Humanitarian groups demand safe routes to UK after five deaths in Channel | Immigration and asylum

Humanitarian groups have called for new safe routes to Britain after five people died trying to cross the Channel within hours of the UK government passing its controversial Rwanda bill.

A child and four adults drowned on Tuesday while trying to reach the UK in a boat from Wimereux, in France. More than 110 people were said to have been on board the vessel when it left the French coastline at 5am.

Despite the deaths, 57 people continued to Britain once the boat’s motor had been restarted, the Calais prefect told the Guardian. The National Crime Agency said it would be supporting the French investigation into the deaths with UK police and Border Force.

Rishi Sunak said the “tragic” deaths showed why his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was necessary.

During a trip to Poland, the prime minister told reporters: “We want to prevent people making these very dangerous crossings. If you look at what’s happening, criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people. They are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies”.

“We’ve seen an enormous increase in the numbers per boat over the past few years. This is what tragically happens when they push people out to sea and that’s why, for matters of compassion more than anything else, we must actually break this business model and end this unfairness of people coming to our country illegally.”

Humanitarian groups reacted with fury, condemning the Rwanda deportation policy as “cruel” and arguing it would not stop desperate asylum seekers from making the dangerous Channel crossing.

Wanda Wyporska, chief executive officer at Safe Passage International, said: “Waking up to news of men, women and a child dying in such a harrowing way is devastating. This was entirely preventable.

“This loss of life comes just hours after the government ruthlessly pushed through the cruel Rwanda bill. It won’t disrupt the smugglers’ grip on dangerous journeys, with refugees suffering for this government’s failures. We need safe routes, such as a refugee visa, urgently.”

The prefect of Calais, Jacques Billant (C), addressing the press at Wimereux on Tuesday. Photograph: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said it was “another devastating human tragedy that could and should have been avoided, and for it to happen just hours after the government’s Rwanda bill became law makes it all the more tragic.

“The only sustainable way to reduce dangerous journeys … is for the government to reduce the need for desperate people to take desperate actions. Instead of hostile, headline-grabbing legislation, we need to see safe routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including more options for family reunion, refugee visas, and cooperation with our European neighbours.”

Charlotte Khan, head of public affairs and advocacy at Care4Calais said: “Yet more lives have been lost as a consequence of the hostile environment towards refugees. Each life lost in the Channel is an avoidable tragedy. Yesterday, Rishi Sunak had the cheek to use Channel deaths to pressurise the Lords into passing his brutal Rwanda bill. But the responsibility for each one of these deaths lies with his policies. Rwanda won’t save lives. Safe routes will.”

The scheme, which will cost £1.8m for each of the first 300 migrants deported, also prompted an angry response from the Council of Europe and the UN.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, called on Sunak to reconsider, saying the plan set a “worrying global precedent”.


Michael O’Flaherty, the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, urged the UK not to remove refugees under the policy and said the bill raised “major issues about the human rights of asylum seekers and the rule of law more generally”.

Labour said it would ditch the Rwanda policy. Keir Starmer said the deaths were “an absolute tragedy and my heart, of course, goes out to the family members of those who have died. It is a reminder that this vile trade run by criminal gangs costs lives and, sadly, more lives today.”

Talking to reporters in Cawood, North Yorkshire, Starmer said: “There’s no doubt that we have to stop these small boat crossings. There’s no doubt about that. The government has lost control of the borders. But this Rwanda gimmick is not the way to stop it.”

Labour said it would use the money to increase border security and tackle people-smuggling gangs.

The Calais prefect, Jacques Billant, said a rescue operation had been dispatched quickly to reach the boat when it got into difficulty. Six people were taken ashore for treatment by emergency services but “despite attempts to reanimate them, five of them died”. A further 47 people were rescued from the vessel and helped by police, emergency services and doctors in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Four were admitted to hospital for treatment.

A rescue boat in the Channel after five migrants died on Tuesday. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Billant said that “despite this complex and delicate situation”, the 57 people who stayed on the dinghy managed to get the motor running, and decided to continue their route to Britain, under the surveillance of French authorities.

Jean-Luc Dubaele, the mayor of Wimereux, told BFMTV: “It’s very painful and very difficult to accept. To have 110 people on an inflatable boat is unprecedented.”

More than 6,000 people have made the journey so far this year – an increase of about a quarter on the same period last year. According to the International Organisation for Migration, 10 people had drowned in the Channel in 2024 before Tuesday, plus one lorry death on a Channel crossing.

Matthew Rycroft, the most senior civil servant in the Home Office, who has overseen the Rwanda scheme for two years, has told MPs he did not have evidence to show it would have a deterrent effect that would make it value for money.

The deal will cost £1.8m for each of the first 300 deportees, the National Audit Office calculates.

The Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and currents are strong, making the crossing on small boats dangerous. People smugglers typically overload rickety dinghies, often making them barely afloat as they try to reach British shores.

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The Guardian view on sending refugees to Rwanda: the UN is right – this law sets a bad example | Editorial

The capitulation of the House of Lords over the government’s Rwanda bill was predictable – even if some opponents had hoped against hope that peers might force a climbdown. As of now, UK law states that Rwanda is a “safe country”, making it possible for ministers to send asylum seekers there. The shameful course of action embarked on late last year, after the supreme court ruled the deportation policy unlawful, has thus concluded. Two years after Boris Johnson first announced the plan, Rishi Sunak is set to try again.

From parliament the focus now swings back to the courts, where lawyers will try to have individuals removed from flight lists. The law allows for this if they face “real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious irreversible harm” from being sent to Rwanda – which some undoubtedly will. Mr Sunak’s calculation is that the policy makes political sense despite this and the £1.8m estimated initial cost per deportee. Its appeal is two-pronged, and combines the fuelling of xenophobic sentiment among voters – by ensuring that irregular migration stays in the news – with papering over cracks in the Tory party between hard-right populists and what remains of the liberal centre-right.

Where will it end? The passage of the bill undoubtedly boosts the government’s chances of fulfilling what Suella Braverman, when she was home secretary, described as her “dream”. But given the small numbers and the logistical challenges – not only in the courts but also on arrival, where the arrangements for processing and resettlement have yet to be tested – one thing that can be asserted with confidence is that this scheme will not resolve the issue of irregular migration.

The reality is that there is no known means of preventing people from travelling to the UK either because they are desperate to escape persecution, or determined to improve on dismal prospects elsewhere. Ministers can denounce “evil people-smuggling gangs” all they like. This refrain was once again trotted out by the home secretary, James Cleverly, in response to Tuesday’s tragic news that five people including a child had died while attempting to cross the Channel.

It is true that unscrupulous and dangerous people are making money out of irregular migration. But there is no evidence that their networks will be either eradicated or diverted by a policy combining tough enforcement by the French – including regular destruction of the DIY refugee camps near Calais – with the deterrent effect that is meant to follow deportations to Rwanda. The only realistic approach is long-term and multilateral, involving cooperation with governments across Europe and beyond. Re-establishing safe and legal routes for people seeking refugee status is an essential first step, without which any claims to compassion – such as that made by the prime minister after the latest drownings – are empty. Already, around 52,000 people are stuck in limbo, having arrived in the UK since being barred from making asylum applications.

The Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog has condemned the bill. Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, has described a “worrying global precedent”. Labour calls it an expensive gimmick. While accurate, this phrase misses something. In cutting the UK loose from more than 70 years of international norms regarding refugees, the Rwanda law is not just a wasteful gesture. It also marks a reckless and disgraceful lurch away from a hard-won system of institutional respect for human rights.

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Sampha, Yussef Dayes and Daniel Pemberton top Ivor Novello award nominations | Ivor Novello awards

Neo-soul singer Sampha, jazz drummer Yussef Dayes and composer Daniel Pemberton have topped the nominations for the 2024 Ivor Novello awards, which recognise the best in British and Irish songwriting and composition for the screen.

Sampha and Dayes are individually nominated for best album, while they share a joint nomination for co-writing Sampha’s track Spirit 2.0, which is up for best song musically and lyrically.

In a review of Sampha’s nominated album Lahai, Guardian critic Alexis Petridis described Spirit 2.0 as “a perfect summation of the album’s qualities – the tune luxurious, but set to a backing that slowly builds from a nagging guitar figure and an icy synth tone into jazzy drum’n’bass”. The south London-born artist has been courted as a collaborator by a range of US A-listers including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Solange, while releasing solo material – his debut album Process won the Mercury prize in 2017.

Dayes, one of the central players in the vibrant London jazz scene of recent years, continues his recent flush of success following the release of his album Black Classical Music. He gave a well-received headline show at Royal Albert Hall and became a rare jazz nominee at the Brit awards, recognised in the rock/alternative category this year. Black Classical Music is predominantly instrumental rather than song-based, but the awards also recognise composition, and according to organisers the album category “celebrates consistent and inventive creativity, as well as exceptional songwriting”.

Pemberton is nominated in two composing categories: best original film score for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and best television soundtrack for the third season of Slow Horses, the latter shared with producer-composer duo Toydrum, AKA Pablo Clements and James Griffith.

Pemberton has previously been Oscar-nominated in 2021 for his song with Celeste, Hear My Voice, included in The Trial of the Chicago Seven, and has four Golden Globe nominations for scores for films such as Steve Jobs and Motherless Brooklyn. He recently scored the Michael Mann film Ferrari.

Lankum, whose album False Lankum was named the best of 2023 by Guardian critics, join Sampha and Dayes in the album category alongside Irish singer-songwriter CMAT, and Raye, who swept the board at this year’s Brit awards, winning a record-breaking six awards in one night.

Victoria Canal, nominated for best song musically and lyrically. Photograph: Karina Barberis

Also nominated for best song musically and lyrically are Blur for The Narcissist – their second ever nomination, after a win in 1996 at the peak of Britpop when they shared the best songwriter award with arch rival Noel Gallagher. The Japanese House (for Sunshine Baby), Victoria Canal (for Black Swan) and Tom Odell (for Black Friday) round out the category.

Canal was the winner of the rising star award last year – this year’s nominees in that category are Blair Davie, Chrissi, Elmiene, Master Peace and Nino SLG.

Up for best contemporary song is another of this year’s Brit winners, London funk-pop band Jungle for their slow-burn streaming hit Back on 74, and another mainstay in London’s jazz scene, Speakers Corner Quartet for Geronimo Blues featuring Kae Tempest. The US singer Mette (for Mama’s Eyes) and South African singer Tyla (for global Afro-pop hit Water) are also recognised thanks to their British songwriting teams.

Arguably stretching the category’s celebration of “originality in songwriting” to its limit, Brian Eno and Fred Again are nominated for Enough, a track whose lyrics are made up of three sampled lines from Don’t You Dare by singer-songwriter Winnie Raeder.

Nominees for most performed work, acknowledging commercial success, are Harry Styles (As It Was, also last year’s winner), PinkPantheress and Ice Spice (Boy’s a Liar), Jazzy (Giving Me), Central Cee & Dave (Sprinter) and Kenya Grace (Strangers). The songs’ various co-writers are also nominated, though Grace wrote, produced and performed her hit alone, becoming only the second woman in history after Kate Bush to top the UK chart with a totally self-made track.

Kenya Grace performing at Coachella festival earlier this month. Photograph: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella

Film, TV and video game soundtrack composers are also recognised, for work across the likes of Poor Things, The Crown and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III.

The awards take place on Thursday 23 May at the Grosvenor in London.

Ivor Novello nominations 2024

Best album
Yussef Dayes: Black Classical Music, written by Yussef Dayes, Rocco Palladino and Charlie Stacey
CMAT: Crazymad, for Me, written by CMAT
Lankum: False Lankum, written by Daragh and Ian Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat
Sampha: Lahai, written by Sampha
Raye: My 21st Century Blues, written by Raye and Mike Sabath

Best contemporary song
Jungle: Back on 74, written by Lydia Kitto, J Lloyd and Tom McFarland
Fred Again & Brian Eno: Enough, written by Brian Eno, Fred Gibson, Buddy Ross and Winnie Raeder
Speakers Corner Quartet: Geronimo Blues (ft Kae Tempest), written by Kwake Bass, Peter Bennie, Biscuit, Raven Bush and Kae Tempest
Mette: Mama’s Eyes, written by Todd Dulaney, Ines Dunn, Barney Lister and Mette
Tyla: Water, written by Imani “Mocha” Lewis, Corey Lindsay-Keay, Jackson Lomastro, Ari PenSmith, Rayo, Sammy Soso and Olmo Zucca

Best song musically and lyrically
Tom Odell: Black Friday, written by Laurie Blundell, Max Clilverd and Tom Odell
Victoria Canal: Black Swan, written by Victoria Canal, Jonny Lattimer and Eg White
Sampha: Spirit 2.0, written by Yussef Dayes and Sampha
The Japanese House: Sunshine Baby, written by Amber Bain
Blur: The Narcissist, written by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree

Most performed work
Harry Styles: As It Was, written by Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson and Harry Styles
PinkPantheress & Ice Spice: Boy’s a Liar Pt 2, written by Ice Spice, Mura Masa and PinkPantheress
Jazzy: Giving Me, written by Conor Bissett, Robert Griffiths and Jazzy
Central Cee & Dave: Sprinter, written by Central Cee, Dave, Jo Caleb and Jonny Leslie
Kenya Grace: Strangers, written by Kenya Grace

Rising star award
Blair Davie
Master Peace
Nino SLG

Best original film score
Poor Things, by Jerskin Fendrix
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, by Daniel Pemberton
Typist Artist Pirate King, by Carly Paradis

Best original video game score
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, by Walter Mair
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, by Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab
Tin Hearts, by Matthew Chastney

Best television soundtrack
Boat Story, by Dominik Scherrer
Slow Horses (season three), by Daniel Pemberton and Toydrum
The Crown: The Final Season, by Martin Phipps
The Following Events Are Based On a Pack Of Lies, by Arthur Sharpe
Three Little Birds, by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell

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Arsenal v Chelsea: Premier League – live | Premier League

Key events

The teams

Arsenal: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu, Odegaard, Partey, Rice, Saka, Havertz, Trossard.
Subs: Ramsdale, Gabriel Jesus, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Nketiah, Kiwior, Jorginho, Vieira, Zinchenko.

Chelsea: Petrovic, Disasi, Gilchrist, Badiashile, Cucurella, Caicedo, Fernandez, Madueke, Gallagher, Mudryk, Jackson.
Subs: Thiago Silva, Sterling, Bettinelli, Chalobah, Chukwuemeka, Casadei, Washington, Tauriainen, Dyer.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).


🔙 Tomiyasu returns
⚖️ Partey in the middle
⚡️ Havertz leads the line

Let’s seize the opportunity, Gunners 👊

— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 23, 2024


Updated at 


Arsenal can go three points clear at the top of the Premier League tonight, and in doing so, tick off one of the harder matches of their title-race run-in. They’ll fancy their chances against a side that everyone has suddenly started referring to as Cole Palmer FC, but tonight won’t feature any Cole Palmer. Arsenal are the form horse, having won 11 of their last 13 Premier League matches, and have only lost one of their last nine encounters with Chelsea, though they lost their last home game, against Aston Villa. Meanwhile Chelsea are belatedly getting it together under Mauricio Pochettino: they’re unbeaten in eight league games, and were the better side in defeat to Manchester City in the cup semis last weekend. So all in all, for a match between first and ninth, between teams separated by 27 points, this is balanced rather nicely. Kick-off is at 8pm BST. Business-end drama ahoy! It’s on!

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UK bankers warned of ‘severe losses’ if they fail to monitor private equity exposures | Banking

UK banks are leaving themselves open to “severe, unexpected losses”, by failing to properly measure how exposed they are to the $8tn private equity industry, the Bank of England has warned.

In a speech on Tuesday Rebecca Jackson, a senior executive at the central bank, said there was a “creeping sense of complacency” among lenders, who – despite a boom in loans and financing to the sector – had almost no ability to put together data “or even appreciate its crucial importance”.

She said the issue was partly due to the fact that banks had not previously been exposed to a private equity downturn.

Under the private equity model, large sums are borrowed from banks to finance the purchase of businesses, with profits from those businesses then relied on to make interest payments on the loans.

It means banks could be accruing huge and unintentional exposures to the private equity industry, which would be unable to immediately sell-off assets to pay down loans in a crisis.

“It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario, such as malpractice at a financial sponsor or the bankruptcy of multiple portfolio companies, where risk correlations increase significantly and liquidity evaporates, leaving banks open to severe, unexpected losses,” Jackson said in a speech to the City lobby group UK Finance on Tuesday. “This is a systemic risk too.”

The amount of assets managed by private equity businesses globally has grown at a rate of aabout 13% a year, Jackson explained, rising from $2tn (£1.6tn) dollars in 2012 to around $8tn last year. Individual funds have grown exponentially too, with the largest fund – run by the private equity business CVC – having set a record by raising $29bn last summer. Back in 2006, the record for fundraising stood at $15.6bn, Jackson explained.

The Bank of England said it was running out of patience, having raised similar concerns about the exposure of banks to risky loans after the collapse of the hedge fund Archegos – which left major banks like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse nursing more than $10bn in losses – as well as the bond market crisis that followed the disastrous mini-budget led by the former prime minster Liz Truss in 2022.

“The risk of outsized, illiquid, and unintentionally concentrated exposures is something that we have been pointing out for some time now, and for which we have very little patience,” Jackson said.

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The Bank of England has written to executives, giving UK lenders four months to get a handle on their dealings with private equity businesses, saying they will have to report back to the regulator by 30 August.

“The need for significant improvements in risk management is clear, and it’s clear that these need to happen now. It’s better, as Shakespeare said, to be three hours too soon than a minute too late,” Jackson said.

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Welsh government may reverse 20mph limit on hundreds of roads – but denies U-turn | Wales

Hundreds of roads and streets where a 20mph speed limit was introduced under a controversial law could be returned to 30mph, as the Labour-led government admitted mistakes had been made over the policy.

The Welsh government denied it had performed a U-turn and insisted the default 20mph for roads in built-up areas would remain to prevent deaths and save the NHS money.

The Welsh transport secretary, Ken Skates, said: “It’s not a U-turn. This is about refining and finessing a policy that will help make Wales safer. I think it’s important to be able to listen to people and show humility and accept where errors have been made.

“I don’t think it’s embarrassing for us to have pursued a policy that will make Wales feel safer, reduce collisions, hopefully save lives and save the NHS valuable time and financial resource. I don’t have a problem at all in saying to people, I’m sorry if we’ve got elements wrong, we will correct them.”

Asked if there would be hundreds of changes, Skates said: “It could well be. It will vary quite significantly across Wales. For example, in Cardiff there may only be half a dozen changes because it lends itself so well to 20mph, whereas in other parts of Wales that are more rural and semi-urban, we may see far more changes.

“Overwhelmingly, though, what I hear is that outside schools, outside hospitals, in built-up areas, outside of playgrounds and so forth, 20mph is the right speed. But there are some routes where 30 is more appropriate.”

Skates said revised guidance on 20mph roads would be published in July, with councils expected to start detailed consultation on changes from September.

The shadow Welsh secretary in Westminster, Labour’s Jo Stevens, said: “The practical changes Ken Skates has announced represent a pragmatic, welcome response to the concerns that have been raised over the last few months.”

But Natasha Asghar, the Tory shadow transport minister in the Senedd, said the policy had been a “complete shambles”.

“The bottom line is that after all of Labour’s talk about listening to the Welsh people, the default speed limit across Wales will remain 20mph. Nothing has changed,” she said.

“Instead of making councils clean up the mess of this daft, divisive and destructive policy, it should be scrapped in its entirety, so commonsense can prevail and 20mph remains where it is needed such as outside schools, play areas, high streets, places of worship etc.”

The Welsh secretary, David TC Davies, said: “I think it’s disappointing. Half a million people have signed a petition calling for the blanket 20mph limit to go and it sounds like the blanket is still going to be pretty well there.”

Delyth Jewell, who speaks on climate change for Plaid Cymru, said: “I don’t want us to lose sight of how radical this policy is. There will be loud voices who tell us that it’s only outside schools where children need to be kept safe, forgetting that children don’t live at school.”

The campaign 20’s Plenty accused the Welsh Conservatives of stoking discontent. It said: “It is entirely correct to review the guidance and the way that it has been interpreted and used by highway and local authorities. This should be done with the aim of making it clearer rather than having any pre-conceived idea of diluting the guidance to allow greater freedom to set higher limits.”

Meanwhile the new Welsh first minister, Vaughan Gething, continues to come under fire for taking £200,000 for his leadership campaign from a company run by a man convicted of environmental offences. Gething has said there was “no conflict of interest” in accepting the money from Dauson Environmental Group, a subsidiary of which owes the Welsh government-owned Development Bank of Wales £400,000.

Gething said former first minister Carwyn Jones would chair a review into leadership campaigns, including campaign finances. The Tories and Plaid Cymru have called for an independent investigation.

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English clubs urge RFU to speed up enhanced hybrid contract plans | England rugby union team

Leading English clubs are urging the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to accelerate their plans to introduce hybrid central contracts for a limited number of key men’s international players. Saracens are one of several sides keen to know exactly how many of their squad will be offered deals and precisely how the new system will operate.

Sarries’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, who works closely with a number of England players including the national captain Jamie George and the lock Maro Itoje, is hoping the situation will be clarified sooner rather than later. “It’s pretty important that it gets sorted as quickly as possible,” said McCall, suggesting his star players had still not seen their final contracts.

“As far as I know Maro and Jamie have agreed something in principle [but] I’m not sure there’s any contract on the table as it stands. It’s fair to say an agreement has been reached between them, the club and the RFU in principle. But as far as I know no contract has actually been signed by either of those players. The sooner all that can get done, the better for everybody.”

The England head coach, Steve Borthwick, has been given the license to allocate up to 25 enhanced EPS contracts worth in the region of £150,000 per year which would allow him a greater say over players’ individual preparation and workload. So far, however, there has been no confirmation of how many enhanced contracts will be dished out and McCall says an extended impasse could impact on the club’s recruitment plans for next season.

The RFU says that talks with leading English clubs about a re-set of the domestic game as part of a new Professional Game Partnership are progressing well, although an agreement has yet to be reached regarding the long-term reintroduction of promotion and relegation between the Premiership and the second-tier Championship.

Two Scottish international forwards have confirmed they are moving on from their current Premiership sides, with Jonny Gray and Magnus Bradbury calling time on their respective stints with Exeter and Bristol Bears. Gray has left Sandy Park with immediate effect “to explore other playing opportunities” having scored 10 tries in 48 games for the Chiefs. Bradbury, Bristol’s players’ player of the year last season, is returning to Edinburgh on a two-year deal.

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Bath have confirmed the signings of the highly rated England U18s forward Kepu Tuipulotu and the wing Tyler Offiah on senior academy contracts. Offiah is the son of the former rugby league international Martin “Chariots” Offiah.

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Judges reject HMRC appeal and rule firm’s marshmallows are not sweets | Food & drink industry

A food company has won a sweet-tasting victory against the UK tax authorities after a court decided that it did not have to pay VAT on its marshmallows because they were not confectionary.

HMRC has unsuccessfully appealed against a 2022 decision by the first tier tribunal (FTT) that Innovative Bites Ltd did not have to pay a £472,928 demand for sales tax on its “Mega Marshmallows” because they were “sold and purchased as a product specifically for roasting”.

VAT is paid on confectionary at 20% including “sweetened prepared food which is normally eaten with the fingers” – a description HMRC argued applied to Mega Marshmallows. In an appeal to the upper tier tribunal, Charlotte Brown, for HMRC, said that the FTT had erred in not giving “particular weight to the means of eating”, pointing out that normal sized marshmallows were subject to the standard 20% rate of VAT.

However, Tim Brown, for Innovative Bites, sought to draw on the similarities with cooking chocolate and tiny marshmallows, which, although confectionary, are not taxed because they are cooking ingredients.

The judges ultimately endorsed the view taken by the FTT, which noted: “Clearly if the product is not roasted then it will be eaten with the fingers, perhaps having been cut up for children under six. However, once roasted and cooled, the product might be either eaten off the stick or with the fingers. In the circumstances of this product, we do not give particular weight to the means of eating.”

In a written judgment from earlier this month, appeal judges Phylliss Ramshaw and Nicholas Aleksander said: “Although not explicit it is reasonably clear that by finding that there were different ways of eating the product (and in the context of its other findings that the product was sold and packaged as specifically for roasting) the FTT seemed unable to conclude what method was more usually or more often used to eat the product hence the, perhaps infelicitous, reference to the weight to be attached.”

They said it was reasonable to take into account the fact that the product was intended to be subject to a cooking process before being eaten when considering if the typical consumer would view it as confectionary, adding: “We do not accept Ms Brown’s submission that roasting a marshmallow is ‘simply heating’ it … the FTT held that ‘roasting the marshmallows gives them a different texture and flavour … Roasting larger marshmallows also gives a different result in terms of the ratio of crisp outer to soft inner mallow.’ Roasting a marshmallow gives rise to a physical change in the product, caramelising the outer skin and making the interior molten.”

The judges also deemed “the finding that more Mega Marshmallows were eaten during the warmer months [and so more likely to be roasted] is not unreasonable”.

The case bears similarities to previous battles fought over which sweet treats are subject to tax. In the 1990s, in a famous case against McVitie’s, HM Customs and Excise (now HMRC) unsuccessfully argued that Jaffa Cakes were biscuits as opposed to cakes, which are zero-rated, and so should attract VAT.

More recently, the tax tribunal ruled that 36 flapjacks produced by Glanbia Milk were not cakes because they would not be eaten for afternoon tea, were more commonly eaten on the go, were not baked and contained significant amounts of protein.

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Aboriginal spears taken by Captain Cook in 1770 formally returned to Indigenous Australians

The artifacts were all that remain of some 40 spears that Cook and botanist Joseph Banks took in April 1770, at the time of the first contact between Cook’s crew and the Indigenous people of Kamay, or Botany Bay.

The spears were presented to Trinity College, Cambridge by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich the following year, along with other items from Cook’s voyage across the Pacific.

Four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024.
Four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024. (Cambridge University via AP)

The spears have been held at the university’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology since the early 20th century.

Their return, agreed last year following a campaign and a formal repatriation request, was hailed as a step toward reconciliation and a greater understanding of Britain and Australia’s shared history.

Sally Davies, head of Trinity College, said it was the “right decision” to return the spears and that the institution was “committed to reviewing the complex legacies of the British empire, not least in our collections.”

The spears were “exceptionally significant” because they were the first artifacts collected by the British from any part of Australia that remain, said Nicholas Thomas, director of Cambridge’s archaeology museum.

Elisabeth Bowes, Leonard Hill, Stephen Smith and Noeleen Timbery with four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024.
Elisabeth Bowes, Leonard Hill, Stephen Smith and Noeleen Timbery with four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024. (Cambridge University via AP)

“They reflect the beginnings of a history of misunderstanding and conflict,” he said.

The Gujaga Foundation, which leads cultural and research programs within the La Perouse Aboriginal community, said the artifacts’ return marked a “momentous occasion.”

“The spears were pretty much the first point of European contact, particularly British contact with Aboriginal Australia,” said Ray Ingrey, the foundation’s director.

“Ultimately, they’ll be put on permanent display for everyone to go see, at the very spot they were taken from 250 years ago,” he added.

Two of four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024.
Two of four Aboriginal spears that were brought to England by Captain James Cook more than 250 years ago and have now been repatriated to Australia in a ceremony at Trinity College in Cambridge, Tuesday April 23, 2024. (Cambridge University via AP)

The spears were taken by members of Cook’s expedition from an unoccupied Aboriginal campsite, according to the National Museum of Australia’s website.

A diary entry by Banks that the website cited read: “(We) threw into the house to them some beads, ribbands, cloths &c. as presents and went away. We however thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances (spears) which we could find about the houses, amounting in number to forty or fifty.”

Ingrey said the spears were “undoubtedly taken without permission”.

The spears will be displayed at a new visitor centre to be built at Kurnell, Kamay.

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