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MPs warn of ‘poisonous air’ emergency costing £20bn a year
MPs have demanded an end to the UK’s “poisonous air” in an unprecedented report from four Commons committees. The Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees want a new Clean Air Act, and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry. They are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars – currently set for 2040. The government said air pollution had improved significantly since 2010 but there was “more to do”. MPs have been frustrated by the response from ministers, who have promised to publish a comprehensive clean air strategy later this year. Their report says: “Air pollution is a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20bn annually. “It is unacceptable that successive governments have failed to protect the public from poisonous air.
MPs call for unpaid shifts to be illegal
Some MPs and lawyers have called for a blanket ban on unpaid shift work. Companies can currently invite prospective employees to do trial shifts with the carrot of a job at the end. But there has been a six-fold increase over three years in complaints over unpaid shifts, trade union Unite said. The Federation of Small Businesses said unpaid shifts are a valuable part of the recruitment process, but shouldn’t cross the line into exploitation. On Friday a private members bill which seeks to make unpaid trials illegal will get its second parliamentary reading.
Toys R Us to close all US stores
Toys R Us will close or sell all its 885 stores in the US after failing to find a buyer, putting about 30,000 jobs under threat. Chief executive Dave Brandon said it was a “profoundly sad day” for the retailer. The giant toy-store chain was already in the process of closing one fifth of its shops after filing for bankruptcy protection last year. Toys R Us will also close all its UK stores by the end of April.
Union warns of jobs risk in shift to electric cars
Britain must repurpose car parts factories and train workers to build components for electric vehicles to avoid thousands of job losses, the Unite union has said. In an assessment of the changes facing the UK automotive sector, the union said the British government must seek to emulate Germany and “support supply chain and SME companies to invest, re-tool and upskill for new component products”. “The shift from the internal combustion engine to plug-in, battery or hybrid-powered vehicles will change the some 30,000 components that make up a modern vehicle,” Unite said in the report, published on Wednesday. “The impact on this part of the sector must be analysed and mapped to ensure continued employment for Unite members.” British plants made 1.67m vehicles last year, down 3 per cent compared with the previous year. A record 2.72m engines were also produced, many of them exported, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Ford recalls 1.37m vehicles for steering wheel issue
Ford has recalled 1.37m vehicles for an issue with that could cause the steering wheel to detach from the steering column, the US automaker said on Wednesday. The affected cars in North America include 2014-18 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZs built at two specific plants, the Flat Rock Assembly Plant and Hermosillo Assembly Plan. Ford said it was aware of two accidents, including one injury, that were linked to the issue, in which steering wheel bolts could lose torque and loosen over time, leading to the wheel’s detachment. Ford shares shrugged off the news and remain up about 3 per cent in midday trading at $11.10.
Hackers have self-driving cars in their headlights
With a crunch, the Jeep Cherokee rolled out of the car park and into the grassy ditch. But the terrified person in the driver’s seat, a journalist from Wired, was not controlling the wheel or the pedals. The car was being controlled by hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, as part of an experiment-cum-stunt to prove that cars can be accessed, and even driven, remotely. The incident, which led to a recall of more than 1m Fiat Chrysler vehicles in 2015, was a wake-up call — flagging to the world the dangers hackers pose to the auto industry. Carmakers are developing self-driving technology to reduce road accidents and facilitate ride-booking services in inner cities. General Motors says it will have driverless cars operating in 2019, while Ford is aiming for 2021 and Renault 2022.
Volkswagen boss Matthias Müller paid €10m despite diesel cheat
The chief executive of Volkswagen enjoyed a 40 per cent pay rise to €10.14 million even as the “dieselgate” emissions scandal rumbled on. Matthias Müller, 64, earned almost 20 per cent more last year than Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the carmaker Daimler, who was paid €8.6 million. VW reported record annual operating profits last year of €17 billion, although this excluded €3.2 billion of costs related to the diesel emissions scandal in 2017.
Britain can sign trade deals while in single market, Brussels rules
Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels, The Times has learnt. EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market. Publicly, the EU’s negotiating guidelines still state that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”. Behind closed doors the position taken by Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly. The latest draft of a potential transition deal says that Britain will be able to both negotiate and sign trade deals during the period.
Chancellor abandons plan to drop the penny after one day
It’s all change for the Treasury’s plans to scrap 1p and 2p coins. Just 24 hours after the idea was floated by the chancellor in his spring statement, No 10 has signalled a retreat in the face of a public backlash. The Treasury said that two thirds of 1p and 2p coins were used in only one transaction before being abandoned to savings jars or thrown away as more people use contactless payment technology. “From an economic perspective, having large numbers of denominations that are not in demand . . . does not contribute to an efficient or cost-effective cash cycle,” the consultation document said. Charities and pensioners’ groups raised concerns about the impact on donations and the elderly.
Small firms say no to bank loans
Britain’s small businesses are turning their backs on bank debt, deepening concerns over stagnating productivity and faltering economic growth. In the latest blow to lenders’ battered relationships with small and medium-sized companies, the UK’s largest survey of attitudes towards access to finance has revealed that almost half of businesses describe themselves as “permanent non-borrowers”, up from one in three in 2012. Experts warned the dramatic long-term shift in attitudes could ultimately harm companies’ ability to keep up with international competitors and tackle weak export performance.
Dieselgate still haunts Volkswagen, admits car maker’s boss – as he drives home with 40pc pay rise
The boss of Volkswagen has admitted the German car giant is still struggling to put the dieselgate emissions scandal behind it – but this hasn’t stopped him from driving home with a 40pc pay boost. Speaking at VW’s annual conference, chief executive Matthias Mueller said shaking up the corporate culture that led the company to cheat pollution tests affecting 11m diesel cars worldwide was the area where he was “farthest from our goal”. The admission in 2015 that VW had for years fitted cars with “defeat devices” to beat inspections has cost VW tens of billions of euros in fines, compensation and vehicles refits and buybacks.
Accelerating premiums are driving millions of motorists off roads
BRITONS are being driven off the road by higher motor insurance premiums, with more than three million likely to be priced out of car ownership if annual premiums keep rising at their current rate. Motor insurance premiums are accelerating at a rapid pace, with the cost of the average policy rising 23 per cent to £827 in the past two years alone. Drivers in London face the highest average comprehensive premium of £1,283 a year, which rises to £1,599 in inner London. Pay-as-you-go insurer Cuvva, which conducted the research, warned that many drivers are already struggling to afford the cost of motoring and the situation is set to get worse.