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Pensions Secretary defends DWP in Waspi row

Mel Stride
Mel Stride defended the DWP's record in the House of Commons

The work and pensions secretary has defended his department as he refused to commit to compensating women hit by the state pension age change.

In its report last week, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to adequately communicate changes to the women’s state pension age and those affected were due compensation.

The ombudsman recommended a payout of up to £2,950 to the thousands of women affected whom it said had been the victim of government “injustice”. Waspi women claim to have been left tens of thousands of pounds worse off from the change.

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However, speaking in the Commons on Monday, Mel Stride said that the scope of the report covered “a narrow period” between 2005 and 2007, and that the ombudsman had found that the DWP had met “expected standards” of communication between 1995 and 2004.

He added that information communicating the change had been available in leaflets. The Government, he said, would now consider the report’s findings “fully and properly”.

He said: “Had the Government not equalised the state pension age women would have been retiring today at 60 and they could have spent on average over 40pc of their adult lives in receipt of state pension. This would have been unfair.”

Mr Stride also highlighted that the ombudsman had not found “that women have directly lost out financially as a result of DWP’s actions.”

From 1948 until 2010, the state pension age was 60 for women and 65 for men – but a law change in 1995 ruled the women’s pension age would increase to 65 between 2010 and 2020.

The campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) says as many as 3.8 million women born in the 1950s were not made aware of the age change – and were forced to delay retirement without adequate warning.

An open letter urging a vote by MPs on compensation for women affected by state pension changes has been sent to House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt.

The letter, signed by more than 30,000 people according to the Waspi campaign, said “the Commons must urgently have the opportunity to debate and vote” on compensation proposals.

But Mr Stride refused to commit to compensation payments, which the ombudsman estimates would cost the Treasury between £3.5bn and £10.5bn.

It comes after David Gauke, a former work and pension secretary, said Waspi women should be denied compensation in part because they were responsible for staying up-to-date with the state pension age rise.

He said: “Yes, perhaps DWP should have done more. But there is also some responsibility on individuals to acquaint themselves with the relevant facts and plan their own finances accordingly.

“The increase was not a secret. We cannot sustainably have a situation where the cost of people failing to check their assumptions over a period of decades is socialised.”

Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions minister, said the announcement represented a “frustrating but predictable” delay for the Waspi cause, but that it laid the groundwork for a Commons vote on the issue.

He added: “On the one hand it’s a complicated 100-page report – on the other the government knew exactly what it was going to say, they’ve had plenty of time.

“The only calculation is ‘what’s the cheapest solution we can get through on a Commons vote?’. The Treasury will have said to Mel Stride - spend as little as you can.”

Angela Madden, chair of the Waspi campaign, said: “The Secretary of State now says this matter is so complex, he needs yet more months and years of head scratching to sort it out. He has made much of the report being 100 pages long as if he were being asked to digest War and Peace.

“The fact it has taken five years for the ombudsman to produce his conclusions is a pretty perverse reason to say more delay is now justified.

“The report is not complicated at all. It says that 1950s-born women should be compensated and that Parliament should intervene to make a scheme happen.

“Every day 111 of the affected women die waiting for justice. The Commons must get a debate and vote on compensation as soon as possible after Easter.”


06:45 PM GMT

That is all for today...

Chris Price will be back with the latest first thing tomorrow morning.


05:57 PM GMT

Anger after Mel Stride promises decision on Waspi report with “no undue delay”

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions sparked angry reactions on social media when he this evening said the Government was still considering the recommendation to compensate Waspi women.

While speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Stride promised there would be “no undue delay” in responding to the report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.


04:49 PM GMT

Inflation in the UK will be too low for next three years, warn economists

Inflation will fall below the Bank of England’s 2pc target and remain too low for the next three years, according to economists at Capital Economics.

Consumer prices will grow at a far slower pace than in the US and the eurozone, they added.

Analysts at the consultancy predicted inflation will fall from 3.4pc in February below 2pc in April, before plunging further to 0.5pc later this year.

In a note to clients, they said:

That’s why we think the Bank of England will cut interest rates from 5.25pc to 3pc by next year rather than to 3.75pc as investors expect. What’s more, a further rebound in the economy’s supply capacity means this can all happen while GDP growth is stronger than widely expected.


03:59 PM GMT

US policymaker warns against cutting interest rates too soon

The world’s largest central bank must take a ‘cautious’ approach to cutting interest rates to allow for more time to bring inflation down in some parts of the economy, a rate-setter at the Federal Reserve has warned.

Fed Governor Lisa Cook said that even as the US economy had moved into “better balance” to achieve the central bank’s goals, “fully restoring price stability may take a cautious approach to easing monetary policy over time.”

It comes after the Fed’s panel of rate-setters voted to hold interest rates at a target range of 5.25pc to 5.50pc last week.

The US economy has held up surprisingly well in the face of high borrowing costs, with intense market speculation over when the first cut will come.


03:30 PM GMT

Handing over

That’s all from me today. My colleague Eir Nolsøe will keep you informed for the rest of the day.

With many of you preparing for an Easter getaway (or dreaming of one) I’ll leave you with this shot from Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand.

The upcoming season of “The White Lotus” is expected to have a massive impact on tourism at popular destinations in the country like Koh Samui, Phuket, and Bangkok.

Tourists pose with inbound planes on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand
Tourists pose with inbound planes on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand - Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

03:08 PM GMT

US house sales suffer shock fall

US new home sales ticked down surprisingly in February, according to government data, after January’s rate was revised higher.

New single-family home sales were at an annual rate of 662,000 last month, which was 0.3pc down from the revised 664,000 figure for January, the Commerce Department said.

The average sales price of new properties sold was $400,500 (£316,749), lower than the month prior as well.

The slight decrease comes as mortgage rates remain at a much higher level than in recent years.

But the situation has also made homeowners reluctant to enter the market to sell their real estate, having locked in lower rates previously, which leads to supply shortages.


02:43 PM GMT

Pound rallies ahead of US inflation figures

The pound has bounced back today as investors await fresh US inflation figures due later this week.

Sterling was up 0.4pc against the dollar at $1.2648 after hitting a low of $1.2576 on Friday.

The euro was little changed against the pound at 85.71p, down from Friday’s two-month high of 86.02p.

The pound dropped about 1pc against the dollar last week after the Bank of England held interest rates at 5.25pc on Thursday and Bailey said inflation is moving in the right direction for interest rate cuts.

Traders now see a roughly 75pc chance that the Bank of England will cut interesty rates by June, up from about 35pc at the start of last week, according to money market pricing.

However, the pound has strengthened ahead of the US core personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, on Friday.


02:23 PM GMT

Novo Nordisk pushes into heart disease treatments with £856m takeover

Novo Nordisk has agreed to buy a German biotech company developing heart disease treatments for €1bn (£856bn) as it expands into cardiovascular treatments.

The Danish maker of the Wegovy weight-loss drug said it will make an upfront payment for Cardior Pharmaceuticals, which is developing therapies that target microRNA.

The type of molecule helps to regulate how much of certain proteins are made inside cells and Cardior’s treatment is designed to block abnormal levels of a particular microRNA to improve the functioning of the heart over time.

Wegovy is made by Novo Nordisk
Wegovy is made by Novo Nordisk - REUTERS/Tom Little

02:06 PM GMT

Amanda Staveley fails to throw out bankruptcy claim

Amanda Staveley has lost a bid to throw out a bankruptcy claim brought against her by a Greek shipping tycoon.

Our reporter Adam Mawardi has the details:

The High Court today rejected the football financier’s bid to set aside a bankruptcy petition issued by Victor Restis, who is suing Ms Staveley over claims she failed to repay a multimillion-pound loan from 2008.

Ms Staveley had tried to argue she was not personally liable for the loan under an agreement struck in 2021, although the judge described these claims as “completely implausible”.

The judge also rejected Ms Staveley’s arguments that agreements over the loan repayment were procured by duress, undue influence and misrepresentation.

Read on for details.

Amanda Staveley is being sued by Victor Restis over claims she failed to repay a multimillion-pound loan from 2008
Amanda Staveley is being sued by Victor Restis over claims she failed to repay a multimillion-pound loan from 2008 - Lucy North/PA Wire

01:45 PM GMT

US markets fall at the open

Wall Street’s main indexes kicked off the short week lower investors looked ahead to commentary from Federal Reserve officials and key inflation data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 65.36 points, or 0.2pc, at the open, to 39,410.54.

The S&P 500 opened lower by 14.66 points, or 0.3pc, at 5,219.52, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 93.52 points, or 0.6pc, to 16,335.30 at the opening bell

Boeing gained 3pc after the planemaker said its chief executive would be stepping down.


01:41 PM GMT

Ryanair boss welcomes ‘much needed’ Boeing management changes

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said he welcomes the “much-needed management changes” at Boeing, which includes the departure of its chief executive.

The low-cost airline said it is looking forward with working with the US planemaker’s new staff to “eliminate” the Boeing 737 delivery delays.

Under the changes, Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun will depart by the end of the year, while Stephanie Pope will now lead its commercial airplanes unit.

Ryanair warned in February that Airline ticket prices could rise by as much as 10pc this summer amid a looming shortage of airliners from both Boeing and its European rival Airbus.

Mr O’Leary said:

We welcome these much-needed management changes in Seattle.

We look forward to working with Stephanie Pope to accelerate B737 aircraft deliveries to customers, including Ryanair in Europe, for summer and autumn 2024.

We also look forward to continuing to work with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and CFO Brian West, and to helping Boeing recover its aircraft deliveries so that Ryanair can continue to grow strongly as Boeing’s no.1 customer here in Europe.


01:14 PM GMT

Virgin Wines on track to hit profit targets

Virgin Wines said it is “confident” of meeting targets for the year after its sales grew despite pressure on consumer spending.

Shares improved 13pc today as Jay Wright, chief executive of the retail business, hailed the “positive first-half performance”, which he said included strength over the key Christmas period.

The company told shareholders that revenues grew by 2pc to £34.3m for the half-year to December 29, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Virgin Wines said it benefited from resilient demand and new strategic initiatives, as it seeks to bounce back from a loss in the previous financial year due to cost inflation and teething problems in its new warehouse systems.

The group said earnings for the latest half-year rose by 122pc to £1.8m and have put it on track to meet profit guidance for the year.

Virgin Wines shares have gained about 13pc today as its boss hailed a 'positive first-half performance'
Virgin Wines shares have gained about 13pc today as its boss hailed a 'positive first-half performance'

12:42 PM GMT

Boeing announces departure of chief executive

Boeing has announced that its chief executive Dave Calhoun will leave his post as the aviation giant faces increased scrutiny after a series of safety incidents and manufacturing issues.

Mr Calhoun said in a letter to staff that “the eyes of the world are on us, and I know that we will come through this moment a better company,” putting “safety and quality at the forefront of everything that we do.”

Chairman Larry Kellner has also told the company he does not plan to stand for re-election, while Stan Deal, the president and chief executive of its commercial airplanes unit, will retire from the company. Stephanie Pope will now lead the division.

The Federal Aviation Administration has put Boeing under intense scrutiny and recently ordered an audit of assembly lines at a Boeing factory near Seattle, where the company builds planes like the Alaska Airlines 737 Max that suffered a door-panel blowout on January 5.

Investigators say bolts that help keep the panel in place were missing after repair work at the Boeing factory. The incident has raised scrutiny of Boeing to its highest level since two crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

Shares rose more than 2pc before the market open.

Our industry editor Matt Oliver has the latest.

Dave Calhoun will step down as the chief executive of Boeing
Dave Calhoun will step down as the chief executive of Boeing - JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

12:31 PM GMT

Ericsson announces 1,200 job losses

Ericsson has announced it will cut 1,200 jobs as it strives to reduce costs.

The telecoms company said the losses would happen in Sweden, where it is headquartered, adding that the business will also reduce its use of consultants.

Bosses said they have entered negotiations with unions.

Ericsson
Ericsson

12:09 PM GMT

Wall Street poised for slump to start the week

US stock indexes have fallen in premarket trading ahead of key inflation figures at the end of the week.

Both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow logged their best weekly percentage gains so far this year on Friday, with the Fed sticking to its guidance of three interest rate cuts this year.

HSBC became the latest brokerage to lift its year-end target for the benchmark S&P 500, raising it to 5,400 from the 5,000 it had forecast previously.

Traders now see a 75pc chance of the Fed bringing in the first cut in June, according to the CME FedWatch tool, up from around 55pc.

However, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said late on Friday he now expects just a single quarter-point cut instead of the two he had projected, citing persistent inflation and stronger-than-anticipated economic data.

In premarket trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2pc, the S&P 500 had fallen 0.3pc and the Nasdaq 100 has dropped 0.6pc.


11:54 AM GMT

Cocoa becomes more expensive than copper amid poor harvests

Cocoa has surpassed $9,000 a ton for the first time as a poor harvest has left chocolate makers grappling to secure supplies of the crop.

Prices have risen 50pc in this month alone and have more than doubled this year after bad weather and crop disease hit growers in West Africa where most of it is grown.

Cocoa is even more expensive than industrial metal copper, which is considered a bellwether for commodities.

Chocolate prices are expected to rise throughout the year, with Easter eggs already more expensive as a result of last year’s price jump.

Cocoa was last up 2.8pc to $9,188.

Cocoa has passed $9,000 per ton for the first time
Cocoa has passed $9,000 per ton for the first time - REUTERS/Luc Gnago

11:40 AM GMT

Google to ‘defend our approach’ amid EU investigation

Google said that it has made “significant changes” to the way its services operate in Europe to comply with new legislation from the EU.

Google’s competition director Oliver Bethell said:

We will continue to defend our approach in the coming months.

To comply with the Digital Markets Act, we have made significant changes to the way our services operate in Europe.

We will continue to defend our approach in the coming months.


11:26 AM GMT

Goldman Sachs predicts FTSE 100 to hit new record as interest rates fall

The FTSE 100 will power to a new record high over the next year, a Wall Street bank has predicted, as falling interest rates give investors a boost.

Goldman Sachs has raised its forecast for the UK’s blue chip stock index over the next 12 months from 7,900 to 8,200, which would smash its previous record of 8,014.31 set in February last year.

The investment bank’s fresh predictions come as the Bank of England and US Federal Reserve both indicated last week that summer interest rate cuts are a real possibility.

Lilia Peytavin, portfolio strategist at Goldman Sachs, said: “As central banks embark on a rate cutting cycle, valuations tend to rise.”

She added that European stocks “trade at a historical discount to US equities,” making them potentially more attractive.

The FTSE 100 climbed 1.6pc on Thursday and Friday to close at 7,930.92 after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said rate cuts are “on the way”. It was last down 0.4pc today to 7,897.56.


11:08 AM GMT

UAE given more time to offer concessions in Telegraph bid

The Abu Dhabi fund bidding for The Telegraph has been granted more time to make concessions to the Government amid concerns about the impact of the deal on press freedom.

Our reporter James Warrington has the details:

Redbird IMI now has until 9am on Tuesday 2 April to offer a solution to concerns that its ownership of the newspaper would harm the public interest, extended from an initial deadline of 9am today.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer last week said she was “minded to” refer the planned takeover of the Telegraph by RedBird IMI to an in-depth investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

She gave the fund, which is majority backed by UAE vice-president Sheikh Mansour, 10 working days to respond to the plans, with the original deadline set for this morning.

Read why she agreed to extend the deadline.

Lucy Frazer has given the fund 10 days to offer solutions to the Government's public interest concerns
Lucy Frazer has given the fund 10 days to offer solutions to the Government's public interest concerns - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu via Getty Images

10:54 AM GMT

Government stake in NatWest falls below 30pc for first time

The Government’s stake in NatWest has fallen below 30pc for the first time since the rescue of the bank during the global financial crisis.

The taxpayer now owns 29.82pc of the bank, meaning the Treasury is technically no longer a “controlling shareholder” in the lender, although it has no material impact on the relationship between the two.

The Government’s ownership of NatWest was 37.98pc at the end of last year.

A NatWest spokesman said:

We welcome the government’s continued commitment to returning NatWest Group to private ownership.

With the government shareholding now below 30pc, we have been pleased with the recent momentum to achieving this shared ambition, which we believe is in the best interests of the bank and our shareholders.


10:49 AM GMT

Apple, Meta and Google under investigation by EU

Apple, Meta and Google face the risk of fines worth billions of euros as the European Union launched its first major investigations into compliance of new Big Tech laws.

Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton, the EU’s competition and digital markets chiefs, announced five investigations into the three companies today.

They concern areas including the companies’ smartphone app stores and Meta charging a monthly fee to users in Europe who do not want to see adverts on Facebook and Instagram.

It comes less than three weeks after the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) came into force. The laws are designed to rein in so-called gatekeepers - Google owner Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok owner ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft - which face fines of up to 10pc of their annual revenue for not complying with the law.

In Apple’s case, this would be up to $38bn (£30bn). It comes just weeks after it was fined €1.8bn (£1.5bn) for breaking EU competition laws by favouring its own music streaming service over rivals.

The investigations concern Google and Apple rules restricting how apps can promote cheaper subscriptions outside of the companies’ app stores, Google promoting its own services in search results, Apple offering alternative web browsers to Safari, and Meta charging a monthly fee for a version of Facebook and Instagram without adverts.

The European Commission said the fee, of up to €13 a month, “may not provide a real alternative in case users do not consent [to personalised adverts]”.

Mr Breton said: “We are not convinced that the solutions by Alphabet, Apple and Meta respect their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses. Should our investigation conclude that there is lack of full compliance with the DMA, gatekeepers could face heavy fines.”

Apple faces an EU investigation after the passing of laws designed to rein in so-called gatekeepers
Apple faces an EU investigation after the passing of laws designed to rein in so-called gatekeepers - REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

10:42 AM GMT

Ofgem to consider ‘dynamic’ energy price cap depending on time of day

Energy regulator Ofgem has launched a consultation on a range of options for the future of the price cap, including a “more dynamic cap” with “time-of-use dependent unit rates to encourage consumer flexibility”.

It is also introducing a targeted cap which could be based on a variety of factors such as vulnerability, and more flexible, market-based price protections such as setting a limit between a supplier’s default tariff and tariffs available in the market, capping the margin suppliers are able to make, or replacing the cap with a ban on acquisition-only tariffs.

Ofgem said the price cap, along with the temporary ban on acquisition-only tariffs, had worked well to protect customers from the “loyalty penalty” where customers on default tariffs paid higher prices, and from the worst of the recent volatile markets and wholesale price surges as a result of the energy crisis.

But it said energy retail markets were changing as increasing numbers of consumers changed their energy consumption and began using electric vehicles, heat pumps, and solar panels.

Ofgem could set a price cap in varying amounts depending on when energy is used
Ofgem could set a price cap in varying amounts depending on when energy is used - iStockphoto

10:15 AM GMT

Oil prices rise after attacks in Russia

Oil prices have risen following the terrorist attack in Russia and drone strikes on refineries in the country.

Brent crude rose towards $86 a barrel after losing more than 2pc in the final three days of last week, while West Texas Intermediate rose 0.6pc to more than $81.

A terrorist attack in Moscow over the weekend left more than 130 people dead.

The assault was claimed by Islamic State, although President Vladimir Putin hinted at Ukrainian involvement.

In addition, continued drone strikes by Ukraine are also crimping Russia’s crude-refining capabilities.

Oil is headed for a third monthly gain as the Opec+ cartel presses on with reductions in output and the US tightens sanctions on Russian crude.


09:58 AM GMT

Merlin warns it is ‘increasingly difficult’ to make big investments in UK

The boss of Legoland operator Merlin has warned higher taxes are making it harder to make big investments in Britain.

Scott O’Neil said “tourist dollars seem to be moving elsewhere” as the Government refuses to reinstate VAT-free shopping for foreign visitors after axing the policy in 2021.

He was speaking after the company launched a new rollercoaster at Alton Towers and is poised to launch a Woodland Village attraction at Legoland in Windsor in the spring.

He told Bloomberg: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to place those bets in the UK.”

He added: “We want to make sure this is the greatest place in the world to invest our pounds. We want to be here. But some things have to move for that to happen.”

The company, which was taken private by Blackstone in 2019, revealed revenues rose 8pc to a record £2.1bn last year after it welcomed 62.1m visitors.

Merlin has more than 7,500 staff in the UK and has more than 30 attractions including the London Eye and Chessington World of Adventures.

The world's tallest Lego minifigure features at the brand-new Legoland site named Woodland Village
The world's tallest Lego minifigure features at the brand-new Legoland site named Woodland Village - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

09:35 AM GMT

Direct Line shares slump as Ageas abandons takeover efforts

Shares in Direct Line plummeted as markets opened for the first time after potential suitor Ageas said it would not bid to buy the company.

The insurance company was trading down as much as 15.8pc as investors reacted to the news, which was released on Friday evening.

Ageas, a Belgian insurer which is headquartered in Brussels, said that after being unable to “engage with” Direct Line’s board despite two attempts, it “will not make an offer” to buy the business.

Shares in Direct Line soared last month as it revealed it had rejected a takeover approach from its Belgian rival.

Ageas said it had sent an initial proposal to Direct Line on January 19, then improved its bid on March 13. It said:

Throughout the entire process, Ageas has always sought engagement with Direct Line’s board. Ageas regrets that it has not been able to work collaboratively together with the board of directors of Direct Line towards a recommended firm offer.

Ageas was not able to identify additional elements based on publicly-available information that would justify significant adjustments to the terms of its possible offer.

Therefore, consistent with its financial discipline, Ageas has decided not to make a firm offer.


09:11 AM GMT

Gas prices rise after attack on Ukraine storage site

Gas prices have risen after attacks on underground storage sites in Ukraine raised concerns about supplies.

Europe’s benchmark contract rose as much as 4.2pc as it continues on its longest-weekly run of gains in more than a year.

Its latest move higher comes as Russia struck an underground gas storage facility in western Ukraine during a missile and drone attack on Sunday.

Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, said:

With both countries attacking energy infrastructure, the supply of gas and fuel is once again being called into question.

For gas, not least the latest attempt by Russia to hit an underground storage site in Ukraine has raised the temperature today.

Dutch front-month futures were last up 2.6pc to more than €28 per megawatt hour. The UK equivalent was up 2.3pc to more than 73p per therm.


08:51 AM GMT

UK markets weak ahead of US inflation figures

The FTSE 100 kicked off the short week flat ahead of more key US inflation data due later in the week.

The blue-chip index was little changed after it notched its highest close in a year on Friday as investors cheered signals of impending interest rate cuts from the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve.

Focus will now shift to the US core personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, on Friday to further gauge the trajectory of inflation and interest rates.

Energy shares gained as much as 0.8pc as crude prices climbed amid concerns over tighter global supply brought about by escalating conflicts in the Middle East and between Russia and Ukraine.

Shares of Kingfisher slipped 2.4pc to the bottom of the FTSE 100 as the B&Q owner warned that current-year profit would fall short of analysts’ expectations.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 was down as much as 0.8pc. Mobico slumped as much as 10pc to a four-month low after the transport company cut its profit guidance and delayed its full-year results.

Direct Line plunged as much as 16pc after Belgium rival Ageas said on Friday that it would not make a further takeover offer for the insurer.


08:38 AM GMT

Starmer to lay out plans for ‘homegrown British energy’

Sir Keir Starmer will set out Labour’s plans for a publicly owned clean energy company during a visit to North Wales.

Jo Stevens, the shadow secretary of state for Wales, said Labour intended to create a “more patriotic economy”.

She told GB News:

We will set out our plans today for secure homegrown British energy.

That will mean we will invest in clean energy generation that will cut bills for businesses and households across the country, create good well-paid jobs for people across the country as well, and at the same time take back control of our energy security so we are not relying on tyrants like Vladimir Putin.

Ms Stevens outlined Labour’s plan to double onshore wind power, triple solar power and quadruple offshore wind, and confirmed no intention to introduce fracking.

She added: “Labour is committed to taking back control of our national energy security and we’re going to do that through Great British Energy - a publicly owned clean energy company.”

Energy costs in the UK rose sharply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Sir Keir Starmer aims to create a 'more patriotic economy'
Sir Keir Starmer aims to create a 'more patriotic economy' - Carl Court/Getty Images

08:34 AM GMT

Nissan to grow electric vehicle lineup in sales drive

Nissan will expand its electric vehicle lineup, develop more powerful batteries and cut production costs as it pushes for higher sales.

Chief executive Makoto Uchida said the Japanese car maker would also speed up production in what he called “The Arc” pathway to higher revenues by 2030.

He said:

The auto industry is now being forced to reshape its values so we can say continuous change is the new normal.

Nissan must change. We cannot succeed if we continue along the same path.

Costs will come down for electric models so they’ll be about the same as gasoline-engine models by fiscal 2030, while global sales will grow by a million vehicles during that period, he added.

Last year, Nissan sold nearly 3.4m vehicles around the world, up about 5pc from the previous year.

The company is planning 30 new models over the next three years, 16 of them EVs.

Nissan plans to launch 34 EV models from fiscal 2024 through fiscal 2030, so that EVs will account for 40pc of its global offerings by fiscal 2026, and 60pc by the end of the decade.

Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida speaks during a press conference in Atsugi, near Tokyo
Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida speaks during a press conference in Atsugi, near Tokyo - Kyodo News via AP

08:11 AM GMT

FTSE 100 muted at the open

The FTSE 100 was subdued as markets opened after a surge at the end of last week pushed it close towards its record high.

The UK’s blue chip index was flat at 7,933.12, while the midcap FTSE 250 dropped 0.8pc to 19,572.47.


08:02 AM GMT

UK nuclear industry ‘running to catch up,’ admits minister

Nuclear minister Andrew Bowie acknowledged that plans for the future of the industry should have been set out “years ago”.

The Tories have been in power since 2010 but Mr Bowie said the Government was now “running to catch up”.

Firms including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock are partnering with the Government to invest around £763m in skills, jobs and education for defence and civil nuclear industries.

But Mr Bowie told Times Radio:

I make no bones about it, we should have done this years ago. We are running to catch up.

But we have just this year delivered our civil nuclear road map, we have announced our intention to build a third gigawatt project, we are investing £350m in new nuclear power to ease Vladimir Putin out of the nuclear fuels market, we are actually committed to delivering small modular reactors through our competition which will conclude this year.

But of course this should have been done years ago, which is why we are having to take the action in the way that we are right now.


07:56 AM GMT

Pollution rating won’t improve for another year, says South West Water owner

The owner of South West Water and Bristol Water thinks it will take another year for it to reach a four-star environmental performance rating, it revealed.

Pennon Group said that “current operating conditions” mean that it will not achieve the result in the annual Environment Agency performance review.

It expects to score two stars, which means that the “company requires improvement” in the year to the end of March 31.

Pennon had originally targeted a four-star rating in the year to March 2025.

It said in a trading update:

Annual rainfall in the South West has increased by 50pc in the second half of the year, when compared to long term averages, in addition to the 10 named storms since September 2023 and 12 yellow weather warnings for rain in the region.

The significantly increased wastewater flows have impacted our headline performance for wastewater pollutions and use of storm overflows.


07:38 AM GMT

B&Q hit amid weaker sales in France and Poland

B&Q owner Kingfisher insisted it is “strongly positioned for growth” as its business was held back by weaker sales in France and Poland.

Bosses blamed a “more challenging consumer backdrop” in its overseas businesses as sales were down 1.8pc on a constant currency basis to just shy of £13bn.

Adjusted pre-tax profits fell by more than a quarter to £568m and it predicted earnings of £490m to £550m, which was below analyst estimates of £565.1m.

However, the company kept its total dividend at 12.4p and began a new £300m share buyback programme as it said it is aiming for free cash flow of about £450m in 2025 to 2026 and more than £500m the following year.

Free cash flow surge to £514m, compared to negative £40m last year but it is predicted to fall to £350m to £410m next year.

Its Screwfix brand opened 51 stores in the UK & Ireland to take its overall total to 922 sites, with up to 40 new stores planned this year.

It also opened 15 stores in France, taking its overall total to 20 stores, and plans to open another 15 this year, with an overall target of more than 600.

Chief executive Thierry Garnier said

In the UK & Ireland, B&Q, TradePoint and Screwfix each delivered resilient sales and market share growth - in particular very strong gains at Screwfix.

In France, where the market has been impacted by low consumer confidence, we have made significant adjustments to the cost base and started to embed e-commerce marketplace and trade customer initiatives similar to those successfully implemented in the UK.

Kingfisher owns B&Q and Screwfix
Kingfisher owns B&Q and Screwfix - Robert Convery / Alamy Stock Photo

07:12 AM GMT

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. Rishi Sunak will today declare that Britain’s nuclear industry is a “critical national endeavour” as he announces a package of investment aimed at boosting skills and jobs amid concerns about defence spending.

The Prime Minister will tout a new fund backed by £20m in public money to support growth in Barrow-in-Furness, the Cumbrian town that is home to Britain’s Astute class submarines and Dreadnought programme.

He will commit to a further £180m a year over the next decade, which Downing Street says would provide grants to local organisations and improvements to transport and health outcomes in the area.

Industry leaders including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock are partnering with the Government to help create more than 8,000 career opportunities in the nuclear industry.

They will invest around £763m in skills, jobs and education, which Number 10 hopes will help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.

Ahead of a visit to Barrow-in-Furness later, the Prime Minister said: “Safeguarding the future of our nuclear deterrent and nuclear energy industry is a critical national endeavour.

“In a more dangerous and contested world, the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is more vital than ever. And nuclear delivers cheaper, cleaner home-grown energy for consumers.

“That’s why we are investing in Barrow, the home of UK submarines, and in the jobs and skills of the future in the thriving British nuclear industry.

“Today we usher in the next generation of our nuclear enterprise, which will keep us safe, keep our energy secure, and keep our bills down for good.”

5 things to start your day

1) Wind farms investigated after ‘overcharging customers by £100m’ | Industry faces market manipulation review for allegedly inflating compensation payments when forced to switch off turbines

2) Get ready for 3pc interest rates, says KPMG | Economists predict sharp fall in borrowing costs as inflation falls below Bank of England target

3) Taxpayer spends £4m on Government lawyers’ home working equipment | Figures emerge amid scrutiny over the productivity of civil servants working remotely

4) Stowell: Foreign state ownership of newspapers should be capped at 5pc | Peer urges strict limit on maximum passive investment

5) Subpostmaster calls for investigation into legal fees paid by £58m Horizon fund | Regulator is urged to look into how much money went to lawyers and litigation funders

What happened overnight

Asian shares were trading mixed, as investors awaited further indications the Federal Reserve might begin cutting interest rates.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.5pc to 16,584.22, while the Shanghai Composite gained 0.4pc to 3,061.36.

The Chinese yuan, or renminbi, fell to a four-month low against the US dollar.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6pc to 7,813.70. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5pc to 2,735.46.

Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks closed lower on profit-taking, snapping a four-day winning streak on Monday, amid caution over the rapid rise of the key Nikkei index which hit record highs last week.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.16 percent, or 474.31 points, to end at 40,414.12, while the broader Topix index dropped 1.26 percent, or 35.58 points, to 2,777.64.