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Apprenticeship levy ‘unfit for purpose’ in current form
The apprenticeship levy introduced in England last year is causing “confusion and frustration” among employers and must be reformed, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). Jane Gratton, head of skills at the BCC is due to tell a conference on apprenticeships that the scheme is currently “unfit for purpose”. Since its introduction the number of new apprenticeships has fallen by 25%. The government said it had put employers “at the heart” of the scheme. In a statement, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We continue to work with employers to make sure the levy meets their needs and they get the skills they need to grow.”
Brexit: Ministers suffer first defeat on EU Withdrawal Bill
Peers have defeated the government on the issue of staying in a UK-EU customs union after Brexit. Lords voted by 348 to 225 in favour of a plan requiring ministers to report on steps to negotiate a continued union. Backing it, ex-EU Commissioner Lord Patten said the UK would be worse off unless current arrangements continued. But Brexit minister Lord Callanan said it required the government to report on the steps taken towards an objective it has “clearly ruled out”. Number 10 argues that remaining in the customs union would prevent the UK from signing third-party trade agreements with countries across the world.
Porsche and Audi raided in latest diesel probe
German prosecutors raided various Porsche and Audi sites on Wednesday for suspected “fraud and criminal advertising” related to the diesel emissions saga at parent Volkswagen Group. Thirty public prosecutors in Stuttgart, where the sportscar maker Porsche is headquartered, searched for documents at ten properties, they said in a statement. Three people have come under suspicion, including a member of the Porsche management board, a senior Porsche manager and a former Porsche employee, the statement said. The raids come just days after Volkswagen initiated a massive restructuring that included replacing its chief executive officer and promoting Oliver Blume, the head of Porsche, to the VW Group’s management board.
Mobile phone signals used to predict traffic flow
Sensors are to be used to track cars’ movements around cities to control traffic lights and cut congestion. York is believed to be the first city in Britain to use high-tech beacons that can detect drivers’ mobile phones and signals from vehicles themselves to monitor traffic flows. A trial will be launched in June that uses six sensor sites on the A59 between the city centre and the city boundary. The sensors will be mounted on traffic lights, bollards and street signs. The information will be used to make better decisions about traffic light patterns so that traffic runs more smoothly and journey times are cut.
Supply squeeze pushes oil price to 3½-year high
The price of oil hit its highest level in three and a half years yesterday, after American figures showed that the market had tightened more than expected and Saudi Arabia signalled that it wished to see prices rise to $80 or $100 per barrel. The price of a barrel of Brent crude, the international benchmark contract, rose by 2 per cent to $73.12, up more than $1.54, after figures from the US Energy Information Administration showed an unexpectedly big fall in American stockpiles of oil. That price level was last seen in late 2014. The EIA said that US gasoline (or petrol) stocks fell by three million barrels during the week to April 13, much more than expected, amid strong demand from car drivers.
Bank of England ‘late to crack down on credit’
The Bank of England was “three months late” in cracking down on consumer credit, one of its most senior policymakers said yesterday. Martin Taylor, who is on the Bank’s financial policy committee and is a former chief executive of Barclays, revealed to MPs how he had been more hawkish than his colleagues over the rapid rise in credit card debt, car loans and personal loans in 2016. “Sometimes I’ve thought we should have moved a bit faster than we did,” he told the Treasury select committee. “I thought that about consumer credit actually. I thought we were three months late.”
What the law says about driving in flip flops – as the weather heats up
Last month, it was snowing. On Thursday, it’s set to be 27C in the south east. Hotter than Nairobi! This is good news. We’re tired of the cold, frankly. When you get in your car to drive to the beach, will you be wearing flip flops? You probably shouldn’t be. It’s not illegal. You can drive in whatever footwear you choose. You can even go barefoot if you like. The important thing is being able to operate the controls properly and safely. If you can, you won’t go to jail. However, the Driving Standards Agency, which is the executive body that regulates driving tests in the UK, says this: “Suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. “We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.” So while it’s not illegal, it’s discouraged.