The Spectator

Barometer | 2 May 2019

Barometer | 2 May 2019
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Great shakes

Shale gas commissioner Natascha Engel resigned in protest at what she called ‘absurd’ restrictions on fracking — in particular rules which state that fracking operations must cease. Has anyone ever been harmed by a tremor at magnitude 0.5?

— The Richter scale was devised by seismologist Charles F. Richter in 1935. It is a logarithmic scale, each ascending number marking an increase of approximately 31 times the amount of released energy.

— The largest recorded earthquake, in Chile in 1960, measured 9.5. A tremor less than 4.0 is unlikely to cause damage and one of 2.0 or below unlikely even to be felt.

— A tremor of 1.0 releases less than one 30th of the energy of the lightest tremor detectable by humans, and there are several million such tremors a year. There were six in Britain in April, none related to fracking.

Counting the pennies

Philip Hammond decided the government would not, after all, withdraw penny and 2p coins. How much, at today’s prices, was a penny worth at stages of its development (using the Retail Prices Index)?

1971: new penny introduced, along with decimalisation of the currency


1982: words ‘new penny’ were quietly replaced with ‘one penny’


1984: halfpenny was withdrawn, penny becomes smallest denomination coin


1992: penny made from copper-plated

steel rather than bronze


1998: new portrait of Queen added


Social costs

Former cabinet minister Damian Green proposed that the over-50s be made to pay an extra £300 a year in National Insurance contributions to fund social care. How much does this currently cost?

— In 2017/18, local authorities in England spent £17.9 billion on adult social care, a real-terms rise of 0.4 per cent on 2016/17.

Of this, £14 billion was spent on long-term care.

857,770 adults received funding towards social care: 565,385 (66 per cent) were over 65 and 292,380 under 65.

— By contrast, the NHS budget for 2017/18 was £124 billion.

Out of office

Jeremy Corbyn proposed four extra bank holidays. How do British workers fare for bank holidays alongside other G20 countries?





US, Canada, Mexico


France, Italy, China


India, Hong Kong