Shell shocked: Lobster capital braces for Brexit

Live shellfish exporters in England have warned a wave of form-filling, certification and tariffs will hit the industry in 2021.

Traders who sell live crabs and lobsters into the EU expect delays caused by bottlenecks and new rules.

Fisheries remains a problem for post-Brexit trade talks, but even if a deal is done, trading across the Channel will not be as seamless as it is now.

More than 80% of crabs and lobsters from East Yorkshire are sold in Europe.

On a typically blustery morning on Bridlington Harbour the lobster lorry arrives from France.

It makes stops all along the East Yorkshire coast, loading freshly caught lobsters into sea water tanks to transport and sell back on the continent.

Exporting live shellfish to France and Spain will become much more challenging when the UK enters into a new relationship with the European Union from 1st January 2021.

Hundreds of shell fisherman and exporters rely on frictionless trade, so a no deal is their worst-case scenario.

“The cost of everything will rise with all the extra tariffs businesses will have to pay on goods going in both directions,” according to Jo Ackers, the company secretary of one of the largest shellfish wholesalers in Bridlington.

“We are looking at extra tariffs of 8% on lobster and 7.5% on crab with EU countries having similar import tariffs. It is the fishermen and the end of line customers that would get hit with these costs in the long term,” she said.

Ms Ackers runs the Independent Shellfish Cooperative alongside her husband in Bridlington.

The pair act on behalf of 31 vessels, selling their fresh catch of lobsters, crab and whelks for both processing and the live market.

Much of it driven by lorry from harbours in Yorkshire to southern ports like Dover or Plymouth and then onwards to markets on the Mediterranean.

Shellfish receives the highest prices when shipped live to the EU, and so any delays and congestion at the ports will likely hit profits.

Ms Ackers is not only worried about tariffs being slapped on exports, but higher taxes coming the other way too.

She fears the cost of the material the fishermen need to do their work with rise too.

“A lot of rope and twine is made in Portugal, the most popular clothing manufacturer is French and the most popular wellies are made in the Netherlands. The fishermen are therefore faced with the prospect of increasing prices on the goods they buy while the value of their catch is decreasing,” she says.

From Flamborough Head to Spurn Point, the East Yorkshire coast is home to the UK’s largest crab and lobster fishing industry, landing almost £10m worth of shellfish every year.

This is an economic success story in an area that has often struggled. Many working the shellfish boats are veterans of the 1970’s cod wars which finished off the UK trawler fleet.

Any deal brokered by government is only part of the challenge here. Ms Ackers says in the New Year there will be a bureaucratic mountain to climb.

“I think it’s getting more confusing and complicated the closer we get, it’s almost information overload, everybody is trying to tell us what we should be doing, and it quite difficult to sift through it all,’ said Ms Ackers.

Some of the new requirements for live shellfish exports from 1st January 2021 include an export animal health certificate that must be signed by a fish health inspector who will need at least five working days notice.

It’s an official document that confirms your export meets the health requirements of the country it’s destined for.

The importer must then notify an EU Border Control Point. Shellfish must be then checked at a Border control point and UK Customs forms should also be completed.

With just two weeks until this new system begins, frustration is building 300 miles south in Devon amongst the south west fishing fleet.

Beshlie Pool, the Executive Officer of South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen’s Association, warns the logistical challenges ahead are ‘very significant and concerning.’

The association has 75 shellfish boats that land around £5m worth of crab and lobsters at the ports of Salcombe and Dartmouth every year, and like Bridlington, much of it is exported.

“Our exporting members remain extremely distressed about difficulty with logistics related to the exports from January 1st onwards including issues with the design of government systems and processes, availability of staff needed to sign off exports and a massive increase in paperwork burdens with significant associated costs,” said Ms Pool.

Fishing has always been an emotional issue in the UK’s relationship with the European Union, and is at centre of ongoing negotiations regarding a future trade deal.

“Parts of our South West fishing fleet are facing the breakdown of a 40-year-old accord with our French and Belgian colleagues, and the associated loss of fishing grounds and therefore revenue,” said Ms Pool.

Exporters says they are working through exceptionally difficult times. Mark Moore, from the Dartmouth Crab Company, warned that ‘lack of clarity from Government is impacting our day to day business, as we try to prepare to export in the new year.’

The company has a fleet of nine and exports live crabs to France and Portugal. Over the decades the shellfish industry has relied on a smooth supply chain delivering seafood from catch to plate within 24 hours.

Mr Moore is worried about the news rules and regulation could slow things down, which is a major concern when dealing live products.

“The catch certification requirements remain unworkable, the issuing of European Health Certificates is still in a state of confusion and we are significantly concerned about the additional costs related to these, there is no real guidance available on how tariffs will operate.

“Frankly, it’s a mess”.

My Money: Im a 33-weeks pregnant doctor

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Helen Edwards, 37, from Stafford in the West Midlands takes us through her week’s spending.

Helen is an NHS doctor who specialises in emergency medicine. Her husband, James, is a junior NHS doctor training to be an anaesthetist.

Their work is mostly shift-based so they are able to divide the care of their daughter Beth, aged two, although she also goes to nursery two days a week and they have help from Helen’s parents.

During the pandemic they have been very busy at work but now Helen is 33 weeks pregnant and so is working from home.

Helen and James say they are good at saving. During the last five years they have got married, bought their first home, saved for one maternity leave and are saving for another. They have a retirement fund and an emergency fund. Helen tends to organise their money, as James has spent a lot of time studying for professional exams over the last few years.

Over to Helen…

This week is a bit odd as it’s my last proper week of working from home, but also because I am actually at work for two days doing departmental induction.

Today, though, I am working from home. James is taking Beth to nursery so I can have a bit of a relaxed start to the day.

I get up with Beth at 07:30 and have breakfast with her. Our milkman has delivered two pints. We get this three times a week at 90p per pint – it is more expensive than milk from the supermarket but plastic free, from local cows, and saves money as we don’t go to the corner shop for milk and buy lots we don’t need. It also means we can go food shopping once a month. Beth’s nursery is £37 a day but we pay through tax-free childcare so it costs us £29.60.

While James gets our IT sorted for an exam next week, I send some emails and work on some projects. We have homemade sandwiches. James collects Beth from nursery, we have tea together and then he goes to start a night shift while I do Beth’s bedtime. I read my book and have an early night – very rock and roll!

Total spend: £31.40

More blogs from the BBC’s My Money Series:

Today is the most expensive day of the month – the day 90% of our bills come out! We put all our money in the joint account, but keep £200 pocket money each, which we use to pay our professional subscriptions, our personal mobile bills and for gifts for each other in our own accounts. Today we pay our mortgage (£1,396.32) life insurance (£169.83) council tax (£217) Sky subscription (£38.35) gas and electric (£57) broadband (£31.50) and TV licence (£13.37) from the joint account.

Beth is having the day with my parents – I am working from home again but take advantage of my morning break to pay the cleaners’ bill- it’s my luxury (£117.34)! James gets in at 09:00, mumbles incoherently and goes to bed. Over lunch time I have an obstetric appointment.

In the afternoon our weekly veg delivery comes from the local market (£29.10, lots this week, usually order about £15 worth). I prep tea and we eat at 18:00 before James goes to work at 19:00 and I do bedtime with Beth.

In the evening, we get an Asda delivery. Usually we pay about £40 for the bits we get from there every three months, but this month has lots of Christmas presents and other stuff in it so it’s a lot more (£118.34). I don’t mind too much as we do the Money Saving Expert 1p Savings Challenge – we never manage every day but there is always enough for the Christmas food in the jar!

Total spend:£2,188.15

Today is an early start as I am in work. I leave at about 06:45 (after taking in the milk: £1.80) and my parents come to feed Beth her breakfast and take her to nursery (£29.60).

It’s a busy day of organising. It all has to be social distanced so everyone tunes into the lectures from home. It’s a bit weird as I won’t get to work with these colleagues as I will be on maternity leave for their rotation with us. I have a socially distanced lunch with a colleague – we treat ourselves to a nice M&S lunch (£8). In the afternoon, people come in to collect their uniform scrubs, get fitted for FFP3 masks and learn how to use a couple of bits of equipment.

I get home about 18:00. James has been asleep all day, but woke up to collect Beth from nursery and is feeding her supper. He preps our supper, which we eat after doing bedtime. In the evening I sort out what money is left for our savings this month – we pay monthly into a stocks and shares ISA (£940) and this month have £690 for extra savings – I leave more than usual in the joint account to allow for Xmas presents.

Total spend: £1,669.40

Another day of induction – this time lots of clinical topics – so again I leave home at 06:45. Today they are tuning in from home all day. I do two of the talks. Again I treat myself to M&S lunch (£6.65).

I also bring my colleagues a treat – a big box of individually packed Biscoff biscuits for our office, which a friend kindly picked up from Costco for me (£6.99).

It’s another busy day and I get home at 18:00. Poor James has been studying all day while Beth has been at my parents again. I pre-prepared dinner last night. We do bedtime then I test him on his revision until bedtime.

Today has been the first day after the end of the second lockdown. Our lockdown experience has been very different from most people – we haven’t had to worry about our jobs or cope with a reduced income due to furlough, but it has been stressful in other ways – obviously we have had to see a high volume of very sick patients, and during the first lockdown our nursery closed, and my parents were isolating from us, so we had no childcare, which was very hard to manage with two full time jobs – we had to swap a lot of shifts, and it seemed like we were never at home together. It has also been an odd time to be pregnant – my husband has not had the chance to see the baby on a scan or come to any of my appointments, whereas last time he came whenever he could, and I have not been allowed to see high risk patients at work as there is concern about how pregnant women may be affected by Covid.

Total spend: £13.64

Today Beth gets to return to her normal toddler activities – she lives in a social whirl! After breakfast and bringing the milk in (£1.80), we go to Forest School, which we usually do once a month, where we do some outdoor activities and then have a snack round a campfire while the leader reads a story. Beth loves it and it is run at a local petting farm so she gets to see lots of animals while we are there, plus there is a lovely farm shop, though we don’t need anything today (£7.50). We come back for lunch and check in on how James’ revision is going (status: grumpy) before we make dinner and then head out to toddler gym class. It is reenrolment day (£37.20). After we pop into Asda to buy birthday cards for my Dad (£5.40). We go home and relax with some books and the dreaded Peppa Pig then make tea and Beth goes to bed. I help James revise in the evening.

Total spend: £51.90

Today is my Dad’s birthday and we have treated him to a takeaway afternoon tea (£50.85 for three people). Beth and I have a walk in the morning then pop out to collect the tea and take it over to my parents with Dad’s birthday presents and cards. We have lunch/afternoon tea with them (Beth picks out the best bits for herself!) then we go to her swimming lesson (£13). She has really missed this during lockdown and has asked about it every week. We still swim with her for the time being but she is nearly ready to be in the pool on her own. After getting changed we go home and make tea and do some very important painting before eating and Beth going to bed. Again I help James with revision and potter about doing chores.

Total spend: £63.85

We have a lazy day after a busy week. James is still studying so I take Beth to the park and also later, after lunch, for a walk. We do some very important art work and also get paint all over which is great fun for her, not so much for me. We do bedtime then eat supper and I help James revise again.

Total spend: £0

Total spent this week: £4,018.34

This week is the most expensive week in our month -and this has been even more expensive than usual, mostly due to Christmas prep. We have a lot of zero spend days usually! However, as you can see, 40% of the money we “spent” this week actually went to our savings, and actually this is a fairly low proportion of our monthly income for us, so I don’t feel we are doing too badly.

For me, savings are about financial security for the future, not having to work until we are nearly seventy, and being able to give our children some support for their education and when they start their independent lives. We are very lucky to have well-paid, secure jobs which let us work towards this goal.

Tesla to join key share index as it defies critics

Tesla is poised to join America’s benchmark S&P 500 stock index on Monday, giving millions more investors a stake in the electric car-maker.

Analysts say the financial milestone is a validation of a string of good news for Elon Musk’s firm this year.

Demand for its cars was resilient this year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

But adding Tesla – the most frequently traded name on Wall Street – to the S&P could mean a bumpier ride for investors in funds that track the index.

“If Tesla continues to be as volatile as it has been, then we can expect the index to be a little more volatile,” says Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research.

Tesla has hit its fair share of bumps since its founding in California in 2003.

The company has flirted with bankruptcy, seen boss Elon Musk clash with authorities over everything from self-driving technology to virus shutdowns.

Mr Musk has courted controversy with defamation lawsuits, using drugs live on a web chat show and mulling over Twitter whether or not to take the electric vehicle maker private.

Its shares have also endured ups and downs – though this year, they have seen mostly the former, rising more than 700%, as the firm appeared to put its manufacturing and financial challenges in the rear view mirror.

They popped almost 6% to a new record on Friday night, as funds tracking S&P bought up stock worth an estimated $80bn (£60bn) ahead of the firm’s inclusion.

With a market capitalisation of more than $600bn, Tesla now ranks as the most valuable car maker in the world and the sixth most valuable company on Wall Street, behind tech giants such as Apple and Amazon.

It claims that distinction despite selling a fraction of the vehicles of rivals such as Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen.

“I’m quite surprised at the place they’re at today – I think everyone is,” says Nick Shields, senior analyst at Third Bridge, who has tracked the firm for years.

Symbolically, he adds, the addition to the index, which tracks 500 of the biggest US companies and weights them by market value, is a “big stamp of legitimacy”.

The meteoric rise in Tesla’s share price this year has made Mr Musk one of the world’s richest people, with a fortune worth nearly $150bn, behind only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, according to Forbes’ real-time ranking of billionaires.

Some of the rise, however, has little to do with Tesla’s sales prospects – instead reflecting anticipation that the firm would join the S&P, forcing funds that follow the index to buy shares.

After months of speculation, index manager S&P Dow Jones Indices announced the decision last month, after Tesla reported five quarters in a row of quarterly profit.

Since then, Tesla shares have jumped roughly 60%.

More swings were expected on Friday, as index funds bought Tesla and sold other holdings to create the proper balance for their investors ahead of the firm’s inclusion on Monday.

For the financial world, “it’s very exciting because of the trading activity we expect to take place prior to the closing bell,” Mr Nelson says. “The street is popping the popcorn and is going to sit back and watch the show.”

Tesla’s large market value means it is expected to account for more than 1% of the index when it joins on Monday, replacing property firm Apartment Investment, which is worth 0.02% of the index.

The company’s heavy weight should worry investors, says Vitali Kalesnik, partner and head of research for Europe at Research Affiliates, which believes Tesla shares are over-valued – and due to fall.

“If Tesla keeps going up, then it’s not a problem, but stocks just as well go down as they go up,” he says. “If this is a bubble – and we think it is – then investors would be quite disappointed.”

Tesla clearly has growth potential, he adds, but “the problem is the valuation.”

Mr Nelson says he thinks there’s still room for the firm’s shares to rise, given the expected increase in demand for electric vehicles, in part thanks to climate-friendly policies embraced by incoming US president Joe Biden.

He predicts the price of a Tesla share could hit $750 over the next 12 months, up from the roughly $695 closing price on Friday.

“It’s one of the market’s best earnings growth stories at the moment,” he says.

Coronavirus: NI schools to reopen as normal in first week of January

NI Education Minister Peter Weir has said all schools and other education settings will reopen in the first week of January.

He said his “main priority has always been to protect our children’s education, mental health and wellbeing”.

On Thursday, a six-week lockdown was announced for NI.

It will begin on 26 December, with non-essential shops closing after Christmas Eve.

Schools reopened in August having been closed since March and have remained open since with the exception of an extended two-week break for half term.

They did not close early ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Mr Weir said he was “mindful of the impact the pandemic is having on our children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable and from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

“We have a high number of vulnerable children in Northern Ireland, for many of these pupils school is a safe haven and closing schools will immediately deprive them of this safe space,” he added.

“That is why I have decided that it is in the best interests of all pupils for schools to open in the first week of January so that their education is not disrupted any further.

“I want to again thank school leaders, teachers and staff who have done tremendous work, under very difficult circumstances, to keep schools safe.

“I know that they will continue to reinforce departmental guidance, including the appropriate wearing of masks within schools and on school transport.”

Mr Weir said he would “consider what further steps can be taken to help and support schools and will continue to seek the views of principals, school staff and pupils on this issue”.

Earlier, Health Minister Robin Swann said Northern Ireland’s new six-week Covid-19 lockdown is essentially a return to March’s sustained restrictions.

Hair salons and close-contact services will close. Pubs and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services.

Tighter measures will be in place for a week from 26 December, with no gatherings allowed between 20:00 GMT and 06:00.

Schools remaining open will be one major diffrence from the spring lockdown.

Mr Swann said the “short, sharp interventions” introduced in October had not worked, so the executive was returning to the level of restrictions which helped curb infection rates earlier in the year.

The reproduction rate – or rate at which the virus spreads – is currently 1 to 1.2, but there are fears it could rise to between 1.4 and 1.8 over Christmas.

Elderly man dies after choking on meat in pub

A man died after choking on a piece of meat, an inquest has found.

Yukio Nishigaki, 83, from Evesham swallowed it while having lunch at a local pub.

The inquest heard the first paramedic on the scene should have used an instrument to check his airway before pushing in a tube.

But a consultant said even if the correct equipment had been used, it would have been difficult to remove the meat in time.

The inquest concluded it was an accidental death and the mistake was not the cause of Mr Nishigaki’s death.

The meat was eventually removed by an ambulance paramedic, who arrived at the scene later, the hearing was told.

Daughter-in-law Emma Nishigaki said the family was frustrated there had been no ambulance on duty based in Evesham that day.

An investigation carried out by West Midlands Ambulance Service found it had taken 16-17 minutes to provide appropriate treatment.

It also found the instrument needed to check Mr Nishigaki’s airway had been in the paramedic’s kit bag, but he had failed to find it.

In a statement, the ambulance service said it had implemented a number of recommendations made by the internal investigation “to prevent future incidents like this happening again”.

Drug deaths in Scotland: Minister Joe FitzPatrick loses job

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick has lost his job in government after Scotland recorded its highest ever number of drug deaths.

The first minister has appointed Angela Constance as a minister to take charge of the response to the drugs crisis.

She will be a full-time drugs minister, reporting directly to Nicola Sturgeon.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats had been demanding Mr Fitzpatrick’s resignation and were preparing a vote of no confidence in him.

Figures released this week showed that Scotland again had the worst drug death rate in Europe.

The figures for last year showed that the number of deaths increased to a record high of 1,264 – double the number in 2014 and giving the country a death rate three and a half times higher than England and Wales.

In a statement, Mr FitzPatrick said he had spoken to the first minister and agreed to leave government.

He said the “most heart-breaking and difficult problems” he faced as public health minister were the harms and deaths caused by drug use.

“As the minister responsible for this area I, ultimately, take my responsibility,” he added.

“It is clear that my presence as a minister will become a distraction, when we should be focused on achieving the change we need to save lives.”

Ms Sturgeon thanked the Dundee City West MSP and added: “While the time has now come to make a change in the public health brief, no-one should doubt Joe’s hard work, dedication and sincerity.

“He will continue to champion the interests of his constituents at Holyrood, and I wish him well in the future.”

She added that Angela Constance, a former social worker who worked with drug users and their families, would work alongside her as drugs minister to help people whose lives were affected by drugs.

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday that the drugs death figures were “indefensible” and that her government had to do more to stop people dying.

She also apologised to families who had lost loved ones, and admitted that they had been let down.

Ms Sturgeon pledged to work with Mr FitzPatrick to “to make sure we collectively accept this responsibility and take the actions required to fix the problem”.

But she appeared to stop short of openly defending her minister from the criticism that has been directed at him over his performance in role.

Joe FitzPatrick was born in Dundee in 1967 and was educated at Whitfield High School. He originally studied forestry at Inverness College and worked for a spell for the Forestry Commission.

His political career started when he was elected to Dundee City Council in 1999.

He won the Scottish Parliament seat for Dundee West in May 2007, and went on to serve on the Holyrood finance committee and as convener of the local government and regeneration committee.

He became minister for parliamentary business in September 2012 and in June 2018 he was appointed minister for public health, sport and wellbeing.

Mr FitzPatrick has faced calls to resign since record drugs death numbers were published earlier this week.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Mr FitzPatrick’s resignation “changes nothing” and described the government’s drug strategy as “disastrous”.

“If this was about the shocking number of drug-related deaths this year, he would have gone on the day the numbers were released,” Mr Ross said.

He added: “We urged the first minister to agree to our proposed £20m funding for rehabilitation but got no commitment.

“All the focus must be on the urgent public health crisis of Scotland’s drugs deaths epidemic so we can finally start to reverse the tragic number of lives being lost from drugs.”

Meanwhile, Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said it was right that Mr FitzPatrick had resigned and called on ministers to give Scotland’s drugs deaths their full attention.

“Urgent funding is needed to boost access to treatment and residential rehab,” she said. “The Scottish government must get behind safe consumption facilities, like the voluntary service being run in Glasgow.”

She added: “This must be a turning point. The SNP has failed badly and Joe Fitzpatrick doesn’t bear that responsibility alone. Our parliament can lead the world on progressive public health policies when we put our minds to it.”

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said Mr FitzPatrick’s departure was “inevitable” but it did not ease the pressure on the government over their drugs policy.

“Change is needed and fast,” he tweeted.

Grantham Santa pelted with stones during fundraiser

Santa and his helpers had to make a quick getaway after being “pelted with stones” while collecting for a charity in Grantham.

The man in red was lending his support to the local Lions charity on Thursday night when he came under attack.

Santa was half way down Goodliffe Road when a small group started throwing stones at him, according to Lions vice-president Jerry Levick.

“One hit Santa, but luckily he is OK,” Mr Levick said.

When Santa and his volunteers came under attack, they took the decision to leave the area to ensure everyone’s safety, he added.

Mr Levick said the charity’s volunteers had been on the road for two weeks prior to the incident and had “pulled out all the stops” to get Santa out and about this year due to Covid restrictions.

“What made it even more disappointing was they had to leave before a large crowd who had gathered had a chance to see Santa. It was a shame,” he added.

This incident comes after the organisers of an annual charity event in East Yorkshire said they were verbally abused by “keyboard warriors”.

Bridlington Roundtable said members were sworn at and received negative messages after the charity announced it would not be able to hand out sweets to children due to coronavirus restrictions.

More news from across Lincolnshire

Committee to see report containing Alex Salmond case legal advice

MSPs are to be allowed to read a report containing legal advice given to the Scottish government during its legal battle with Alex Salmond.

The committee investigating the handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister will be given access to the document in a special “reading room” next Tuesday.

Its members will be able to read the report on a confidential basis.

The committee is still pushing for the full legal advice to be published.

Its convener, Linda Fabiani, said the report only covers some of the legal advice which the committee is asking to see.

The MSPs will not be allowed to remove or copy the document, although Ms Fabiani has asked that they be allowed to take notes.

She said: “The committee believes that to fulfil the vital task that parliament has set it, it needs to see legal advice including from counsel.

“It continues to push to see this advice in full and believes that it has to be published.

“In the meantime, the committee has agreed to accept the terms of an offer negotiated with the Scottish government to read a report which includes some of the legal advice.”

A redacted copy of the report, which is dated 29 December 2018, will be published after the unredacted version has been seen by the committee.

MSPs have previously voted to demand that the government hands over all the legal advice it had received.

Ministers have said that legal privilege prevents them from disclosing the documents.

The row centres on legal advice that was given to the Scottish government after Mr Salmond launched judicial review proceedings at the Court of Session over the way harassment complaints against him had been handled.

The government ended up admitting it had acted unlawfully because one of its investigating officers had prior contact with two complainers.

It had to pay Mr Salmond more than £500,000 in legal expenses as a result, and a Holyrood committee was set up to examine what had gone wrong.

Earlier this year, Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault following a High Court trial.

Alex Rodda death: Murder accused embarrassed about sexuality

A teenager who beat a schoolboy to death with a spanner has told a court he did not think his friends would accept him if he was gay.

Matthew Mason, 19, admits killing 15-year-old Alex Rodda in woodland in Ashley, Cheshire, on 12 December last year but denies his murder.

Chester Crown Court has heard Mr Mason paid Alex £2,000 to stop him revealing their sexual relationship.

He said he asked his friends for money but did not tell them what it was for.

Mr Mason told the court he was “embarrassed and worried” and feared the friendship would end “because they would not accept me for what happened”.

Asked by prosecutor Ian Unsworth QC what he meant, he said: “Because of what me and Alex had done together, like if I was to speak to someone about it they wouldn’t understand why it had happened and they wouldn’t accept me if I was gay or bisexual.”

Mr Mason, of Ash Lane in Ollerton, admitted having sex with Alex but said he thought it was wrong, adding: “For one, because he was a male and, secondly, his age.”

He told the jury he did not hate Alex for blackmailing him but he thought he was “being a bit of a bully”.

The court heard Mr Mason had searched the internet for phrases including “what would happen if you kicked someone down the stairs” and “everyday poison”.

He told jurors he felt depressed and suicidal after his girlfriend broke up with him when Alex contacted her and told her about an explicit photo and video he had sent him.

Mr Mason told the court he worked at a plant hire firm, attended Reaseheath College and was rehearsing for the Young Farmers’ Club’s Christmas play.

He accepted he hit Alex at least 15 times on the head with the spanner after driving to remote woodland.

He said when he drove away from the scene he threw Alex’s phone out of the car.

The jury was told before giving evidence he had not previously admitted disposing of the phone.

The trial continues.

Covid tests offered to John Lewis and Waitrose staff

John Lewis will be one of the first big store chains to offer free almost-instant Covid tests to its workers.

It will make rapid testing available at 40 of its sites, including a factory, warehouses and some high street shops.

Up to 16,000 workers will be voluntarily tested every week and its success could lead to other retailers adopting the NHS-linked scheme.

But a shopworkers union warned that staff testing positive needed support from their employers.

“We expect employers to ensure that staff understand how testing will work, what the results mean and to support those who are ill, self-isolating or shielding on full pay,” said a spokesman for the Union of Shop Distributive & Allied Workers.

The NHS Test and Trace lateral flow Covid tests are conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained staff with results available within 30 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and will be carried out in a temporary room up to three times a week where workers take a swab from their throat then hands it to an NHS-trained John Lewis staff member.

The scheme was piloted in November at the store chain’s distribution centre in Milton Keynes.

“We’re proud to have helped develop and establish a testing scheme,” said John Lewis executive director for operations Andrew Murphy

Dido Harding, the interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and head of the NHS test and trace programme, said: “This pilot is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS test and trace with rapid, targeted testing which will allow us to identify even more people who may be unknowingly carrying the virus, more quickly.”

She added that testing is taking place in hospitals, care homes, universities “and other areas that we value”.

Other business have adopted different approaches to offering staff regular testing.

Online retailer Amazon has set up its own testing labs for its workers, including one in Manchester.

“Providing regular testing for our employees allows us to identify asymptomatic cases who might not otherwise be tested,” said Antoine Dreyfus, former director of Amazon devices in the EU, who is now leading Amazon’s UK testing project.

Engineering giant BAE Systems has used a private lab to do in-house mass testing of its 8,000 employees at its shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, where it makes the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet.

Weekly tests are offered using a technology known as RT-LAMP.

“It’s very fast and very sensitive,” Chris Stanley of Circular1 Health, which provides the service, told New Scientist magazine.

“We have recently published a list of approved private providers of Covid-19 testing, to help employers access the services they need to carry out testing and identify the virus among their staff,” said Health Minister Lord Bethell.

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