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UK trade deficit narrows in April as exports jump
Britain’s trade deficit narrowed in April after goods exported – in particular chemicals, oil, machinery and aircraft parts – rose to a near three-year high, according to the Office for national Statistics (ONS).
The ONS said the deficit was £3.294bn, down from £3.532bn in March, the lowest level since September 2015. The total value of all goods exported jumped by 11.2% on the month, the biggest rise since records started in 1998. That rise took the value of goods exported in April to £26.123bn – not far from an all-time high set in June 2013.
UK economic growth slowed to a quarterly rate of 0.4% in the first three months of 2016, down from 0.6% in the last three months of 2015, with the trade deficit accounting for much of the drag. Sterling fell to its lowest since late 2013 on a trade-weighted basis in April, although falls in the price of UK exports typically take longer to feed through into foreign demand.
The Financial Times
Revenues plummet after car tax discs scrapped
The amount of vehicle tax collected in the UK fell by more than £200m in the six months after the tax disc was abolished, figures show. The paper tax disc, which was first issued in 1921, was replaced in October 2014 by an online system, in an overhaul that cost £1m and that critics warned would lead to confusion among motorists.
The latest figures, obtained by the Financial Times in a Freedom of Information request, show that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) saw an immediate drop in its revenues following the changes. The National Audit Office had claimed there would be no “material increase in lost revenue” as a result.
Drivers spend £700 a year on servicing and repairs
Britons spend more on servicing and repairing their cars than motorists in most other countries. Car bills average £695 annually, 12 per cent higher than the rest of the world.
A study for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveals that UK drivers collectively spend £21.1 billion a year on servicing and repairs. It forecast that this would rise to £28 billion by 2022. Part of the reason is that Britons appear to take greater pride in their cars, with fewer in a poor state of repair.
Lax testing in Europe puts polluting cars on UK roads
Loopholes in the vehicle-testing regime across Europe may be leading to a surge in the number of polluting vehicles taking to British roads, the transport minister has admitted.
Robert Goodwill warned that the “wide variations” between countries undermined the testing process and potentially allowed cars with high emissions levels to be sold freely across the EU.
The Daily Mail
‘Next generation’ of driverless cars will carry up to eight people, but only travel at 15mph
A new self-driving ‘pod’ capable of carrying eight passengers at one time around cities and airports will launch tomorrow.
The Pod Zero, which has a range of 60 miles, has been designed transform the way people move around cities by offering transport over the last couple of miles of a journey. However, anyone in a hurry may need to brace themselves – the futuristic vehicles have a top speed of just 15mph.
Insurer launches UK’s ‘first driverless car policy’
The company Adrian Flux has launched what it claims to be the UK’s first personal driverless car insurance policy.
The policy is designed for consumers who already have driverless features in their cars, such as self-parking, or are thinking of buying a car with autopilot features. Fully self-driving cars are not expected to be on the road until 2020 at the earliest, when Volvo has said it plans to launch such vehicles.
The Evening Standard
London’s diesel car owners ‘to be hit by tax hike’ to tackle air pollution
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it had been a “mistake” for former Labour chancellor Gordon Brown to slash taxes on diesel. Duty on diesel was reduced by 3p in the 2001 Budget as well as company car taxes being reduced on diesel vehicles. A decision, which caused a “dramatic rise” in the number of diesel cars in London and other cities.
Although diesel engines produce less carbon, which is blamed for global warming, they emit up to four times as much NOx and 20 times as many particulates. After this change diesel car registrations have risen from 3.45 million, or 13 per cent of the total, to 8.2 million, or 28 per cent. Mayor Sadiq Khan is also considering a new “T-Charge”, which would come on top of the congestion charge, on cars, vans and lorries emitting toxic fumes in central London.