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Unemployment falls to 31,000
UK unemployment fell to its lowest rate in 41 years in the three months to January, according to new figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%, a level not seen since between June and August 1975. The number of people out of work fell to 1.58m while Britons in employment rose to 31.85m.
However, wage growth has slowed significantly to 2.2% from 2.6% in the previous three-month period.
Oil prices fall after Opec stocks rise
Oil prices have fallen after the Opec group of oil producing nations said global crude stocks had risen.
A surprise output jump from its biggest member, Saudi Arabia, put further pressure on prices. Gains made since Opec announced output cuts late last year have nearly all been erased. Oil prices fell after the release of the Opec report to trade close to $50 (£41) a barrel, their lowest since November. Crude prices are still higher than $40 per barrel a year ago and a 12-year low of about $28 in January 2016. The price of Brent crude settled about 0.5% down at $51.09 per barrel, while US crude was at $47.90.
Discounters ‘exploit’ lorry drivers
Lorry drivers have said Aldi and Lidl force them to do the jobs of warehouse staff as part of efforts to cut prices.
Their union said the practice should stop as it’s not safe. But the discounters said drivers are trained and insured and some like to get back on the road quickly. Drivers told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme unloading deliveries is known as self-tip. Some complain they aren’t being paid any more for this and the training isn’t good enough.
The rise of the discount supermarkets has seemed unstoppable in recent years.
Driverless cars ‘could lead to complacency’
Certain types of driverless vehicles may not be safe, peers have warned. Over-reliance on technology could mean drivers react slowly to taking back control of a semi-autonomous vehicle in an emergency, they said. However, the Lords Science and Technology Committee noted that some technology could reduce accidents caused by human error. The Department for Transport said driverless cars “have the potential to transform the way we travel.” Vehicles can be split into different levels of automation, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Level 0 is a vehicle with no automation, while level 5 is fully automated.
California mulls driver-free car tests
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is considering new regulations to allow driverless cars without back-up drivers to be tested on its roads. Currently 27 manufacturers have a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California.
However there must always be a human being in the car. Google’s driverless car company Waymo said that in 2016 it drove 636,000 miles in the state and required 124 human interventions. This was down from 341 in 424,000 miles in 2015.
Identity fraud reached record levels in 2016
Young people are a growing target for identity theft cases, which have reached record levels in 2016, fraud prevention organisation Cifas says. Almost 25,000 victims of fraud were aged under 30, with the number of under-21s defrauded rising by a third. The statistics, from 277 banks and businesses, show almost 173,000 recorded frauds in 2016 – the highest level since records began 13 years ago. Cifas says people must be more vigilant about protecting their personal data.
Ikea drivers living in trucks for months
Lorry drivers moving goods in Western Europe for Ikea and other retailers are living out of their cabs for months at a time, a BBC investigation has found. Some drivers – brought over from poorer countries by lorry firms based in Eastern Europe – say their salary is less than three pounds an hour. They say they cannot afford to live in the countries where they work. One said he felt “like a prisoner” in his cab. Ikea said it was “saddened by the testimonies” of the drivers.
Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return leak reveals $38m bill
US President Donald Trump paid $38m (£31m) in tax on more than $150m (£123m) income in 2005, a leaked partial tax return shows. The two pages of tax return, revealed by US TV network MSNBC, also showed he declared $103m in losses. It gave no details on income sources. The White House said publishing the tax return was against the law.
Mr Trump refused to release his tax returns during the election campaign, breaking with a long-held tradition.
VW unveils pay cuts and drive to promote women
Volkswagen slashed the pay of its senior executives, announced its desire to appoint more women in leadership positions and unveiled ambitious targets to dominate the global market for electric and autonomous cars as it attempted to draw a line under the diesel scandal. Chief executive Matthias Müller also stressed there were no current discussions with Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne, a renowned proponent of consolidation, although he did not rule out future talks. The company has revamped the way it rewards performance, cutting the pay of its senior executives by 37 per cent last year.
European Parliament signals tough line on Brexit
The European Parliament will demand that Britain continue to obey European courts as a condition of a smooth transition out of the EU, according to drafts of its first official response to the UK triggering Brexit talks. A resolution being prepared by senior MEPs lays out the priorities for a parliament that wields a veto over Britain’s exit terms from the EU and the substance of any future trade relationship.
Diesel drivers to pay three times more for car parking
Parking costs for diesel cars will more than triple as the first suburban local authority is expected today to agree punitive charges. Merton council in south London, which covers Wimbledon, has recommended that diesel vehicles be charged £150 a year more than the standard £65 for residents’ parking permits. The charge will set a benchmark for other local authorities seeking to reduce pollution by encouraging residents to get rid of the vehicles. Campaigners and owners have complained that the charge punishes owners of new, cleaner diesel vehicles or families encouraged to buy the cars on environmental grounds by the former Labour government. Government figures show there were 11.9 million diesel cars in 2015 compared with 18.9 million petrol cars.
L-plate needed for driverless cars
Motorists should be required to sit new tests for driverless cars because they pose a safety risk in semi-autonomous mode, ministers have been told. Research published today by the House of Lords’ science and technology committee said that drivers were at risk of becoming complacent and overly reliant on technology if there were a boom in the number of self-driving cars. It said that vehicles that handed back control to drivers in an emergency could be particularly dangerous. They said ministers should consider banning such cars, which are almost all of those being tested. Academics told the committee that new tests should be introduced, even for those who had a driving licence, to check such things as taking control quickly if a car’s software failed.
Scots want to remain in UK, new poll reveals
Scottish voters are opposed to independence, with support for staying in the United Kingdom at its strongest for two and a half years, a poll for The Times reveals. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, would have to close a 14-point gap to win a referendum, according to the YouGov survey. It found that 57 per cent of voters backed staying inside the UK and 43 per cent wanted independence, once “don’t knows” and those not prepared to vote were excluded.
End of the line for first-class rail and third-class staff
First-class carriages could be scrapped on busy commuter trains under plans to ease overcrowding on the rail network.
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, suggested standard class- only trains on some of the most congested lines to combat poor service. He is considering the end of first-class travel on the Southeastern franchise which operates in south London and Kent to create more space on trains. Almost a third of passengers are forced to stand on services into the capital during the morning rush-hour, rising to 35 per cent on the most overcrowded lines.
Driverless cars could cause accidents because they will enable motorists to sleep at the wheel, peers warn
Driverless cars could cause accidents because motorists will fail to react to emergencies while they are asleep, reading a book or answering emails, peers have warned. The House of Lords warned that motorists could become “overly reliant” on the technology and “react slowly” if they are required to take back control of the vehicle. Professor Neville Stanton, an expert in driverless cars at Southampton University, told peers: “As vehicles become fully autonomous, even the most observant human driver’s attention will begin to wane. Their mind will wander. This is particularly true if they are engaging in other activities such as reading, answering emails, engaged in conversations with passengers, watching movies or surfing the internet.”
City Hall calls for parking charges for diesel cars to curb air pollution
Town halls should consider bringing in parking charges for diesel vehicles to help tackle London’s toxic air, a City Hall report said today. The report on air quality drawn up for the Mayor said wider use of parking levies and other restrictions to limit car use should be a “key area of focus” for the boroughs. The document, produced by City Hall officials, said councils could bring in a range of measures to improve air quality locally. These could include cutting lorry numbers on their roads and making air quality a key issue in transport and planning projects.
Swedish student start up gets deal to build electric cars
A group of Swedish university students that raised 1.2 million euros ($1.3 million) in crowdfunding for their start up to build electric cars has caught the attention of German industrial heavyweight Siemens. The two sides said Wednesday that they were starting a partnership that will see them create 50,000 lightweight city cars annually starting next year.
The twin-seat vehicles, called L7e, have 15kW engines with a maximum speed of 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour. They weigh 400 kilograms (880 pounds) each and have a 150 kilometer (93 miles) range. The cars are made from sustainable composite materials and will be unveiled in late 2017, with first deliveries scheduled for early 2019. The first high-end vehicle has a target price of 200,000 kronor ($22,285) – the price for an electric Smart Car in Sweden is at least 210,000 kronor ($23,400). The vehicle’s steering system resembles a Wii controller more than a traditional car’s steering wheel.