of his trip, the Prince Charles held a telephone meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A statement from Clarence House said Prince Charles and Camilla had been invited to Germany by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and they would also attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Neue Wache Memorial.

It said the National Day of Mourning would this year focus on “German-British friendship”.

“The event pays tribute to the Allied commitment to the liberation from Nazi occupation and to the reconstruction, re-democratisation and subsequent reunification of Germany. It remembers all victims of war and tyranny,” the statement added.

Covid-19: Labour calls for law to stop anti-vaccination fake news online

Labour is calling on the government to bring in emergency laws to “stamp out dangerous” anti-vaccine content online.

In a letter, Labour said there should be financial and criminal penalties for social media firms that do not remove anti-vaccine fake news.

It comes after this week’s news that the world’s first effective Covid vaccine – made by Pfizer and BioNTech – had seen positive early results.

The government said it took the issue “extremely seriously”.

It said it had “secured a major commitment” from social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle anti-vaccine content.

Suspicion of vaccines has been around almost as long as modern vaccines themselves.

But in recent years, the anti-vaccination – or “anti-vax”- movement has gained traction online. Social media has been blamed for allowing unfounded claims about vaccines to spread more easily.

In 2019, the UK lost its measles-free status designated by the World Health Organization – and there has been a marked decline in vaccination rates for all 13 diseases covered in jabs for children.

Since the pandemic, anti-vaccination campaigners have moved their focus to the coronavirus.

In the letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Labour said there were dedicated anti-vaccination groups online with hundreds of thousands of followers who were “churning out disinformation” on the issue.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the “spread of disinformation online presents a real and present danger” to the take-up of any potential vaccine.

“This is literally a matter of life and death and anyone who is dissuaded from being vaccinated because of this is one person too many,” said Ms Stevens.

Last week, the government announced that social media companies had agreed a package of measures – including that no company should be profiting from Covid vaccine fake news – and promising to act more quickly to respond to content flagged to them by the government.

But Labour warned that the measures don’t go far enough and has questioned why anti-vax groups are not being closed down.

“The announced collaboration with social media companies last week was welcome but feels grossly inadequate with a promise by them to remove only the content which is flagged by government and which generates profit,” said Labour.

Labour called for emergency legislation that would see financial and criminal penalties for a continued failure to act, and said they would vote for it.

On Monday, news of a potential vaccine made headlines after preliminary results from Pfizer and BioNTech showed their vaccine could prevent more than 90% of people from catching Covid.

The vaccine is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing. Pfizer and BioNTech companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November and a limited number of people may be given the vaccine this year.

The UK has bought enough doses for 20 million people.

But it will not be released for use in the UK until it passes final safety tests and gets the go-ahead from the MHRA – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The head of the MHRA said this week it will not lower its safety standards despite the need to get a Covid vaccine quickly.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called people who oppose vaccinations “nuts”.

And this week, he said he had “no inhibitions” about getting one, adding: “Anti-vax is total nonsense, you should definitely get a vaccine.”

The government said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.

“We take this issue extremely seriously and have secured a major commitment from Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle it by not profiting from such material, and by responding to flagged content more swiftly.

“We continue to work closely with social media firms to promote authoritative sources of information so people have access to vaccine facts not fiction.”

Extra £40m for green spaces in England, Boris Johnson pledges

A further £40m is to be ploughed into green spaces in England as part of a plan to restore species and combat climate change.

The government says the cash will fund thousands of jobs in conservation.

The prime minister also promised new national parks and greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes.

Environmentalists welcomed the investment but said it was a fraction of what is needed to restore Britain’s depleted wildlife.

Boris Johnson said the scheme was part of his 10-point plan for combating climate change, which Downing Street said would be unveiled this week.

The plan has been widely leaked and it is thought to include a commitment to:

Craig Bennett from the Wildlife Trusts said the new announcement did not really belong in the 10-point climate plan because it focused primarily on wildlife and landscape, rather than saving carbon emissions.

But Boris Johnson said the scheme was part of a plan for a green recovery post-Covid.

Funding will go to environmental charities creating or restoring important habitats like peatland and wetland; preventing or cleaning up pollution; creating woodland; and helping people connect with nature.

The prime minister said this will in turn create and retain skilled and unskilled jobs, such as ecologists, project managers, tree planters and teams to carry out nature restoration.

The projects could give a home to species that flourished in similar initiatives across the country, including the curlew, nightingale, horseshoe bat, pine marten, red squirrel and wild orchids.

Mr Johnson said: “Britain’s iconic landscapes are part of the fabric of our national identity – sustaining our communities, driving local economies and inspiring people across the ages.

“That’s why, with the natural world under threat, it’s more important than ever that we act now to enhance our natural environment and protect our precious wildlife and biodiversity.”

There are currently 10 national parks in England – including the South Downs, Lake District and Peak District – as well as 34 areas of outstanding national beauty (AONB).

The government says the process for designating new national parks and AONB will start next year.

And 10 long-term “landscape recovery” projects will be initiated between 2022 and 2024 to restore wilder landscapes.

Mr Bennett, from the Wildlife Trusts, said: “Of course this is welcome, but it’s a tiny amount compared with what’s needed.

“A previous promise of £40m was over-subscribed seven times over.

“The government has pledged to protect 30% of the countryside by 2030, but at the moment only 5% is protected for wildlife. We need £1bn every year for this enormous task.

“If the government was really serious about this they’d be creating a delivery authority like the one they created to deliver the Olympics”.

Tony Juniper, head of the government agency Natural England, said: “I warmly welcome this as part of the delivery of the National Nature Recovery Network – and I’m really pleased to have all this coming from the PM.”

The government has slashed funding for his organisation body, and earlier this week he told MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee that its current funding is below the level required to carry out statutory duties to a good standard.

Mr Juniper said taking action to protect species at risk of extinction, ceasing management duties for National Nature Reserves and engaging only a small number of planning authorities to support landscape and biodiversity activities are some of the areas where Natural England has had to scale back support.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

A468 Machen crash: Man arrested after pedestrian killed

A man has been arrested after a pedestrian died when he was hit by a car in south Wales.

The pedestrian, a 30-year-old man from Cwmbran, was hit by a black Mercedes AMG on the A468 between Caerphilly and Newport at about 20:35 BST on Friday.

A 25-year-old man from the Newport area has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and remains in police custody.

Part of the road, known as the “Machen straight”, was closed until Saturday.

Gwent Police is appealing for witnesses to get in touch.

Man appears in court charged with owning submachine gun

A man has appeared in court after being caught with a submachine gun in north London, the Met Police have said.

Police searched three properties linked to Azeem Ahktar, 29, after they stopped a car on Chapter Road, Brent, on Thursday.

At one property police found a Scorpion submachine gun and £200,00 in cash.

Mr Ahktar appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with being in possession of a prohibited weapon.

He was also charged with two counts of drug possession with intent to supply and one count of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property.

He was remanded in custody to appear at Harrow Crown Court on 11 December.

Two other men – aged 29 and 30 years old – have been bailed pending further enquiries

Titanic letter by brave pastor John Harper sells for £42k

A letter written by a Titanic hero who sacrificed his life to save others has sold at auction for £42,000.

Baptist preacher John Harper gave his lifejacket to another passenger and went down with the doomed ocean liner in April 1912.

His last letter was sold at an online auction of Titanic memorabilia in Wiltshire on Saturday.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “John Harper was probably one of the bravest men on that boat.”

Written on Titanic stationary on April 11, 1912 to a fellow clergyman, the letter was posted at Cobh in Ireland, which was known as Queenstown when the Titanic stopped at the port before setting out across the Atlantic.

Pastor Harper, 39, was the pastor of Walworth Road Baptist Church, in London. He was a widower and was travelling with his daughter Annie Jessie and his sister Jessie W. Leitch to Chicago to preach at the Moody Church.

He refused a seat in a lifeboat alongside his daughter and sister, instead staying on board to offer words of comfort to passengers.

He then gave his lifejacket to another passenger who survived, with other survivors reporting he continued to preach the Gospel as the ship sank.

The letter talks about life on board the ship and thanks his friend and colleague for a recent kindness.

Originally from Glasgow, Pastor Harper first preached at the Paisley Road Baptist Church which would later be renamed the Harper Memorial Church in 1921.

His daughter Annie Jessie went to be the longest-living Scottish Titanic survivor and died in 1986.

Mr Aldridge, from Henry Aldridge and Sons auctioneers in Devizes, Wiltshire, said: “His actions epitomised that British generation in times of adversity.

“The condition of the letter is superb, it has been owned by a private collector for the last 25 years who has decided to pass the baton on to the next generation.”

The letter says: “My Dear Brother Young. I am penning you this line just before we get to Queenstown to assure you that I have not forgotten you and especially all your kindness while we were north.

“I intended sending on Mrs Pratt’s train fares just before I left but in the rush, which was exceptional having had 11 or 12 services for the week-end, I was unable to get it done.

“I will send it on from Chicago. We had a great season of blessing during the last few days in Walworth.

“I don’t know how I am to thank dear Aunty Mary and yourself for all your kindness. The Lord will repay you for it all. Trust things are going well at Paisley Road. The warriors are with me here and are doing well so far on the journey.

“Very kindest love, your loving auld Pastor, John Harper.”

Falkland islanders celebrate being landmine free – after nearly 40 years

Falkland Islanders have been celebrating the day their beaches and coves have been declared free of landmines – after almost 40 years.

The British overseas territory was peppered with an estimated 13,000 mines by Argentine forces in the 1982 conflict.

On hand for the mine-free declaration day was Welsh-born doctor Barry Elsby.

He is one of the islanders who has never walked on the last beach to be cleared, Yorke Beach near Stanley.

He moved to the Falklands with his wife for a two-year medical contract in 1990, and never left.

He is now one of the islands’ eight members of the legislative assembly governing the 2,500 population.

“I have friends who were born here after the 1982 conflict, and have never been able to stroll along this beach,” he said.

“We are looking forward to reclaiming the beach by blowing up the last mines.

“This will be another good bit of closure for people who were here when the invasion happened and lived through the horrors of that time.

“All the mine signposts were a constant reminder of what happened but now they are all away, it’s another return to normality.

“It is a very welcome development and I don’t think anyone ever thought this would come about.”

A programme to remove the mines has been under way since 2009 as part of the UK’s obligations under the international anti-personnel mine ban convention.

“We never thought the islands would be completely mine free, so this is a momentous change,” added Dr Elsby.

“More importantly, no-one has been seriously harmed doing this. It speaks volumes for the teams that have been responsible for doing this over so many years.”

It also speaks volumes for the islanders, according to the doctor, and gives an insight into why he was happy to swap his former childhood home of Garden City in Flinshire, north Wales, for somewhere like the Falklands.

“We had clear plans when we came here in 1990 – we had no intention of staying,” he said.

“But we were captivated, not just by the beauty, but also by the way of life and friendliness of the community.”

The son of a crane driver in the Shotton steelworks, his links with Wales remain strong despite being almost 8,000 miles (12,735km) away.

“For the last eight years, I have been laying wreaths at Fitzroy where so many Welsh Guards died and were injured, so I think those links will remain forever,” he said.

The UK minister with responsibility for the Falklands, Wendy Morton said the final de-mining exercise on Saturday was a “significant achievement” for the Falklands and its population.

“We must pay tribute to the brilliant team of deminers who made a long-term commitment to this programme and put their lives at risk day-to-day, removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe,” she said.

“Our commitment to ridding the world of fatal landmines does not end with our territories being mine free.

“A further £36m of UK funding will allow demining projects across the world to continue, protecting innocent civilian lives.”

Hungry dog jumping for food starts Braintree kitchen blaze

A hungry dog started a kitchen blaze when it accidentally switched on an electric hob while jumping to reach its food.

The owners found their oven ablaze when they returned home from the school run.

Firefighters arrived at James Road, Braintree, on Friday to find the family safely outside and put out the flames.

William McGrath, of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said it could have been a “different outcome” if the family had been delayed coming home.

“They had got out, stayed out and called 999, which was absolutely the right thing to do,” he said.

He warned people to keep all kitchen surfaces clear when not in use and to turn off hobs and ovens at the main switch.

The fire, which had not spread to surrounding cupboards, was put out by 15:55 GMT.

Port Talbot steelworks: Resist speculation over future

There has been a call to “resist dealing in speculation” over the future of steel production at Tata’s plant in Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the firm “want to make steel in Wales, and that’s a good place to be starting this debate from”.

It followed an announcement that Tata is looking to sell part of its European arm.

About 4,000 people work at its Port Talbot steel making plant.

Tata announced on Friday that Swedish firm SSAB had initiated talks over the acquisition of its Netherlands-based operations.

The move would separate the UK and Dutch parts of Tata’s business, which merged back in 1999, then as British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens.

Wales’ Economy Minister Ken Skates said the news was “extremely worrying” for Tata’s 8,000 workers across the UK.

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Port Talbot’s Aberavon constituency, said it was “time for a partnership” between Tata Steel and the government.

He told BBC Radio Wales that Tata’s decision “puts the spotlight very firmly on the UK government that has to now step up and provide support to the British steel industry”.

He added: “It is about the UK government now stepping up to the plate and saying ‘okay, this is a British business, we need it for decarbonisation, for climate change objectives, we need it to build sovereign capacity after Brexit’.”

Tom Hoyles, of the GMB Wales union, said public ownership and UK government support “should be on the table” if necessary.

“Those are two options we think they should look at,” he said.

“Port Talbot and steel go together like fish and chips.

“It’s not just the jobs that are there that will be affected but supply lines… the smaller businesses and families who live in the town as well who will be worried.”

The UK government has also said it “will continue to work with Tata Steel and other stakeholders” as the company shapes its business strategy for the future.

The Welsh Secretary said the UK government and Tata had agreed to “work together” to protect the industry.

Mr Hart said it was a positive sign that Tata had made a commitment to a “sustainable steel manufacturing presence” in Wales.

Asked whether the UK government would step in and protect jobs at Tata, he said it needed to see what Tata planned for Port Talbot.

He added: “We stepped in and saved Celsa Steel in Cardiff at the beginning of lockdown.

“We have a good track record in Wales of where the arguments add up, of stepping in and helping. We saved 800 jobs in Cardiff.”

Illegal rave: Police seize music equipment

Police have seized music equipment and a vehicle as they investigate a planned illegal rave advertised on Instagram.

North Wales Police had warned anyone breaching coronavirus regulations to organise or attend the rave could face a £10,000 fine.

The force said officers had confiscated the items in the Llanberis area of Gwynedd on Friday evening.

Supt Mark Pierce said raves put “public safety at risk” and its “robust action” aimed to protect the health service.

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