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Measures aimed at boosting workers’ income and increasing housebuilding are expected in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday. The first major economic statement since the Brexit vote will also unveil forecasts which are expected to show higher borrowing and slower growth. Mr Hammond has warned of “turbulence” and “an unprecedented level of uncertainty” as the UK leaves the EU.
The Autumn Statement takes place at about 12:30 GMT, after Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. Among the measures to be announced are:
Other changes which have already been announced include investing an extra £2bn a year in science by 2020, a crackdown on compensation claims for whiplash injuries aimed at reducing motorists’ insurance premiums and £1.3bn to improve roads.
The government has been urged to clarify its policy on leaving the European Union by the head of the German automobile industry association. Matthias Wissmann warned that prolonged uncertainty could damage investment in the UK, where German manufacturers have about 100 production sites. Mr Wissmann told the BBC that the UK leaving the single market could force companies to move business elsewhere. Germany also exports more vehicles to the UK than any other country.
The Financial Times
Volkswagen on Tuesday unveiled an overhaul of its underperforming VW brand aimed at tripling its profit margin and eventually cracking the US market. Still reeling from the consequences of last year’s diesel emissions scandal, the VW brand is seeking to achieve a 6 per cent return on sales by 2025, compared with just 2 per cent in 2015. The strategy will involve the German carmaker producing 17 new sport utility vehicles by 2020 to capitalise on strong consumer demand, and phasing out models that are not popular. It will also seek to sell 1m electric cars globally by 2025.
Britain’s factories are showing signs of a long-awaited recovery but the weak pound is not helping, according to a closely watched survey. The CBI industrial trends report found that manufacturers sprang back to life in November after a torrid three months since the Brexit vote, but the improvement came in spite of the weak pound. Sterling’s 17 per cent collapse against the dollar since the referendum was supposed to make UK exports more competitive but, for the moment, the only discernible effect has been to drive up costs.
More than four million workers will receive a pay rise of up to £600 next year after the national living wage increases to £7.50 an hour. The chancellor will raise the limit for people over the age of 25 from £7.20 an hour from April, giving a boost to many of the “just about managing” (Jam) families that Theresa May wants the government to champion.
The increase is in line with what was expected and puts the living wage on track to reach £8.60 in 2020. The target is lower than the £9 an hour unveiled by George Osborne in July of last year, but meets the former chancellor’s goal of lifting the wage to 60 per cent of median earnings.
Growing speculation that the Opec nations and Russia will agree output cuts at a meeting next week sent the price of Brent crude surging to its highest level in three weeks. Prices were boosted by comments from a Nigerian official attending an Opec technical meeting, which is trying to hammer out details of a deal, that it was likely all countries would be “on board” by the end of yesterday. Analysts say that the fear of failure to reach agreement, which would probably send prices crashing, might be the spur for Opec members to put aside their differences. Production is running way ahead of demand while stockpiles remain high.
British ministers rebuffed an unconventional call by Donald Trump for Ukip’s interim leader, Nigel Farage, to be appointed UK ambassador to the United States. In a response agreed across government, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, firmly said there was no vacancy for the ambassadorship, and Downing Street lavishly praised Sir Kim Darroch, the current British ambassador who was by coincidence in London briefing the UK National Security Council on the implications of Trump’s election. In a sign of the government’s unease at Farage’s elevated status with the Trump team, ministers held back from directly challenging Trump’s interference, or the president-elect’s judgment of the Ukip leader.
The Daily Mail
Owners of driverless cars could be wrongly blamed for a crash even if the technology was at fault, insurers have warned. The Association of British Insurers yesterday called for new legislation forcing car makers to collect key data which can be used after an accident to quickly establish whether the driver or the driverless car was to blame.
The move highlighted the ‘legal minefield’ of motor insurance for vehicles whose speed, steering and braking are entirely computer-controlled. It came as the transport minister warned driverless cars were not necessarily a good thing and said private companies could not be trusted to put them on the roads without strict regulation.