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Johnson pledges legal help to woo electric vehicle giant Rivian to Britain

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Boris Johnson has pledged to use special legal powers to persuade an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer backed by Amazon to establish a European base in Britain.

It is understood that the prime minister has written to RJ Scaringe, founder and chief executive of Rivian, to offer his backing for the proposed location of a new manufacturing plant at a site near Bristol.

In the letter, details of which were shared with Sky News, Mr Johnson said that government officials had been instructed to devise a “bespoke incentives package” to encourage Rivian to give the green light to the UK project.

The PM added that the government would use a special development order (SDO), a rarely used legal power aimed at enabling rapid planning decisions, to facilitate Rivian’s use of the site, called Gravity.

He said his readiness to use an SDO “reflects the importance of your project to the UK”, according to an account of his letter.

Further details of the government incentives package that would be made available to Rivian were unclear on Friday but could include grants or tax allowances, according to one insider.

Government aid to the UK automotive industry has proved to be contentious in the past, most notably in relation to the Japanese car maker Nissan, but have been a key tool for ministers in securing substantial manufacturing commitments from multinationals such as Ford in recent months.

A delegation led by Lord Grimstone, the minister for investment, is expected to hold further talks with senior Rivian executives before Christmas, insiders said.

It was revealed in September that Mr Johnson had urged Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chairman, to help clinch a deal for Rivian to build a new plant in the west of England.

He raised the issue during a meeting with Mr Bezos in New York, soon after executives from the EV manufacturer visited the UK.

“I want to utilise our world-leading green economy, and build on our extensive automotive heritage to partner with Rivian as one of the most exciting disruptors in the sector alongside some of the world’s most iconic car brands already based here,” Mr Johnson’s recent letter said, according to a person who had seen it.

“The UK’s innovation scene is thriving due to the steps my government has taken to invest in the electrification of the automotive sector underpinned by my personal commitment to the industry.

“My net zero strategy set out over £2.8bn of funding commitments to support the transition to EVs focusing on R&D, manufacturing, battery supply chains, infrastructure and demand stimulation.

“This institutional support alongside our zero emission vehicle mandate – much like that of California’s – provide the perfect base from which Rivian can excel and establish itself in the European market.”

Rivian listed in New York last month, with its value surging to make the EV manufacturer more valuable than both Ford and General Motors, the two biggest icons of the US automotive industry.

Its stock has since fallen back, although it remains well above the initial public offering price.

If it does press ahead with a manufacturing project in Britain in the face of competition from several EU countries, it would provide fresh evidence against forecasts that the country’s automotive sector was headed for terminal decline after Brexit.

Honda’s decision to close its plant in Swindon, announced in 2019, was seen as a major blow to the industry, with Nissan warning that its future investment would be jeopardised if Britain left the trading bloc.

Recent developments involving both the Japanese carmaker and Stellantis have revived hopes of a brighter future for automotive manufacturing in the UK.

The government’s decision to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and hybrid vehicles by 2035 has accelerated the need for a huge shift in manufacturing capability.

There remain significant concerns, though, that the provision of EV charging infrastructure will fail to keep pace with demand.

Sky News revealed during the summer that Rivian had identified Gravity, a 616-acre campus near Bristol, as a potential site for a new manufacturing plant.

The company’s biggest customer to date is Amazon, which has placed an order for 100,000 EV trucks, production of which is scheduled to start this year.

In his letter to Mr Scaringe, the PM added that he was confident of support from British companies including BT Group, British Gas-owner Centrica and Royal Mail Group, which are among the largest operators of van fleets in Britain.

They, and other companies, have pledged to buy at least 100,000 British-made electric vans by the end of the decade.





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Saudi Arabia’s Most admired Companies in 2022

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Insights Success is an archway that caters to Entrepreneurs’ quench of technology and business updates which are currently ruling the business world.
We are ceaselessly proving the best platform for leading companies, which aids indefinite progress while creating meaningful learning experiences for the visitors and invaluable brand awareness for the clients.



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Bank of England raises base interest rate to 1.75%

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The Bank of England has raised the base interest rate by half a percentage point to 1.75 per cent, the biggest rise since 1995, in an attempt to combat runaway inflation.

The nine-strong monetary policy committee voted eight to one in favour of a 50 basis point rise, defying some market expectations for an increase by 25 basis points.

It is the Bank’s sixth consecutive tightening in monetary policy and follows in the footsteps of the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, which have begun aggressively raising rates by larger increments.

Interest rates are now the highest since 2009 as the Bank attempts to bring down inflation, which is running at a 40-year high of 9.4 per cent and is on course to exceed 11 per cent later this year.

These would be the worst inflation rates in the G7, caused in large part by rising global energy prices driving household bills higher this year. The UK economy is also heading for a slowdown this year as consumer incomes are squeezed more tightly than since the 1950s.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor, has hinted that it will also announce how it intends to begin unwinding the £850 billion of government debt pumped into the economy since the financial crisis, offloading bonds worth between £50 billion and £100 billion from as early as next month.

The Bank will also deliver its quarterly outlook, with Bailey expected to forecast that inflation will rise beyond 11 per cent and remain in double digits into next year. The Bank’s target is 2 per cent.

Commenting on today’s Bank of England interest rate rise, David Bharier, Head of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “This rise is the clearest signal yet of the Bank of England’s intention to get inflation under control. Spiralling prices are cited by businesses as by far and away the top concern right now.

“However, given the extremely precarious state of the economy, this decision is not without risk for businesses and consumers that are exposed to banking or overdraft facilities.

“There are many causes of the current inflation crisis – global supply chain problems, trade barriers, soaring energy costs, increased taxes, and labour market shortages. Interest rate rises alone will do little to address these.

“Worryingly, our research indicates strongly that most small businesses are not investing for growth, and that longer-term confidence is beginning to wane.





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Opinion: OSC appointment fuss is a tempest in a teapot

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Jeffrey MacIntosh: The government has the legislated right to have a say in the agency’s course

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Ed Waitzer’s recent op-ed (“The issue at the OSC is integrity, not debate,” July 14, 2022) expresses surprise and disappointment in my recent op-ed (“Conflict at the OSC: Why the regulator needs to make room for dissent,” July 7, 2022). In that op-ed, I argued that lawyer Heather Zordel’s appointment as non-executive chair of the OSC in March of this year should be met with open arms, as it introduces new points of view into what seems to be a rather intellectually closed shop. I don’t suppose it will come as a shock to Ed Waitzer or anyone else that I am surprised and disappointed at his rebuttal.

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To begin with, it contains a number of inaccuracies. It states that Ms. Zordel was denied reappointment to her earlier position (2019-2021) as part-time commissioner. In fact, given her busy legal practice, she took herself out of the running. This puts a rather different complexion on the matter.

And I never stated or implied that Ms. Zordel was not reappointed as part-time commissioner because of two dissenting opinions that she wrote as commissioner. My point was that for Ms. Zordel’s critics the dissents were a factor in opposing her appointment as chair of the board.

The nub of my argument was that the OSC could benefit from greater variety of viewpoints among its brass as to what investor protection and other aspects of the OSC’s mission entail. By contrast, Mr. Waitzer argues: “the importance of debate and dissent is not the point here.” I beg to differ. As I indicated, some prominent accounts of Ms. Zordel’s appointment have put a pejorative cast on her disagreements with her fellow commissioners. That puts the issue of debate and dissent front and centre.

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I certainly agree with Mr. Waitzer that the independence of administrative agencies is a cornerstone of our democracy. But does that mean that every administrative agency should be entirely divorced from any government oversight whatsoever — a little fiefdom unto itself and in no sense answerable to its political masters? Not a whit. It is the government that creates the agency, defines its mandate, gives it the powers that it needs to carry out that mandate and defines its organizational structure. And it is entirely within the purview of the government to enlist its legislative power to re-define that mandate, powers, and organizational structure if it chooses.

We don’t have to look into the distant past to find an example. On the advice of a non-partisan blue ribbon panel — the Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce (“CMMT”) — the Conservative government has recently substantially reorganized the OSC via the Securities Commission Act, 2021 (declared in force in April). That legislation splits the adjudicative function (the “Capital Markets Tribunal”) from the regulatory function. Moreover, where before the reorganization the OSC Chair and CEO were the same person, the two offices are now split. As expressed by the CMMT, “The Board of Directors, led by the Chair, (will) focus on the strategic oversight and corporate governance of the regulator,” while “The CEO (will) be responsible for the overall management of the organization and execution of the OSC’s mandate.” The directors, including the chair, are all government appointees.

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This new structure, recommended by a non-partisan committee, gives the government of the day the power to influence, at the highest level, the strategic direction of the OSC. But why should it not? If the government is dissatisfied with the strategic vision or regulatory philosophy of the regulator or the manner in which it is being implemented, it would be profoundly anti-democratic — and at odds with the rule of law — to forbid the government from seeking to alter the agency’s course.

Indeed, the Ontario Securities Act states “The Commission is an agent of the Crown in right of Ontario.” The key word here is “agent.” It is not “hegemony,” “fiefdom” or “satrapy.” At the end of the day, the OSC is a government creation performing regulatory functions ceded to it by the government.

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Do Ms. Zordel’s conservative connections compromise the independence of the institution of which she is now head? Absolutely not. In the making of such appointments, the twin issues of competence and integrity will take up a lot of shelf space. But why should the government not also consider, if it chooses, whether potential nominees share the government’s regulatory philosophy

The true worry about political interference is that the government might attempt to dictate or influence the result of particular cases. But the new legislation builds in the important protection of ceding no operational powers to the board of directors. Thus, aside from the government’s power to approve or decline proposed rule changes (a longstanding feature of securities regulation), its sole discretionary avenue of influence lies in its power to appoint directors and hence influence high-level strategic direction.

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What is left of the argument that there has been inappropriate political interference over the OSC? Only the assertion that Ms. Zordel and three other part-time commissioners were appointed without the government having consulted the OSC, as has customarily been done. Yes, it would have been better if the government had consulted the OSC. In all likelihood, however, the outcome would have been the same. The OSC might not like not having been consulted but at best this is a foible not a fiasco.

In the end, this tempest easily fits within a standard-issue teapot.

Financial Post

Jeffrey MacIntosh is a professor of law at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and a director of the Canadian Securities Exchange.

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