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UK mortgage sector competition to be examined

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UK mortgage sector competition to be examined

The UK’s financial watchdog has launched a consultation process on competition in the mortgage sector to seek input from interested parties to identify both good points and potential areas for improvement.

‘For millions of consumers a mortgage is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, financial transaction they will enter into in their lifetime. The mortgage sector also plays a vital role in the financial services industry and many areas of the economy,’ said Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

He explained that competition can play a key role in ensuring that the sector works well, delivering consumer benefits through lower prices, better customer service, and more product choice.

‘We are seeking stakeholders’ views on competition in the mortgage sector. These views, together with evidence from the FCA’s wider programme of work on mortgages, will help inform any future FCA work on this key sector of the economy, including any future competition market study,’ he added.

The FCA is interested in the range of factors that might affect competition in the provision of loans secured against a property, whether regulated or unregulated, including as a result of changes introduced following the Mortgage Market Review and any other barriers to entry, expansion or innovation.

It also wants to examine consumers’ ability to effectively access, assess and act on information about mortgage products and services and firms’ conduct and relationships and the deadline for input is 18 December 2015 with feedback scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders welcomed the announcement and described it is an excellent opportunity for the regulator to review the effect of regulation, as well as market practice, on lenders as well as their customers.

‘The FCA’s role in promoting competitive markets is the part of regulation that best helps foster creativity, innovation and a sharp focus on what drives customers,’ said CML director general Paul Smee.

‘It’s also essential in delivering the kind of environment in which reputable lenders of all shapes and sizes can thrive. We will be working with all our members to ensure that their perspectives are fully reflected as we work with the FCA on this vital issue,’ he added.

He went on further to say ‘It is also essential that adequate unoccupied property insurance is arranged as standard property insurance isnt suitable and lenders will insist on this’.

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Michael Pooley to succeed James McCarthy as President of CHEP Europe

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Michael Pooley to succeed James McCarthy as President of CHEP Europe

CHEP today announced a transition of leadership for its European operations. James McCarthy, is leaving the company after seven-and-a-half years. CHEP has appointed Michael Pooley, who has previously led the company’s UK & Ireland business as well as its Sales & Customer Operations team in the USA, as James’ successor as President, CHEP Europe.

The Group President of CHEP’s worldwide Pallets operations, Peter Mackie, said: “James McCarthy has done a great job leading CHEP Europe, driving our business closer to its customers, overseeing the launch of a number of new pallet solutions and developing our focus on assisting customers with their sustainability efforts. The entire CHEP family will miss James and wishes him and his family very well for the future. In Mike Pooley, we are delighted to appoint a strong successor to James. During his time as head of our Sales & Customer Operations for CHEP USA, he was integral to strengthening key customer relationships and energizing our teams. His appointment will provide both continuity and fresh impetus for CHEP in Europe as we continue to work together with our customers to make their supply chains more efficient and sustainable.”

Mr McCarthy will remain with CHEP until December 2015 to work alongside Mr Pooley to enable a smooth leadership transition. Mr McCarthy has led CHEP Europe since March 2013 and also held the roles of President, CHEP Western Europe and Chief Financial Officer, CHEP Europe, Middle East & Africa since joining the company in 2008. Mr McCarthy said: “I have worked for CHEP for seven-and-a-half years and it has been a great experience but now is the right time for me to move on. I am delighted to welcome Mike back to the business and look forward to watching CHEP Europe and its customers thrive under his leadership.”

Mr Pooley rejoins CHEP on 1 November 2015 from materials testing company Exova Europe, where he was Managing Director since April 2013. Mr Pooley worked for CHEP from 2002 until 2013, in leadership positions including: Senior Vice President, Sales & Customer Operations for CHEP USA; Managing Director, CHEP UK & Ireland; and Vice President, European Key Accounts. Before joining CHEP in 2002, he spent 12 years with industrial gases business BOC in a number of business development, design, development and production engineering roles. Mike is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Henley Management College.

Mr Pooley said: “I am delighted to be returning to the CHEP family at a time when there are  so many opportunities to work with customers throughout Europe on developing solutions that make the supply chain better. I am excited at the prospect of again working with our wonderful portfolio of customers and our passionate teams of supply chain experts.”

About CHEP

CHEP is the global leader in managed, returnable and reusable packaging solutions, serving many of the world’s largest companies in sectors such as consumer goods, fresh produce, beverage and automotive. CHEP’s service is environmentally sustainable and increases efficiency for customers while reducing operating risk and product damage. CHEP’s 7,500-plus employees and 300 million pallets and containers offer unbeatable coverage and exceptional value, supporting more than 500,000 customer touch-points in more than 50 countries. Our customer portfolio includes global companies and brands such as Procter & Gamble, Sysco, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestlé, Ford and GM. CHEP is part of Brambles Limited. For further information, visit

For further information, please contact:

Víctor Collado

Director, Corporate Communications

CHEP Europe, Middle East & Africa

Phone: +34915579401

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New record for September plate-change market

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New record for September plate-change market

As widely expected the September plate-change hit a new high with registrations up 8.6% to 462,517 units, according to the SMMT.

The rise marked the 43rd consecutive month of growth for the new car market and pushed the year to date total up 7.08% to 2,096,886 units. This was the first time the 2 million barrier has been exceeded in September since 2004.

“September is traditionally one of the year’s biggest months for new car registrations, and last month set an autumn record,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, who reiterated his belief that the market will soon level off.

“With plenty of attractive, affordable deals available on the new 65-plate, Britain’s car buyers – whether private, fleet or business consumers – were busier than ever. The market reached pre-recession levels some time ago, and we anticipate some levelling off in the coming months. It is too early to draw conclusions, but customer demand for diesel remained strong, accounting for one in two cars registered.”

The retail sector led the market accounting for 49.3% of registrations, a year on year rise of 3%. Fleet demand grew 15.2% taking 44.9%, while the sub 25 fleet business sector grew 10.6% and accounted for 5.8% of the market.

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Ridgeway Group profits rocket 26% to £10.3m

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Ridgeway Group profits rocket 26% to £10.3m

Ridgeway Group turned in a strong performance in 2014 with pre-tax profits up 26% to £10.3m on turnover up 18% to £647.7m.

Results filed at Companies House showed that like-for-like new car retail sales rose 7% for the period and 15% overall.

The group, under chief executive John O Hanlon (pictured) saw average new car price increased by £574 per unit, gross profit per unit fell slightly but total gross profit increased by £1.75m.

Like-for-like used vehicle sales rose 11% in the year to 31 December and 21% overall.

The company said it had improved stock management and used car processes, which had lifted profitability.

Average used car prices increased by £735 on average with gross profit per unit up 16% and overall gross profit increased by £5.4m.

Ridgeways said that aftersales revenues and profitability grew in 2014 with increased customer engagement through service plans and the use of technology.

The group won the Motor Trader Digital Initiative of the Year award in 2014 for the development and implementation of Workshop Window.

During 2014 the group rolled out a programme of training modules in the Ridgeway Academy, covering sales, aftersales, communications and management for staff at all levels. To date almost 900 employees have attended one or more sessions.

Ridgeway continues to invest heavily in its facilities with a new Audi showroom opening in Oxford in July 2014 and refurbishment of VW dealerships.

It also relocated Skoda in Oxford to Kidington and refurbished a Maserati dealership and Select used car showrooms during the period.

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JJ Foodservice updates fleet with 7.5t Isuzu Forward rigids

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JJ Foodservice updates fleet with 7.5t Isuzu Forward rigids

JJ Food Service has taken delivery of new Isuzu Forward 7.5 tonne rigid trucks.

Mick Montague from JJ Food Service said: “All our Isuzus have served us really well in the past. They are an excellent workhorse with outstanding payload capability.

“In fact, we have still got some 06 plate Isuzus running around on a daily basis within our fleet today. For our new bespoke service for home deliveries, we felt that the Isuzu Euro VI 7.5tonner would be the ideal vehicle to handle the requirements of this specific operation.”

The latest replacement Isuzu Forward N75.190 4×2 rigids feature the popular Easyshift automated transmission and are specified with a Solomon’s dual compartment refrigerated body that has a movable bulkhead. The trucks each use Carrier Transicold Xarios refrigeration systems as standard and the bodies have all been fitted with the latest JJ Food Service wrap livery.

“For the last few years, we have concentrated on adding 18 tonne rigids to our fleet, however recently, our product range has changed considerably, in terms of product categories and higher price points. To accommodate these changes, we needed to go back to putting more 7.5 tonne vehicles into the fleet. This gives us a better, more efficient, utilisation of these types of products,” added Montague.

Based at the JJ Food Service depot in Enfield, the latest Isuzus are being used for a range of the company’s distribution services, mainly delivering to customers in West London and the City.

As the delivery routes are not particularly high mileage, JJ Food Service anticipates that the new Isuzu delivery vehicles will have a long working life in its fleet.

“Isuzu and JJ Food Service have enjoyed a really successful working relationship that goes back over many years. This is part and parcel of the ITUK approach to its customers. By working closely with our customers such as JJ Food Service, we are able to develop long-term partnerships. We strive to deliver great customer service and care and provide vehicles that are ideally suited to the specific distribution requirements,” added Keith Child, marketing director at Isuzu Truck.

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£11m childcare plan helps job hunters

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£11m childcare plan helps job hunters

£11m childcare plan helps job hunters

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Unemployed parents are being offered help to look for work with a new £11m scheme to assist with childcare costs.

It aims to help 6,400 parents across Wales over the age of 25 take up jobs or training over the next three years.

Parents will be offered up to 25 hours of childcare for eight weeks, with the option to apply for longer-term help.

Communities Minister Lesley Griffiths said the cost of childcare had been identified as the “biggest barrier” stopping many parents taking up jobs.

Support will be extended to parents aged 16 to 24 later in the year.

The scheme will run for three years at a cost of £10.9m.

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China’s imports and exports down

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China’s imports and exports down

China’s imports down 17.7% in yuan-denominated terms

  • 13 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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Sean Gallup

Image caption

China is trying to move away from an export-led economy to one supported by domestic demand

China’s September imports fell a more-than-expected 17.7% in yuan-denominated terms, while exports fell 1.1% from a year earlier, official figures show.

The numbers leave the country with a trade surplus of 376.2bn yuan ($59.4bn; £38.8bn).

The steep fall in imports compares with a fall of 14.3% in August and continues to reflect lower commodity prices globally.

China recently revised down its 2014 economic growth from 7.4% to 7.3%.

The revision marks its weakest growth for almost 25 years. After decades of double-digit growth, the government is expecting to see growth of about 7% in 2015.

Domestic-led growth

China is attempting to shift from an export-led economy to a consumer-led one.

Exports in September held up better than expected, after some had forecast a fall of as much as 7%.

However the significant fall in imports means domestic demand is not as strong as the government would have hoped.

China’s trade numbers in US dollar denominated terms will be reported later on Tuesday.

Currency conversion factors based on US dollar and Chinese yuan movements over the last year mean some official numbers from the mainland are now reported in both currencies.

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Legal cannabis ‘worth millions’ to UK

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Legal cannabis ‘worth millions’ to UK

Cannabis legalisation worth millions – government report

Legalising cannabis could generate hundreds of millions of pounds a year in tax and cut costs for the police and prisons, a government study has found.

The internal Treasury report, obtained by BBC Newsnight, said regulating the market would “generate notable tax revenue” and “lead to overall savings to the criminal justice system”.

MPs debated the issue on Monday, after a petition calling for legalisation drew more than 220,000 signatures.

Ministers do not plan to alter the law.

The Home Office said it had “no plans” to change the law on cannabis, which is currently classified as a Class B illegal drug, adding that cannabis use was falling gradually.

‘216 tonnes’

The Treasury study was undertaken earlier this year at the behest of the Liberal Democrats when they were in coalition, but was not published.

Civil servants were asked to consider the “potential fiscal impacts of introducing a regulated cannabis market in the UK”.

The study notes that 2.2 million people aged 16 to 59 are thought to have used cannabis last year – smoking a total of 216 tonnes.

Government analysts reviewed the work of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, which has estimated that licensing cannabis could help reduce the UK budget deficit by up to £1.25bn a year – from taxes raised and cost reductions.

The Treasury report argues that sum is probably an over-estimate.

But it agrees that regulating cannabis would raise significant amounts in tax, as well as saving the state up to £200m in court and police costs a year.

‘Ludicrous criminalisation’

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said his party wanted to consider regulating and taxing cannabis, pointing to the example of changes in some US states.

He said: “The whole debate has shifted dramatically now… as we see state after state starting this debate, with many states in the US deciding to establish legalised regulated markets.

“And of course the basic principle it seems to me is, do you put a potentially dangerous product into the hands of criminals who have no interest in your welfare at all or do you seek to regulate it?

“And I think in terms of public health protection of individuals and avoiding the ludicrous criminalisation of so many young people, a legalised regulated market makes a lot of sense.”

But the Home Office said in a statement: “The government has no plans to legalise or decriminalise cannabis.

“There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities.”

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More female-friendly online dating

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More female-friendly online dating

Making online dating a lot more female friendly

  • 13 October 2015
  • From the section Business
Media captionCan Whitney Wolfe repeat the success of Tinder with her dating app Bumble where women take the lead?

Women who use online dating websites often complain of receiving unwanted, unsolicited photographs of “crotch shots” from men.

The practice has become so common that many women don’t even consider it harassment – many consider it a mere annoyance, a necessary evil in the modern cyber quest for love.

Whitney Wolfe, a co-founder of dating app Tinder, says she wants her new company to disrupt the sector, and cut back on the amount of online harassment directed towards women.

She describes her start-up Bumble as a “feminist dating app”, where men are typically more polite, because women make the first move.

Image caption

Whitney Wolfe founded Bumble after leaving her previous dating app start-up Tinder

‘Men are flattered’

“In every other facet of a young woman’s life we are owning our worlds in a very independent way,” Ms Wolfe says from her hip, co-working space in Austin, Texas.

“We work, we create, we support ourselves, and it’s encouraged to do so. The only thing that hasn’t caught up to that is how we date.”

The 26-year-old entrepreneur founded Bumble a year ago. She says the restrictions in the app which block men from driving the conversations are pushing social change.

The word feminism has been co-opted and contorted, she says, but “what it really means is equality between men and women”. When women make the first move, she says, men are often flattered and behave much more politely.

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Female founders are a tiny minority during the current technology boom

In the world of dating apps, Ms Wolfe is famous for co-founding and then being ousted from Tinder, the wildly popular dating tool that first started in 2012.

She then sued her fellow co-founders last year for sexual harassment. Ms Wolfe refused to discuss details of the case with the BBC, but she maintained her “co-founder” status, and she reportedly received about $1m (£650,000) when the lawsuit was settled with no admission of wrong doing.

Maintaining the “founder” title is important. Female founders and chief executives are rare. Fewer than 3% of venture capital-backed companies are run by women, according to a 2014 study by Babson College about bridging the gender gap in entrepreneurship.

“Only a small portion of early-stage investment is going to women entrepreneurs, yet our data suggest that venture capital-funded businesses with women on the executive team perform better on multiple dimensions,” the report’s author Candida Brush said when it was released.

“The venture capital community, therefore, may be missing good investment opportunities by not investing in women entrepreneurs.”

Ms Wolfe says it’s important for women to feel empowered in dating as well as in business, where women too often “hesitate” to start their own companies.

“Sometimes there’s this hesitation involved with women” when it comes to starting businesses, she says.

“There’s this hold back there, and until we break the mould – and there are positive examples set, and it’s something that is achievable – I don’t think we’re going to see much of a change.”

Niche dating

Ms Wolfe isn’t the only entrepreneur breaking the mould when it comes to dating apps where women call the shots.

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Image caption

Bumble is one of a number of niche dating apps that have followed in the wake of Tinder’s success

Siren is a dating platform made by women and marketed to women users. It allows women to control their visibility, so they can block their profile from other users.

For example, some users only make their profile visible to social media contacts.

How pervasive is harassment online? A Pew Research Centre report in 2013 found that 28% of online daters have been harassed or made to feel uncomfortable.

For women, 42% have experienced negative contact, compared with just 17% of men.

One online dating user, Mandy Tugwell, says she removed her online dating profile from a mainstream dating site after she got naked pictures of men, and was repeatedly asked if she was into sexual fetishes.

“I was like, OK this isn’t going to work,” she says. “I got really creeped out.”

But Ms Tugwell did find a serious relationship on a niche dating site targeted at black women and Asian men.

Ms Wolfe says the crowded field of online dating and social media networking sites isn’t intimidating. Tinder is a juggernaut, and there are dozens of other niche sites to choose from, she says.

Finding love and connections is “a huge, huge need” she adds.

“It’s part of who we are as human, to date and find people to share time with.

“I don’t think we need to compete with anyone. I think we can be a standalone entity that is trying to fill a void.

“It’s a unique mission. I’m happy to compete in a field that’s crowded.”

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Facebook paid £4,327 corporation tax

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Facebook paid £4,327 corporation tax

Facebook paid £4,327 corporation tax in 2014

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business
Media captionBBC News explains why Facebook paid just £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014

Social network giant Facebook paid just £4,327 ($6,643) in corporation tax in 2014, its latest UK results show.

Its most recent Companies House filing shows the company as making a pre-tax loss of £28.5m last year, but the firm also paid its 362 UK staff a total of £35.4m in share bonuses.

The share bonuses amount to £96,000 on average per UK Facebook employee.

It means Facebook’s UK corporation tax bill was less than the tax the average UK employee paid on their salary.

The average UK salary is £26,500 on which employees pay a total of £5,392.80 in income tax and national insurance contributions.

In January, Facebook reported global fourth-quarter profits of $701m (£462m), a 34% increase on the same period a year earlier.

Total profits for the year were $2.9bn, almost double its profit for 2013.

Facebook said at the time that advertising revenue grew by 53% to $3.59bn, with nearly 70% of that coming from mobile ad sales.

The social networking giant says it now has 1.39 billion active users each month, a 13% increase from a year ago.

EU probe

The latest revelations will reignite the debate about how much UK corporation tax companies pay at a time when several multinational corporations are being investigated by the European Commission over the tax arrangements they have with European Union member states.

Google, Amazon, a division of the Fiat motor company and Starbucks are all subject to the investigation and the European Commission has said it could widen its probe further.

The investigation came after Starbucks was revealed to have paid just £8.6m in UK corporation tax in the 14 years between 1998 and 2012, despite making more than £3bn in UK sales in the same period.

Last week, EU finance ministers agreed to boost information sharing in response to the so-called LuxLeaks scandal that emerged last year. The scandal showed Luxembourg had issued hundreds of tax rulings allowing companies to lower their tax bill by funnelling their profits through the country.

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We are compliant with UK tax law, and in fact in all countries where we have operations and offices. We continue to grow our business activities in the UK.”

They added that all the firm’s employees paid UK income tax on their payouts.

The company recently secured the lease on a high-profile 227,324 sq ft office space in Rathbone Square, near Tottenham Court Road in London, where it plans to open a new headquarters in 2017.

John O’Connell, director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be justifiably confused and angry about this tax bill. But Facebook is right to say that it is complying with UK law, which shows that the problem lies with our complex tax code, and that is what politicians should address as a matter of urgency.

“We have to ensure our taxes are simple to eliminate loopholes, and that taxes are low to increase our competitiveness, so that companies choose to base themselves here.”

Conservative MP Mark Garnier, a member of Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee told the BBC that even if companies were not breaking any laws, they should think about their moral responsibility.

“It’s about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. At the end of the day tax evasion is illegal, when you’re deliberately setting out to not pay your tax by hiding your money,” he said.

“Tax planning is what most people will be doing with their pensions. And tax avoidance is where you take the letter of the law, to get around the spirit of the law, where you’re actively seeking a way of using the letters to not pay tax.”

In his March Budget, Chancellor George Osborne pressed ahead with plans to introduce a diverted profits tax on companies that moved their profits overseas.

He added that firms that aided tax evasion would also face new penalties and criminal prosecutions.

The so-called “Google Tax” is designed to discourage large companies diverting profits out of the UK to avoid tax.

And last week, an OECD/G20 report found that laws allowing companies to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions meant between $100bn and $240bn was lost in tax revenues every year – equivalent to between 4% and 10% of global corporate tax revenues.

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Draft Wales Bill ‘expected next week’

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Draft Wales Bill ‘expected next week’

UK government ‘aims to publish draft Wales Bill next week’

The UK government aims to publish a draft Wales Bill next week, Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has said.

It comes a week after First Minister Carwyn Jones called on him to postpone the process.

The two met in Cardiff on Monday, with Mr Crabb vowing to reach agreement with the Welsh government on the content of new devolution legislation.

A spokesman for the first minister said it was “a constructive discussion”.

The UK government hopes to publish the final bill in February, with Royal Assent anticipated for early 2017.

Mr Crabb said both he and the first minister were “on the same book, not quite on the same page” regarding any future devolution settlement.

“We have made progress in the last seven days and I think there is greater understanding certainly on our side of the concerns that the Welsh government have got – I think there is more understanding on the Welsh government side of the concerns that we’ve got,” he said.

“I think what we need to do now is continue the talks and work purposefully towards a successful outcome and I think that is achievable.”

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Image caption

Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones

The first minster had called for the publication of the draft Wales Bill to be postponed in order to reach a settlement “that stands the test of time” – but that request has been denied.

“We haven’t changed the timetable for publishing at all, it’s my aim to publish a draft bill next week which won’t be the final bill but we’ll provide people with the opportunity to feed in their thoughts, ideas and concerns,” Mr Crabb added.

A spokesman for the first minister said: “It was a constructive discussion. It will be difficult to come to a settlement without properly addressing the issue of a single jurisdiction, but talks will continue.”

The Welsh government wants to see a a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction, saying that such a move “would simplify devolution to everyone’s benefit”.

But the UK government and former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon have questioned the need and the cost of such a change.

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Government to sell rest of Royal Mail

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Government to sell rest of Royal Mail

Government to sell remaining 14% stake in Royal Mail to investors

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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The Government is selling the last 14% of its holding in Royal Mail to professional investors, two years after its initial privatisation.

It will start the process immediately.

At its Monday price of 470.3p, the Government’s stake is valued at £660m. There was no market reaction as the announcement came after the close of daily share trading.

Royal Mail’s privatisation was heavily criticised after the shares almost doubled from their initial valuation.

In June, the Government sold a similar-sized stake, which raised £750m.

As part of that sale, postal workers received a 1% stake in the company worth about £50m, in addition to the 10% given to them when the government started its sell-off in 2013.

It said in the summer that it intended to divest the rest of its holding before the end of the financial year.

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Boris: Price of EU exit ‘lowest ever’

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Boris: Price of EU exit ‘lowest ever’

Boris Johnson: Price of quitting EU is ‘lower than ever’

The price of quitting the European Union is “lower than it’s ever been”, Boris Johnson has claimed.

Speaking in Japan, the London Mayor and Conservative MP refused to rule out spearheading the ‘Out’ campaign.

But he argued it was better for the UK to stay in a reformed EU, saying he backed David Cameron in his efforts to secure change ahead of the referendum.

Mr Johnson’s comments come on the day the In campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, launched its campaign.

He also indicated the prime minister would be setting out more details about Britain’s attempts to renegotiation its terms of membership of the EU “in the next few weeks”.

‘Fantastic negotiator’

A date has not been set for the referendum, but Mr Cameron has promised to hold the in-out vote by the end of 2017 at the latest.

During a visit to Osaka in Japan, Mr Johnson was asked where he stood on Britain’s in-out referendum on EU membership.

“I think I am exactly where the prime minister is and, I think, actually a huge number of the proportion of the British public.

“We want, in an ideal world, to stay in a reformed European Union but I think the price of getting out is lower than it’s ever been. It’s better for us to stay in, but to stay in a reformed EU. That’s where I am,” he said.

Image copyright

Image caption

David Cameron discussed his EU reform aims with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week

The MP, who is touted as a potential future Conservative leader, said he had “great faith” in Mr Cameron’s negotiations to secure EU reform, describing him as “a fantastic bridge player [and] negotiator”.

“In our party we’re backing the prime minister. I think he’s got every chance of getting a good deal,” he said.

But Mr Johnson also cautioned that it was sensible not to rule out walking away from the table in the negotiations.

“You have to wait and see what the deal is going to be. But I’ve got great faith in the prime minister,” he said.

On Sunday, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said it was possible that Mr Johnson could head the Leave.EU campaign, but the London mayor told the BBC he was unaware of the Eurosceptic’s overtures.

“News of this pronouncement has not detonated over [Japan] like a thunderclap. I don’t know about these invitations,” he said.

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The work of economist Angus Deaton

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The work of economist Angus Deaton

The work of Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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The 2015 Nobel Prize for Economics has been awarded to Scottish-born economist Angus Deaton.

Prof Deaton, 69, is currently professor of economics and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, in New Jersey.

What did he do to win the prize?

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said that Prof Deaton’s work has transformed several fields of economics.

More specifically, the organisation said he had made an impact on economic theory, and on the practical application of data to investigate poverty, and devise economic policy.

The headline to the statement from the academy that announced that Prof Deaton was its 2015 winner said: “Consumption, great and small”. What does this mean?

Consumption, to an economist, means spending on goods and services by individuals and households.

Understanding it means looking at how consumers allocate spending between different things, how they divide their incomes between spending and saving, and how these patterns vary over time.

The “great and small” in the academy’s headline reflects Prof Deaton’s analysis of consumer spending across a whole economy, and at the level of the individual and the household.

One theme that runs through the academy’s analysis of his work is the extensive use of data on spending taken from household surveys. Previously, economists worked much more from aggregate data for the whole economy.

This focus enabled Prof Deaton to produce a theoretical approach that was more consistent with the fluctuations in consumer spending that he found.

A more arcane achievement was in developing (with another economist John Muellbauer) a theory of demand for goods and services – how people allocate their spending between different products – that was motivated by problems in earlier analysis.

Their system, and subsequent improvements by other researchers, “has had an immense impact in academia as well as being greatly influential in practical policy evaluation”.

Prof Deaton has been an influential figure in development economics. The academy describes him as an important driving force in the transformation of this area of economics – in moving from aggregate data to household surveys.

To take one example – his research shed light on the question of whether rising incomes do lead to more calories being consumed, in other words to reducing malnutrition.

His work suggests that it does – so encouraging economic growth can help tackle malnutrition. If that were not the case it would be an argument for reorienting policy towards direct food aid.

What does Prof Deaton win?

In addition to the greater recognition of his work, and the further respect of his peers, Prof Deaton receives a financial price of 8m Swedish krona ($966,000; £630,000).

What is his background?

Born in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, Prof Deaton attended Fettes College, a private school in the city, before going on to study at Cambridge University.

After teaching at Cambridge and the University of Bristol, he continued his economics career in the US.

He holds both British and American citizenship.

When was the award created?

Unlike the other five annual Nobel prizes, the economics one was not established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, although like the Physics and Chemistry prizes it is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Instead it was set up by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 as a memorial to Mr Nobel, who died in 1896.

Its official title is the Riksbank’s Prize in Economic Sciences.

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Who are the EU ‘In’ campaigners?

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Who are the EU ‘In’ campaigners?

EU referendum: Guide to the ‘In’ campaign

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Launching the campaign in East London were (left to right) Richard Reed, Karren Brady, Stuart Rose, Roland Rudd, Brendan Barber, Caroline Lucas and June Sarpong

A campaign to keep the UK in the European Union has been launched. Here is a guide to the key people involved with the cross-party group, which is called Britain Stronger in Europe.


Stuart Rose, a former Marks and Spencer chief executive who joined the company as a management trainee, is chairman of the campaign. He has also been chief executive of Burton Group, Argos and Arcadia Group and is now chairman of online supermarket Ocado. He was knighted in 2008 for “services to the retail industry”, and became a Tory peer in 2014. Launching the campaign, he said the EU was not perfect, but said staying in was the “patriotic course for Britain”.

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Stuart Rose put forward a business case for remaining in the EU

The chief executive of the campaign is Will Straw, son of former Labour home secretary Jack Straw. He has worked for the the IPPR think tank and was a Labour candidate in the general election.

Lord Rose was introduced on stage by television presenter June Sarpong, who appears on ITV’s Loose Women and once presented Channel 4’s youth/’hangover TV’ strand T4. Other board members of the campaign featured in a panel discussion, including Baroness Brady, West Ham United’s vice chairwoman and star of the TV show The Apprentice, Karren Brady joined the Lords in September 2014 as a Conservative peer and is a board member for the “In” campaign.

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Baroness Brady is backing the campaign to stay in the EU

She was joined on stage by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed, Sir Hugh Orde, the former president of the Association of chief police officers, and Stephanie Flanders, the BBC’s former economics editor who now works for JP Morgan Asset Management.

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Innocent drinks founder Richard Reed spoke at the “In” launch event

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Sir Hugh Orde warned that deporting foreign criminals would be harder outside the EU

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Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson features in the ‘In’ campaign video

Brendan Barber, the former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, is also backing the campaign, as are former Conservative minister Damian Green, Finsbury PR founder Roland Rudd, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, while Megan Dunn, president of the National Union of Students, is another board member.

Other campaigns

Unlike the “Out” movement, where two distinct campaigns have been formed, just one organisation has been presented to call for the UK to stay in the EU, and Britain Stronger in Europe looks set to receive the official designation from the Electoral Commission. But there is also a separate Labour Party campaign, which is fronted by ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who promises to “put the country’s future above party machinations”.

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Watson has questions to answer, PM says

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Watson has questions to answer, PM says

Tom Watson has questions to answer in Lord Brittan case, PM says

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section UK

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The prime minister said Tom Watson (L) should “examine his conscience” over his comments about sex abuse claims against Leon Brittan

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has “questions to answer” over his comments about sex abuse allegations against former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister said Mr Watson should “examine his conscience” after Lord Brittan’s brother called for an apology over “unfounded accusations”.

Mr Watson said on Friday he had had a “duty” to inform police of the claims.

Lord Brittan died in January unaware that police had dropped a rape inquiry.

The BBC understands that four Conservative MPs have asked Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz to put Mr Watson’s actions on the agenda when it meets on Tuesday.

Mr Cameron told LBC radio: “The House of Commons select committees are quite rightly going to ask him some questions so I’m sure he should answer those questions and examine his conscience about whether he’s said enough so far.”

‘Sorry for distress’

On Friday Mr Watson admitted he should not have repeated a claim that Lord Brittan was “close to evil” and said he was sorry for causing distress to the Brittan family.

But the MP said he had wanted the claims against Lord Brittan, whose career included two years as home secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government, “properly investigated”.

The Crown Prosecution Service found in July 2013 that there was not enough evidence for a prosecution over the claim Lord Brittan had raped a 19-year-old female student in 1967.

Mr Watson later called for a full review of all abuse allegations made against the peer.

Officers subsequently interviewed Lord Brittan, who had terminal cancer at the time, but no charges were brought.

Police have since said they would not have taken further action over the rape claim.

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BMA stands ground in contract row

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BMA stands ground in contract row

BMA stands ground in contract row

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Health

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Industrial action by junior doctors in England is still on the cards after union leaders refused to re-enter talks over a new contract.

The British Medical Association announced last month it would be balloting members over taking action.

It prompted Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene last week, suggesting he could give ground.

But the union’s leaders said the offer did “not yet have the concrete assurances we asked for”.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, the BMA is asking for more detail on unsociable hours payments and whether some doctors will be worse off.

The dispute is over a new contract due to be introduced in August 2016.

Critics have argued the deal could mean 15% pay cuts, with “normal hours” reclassified as being from 07:00 to 22:00, Monday to Saturday.

It means extra payments for unsociable working will be earned only outside of these times, rather than the current arrangements of 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday.


But Mr Hunt’s letter last week suggested he would be “pleased to discuss” a compromise on the definition of normal hours on a Saturday.

The letter also sought to reassure doctors that the contract was not a “cost-cutting exercise” and that the “great majority” of doctors would remain as well paid as they were now.

The BMA’s letter on Monday in response said there was still a lack of clarity and asked for further guarantees.

These include – among others – asking for a commitment that no doctor will lose out.

Earlier, it was reported that 2,000 rank-and-file doctors had also written to Mr Hunt asking for further concessions.

The government has described the current contracts as “outdated” and “unfair”, pointing out they were introduced in the 1990s.

Ministers drew up plans to change the contract in 2012, but talks broke down last year.

The government has indicated it will impose the new contract next year in England, prompting the BMA to ask its 50,000 junior doctor members about industrial action.

Scotland and Wales have said they do not want to introduce the changes, while Northern Ireland has yet to make a decision.

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Residential sales fall in Hong Kong but prices holding up, latest research shows

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Residential sales fall in Hong Kong but prices holding up, latest research shows

Residential sales in Hong Kong fell almost 30% in one month as weak demand hit the property market but prices are still going up, the latest data shows.

Figures from the Land Registry shows a 27.8% drop in transactions in August from the previous month and according to international real estate firm Knight Frank this was due to weakened demand caused by the slump in both the Mainland and local stock markets.

However, home prices still recorded minor growth, due to strong end user demand and Knight Frank expects prices to remain firm for the rest of the year.

Indeed the firm is predicting that at the top end luxury property prices are likely to grow between 2% and 5% this year while the rest of the market could see price growth of 5% to 8%.

Residential land prices also remained firm, with the asking land premium for Lohas Park phase eight in Tseung Kwan O hitting a record high for a residential project in the area at HK$2.955 billion, or an accommodation value of HK$2,830 per square foot.

The latest analysis report from Knight Frank suggest that the primary sector remained the market focus, with developers active in launching new flats and offering beneficial packages, including discounts and second mortgages.

For example, discounts of 10% to 20% were offered for the latest batch of units at High Park Grand in Mong Kok. In Aspen Crest in Diamond Hill, meanwhile, second mortgages worth 30% of the total purchase price were offered, meaning homebuyers only needed to pay a 10% down payment.

A breakdown of the figures in the Knight Frank report show that in the prime property market prices have held up but rents have fallen in some locations. In The Peak district prices were flat month on month but are 5.2% higher than August 2014. Prices were also flat in Island South month on month but up 2.6% year on year.

Mid-Levels saw month on month price growth of 0.3% and year on year of 8.1%, Jardine’s Lookout/Happy Valley also saw month on month growth of 0.3% and annual growth of 9.8% while Pokfulam recorded monthly price growth of 0.1% and year on year growth of 9.5%.

In the prime rental market there has been little growth. In The Peak rents fell 0.2% compared to July and are flat compared to August 2014, while in Island South rents are also flat compared to a year ago and down 0.3% month on month.

Mid-Levels has seen growth of 0.5% year on year but rental prices were flat month on month, Jardine’s Lookout/Happy Valley has seen rents fall 0.2% month on month but up 0.2% year on year and in Pokfulam rents are flat month on month and up 0.5% year on year.

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Air ambulance best legacy for Doc John

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Air ambulance best legacy for Doc John

Dr John Hinds: Medic’s partner in air ambulance plea

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Dr Janet Acheson with Shaun McCann, 7, at Stormont on Monday

The partner of the late motorcycle medic Dr John Hinds has said there could be no better legacy for her “incredible other half” than saving lives.

Janet Acheson was speaking at Stormont on Monday, at an event to promote a Northern Ireland Air Ambulance.

“John would be incredibly proud at the groundswell of support shown for this life-saving cause,” she said.

Dr Hinds, 35, died as the result of a motorcycle crash in July.

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Dr Janet Acheson made a passionate call for support in making her partner, Dr John Hinds’ vision of an air ambulance service, into a reality

He had been providing medical cover at a road racing meeting at Skerries, County Dublin, on 4 July. He was known as a “flying doctor” of Irish motorcycle sport.

Shortly after his death, his family announced plans to set up a charity to support his vision of a Northern Ireland air ambulance.

Last month, the then Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he was committed to establishing an emergency medical helicopter service in Northern Ireland.

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Dr Janet Acheson speaking at Stormont on Monday

At Stormont on Monday, Dr Acheson said: “The support for John’s work – which he was so passionate about – has been humbling, at times overwhelming, but most of all inspiring. It has also given us strength through some very tough days.”

A helicopter emergency medical service should be funded by government in the long term, she said. It should also be based in the Greater Belfast area.

“A properly structured helicopter emergency medical service will make a lasting difference to the people of this country,” she said.

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Dr Hinds was killed in an accident while providing medical cover at the Skerries 100

Among those at Stormont was Shaun McCann, 7, who suffered a life-threatening head injury as a result of a fall at his County Roscommon home.

Dr John attended the scene along with the air ambulance team from Roscommon.

“Doc John provided Shaun with a general anaesthetic and placed him in an induced coma to protect his brain,” said Ms Acheson.

“He provided mobile intensive care level support whilst Shaun was being flown to a hospital with the specialities necessary to deal with his injuries.

“Shaun made a full recovery and two weeks ago welcomed his baby sister, Alana, to the family. But things could have been different.

“Without a pre-hospital doctor, delivered to his home in a timely fashion, Shaun would not have received this intervention until he reached hospital, meaning if Shaun had survived at all, he was unlikely to be the Shaun we have before us today.

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Motorcyclists joined the cortege as a tribute to Dr Hinds, the man known as one of Irish motorsports ‘flying doctors’

“Without an air ambulance Shaun’s family would be marking a very different anniversary on 14 July each year.”

She urged everyone to do everything they could to make her partner’s dream a reality.

A few weeks before he died, Dr Hinds and the leader of the Traditional Unionist Party (TUV), Jim Allister, met with the then health minister Simon Hamilton to discuss the issue.

Dr Hinds was originally from Portaferry, County Down.

He was a consultant at Craigavon Area Hospital, County Armagh, but also volunteered as a motorcycling medic on Ireland’s road racing circuit.

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Indonesia’s costly haze problem

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Indonesia’s costly haze problem

Indonesia’s costly haze problem

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business
  • comments

A fireman works to contain a wildfire on a field in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, IndonesiaImage copyright

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Indonesian authorities are fighting both physical and political fires over illegal forest clearing that causes a choking haze every year

Flights cancelled, agricultural land destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people around the region suffering from respiratory illnesses.

This is something that has happened pretty much every year – for the last 18 years.

Indonesia’s forest fires and the resulting haze have caused havoc and headlines across Asia, which has put the government there under pressure to put the fires out.

That might explain why Indonesian police are on a roll. On Monday they’ve named another 12 companies as suspects in starting the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

But while Indonesia’s police chief Badrodin Haiti was unwilling to tell the BBC who the companies are, he was happy to stress that two of them are from Malaysia and China and that another one under investigation is from Singapore.

Pointing the finger outside of Indonesia can be useful especially at a time when the government there is under pressure to show that’s it’s serious about stopping the haze.

In an exclusive interview with me last month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that the haze was a problem that would take a long time to solve.

He said that it might take as long as three years before it was completely under control.

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Wildfires caused by illegal land clearing in Indonesias Sumatra and Borneo islands often spread choking haze to neighbouring countries Singapore and Malaysia.

Since then he’s changed his tune and has accepted regional assistance after weeks of refusing the offers from his counterparts in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

The police’s announcements that they’re clamping down on companies responsible will also no doubt be seen as a sign that Indonesia is trying to be a responsible neighbour.

But environmental activists say that although these companies have been charged with breaking several laws – including Indonesia’s environmental law, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of $8m – none of that makes a difference unless authorities actually start enforcing the law.

Yuyun Indradi, a political forest campaigner with Greenpeace based in Jakarta told me that out of the 40 or so companies that have been named as suspects for starting the fires so far only one case has ever been brought to court.

He added that if Indonesia really wants to stop the forest fires, it must revoke the permits of companies found guilty.

This is a problem that affects Indonesia every year. But scientists say this year is shaping up to be the worst on record since 1997.

The last time this part of Asia was hit by a major haze crisis it cost the region an estimated $9bn dollars due to losses from cancelled flights, agricultural damage, tourism and healthcare costs.

This time, some economists estimate it could cost the region more than twice that.

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Former SNP MSP to stand for Greens

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Former SNP MSP to stand for Greens

Former SNP MSP John Wilson to stand for Greens

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Scottish Greens

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John Wilson will stand in the Coatbridge and Chryston constituency for the Scottish Greens

A former SNP MSP who quit the party last year is to stand for the Scottish Greens in next year’s Holyrood election.

John Wilson will contest the Coatbridge and Chryston constituency.

Mr Wilson, an MSP for Central Scotland, left the SNP after it ended its opposition to Nato membership in 2012.

He joined the Scottish Greens last December but is currently classed as an independent member of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Wilson said he was confident of a “positive result” in next year’s election.

He added: “The Scottish Greens are on course to elect a record number of MSPs come May.

“The Greens have always punched above their weight in the Scottish Parliament and I am confident that returning a large group of Greens in May can only have a positive influence.

“We need to hold the government to account whoever that may be.”

Mr Wilson was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, and was subsequently re-elected four years later.

Two other MSPs – John Finnie and Jean Urquhart – also left the SNP over the Nato issue.

Mr Finnie is also now a member of the Scottish Greens.

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Five Air France employees arrested

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Five Air France employees arrested

Air France employees arrested after violent protest

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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Five Air France employees have been arrested following violent scenes at the company’s headquarters in Roissy last week.

Workers were protesting against mass job cuts when two managers had their clothes ripped, with one being forced to flee over a fence. Several others were injured.

Reports suggest the five arrested staff were members of the CGT labour union.

They were identified by video footage, police said.

Hundreds of workers were protesting against plans to cut 2,900 jobs, increase pilots’ working hours and reduce the size of the fleet, all designed to cut costs by €1.8bn ($2bn; £1.3bn) over two years.

Two managers in particular were targeted – human resources manager Xavier Broseta and senior official Pierre Plissonnier.

One union official said Mr Broseta had “narrowly escaped being lynched”. Parent firm Air France-KLM said last week it would take legal action over the protesters’ “aggregated violence”.

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Human resources manager Xavier Broseta was escorted away after his jacket and shirt were torn off

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Mr Plissonnier, director of Air France at Orly airport, was eventually led to safety with his shirt torn

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More jobs paying below living wage

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More jobs paying below living wage

More jobs paying below living wage

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

Nearly one in four jobs outside of London pay less than the living wage – the pay level suggested for an adequate standard of living.

Some 23% of jobs outside London paid less than the living wage in 2014, compared with 19% in London, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The living wage in April 2014 was £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 an hour outside London.

This wage is set by the Living Wage Foundation and Mayor of London.

The living wage rates have since been increased to £7.85 an hour outside London and £9.15 in London, and are expected to be uprated next month.

‘Prevalent’ low pay

The ONS figures show that the proportion of jobs paying below the living wage has grown.

In 2014, young adults were most likely to be paid less than the living wage. Some 58% of jobs carried out by 18 to 24-year-olds outside of London and 48% of jobs in this age group in London were paid less than the living wage.

In accommodation and food services in 2014, an estimated 65% of jobs paid less than the living wage in London and 70% in the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland had 29% of jobs paying below the living wage, the highest in the country. At the other end of the scale, 19% of jobs in the South East of England, London and Scotland paid below the living wage.

On a local level, west Somerset had the highest proportion of jobs paying below the living wage, at 41.9%. Runnymede had the lowest proportion, at 8.5%,

A spokesman for the Living Wage Foundation said: “Despite significant progress in many sectors, more jobs than ever are below the voluntary living wage rates that we recommend.

“These figures demonstrate that while the economy may be recovering as a whole, there is a real problem with ensuring everyone benefits, and low pay in still prevalent in Britain today.”

The living wage is a voluntary code – different from the national minimum wage, which stands at £6.70 an hour, and the new National Living Wage announced by the government of £7.20 an hour which will come into force for over 25-year-olds in April.

There are more than 1,800 accredited living wage employers in the UK, with 200 having agreed to pay at this level in recent months.

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Robo money advice under the microscope

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Robo money advice under the microscope

Robo money advice under the microscope

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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Computer algorithms that offer financial advice will be studied as part of a review into the money advice sector.

So-called robo-advice uses computers to help individuals find products that suit their finances and attitude to risk.

They are used relatively widely in the US.

A consultation, starting on Monday, will see the Treasury and City watchdog take views about the cost of advice.

“There is lots of innovation going on already,” said Tracey McDermott, acting chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

“We need to assess whether or not [robo-advice] can provide the services that people need, and to ensure that the regulatory and legal framework allows this to happen.”

The suggestion is that automated robo-advice could allow people to make decisions without having to pay more for a dedicated financial adviser.


The consultation is part of an inquiry that will consider consumers’ access to financial advice, and particularly the gap for those who do not have significant wealth.

It comes after the change in pension rules, which came into effect in April.

The changes, allowing access to pension savings, has prompted questions about the suitability of advice.

The review will consider all types of retail financial products including pensions, savings, mortgages, and insurance. It will publish its findings before next year’s Budget.

Ms McDermott told the BBC that as people were living for longer, long-term financial decisions were becoming more complex. She said that many people needed to be encouraged to engage with money services for their long-term financial health.

Harriett Baldwin, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “We are exploring what more can be done to make sure consumers can access high quality and affordable advice so they can make informed decisions with their hard-earned money.”

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Cheaper to buy than rent in over a third of cities in the UK

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Cheaper to buy than rent in over a third of cities in the UK

It is cheaper to buy than rent in more than a third of cities in the UK with buying most effective in the north of the country, new research shows.

Mortgage payments are less expensive than monthly rent in 36% of British cities and home owners in Glasgow are more than £100 per month better off than their renting counterparts.

However, in the south renting still beats buying, with buyers in London, Reading and Cambridge forking out hundreds more to own property there, according to the research from property search firm Zoopla.

But overall the analysis of the cost of renting a two bedroom home compared to servicing a mortgage shows that nationwide, renters still pay £58 less per month than buyers.
Buyers did particularly well compared to their renting counterparts in Scotland and the North of England. In Glasgow, rental payments amount to an average of £596 per month, whereas monthly mortgage payments only totaled £447. This means Glaswegian buyers are paying 25% or £149 a month less to own property than rent it.

The research also shows that in Hull, buyers who pay on average £397 a month are £55 better off than renters in the city who pay an average of £452 per month to rent.
Conversely, the south eastern corner of the UK represents the best value for money for renters. The average London tenant pays rent of £2,218 per month, whereas the capital’s home owners pay an average of £3,302 on servicing their mortgages, meaning buyers there are paying 49% or £1,084 a month more than the city’s renters.

Buyers in Reading and Cambridge can also expect to pay more. On average, owners in Reading typically pay £3,600 a year more than tenants, while servicing a mortgage in Cambridge costs £3,700 more a year on average.

Nationwide, the current average asking rent for a two bedroom home is £666 per month, compared to an average asking price of £145,840. As a result, servicing a 90% LTV mortgage typically costs £58 more per month than the average tenant would pay for renting such a property.
Aside from the initial deposit, and all the fees associated with the actual house purchase, the financial strain of buying can be overstated. In addition to the peace of mind that home buying brings, many owners enjoy more disposable income at the end of every month than their renting counterparts, said Lawrence Hall of Zoopla.

‘If they can make the leap, and are willing to relinquish the flexibility that comes with renting, tenants up north in particular would be much better off buying and paying off a mortgage every month,’ he explained.

He pointed out that Scotland and the North of England are cementing their standing as international university hubs with top universities in York, Edinburgh and Durham. ‘This means increasingly high numbers of students are flock to these areas, all looking for places to stay and driving up rents as a result,’ he added.

He also pointed out that London and the South East are by no means cheap places to rent either. ‘However, growing pressure on housing supply in this corner of the UK from professionals, families and overseas investors means that getting a foothold onto the property ladder in these areas is only becoming a more costly endeavor, and the mortgage payments attached to this are rising to bridge this gap,’ Hall concluded.

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Dealers groups fly high in Sunday Times Top Track 250 survey

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Dealers groups fly high in Sunday Times Top Track 250 survey

Automotive was the biggest single sector in the 2015 Sunday Times Top Track 250, the annual review of Britain’s private mid-market growth companies by sales.

Franchised dealers formed the biggest group within the automotive sector with 45 out of the 59 listings, the balance was made up of car supermakets, manufacturers and suppliers.

The highest ranked dealer group was John Clark Motors (pictured) rated third overall with sales up 28% to £604.1m and profits up 39% to £12.3m. The Aberdeen-based group represents 11 franchises across 24 sites across north and east Scotland.

Northampton-based Perrys was the second highest group at 16 on sales up 8% to £530.9m and profits up 42% to £11m. West Sussex-based Harwoods was rated at 31 on sales up 16% to £474.6m and profits up 45% to £13.1m. Cornwall-based Helston Garages was rated at 34 with sales up 19% to £471.1m and profits up 5% to £13.5m. Lancashire-based Park’s Motor Groups was rated 39 on sales up 12% to £448m nad profits up 12% to £17.1m.

The highest rated car supermarket was Motorpoint at eight on sales up 22% to £564.5m and profits up 39% to £12.9m. London’s Car Giant was 36 on sales up 18% to £485.9m and profits up 21% £36.8m.

Commenting on the survey Richard Lowe, Barclays’ head of industry, said: “Britain’s love affair with the car shows little sign of waning with automotive being the largest single sector in the league table.

“Car dealerships are seeing consolidation as the larger players pursue expansion through acquisitions.”

Other automotive firms making the listing included Aston Martin at 20, McLaren Automotive at 30 and IM Group at 33.

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Vertu adds new Renault and Dacia site in Mansfield

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Vertu adds new Renault and Dacia site in Mansfield

Vertu Motors has opened its second new Renault and Dacia dealership in the space of six months.

The new site in Mansfield will operate under the Bristol Street banner and is Vertu’s sixth Renault and Dacia outlet, following the opening of its new Nottingham showroom in March.

“We are delighted to further strengthen our long and successful relationship with Renault Group UK with the opening of this new dealership in Mansfield,” said Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors.

“We are also very pleased to secure our position as the number one Renault and Dacia retailer in the East Midlands and we see a very bright future ahead.

“Now we look forward to delivering the very best experience of Renault and Dacia models alongside Bristol Street Motors’ commitment to excellent customer service to customers in and around Mansfield.”

Vertu also represents Renault and Dacia in Bradford, Derby, Exeter and Gloucester.

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Broadband Britain – is it working?

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Broadband Britain – is it working?

Broadband Britain – is it working?

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Technology
  • comments

Man's hands with smartphoneImage copyright

“Notspot” – according to one dictionary definition, “an area that has no broadband Internet or 3G mobile phone coverage, or where this is very slow and unreliable.”

What should perhaps be added is the clause, “… and guaranteed to cause fury and to fill up the postbags of members of parliament.” Today the House of Commons holds a debate on the issue of poor coverage, a chance for MPs to vent their constituents’ grievances.

For three hours, they will debate the roll-out of fixed and mobile broadband across the UK and, whatever the government’s claims about the success of that project, you can expect politicians from all sides and from all parts of the country to say it isn’t working in their areas.

The motion before the House notes variations in the effectiveness of superfast broadband and calls on the government to host a “not-spot summit.” Matt Warman, a former Daily Telegraph technology correspondent who is now a Conservative MP, was instrumental in arranging the debate.

He says the focus will be on connecting the final 5% of households not reached either by the market or the government’s rural broadband programme. But overshadowing the debate – and that notspot summit if it happens – will be the bigger question of whether the whole broadband strategy is working, and at the heart of that is the future of BT.

For the last five years, the government has effectively contracted out the job of making sure the UK has a decent superfast broadband network to one company. BT has won all of the contracts in the £830m programme to ensure 95% of households are hooked up by 2017.

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Many of BT’s rivals want it to sell off its Openreach division

Local campaigners will disagree, but the government, the regulator and even some of BT”s rivals feel that the UK is not in a bad place right now, with the availability and price of superfast broadband comparing quite well with our European neighbours. It is what happens next which is at stake, in a battle over technology and free market economics.

The technology debate is about copper versus fibre. BT’s roll-out of the fibre optic cables on which superfast broadband depends has stopped so far at the street cabinet, from where it’s piped into homes via the ancient copper network. But that copper, according to BT, has proved amazingly adaptable so far, first delivering higher speeds than expected via ADSL and VDSL, and now promising over 300Mbps with a new technology called

But for its rivals, fibre direct to the home is the only long-term answer and BT’s continued embrace of copper is a betrayal of Britain’s broadband ambitions. “It will stop working every time it rains,” says one telecoms executive sniffily of the technology.

For them, the only answer is competition, and that means splitting up BT. They want Openreach, the “arm’s length” division of BT which manages its copper and fibre network. to be sold off.

Their argument is that this would result in more money being invested in the network and a better service for all of its customers.

BT disagrees, arguing that breaking it up would damage a British technology champion. On a recent visit by journalists and analysts to the company’s vast research headquarters at Martlesham in Suffolk, that message came across loud and clear. Force us to sell Openreach, and the innovation you see here might stop happening, was the argument as we heard about the soaring number of patents for inventions by BT boffins.

But the regulator Ofcom seems open-minded. It is just completing a public consultation on the future of Openreach, and in a recent speech its new CEO Sharon White made it clear that her priority was greater competition in the broadband market. “We could have written it ourselves,” says an executive at one of the firms calling for a break up.

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Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey is reportedly sceptical about splitting up BT

The government appears less enthusiastic. The digital economy minister Ed Vaizey told the Financial Times that he was sceptical about splitting up BT, and that it would be “incredibly time-consuming” and have “lots of potential to backfire”. This intervention by a minister in an ongoing independent regulatory process was unusual, and was seen by BT’s rivals as unwise.

This afternoon Ed Vaizey will reply to the debate on notspots. His words will be examined carefully, but the future of broadband in the UK will not be in his hands. It will be for Sharon White of Ofcom to decide whether to refer the broadband market to the Competition and Markets Authority. Whatever her decision, don’t expect complaints about poor or non-existent internet connections to go away any time soon.

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Average rent of newly let home in UK now close to £1,000 per month

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Average rent of newly let home in UK now close to £1,000 per month

The average rent of a newly let home in the UK has increased by 3.6% year on year to £941 per month, according to the latest rental market index.

The gap between the places where people can afford to rent and where they can afford to buy has widened in every year since the market downturn in 2008, the data from Countrywide plc also shows.
People are also moving further away if they buy a home. The index report says that 51% who took their first steps on the housing ladder in 2015 bought outside the town or city where they had been renting, up from 39% in 2008.

With house prices rising faster than rents, an increasing number of households find themselves renting in places where they couldn’t afford to buy and tenants in the South of England tend to move furthest to get on the housing ladder.

This is where the gap between where people can afford to rent and buy is largest and has widened the most since 2012. Across London and the South East house prices have increased 42% since 2012, rising from £218,000 to £375,000. Over the same period rents have only increased 19% from £1,000 to reach £1,234 a month.
The growing number of tenants moving further to buy is both a product of stretched affordability and first time buyers getting older, the report suggests, adding that tenants are increasingly choosing to compromise on location in in order to own their first home. Those renters who bought a home in the last year, bought in a place where the average house price was £35,000 lower than where they were renting.
Across the UK as a whole, two thirds of tenants bought in a cheaper area but there were even more in the most expensive housing markets. In London some three quarters of tenants who bought in the last year, ended up living somewhere cheaper than where they had been renting with an average price gap between the two places of £93,000.
Further north, however, a rather different picture starts to emerge. In some of the less expensive areas of the country, tenants tend to be less constrained by affordability when making the move into home ownership.

Tenants buying in the North East, North West and Yorkshire, tend to buy in similarly priced areas to where they are renting. The average difference in price between where they were renting and where they bought is just £8,000. In a number of the cheapest northern cities such as Newcastle, the average tenant buying their first home actually moves from a cheaper area to a more expensive one.

In addition to affordability, space is a deciding factor of where tenants choose to purchase, according to the report. Irrespective of location, those tenants making the move further afield also tend to buy the largest homes. Nationally, 32% of renters who buy in the same town buy a home with three or more bedrooms, a figure which rises to 45% amongst those buying elsewhere.
‘Renting enables many tenants to live in areas where they could not afford to buy but that means aspiring home owners often have to look elsewhere to find a home they can afford,’ said Johnny Morris, Research Director at Countrywide.

‘It’s common for first time buyers to make sacrifices to buy their first home, so with price rises in recent years outstripping income growth, more are choosing to bypass rising prices by looking further for cheaper areas,’ he explained.
He pointed out that renters are getting older too. ‘With over 30s and families the fastest growing types of tenants, renters buying their first home are getting older and are more likely to do so at a later stage of life. They’re skipping owning the small central city flat, in favour of the larger family home the first time around,’ he said.
‘Rents continue their growth over the year, with prices supported by falling numbers of homes available to rent and sustained demand from tenants. Seasonal factors usually see the rate of price growth slow in the second half of the year, after the rush in activity over summer starts to subside, hence small month on month falls in September,’ he added.

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Glencore bucks FTSE’s downward trend

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Glencore bucks FTSE’s downward trend

Glencore bucks FTSE 100’s downward trend

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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(Open): London’s leading shares dipped in early Monday trading, indicating that an eight-day run of gains might be coming to an end.

In the opening minutes, the benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 6.31 points, or 0.1%, to 6,409.85.

Mining giant Glencore bucked the trend after it said it had started the sales process for two of its copper mines.

Shares in Glencore jumped 1.55% on the news that the mines, in Australia and Chile, were up for sale.

Glencore is attempting to reduce $30bn (£19.5bn) of debt created by its 2013 takeover of Xstrata.

On the losers’ list, aerospace firm Rolls-Royce notched up the biggest decline, shedding 1.72%.

Against the dollar, the pound was 0.17% higher at $1.5342 and gained 0.18% against the euro to €1.3498.

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Dealer finance sales continue to rise

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Dealer finance sales continue to rise

New car finance sold by dealers was up 8% by volume and 11% by value in August, compared with the same month last year, according to the Finance & Leasing Association.

Point-of-sale used car finance also grew in August, up 7% by volume and 12% by value.

“Both consumer new and used car finance markets reported relatively robust growth in August, ahead of the introduction of the new 65 registration plate in September. We expect this growth to continue in the final quarter of 2015,” said Geraldine Kilkelly, head of research and chief economist at the FLA.

Cars bought on finance by consumers through dealerships
New business Aug 2015 % change on prev. year 3 months to Aug 2015 % change on prev. year 12 months to Aug 2015 % change on prev. year
New cars
Value of advances (£m) 738 +11 3,298 +17 15,227 +14
Number of cars 47,271 +8 202,241 +13 943,175 +10
Used cars
Value of advances (£m) 954 +12 3,078 +13 11,556 +14
Number of cars 90,909 +7 290,847 +8 1,104,265 +8

Source: FLA

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Councils must provide plan for new home building in UK, says landmark housing bill

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Councils must provide plan for new home building in UK, says landmark housing bill

Councils in the UK must produce local plans for new homes in their area by 2017 or the government will ensure, in consultation with local people, that plans are produced for them.

Under a new Housing and Planning Bill the government sets out its ambition that one million homes will be delivered by 2020, including starter homes for first time buyers.

However, while 82% of councils have published local plans which should set out how many homes they plan to deliver over a set period only 65% have fully adopted them, and there are still almost 20% of councils that do not have an up to date plan at all.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has now made it clear that he expects all councils to create and deliver local plans by the deadline. The Bill also spells out a series of further proposals to boost home building and home ownership.

This includes a new legal duty on councils to guarantee the delivery of Starter Homes on all reasonably sized new development sites, and to promote the scheme to first time buyers in their area.

The government also announced that local authorities will be able to bid for a share of a £10 million Starter Homes fund, part of a £36 million package to accelerate the delivery of starter homes by helping councils prepare brownfield sites that would otherwise not be built for starter homes.

Under the new legislation there will be automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites to build as many homes as possible while protecting the green belt and other planning reforms to support small builders such as placing a new duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own home.

In other boosts for house building, Cameron also announced that a temporary rule introduced in May 2013 allowing people to convert disused offices into homes without applying for planning permission will be made a permanent change after almost 4,000 conversions were given the go ahead between April 2014 to June this year.

A new website has just been launched which allows prospective home owners to go online to to see what government schemes are available to open doors for them.

‘The government will do everything it can to help people buy a place of their own and at the heart of this is our ambition to build one million new homes by 2020. Many areas are doing this already but we need a national crusade to get homes built and everyone must play their part,’ said Cameron.

He explained that councils have a key role to play in this by drawing up their own local plans for new homes by 2017. ‘If they fail to act, we’ll work with local people to produce a plan for them,’ he added.

Officials pointed out that the latest announcement builds on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was introduced in 2012 as a way of cutting back on red tape and endless planning documents. In their local plans councils are required to produce an annual trajectory of how many homes they plan to build in their area, usually over a period of around 15 years. They must also be reviewed regularly, usually every five years, and give local people more of a say on where new developments go and what they look like.

Before March 2012 the average number of homes planned for by local authorities stood at 573 per year. Local plans published after the reforms containing on average 717 homes per year, a 25% increase. Details of how best to intervene when councils have failed to get started on their plans will be published shortly.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said that enforcing local plans and measures to speed up delivery on brownfield sites are things surveyors have long called for.

‘It is good to see these now coming forward in the Bill. Some sites have been locked up for too long and these measures, coupled with a brownfield register and fund, will get them moving. While these new measures build on the National Planning Policy Framework and are welcome, the system needs to really pick up speed in order to deliver the vibrant property sector on which the success of our economy depends,’ he explained.

‘The real objective here is meeting the housing challenge, or crusade as the Prime Minister put it, where we need to build across all tenures. Dispute resolution for S106 agreements will help unlock many schemes stuck in negotiation, and we look forward to working with government to implement this service. We must combine this with wider measures to increase the supply of affordable and rented properties via councils and housing associations,’ he added.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, described it as one of the most important Bills before Parliament. ‘Measures to ensure local plans be put in place by 2017 will bring much needed certainty for potential investors and provide a catalyst for growth. Our members focus on brownfield opportunities and so measures that bring more land forward will also be warmly supported,’ she said.

‘We support the government’s vision for starter homes and the intention to give first time buyers a step up. We are also squarely behind the government’s efforts to raise standards in the private rented sector, which goes to the heart of our own Build to Rent initiative,’ she added.

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More properties come on the sales market in the UK, new research shows

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More properties come on the sales market in the UK, new research shows

More properties are coming onto the market in the UK with London seeing a 27.1% and Dundee in Scotland with a 171.1% rise in supply, the highest in the country.

In London supply in Kensington and Chelsea more than doubled between August and September with a rise of 122.2% while Camden’s supply increased by 95.7%.

The data from online estate agents HouseSimple also shows that overall new property listings increased 9.1% in September with rises of 46.7% in Sunderland and 35.5% in Cambridge but supply fell by 21.5% in Durham.

The news comes after a very quiet summer during when housing supply in the UK hit critically low levels but now more than 60% of the 100 towns and cities covered by the index saw an increase in new listings.

The Scottish market, in particular, has seen a surge in new property listings in September with supply almost tripling in Dundee while Aberdeen saw a 48.8% rise in new listings, and Edinburgh and Perth listings were up 28.3% and 24.7% respectively.

The number of new properties listed across London in September hit almost 25,000 and only two of the 32 London boroughs, Croydon and Lambeth saw a fall in supply but the index report says that there is still a severe shortage of new properties being marketed in the capital.

‘The current housing shortage in the UK has been a major contributory factor in rising property prices. We are in the grip of a severe property shortage and if September hadn’t seen a spike in new property listings we really could have been looking at a full blown supply crisis,’ said Alex Gosling, the firm’s chief executive officer.

‘Fortunately the September figures are far more encouraging. Almost 60% of UK towns and cities have seen stock levels rise between August and September. But it’s too early to breath a huge sigh of relief that a property crisis has been averted,’ he pointed out.

‘Stock reservoirs still remain dangerously low. September needs to provide the catalyst for the rest of the year. The housing market still has a long road to travel to rebalance supply and demand, but these latest listings figures show that we are finally moving in the right direction,’ he added.

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‘Cannot prove land sale best value’

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‘Cannot prove land sale best value’

Welsh government ‘cannot prove’ £21m land sale got best value

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A Welsh government spokesperson said there were conflicting valuations

The Welsh government has admitted it cannot prove the biggest sale of publicly-owned land in recent years in Wales achieved best value for money.

The admission was made in a letter from a senior civil servant to the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee as part of an inquiry into the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales.

In 2012, 15 sites were sold as one portfolio for £21m.

But the Wales Audit Office said they should have made at least £15m more.

Until this point, the Welsh government has insisted those claims need to be considered alongside conflicting valuations and tough economic conditions.

But in the letter it says the decision to sell the land privately, rather than publicly, means it cannot say conclusively the best value was achieved.

However, it is only a partial change of tone as the letter also maintains there is no conclusive evidence the land was undervalued either.

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Games industry given £4m boost

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Games industry given £4m boost

The government is giving the gaming industry £4m to support start-up companies.

It’s hoped the money, announced in July’s budget, will help turn ideas into reality allowing small companies to make global gaming blockbusters.

Over the next four years the Video Games Prototype Fund will provide grants of up to £25,000 to support different projects.

The funding will also create new jobs within the gaming industry.

This is the latest pledge the government is making to increase the value of the gaming industry in the UK.

It introduced tax relief measures for developers last year.

That means games makers can claim discounts of up to 25% of a game’s production costs.

Ed Vaizey is the person within the UK government who looks after the gaming industry.

He’s the minister for culture and the digital economy and said: “Britain’s video games punch well above their weight internationally and we need to build on this and invest in the strength of our creativity.

“This fund will give small businesses, start-ups and individuals the support they need to better attract private investment and go on to create the blockbusters of tomorrow.”

The project takes over from the Abertay Fund, which supported small businesses to access finance when it ran between 2010 to 2014.

The UK video games industry currently generates more than £4.5m a day for the UK economy and directly employs more than 19,000 people.

If you’re interested in getting a job in the gaming industry, this is how you can.

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter, BBCNewsbeat on Instagram, Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube and you can now follow BBC_Newsbeat on Snapchat

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Lawyers criticise UK refugee response

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Lawyers criticise UK refugee response

Migrant crisis: UK response criticised by senior former judges

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David Cameron visited Syrian refugees in a camp in Lebanon last month

Some of the UK’s most senior former judges, along with leading lawyers, have criticised the government’s response to the migrant crisis.

In an open letter to the press, more than 300 lawyers, QCs and retired judges say the offer to accept 20,000 refugees over five years is not enough.

One QC said a country with a reputation as a safe haven had “lost its way”.

The government has insisted that the UK has been at the forefront of the international response.

In addition to offering to accept 20,000 refugees, it has provided £1bn in aid to Syria with an extra £100m being given to charities to help thousands of people displaced by the conflict.

‘Deeply inadequate

BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said it was “highly unusual” for former judges to publicly criticise government policy in such a way.

He said: “Today’s statement is weighty and blunt. Blunt in calling the government’s response to the refugee crisis ‘deeply inadequate’ and the offer of 20,000 resettlement places for Syrian refugees over five years ‘too low, too slow and too narrow’.

“And weighty because of the signatories. Four former Law Lords, five retired Court of Appeal judges, a former president of the European Court of Human Rights, an ex-director of public prosecutions and 100 QCs who regularly represent the government.”

The group of lawyers has made proposals, including calling for the establishment of safe, legal routes into the EU. One way of doing his would be to create a system of “humanitarian visas” so that refugees do not have to undertake dangerous journeys to reach Europe.

They claimed that people with a moral right to protection were being driven into the hands of people smugglers.

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Refugees are travelling to the UK from camps in countries neighbouring Syria, including Jordan

Pushpinder Saini QC, who regularly advises and represents the government, said: “The letter reflects profound concern in the legal profession, including some of its most senior members, that the government lacks a coherent, just or humane response to the refugee crisis.

“The signatories of this letter include the most eminent and expert body of opinion concerning refugees in the UK. We have advanced a set of carefully considered proposals.

“We ask that government give these proposals serious consideration. As a nation which once had the foremost reputation as a safe haven for refugees, we have lost our way.”

‘Stable and prosperous’

The letter also calls for the suspension of the so-called Dublin system which forces asylum seekers to claim asylum in the first EU country in which they arrive.

The lawyers said “in certain member states, particularly at the EU’s periphery, reception conditions have collapsed and determination procedures are rudimentary”.

Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal, said the government’s current offer to accept Syrian refugees was “wholly inadequate”.

“As a stable and prosperous country, we can do better than this,” he added.

The first of the Syrian refugees arrived in the UK at the end of September.

Eventually the UK will have to take about 400 refugees a month in order to meet its 20,000 target by 2020.

The refugees will be brought to the UK from camps in countries neighbouring Syria, with those being resettled selected by the UN on the basis of need.

The government said the UK was working closely with the United Nations commission for refugees to resettle the most vulnerable in the region.

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Shares in Asia mixed despite US lead

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Shares in Asia mixed despite US lead

Shares in Asia mixed despite Wall Street lead

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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Ryan Pierse

Shares in Asia were mixed on Monday, with some failing to take a positive lead from Wall Street and despite hopes the US Federal Reserve may wait until 2016 to raise interest rates.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.81% % at 5,236.90 after hitting a six-week peak on Friday.

While South Korea’s benchmark Kospi was flat at 2.019.61 points in mid morning trade.

Shares in China however were looking more positive.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.81% at 22,648.10, while on the mainland the Shanghai Composite was up 0.55% at 3,200.53.

Markets in Japan are closed for a public holiday.

Analysts agreed the Fed was looking less likely to raise rates soon, which could mean more money would flow into markets.

“The only data supporting raising the Fed funds rate has been employment, which has begun to shrink in the last quarter, coupled with increased talks of the approaching debt ceiling negotiations – not to mention the 2016 Presidential elections,” said Evan Lucas from IG Markets.

“All [this] means we are seeing signs of the lift-off being pushed back, as inflation remains nowhere to be seen,” he said.

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Labour MP ‘sorry’ for Hunt wife tweet

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Labour MP ‘sorry’ for Hunt wife tweet

Helen Goodman apologises for tweet about Jeremy Hunt’s wife

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Labour Party

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Helen Goodman has said she wishes to ‘totally apologise’

A Labour MP has apologised after making comments about Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Chinese wife.

Former shadow minister Helen Goodman had tweeted: “If China is so great, why did @Jeremy_Hunt’s wife come to England?” She has since deleted it.

It comes after Mr Hunt said the UK had to become as hard working as Asia.

The Labour Party said the tweet did not represent its views and that the Bishop Auckland MP would be reminded of her responsibilities.

Issuing an apology on Twitter, Ms Goodman wrote: “Wish to absolutely totally apologise for earlier tweet.”

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Several other MPs had replied to her original message, with former Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles saying he was surprised she could “send out something so vile”.

Fellow Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi even asked if Ms Goodman’s account had been hacked, writing: “Helen that is a terrible thing so say. I hope you delete and apologise to Mrs Hunt.”

And Lib Dem leader Tim Farron wrote: “Clearly she missed the ‘kinder politics’ memo”, pointing to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for an end to personal attacks in politics.

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Mr Hunt had made the comments at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference last week.

He said: “My wife is Chinese and if we want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years time there is a pretty difficult question that we have to answer which is, essentially, are we going to be a country which is prepared to work hard in a way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in a way that Americans are prepared to work hard?

“And that is about creating a culture where work is at the heart of our success.”

‘Bizarre’ tweet

In a statement, issued before Ms Goodman deleted the tweet, a Labour spokesman said: “This does not represent the views of the Labour Party. Helen will be reminded of her responsibilities as an elected Labour politician.”

Labour’s leader in the House of Lords Lady Smith said Goodman’s tweet was “absolutely bizarre”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “Presumably Mrs Hunt lives in the UK because she’s married to Mr Hunt and she’s in love with him and wants to be with him so end of story.

“There’s a lesson for all here, our partners and families are not in the public domain to be criticised or commented on.”

Mr Hunt married his wife, Lucia, in July 2009 and the couple have three children.

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Scam mail victims lose over £1,000 each

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Scam mail victims lose over £1,000 each

Scam mail victims lose more than £1,000 each

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

Victims of scam mail have an average age of 74 and have typically lost more than £1,000, investigators have confirmed.

Teams of officers working for National Trading Standards (NTS) identified 10,843 victims in the year to April.

The average loss was £1,184 – about £13m in total – but officers think hidden losses are much higher.

They identified nearly 200,000 potential victims on so-called “suckers lists” sold between con-artists.

Overall, NTS estimates that prize draw scams cost the UK public £60m a year, with an estimated 380,000 victims each year.

In one case, officers in Merthyr Tydfil visited a woman who was addicted to responding to scam mail. Her life savings had been spent and it took time for her to talk to her family about what had happened and to take control of her finances again.

Officers said that older, more vulnerable, people were being targeted.

Over the year, they secured more than £385,000 of compensation for victims, although this was still a fraction of total losses.

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NTS oversees specialist teams tackling scams, illegal money lending, and online fraud. It published its first consumer harm report on Monday, building on data published earlier in the year.

It estimated that teams under its umbrella disrupted and prevented £252m worth of losses to consumers and businesses in a year, prevented more than 2.5 million unsafe or non-compliant goods from entering the supply chain, and convicted 100 criminals who are serving a total of 118 years of prison time.

Lord Toby Harris, who chairs the NTS, said: “It is not just money they take from innocent people. Many victims feel they have lost their dignity, their self-confidence, their sense of security. For small businesses, entire livelihoods may be lost and this, in turn, damages the economy.

“We have limited resources and I am all too aware that in many areas we may only be skimming the surface of the problem, particularly when it comes to the internet which is notoriously difficult to police.”

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Millions invited to boost state pension

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Millions invited to boost state pension

Seven million Britons invited to top up state pension

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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More than seven million Britons are being offered the chance to top up their state pensions.

Men over the age of 65 and women over the age of 63 can get up to £25 a week extra on their state pension, in return for a one-off payment.

How much they have to pay will depend on their exact age; the older they get, the lower the cost.

The offer is open to existing pensioners and anyone who will reach state pension age before April 2016.

After that date, the new, more generous, single-tier pension will kick in.

The current basic state pension is worth up to £115 .95. The new flat-rate pension will be worth up to £155 a week to those that qualify.

‘Particularly attractive’

The new top-up scheme, known as Class 3A contributions, will provide an income that will rise with inflation.

Spouses or civil partners will be able to inherit at least half of that income when the pensioner dies.

About seven million people are currently of pensionable age, according to the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), and are therefore eligible to take part.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) concedes that it will not be suitable for everyone, and expects around 265,000 to take up the offer.

“It won’t be right for everybody and it’s important to seek guidance or advice to check if it’s the right option for you,” said Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann.

“But it could be particularly attractive for those who haven’t had the chance to build significant amounts of state pension, particularly many women and people who have been self-employed.”

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Should I top up my state pension?

More details on the top-up scheme

The maximum extra income possible will be £1,300 a year, or £25 a week. The younger someone’s age, the more they will pay for a given level of income.

So someone aged 65, who wants an extra income of £10 a week, would have to pay a lump sum of £8,900.

But at the age of 75 they would only have to pay £6,740.

Those wanting to apply will now have 18 months to do so. Unlike pensioner bonds, there is no limited pot of money, so the DWP said there was no need to rush to apply.

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Should I top up my state pension?

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Should I top up my state pension?

Should I top up my state pension?

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Business

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From Monday 12 October, the government is offering millions of people the chance to get a higher income in retirement, through top-ups to their state pension.

In many ways the scheme – known as Class 3A – looks generous.

But it may not necessarily be the best way to boost your pension, and indeed by doing so you may lose other benefits.

As a result, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is advising people to get financial advice. But here are some general guidelines:

Who is eligible?

Anyone who is already receiving a state pension, or is due to receive one before 6 April 2016. That means that men are eligible if they were born before 6 April 1951. Women are eligible if they were born before 6 April 1953.

The idea is that such people should be compensated, as they will not be eligible for the new – and more generous – flat-rate state pension, which starts in April 2016.

Any current pensioner can benefit. Those who live for a long time will inevitably get better value out of the scheme than those who live for a short time.

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How much money could I get?

The maximum you can get is £1,300 a year, or £25 a week. This will be paid on top of the current state pension of £115 a week. How much you pay for that income depends on your age. For example, if you are 65, that £25 income would cost you £22,250. That is a one-off payment, which you will not get back. However, if you are 80 it would only cost you £13,600. You can chose to buy a smaller amount.

The government has produced a calculator to help you work out costs.

Top-up Calculator

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Click HERE to use the calculator.

What other benefits does the scheme offer?

The top-up payments will rise with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

In addition, spouses or civil partners will, in most cases, be able to inherit some of the payments. They will get between 50% and 100% of the cash. The rules for passing on the payments are the same as they are with the additional state pension.

Who is the scheme not suitable for?

Anyone who has not got a full National Insurance contribution record – frequently women or those who have been self-employed – is likely to be better off topping up through another existing scheme, known as Class 3.

That scheme is far more generous financially, but only applies to people who have not got a full contribution record.

However, anyone who claims means-tested benefits may see them reduced, as a result of their income being boosted by either of these schemes. In particular, anyone who claims the guarantee element of pension credit, housing benefit, or council tax support may be affected.

Those whose incomes may exceed £42,385 as a result will also be liable to the 40% rate of income tax.

Anyone who is in poor health may not get good value for money out of it. Such individuals may do better to buy an enhanced annuity.

Could I get better value elsewhere?

Experts say the top-up scheme represents very good value for money. Buying a top-up at the age of 65 provides an annual return of 5.84% on the payment you make.

An equivalent private-sector annuity – which also offers an inflation-linked income for life – would provide a return of 3.69%, according to investment provider Hargreaves Lansdown.

Cost of buying an annual income of £1,300 a year
Age Class 3A Pension top-ups Standard annuity
65 £22,250 £35,215
70 £19,475 £30,128
75 £16,850 £24,743
80 £13,600 £18,800
source: HL/DWP

“No private pension company can offer such an attractive deal,” said Tom McPhail, pension expert at Hargreaves Lansdown. According to his calculations, the cost of buying a pension top-up is much lower than the cost of buying a standard annuity. See table above.

However, some people may want to consider other forms of investment as an alternative. Peer-to-peer lending can offer returns of 6% before tax, and at the same time individuals would keep their capital. But, unlike top-up payments, such investments do carry a level of risk.

How long do I have to apply?

The scheme will only run for 18 months, so is due to finish in April 2017. It is not known what will happen after that. To register an interest, or to get more information, visit this page on the DWP website.

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Welsh Tories will scrap tuition grant

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Welsh Tories will scrap tuition grant

Welsh Conservatives would scrap university tuition grant

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Andrew RT Davies said any reforms would be about putting ‘money where it’s needed’

The Welsh Conservatives will scrap the grant which pays the majority of tuition fees for Welsh students, if they are in government after next year’s assembly election.

Party leader Andrew RT Davies told the Sunday Politics Wales programme the Tuition Fee Grant is unaffordable .

He said people who can afford it “should pay their share”.

Welsh students in the UK currently pay the first £3,500 of fees with the Welsh government covering the rest.

The cost of the scheme would be £3.6bn over the course of the next assembly, Mr Davies said, insisting the money should be spent on the NHS and further education (FE) colleges.


He said: “We don’t think it can continue. We’ve always said that and it’s coming home to roost now.

“When you look at the cuts in FE and apprenticeships, and more importantly the devastating cuts to the NHS budget, when people can afford to pay for things they should be paying their share.”

Fears have previously been raised about the cost of the scheme, as well as concerns by universities that they are underfunded compared to their counterparts in England.

The Welsh government has always said its funding protected Welsh students after the UK government decided to raise tuition fees in England.

The funding arrangements of universities in Wales, including the Tuition Fee Grant, are currently being reviewed by the Welsh government, but it is not due to publish its report until after next year’s assembly election.

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SDLP warning over Troubles legacy bill

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SDLP warning over Troubles legacy bill

Do not table bill on Troubles legacy, SDLP tells government

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Alex Attwood said victims and survivors “want justice and answers about the past”

The SDLP has told the government not to table a bill in Westminster that sets out legislation with dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

Earlier this week, a draft of the bill detailing how disclosure of “sensitive” information in relation to historical investigations could be regulated was leaked to the media.

Alex Attwood said the proposals were against the Stormont House Agreement.

He said the government was “creating impediments” to reopening cases.

Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics programme, he said victims and survivors “want justice and answers to questions about the past”.


“Northern Ireland has bespoke mechanisms to dealing with issues of disclosure and the British government now drives a coach and horses through that by saying they will decide what information can and cannot be shared,” he said.

He accused Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers of a “deliberate attempt to ensure that people don’t get the access to information and truth that is at the heart of dealing with the past”.

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Mike Nesbitt said only the government could make the call around issues of national security

He added: “We have told the British government: ‘Do not table this bill.’

“That’s pretty severe advice to the British government given the sensitivity of this issue.”


But Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said there was no way around national security issues.

“The issue is not how often national security is mentioned in the clauses,” he said.

“The issue for nationalists is that it is in there to begin with.

“The government has to make the call on national security.”

Sinn Féin had said earlier this week that the proposed legislation was “inadequate” and “substantial changes were needed” around disclosure of information for families.

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Grangemouth firm buys North Sea fields

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Grangemouth firm buys North Sea fields

Grangemouth operator Ineos buys North Sea fields

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This is the first move into the North Sea by Ineos

Twelve North Sea gas fields have been sold by the Russian oligarch who bought them earlier this year but was forced by the UK Government to sell them.

Ineos, the chemicals giant that controls Grangemouth refinery and petro-chemicals plant, has taken them on.

This is its first move into owning oil and gas assets.

There are indications its chairman and controlling shareholder Jim Ratcliffe intends to buy more.

The 12 fields, mainly in the southern North Sea, were sold in March by German firm RWE to the LetterOne company controlled by Mikhail Fridman.

They represent around 8% of UK gas production, including the Breagh and Clipper South fields.

The UK Energy Secretary before the UK election, Ed Davey, told LetterOne in April that it had to sell them again.

He said it was not in UK interests to have the fields at risk of sanctions against Russians, and threatened to revoke the owner’s operating licence. The sale had to take place by 20 October.

Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos said: “We are pleased to acquire a strong portfolio of natural gas assets and bring on board a highly successful and experienced North Sea industry team.

He said of the gas fields: “They are high quality, low risk assets and they come with a highly experienced management team. Whilst no decisions have yet been made, we will continue to evaluate other opportunities in the North Sea.

“Ineos has been very open about its intention to make strategic investments in the North Sea and this acquisition is our first step in fulfilling this goal. It will also help our UK petrochemical assets to have ongoing access to competitive energy.”

Ineos is also investing in onshore unconventional gas projects in the UK, though these are proving controversial.

It has invested heavily in the shipping, docking and processing facilities to bring fracked gas from the USA to Grangemouth and to a Norwegian processing facility.

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FM ‘won’t jump to conclusions’ on MP

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FM ‘won’t jump to conclusions’ on MP

Nicola Sturgeon ‘won’t jump to conclusions’ on MP Thomson

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The first minister said “even MPs” are entitled to the presumption of innocence

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not jump to conclusions in the case of MP Michelle Thomson.

Questions have been raised about the property business Ms Thomson ran before she was elected to parliament.

Christopher Hales, a solicitor who carried out work for her, has been struck off by the Law Society of Scotland. Ms Thomson has denied any wrong-doing.

Ms Sturgeon said even MPs are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

In a wide-ranging interview on the Marr Show on BBC One, the first minister also defended the creation of Police Scotland to replace the country’s eight regional forces.

Vetting processes

Ms Thomson was part of the large intake of new nationalist MPs returned at this year’s general election.

Ms Sturgeon told Andrew Marr: “As a party we’ve quadrupled in size over the past year so that makes it all the more important that we make sure systems like vetting processes are robust and fit for purpose.

“We will learn any lessons that require to be learned.”

Ms Thomson, who was elected as the SNP MP for Edinburgh West in May, has resigned the party whip at Westminster.

The first minister said it was important for the investigations into Ms Thomson’s business activities to be allowed to run its course.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I’m simply not prepared to jump to conclusions about an investigation that is currently under way.

“Even MPs are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

“I know it’s not a fashionable view but it’s one that I think it’s important to stress.”

Police Scotland

The first minister was also asked about the decision to merge Scotland’s eight regional forces.

She was questioned about whether Police Scotland had produced the cost savings projected for it and whether it was performing well enough in answering emergency calls.

She said: “A single police force and creating a single police force was the right thing to do because it has allowed us to make savings.

“Once you have one chief constable instead of eight chief constables, with all of the attendant bureaucracy that goes with that, so unlike in England we’re not seeing the numbers of police officers on our streets plummet.

“We’re addressing the difficulties that the police service has faced but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that moving to a single police force has been the right thing to do.”

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