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German shock at car exhaust tests on humans and monkeys
The German government has denounced experiments funded by German carmakers in which humans and monkeys reportedly inhaled diesel exhaust fumes. German media say the health impact research was done by EUGT, a body funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. Such tests could not be justified, the government said, demanding details. A minister called them “abominable”. Daimler also condemned them. VW is embroiled in a scandal over software that gave false diesel exhaust data. In 2015 VW admitted having fitted “cheat” devices in the US that made their engines appear less polluting than they actually were.
Leaked government Brexit paper suggests UK economic hit
The UK economy will grow more slowly outside the European Union, no matter what deal is struck with Brussels, a leaked government document suggests. BuzzFeed News reports the Whitehall analysis found growth over the next 15 years could be up to 8% lower than if the UK stayed in the EU. The document is said to look at the likely impact of different scenarios. Government sources say the UK will not be worse off, and its preferred bespoke trade deal option was not analysed.
Cost of British passport to increase
The price of a British passport is to rise by £12.50 from 27 March for those applying by post. Currently, an adult’s passport costs £72.50 regardless of how you apply for it but under government plans this would rise by 17% up to £85. The cost of online applications will also go up – but only by £3 to £75.50. Children’s passport applications will also increase by £12.50 (27%) from £46 to £58.50 for anyone under the age of 16, but will be £49 online.
Local councils urged to try ‘innovative’ voting reform
Ballot boxes in supermarkets and Sunday voting could be trialled by local councils as a way to boost election turnout, a Welsh minister has said. Local Government Secretary Alun Davies also plans to give the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds, and foreigners legally resident in Wales. Councils will be given scope to try other ideas, such as electronic voting and mobile polling stations. Mr Davies wanted elections to be “more attractive, welcoming and transparent”.
Consumers see better times ahead
Confidence among consumers is rising at the fastest pace in a year, boosted by optimism on household finances and business activity. A monthly confidence index compiled by Yougov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, showed its largest month-on-month jump since January 2017, rising to 108.2, from 107.1 in December. Consumer confidence is important for Bank of England and government policymakers because it indicates how households feel about their spending power and about factors such as moving house or asking for a pay rise. Consumers helped to prop up economic growth after the Brexit vote, but last year household spending fell as consumer confidence waned.
Millions of addresses sold to cowboy parking firms
Drivers will be hit by a record six million penalties by private parking companies this year, up by more than a quarter in 12 months, fuelling demands for a crackdown on cowboy operators. Figures show that almost 1.6 million vehicle owner records were sold to private companies in the past three months alone, allowing them to pursue owners for up to £100 for overstaying or infringing other car park rules. It suggests that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which passes on owners’ names and addresses to parking operators for £2.50 a time, will make about £15 million through the system in 2017-18. The number of penalties issued to motorists by private companies has soared more than 20-fold in just over a decade.
Robocop car could catch crooks all by itself
Forget Robocop, the cyborg enforcer. Future policing could involve driverless squad cars that hide behind trees and send speeding tickets to motorists over an internet connection, or even chase down suspects. A patent application from Ford, the US company that makes cars for police in Britain and around the world, details plans for a robo-vehicle. According to the papers, the car would use artificial intelligence (AI) to find the best hiding places to catch those who break traffic laws, including speeders and those who run red lights, and issue penalties remotely. This would mean that “human police officers can perform tasks that cannot be automated”.
Road crashes to be reported online: Minister announces extension of service that allows crime victims to report crimes
Drivers involved in a crash could soon be able to report it to police online. Many police forces already allow victims to report crimes online. But roads minister Jesse Norman will today announce proposals to extend this service to crashes. The move is designed to lessen the burden on motorists who have to report a crash in person within 24 hours, reducing the need for them to take time off work to go to a police station. Drivers will still be able to visit a police station to report a crash.
Learner drivers to be allowed to drive on motorways in 2018
This year learner drivers across the UK will be allowed to take lessons on the motorway network. A decision to allow these inexperienced motorists on the motorways was proposed last year to ensure these drivers are equipped to deal with the challenging driving conditions more effectively. In addition to this it was revealed that a distant lack of these motorists are taking motorway driving courses after passing their practical exam. Under the current system, drivers can only have lessons to drive on the motorway after passing the practical test, using a scheme such as PassPlus. The changes will be applied across England Scotland and Wales and will see learners, accompanied by an approved driving instructor with a driving a car fitted with dual controls, lessons on the motorway.