Sunday newspaper round-up: Inflation, election manifestos, US tax, Imagination Tech
(ShareCast News) - Britain's households could be spared a further blow from higher inflation because the snap election has pushed up the pound, limiting the chance of more rises in the cost of imports. Economists believe that a bigger Conservative majority could strengthen sterling - or at least stop it falling further - protecting living standards and so holding back one of the main threats to the UK economy this year, the Sunday Telegraph noted.
Britain's economy stuttered in the first quarter of the year, growing 0.4 per cent, figures are expected to show this week. The slowdown from 0.7 per cent in the previous quarter is set to be blamed significantly on falling consumer spending as the weaker pound put up the prices of foreign goods and essentials such as petrol, forcing cuts elsewhere, the Mail on Sunday reported.
Labour has pledged to create four bank holidays if it wins the general election in June, increasing the number from eight to twelve, saying that "workers deserve a break" and it would bring the UK into line with many other countries in the industrial world, the Sunday Times reported. Bank of England analysis has shows than the money lost to the economy through a break in productivity would be balanced out by people spending more on their days off, Jeremy Corbyn said.
Theresa May will attempt to capture the political centre ground by capping prices set by gas and electricity companies and a reform of workers' rights. The prime minister will use the Conservative manifesto, to be published on May 8, to cap the gas and electricity bills for the seven out of 10 households that pay standard variable tariffs, the Sunday Times reported.
May has been accused of pinching the idea from Labour's 2015 general election manifesto pledge to cap utility bills in the face of rising gas and electricity costs, which was ridiculed in the Times, Mail and Telegraph. While they now laud May's idea, the Times and the Sun at the time warned the "lurch to the left" risked blackouts, noted the Observer.
Centrica boss Iain Conn said the Conservative Party's plan for a cap on energy bills will raise questions over its approach to regulating free markets in other sectors ahead of Brexit. A probe by the Competition and Markets Authority dismissed calls for a price cap and found no evidence that energy companies use cartel-like behaviour to drive prices higher, the Sunday Telegraph noted.
Tony Blair has said that he feels so "passionate" about blocking a hard Brexit that he is considering a return to front-line politics. The former Prime Minister said that he wants to add a "new dimension" to the election by encouraging voters to support candidates who do not back a hard Brexit, even if they are Liberal Democrat or Tory, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
A year after its collapse into administration BHS is poised to cause fresh shocks to businesses as landlords brace themselves for a bill in excess of £100million and unsecured creditors are set to lose more than 90 per cent of their money. Liquidators for the chain which hit the buffers last April are handing back stores leased by the group, the Mail on Sunday said.
Red tape is hurting American businesses, according to US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who vowed to replace the country's "uncompetitive" system with simple rules that will cut tax returns to the size of a postcard. He admitted there would be "short term issues" that were likely to raise the country's debt and deficit in a move that would draw the ire of Congress, the Sunday Telegraph reported, but he insisted that reforms would pay for themselves over a decade by stimulating the economy and boosting growth and tax revenues.
Thousands of small businesses hit hardest by the recent changes to business rates in the UK have been dealt a fresh blow after a £300m relief package promised in the budget was waylaid by the general election, the Observer said. Earlier this year the government came under pressure to take action on business rates after a revaluation of property in Britain hit the owners of shops, restaurants and pubs in parts of the country where property prices had surged.
The campaign for Britain to leave the European Union was funded mostly by multimillionaires, according to an analysis by the team behind the Sunday Times Rich List. Those on the forthcoming list accounted for 71% of loans and donations to the "leave" and "remain" campaigns in the five months leading up to the vote last June, with the five main bankrollers that supplied two thirds of the campaign funding being insurance and mining tycoon Arron Banks, Hargreaves Lansdown co-founder Peter Hargreaves, fund managers Jeremy Hosking and Crispin Odey, and IM Group car importer Bob Edmiston.
Theresa May's claim that she will be strengthened in the Brexit talks by a general election victory has been dismissed as nonsense by the European parliament's Brexit coordinator, who has condemned the prime minister as a political opportunist. Guy Verhofstadt wrote in the Observer to say that putting more Tory MPs in the House of Commons will do nothing to bolster the British prime minister when it comes to the talks in Brussels.
The UK has frozen the assets of a North Korean company based in Blackheath, south-east London after claims it funnelled cash to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. The EU has already imposed sanctions against Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC), which it describes as "generating substantial foreign exchange revenue which is used to support the regime in North Korea", the Observer noted.
Developers are quietly walking away from promises to build affordable homes, according to an investigation by campaigners reported in the Sunday Times. They say council officials are "outgunned" by the financial and legal might of the developers who were granted permission for schemes on condition that affordable homes were included, while others flout agreements because they expect lax monitoring.
British chip designer Imagination Technologies is mulling the sale of a stake in one of its main businesses in a desperate attempt to raise cash after it was dumped as a supplier by Apple earlier this month. The Hertfordshire-based company was looking for new partner to invest in its $125m-valued MIPS microprocessors design wing, sources in the City told the Sunday Times.
BP could buy hundreds of petrol stations across Canada as it considers quitting the country's controversial tar sands industry. The energy giant is understood to be mulling a £1bn deal to swap its tar division for local operator Husky Energy's petrol forecourts or natural gas assets, according to the Sunday Times.
The rising cost of childcare, especially in big cities such as London, means some families effectively 'pay to work', a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research has found. The report said a woman with a partner and two children who works fewer than 16 hours a week and earns the government's "national living wage" of £7.50 an hour would see her childcare costs overwhelm her earnings, leading to a net loss the Observer reported.
Kellogg's, the world's leading cereal manufacturer, has spent millions of pounds on research to counter claims that its sugar-laden products are fuelling the obesity crisis. Research by the Sunday Times has established that Kellogg's helped fund a report, published in a medical journal in December, attacking the UK government's recommendations to cut sugar intake and has funded British studies suggesting that eating cereals may help children stay a healthy weight.
Jupiter Asset Management has been rapped over the knuckles by top shareholders after attempting to hand a lavish pay increase to its boss. The fund management giant had quietly canvassed investors in recent weeks about a 50% rise for Maarten Slendebroek but pulled the pay deal after objections from a number of institutions, the Sunday Times was told.
Plans to put driverless cars on Britain's roads have been fired up by a government decision to support a consortium including FiveAI, a Cambridge and Bristol start-up that uses artificial intelligence for software to run driverless cars; the Transport Research Laboratory; Oxford University; Transport for London and insurer Direct Line. The StreetWise project will receive £12.8m from Whitehall for its £23m project to test driverless vehicles on London's roads in two years.
Drivers and passengers inside even the newest of cars can be inhaling 10m toxic particles with every breath, especially in heavy traffic, researchers have found. A study discovered that cars of all kinds suck in the exhaust fumes of vehicles in front. This can expose drivers and passengers to pollution levels 10 times higher than adjacent pavements, the Sunday Times reported.
Uber may be embroiled in a cascade of corporate crises, but this week it will lay out a radical vision for its future: flying cars. The $70bn (£54.6bn) ride-hailing giant has made much of its plans for self-driving cars but it is also among those investing heavily in the development of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, the Sunday Times reported.