Jeremy Hunt is considering scrapping Britain’s non-domiciled tax rules in next week’s budget, it has been reported, in a move that would see him poach one of Labour’s key fiscal policies. The decision is understood to be on a list of revenue-generating options drawn up for the chancellor and Rishi Sunak after economic estimates left them with less money than expected for tax cuts or spending pledges. – Guardian.
Customer service levels at HM Revenue and Customs have sunk to an “all-time low”, parliament’s spending watchdog has said. Users regularly encounter long call-waiting times as the tax department apparently struggles to cope with demand, a report by the cross-party public accounts committee (PAC) has found. As demands on HMRC grow, the authority has not been given the resources needed to staff its phone lines, the report said. – Guardian.
A top US antitrust watchdog sued to block the country’s largest-ever supermarket merger on Monday, alleging the deal would raise prices for millions of shoppers. The Federal Trade Commission argued that Kroger’s $24. 6bn takeover of rival grocer Albertsons would narrow consumer choice and weaken the quality of products on shelves. – Guardian.
Peak summer air fares in Europe are likely to rise again this year by up to 10%, according to Ryanair, as problems with aircraft at Boeing and Airbus leave customers scrambling for seats. The increase would come on top of the sharp post-pandemic rise in holiday flight prices last year when pent-up demand met limited capacity in European airlines. - Guardian.
Rolls-Royce boss Tufan Erginbilgic has set his eyes on the market for the engines that power narrow-body jets. Up until now, the engineer had focused on engines for wide-body jets, like those that keep the Airbus 350 or Boeing 777 in the air. But increased fuel efficiency means that the former are now increasing their range, turning them into a major and growing market that Erginbilgic wants a slice of. In remarks to the Sunday Times, he said that he is now on the look out for a partner to develop narrow-body jet engines.
The billionaire businessman Mike Ashley has claimed he was the victim of “abuse” by Morgan Stanley amid a high court dispute over the investment bank’s decision to impose a near $1bn (£790m) cash demand. Ashley’s Frasers Group is taking legal action against the US investment bank Morgan Stanley and Denmark’s Saxo Bank over the May 2021 move linked to bets placed on shares in the German retailer Hugo Boss. – Guardian.
The government is set to impose new limits of as little as £2 a spin for online slot machines, the Guardian understands, in a move that could cost casino companies hundreds of millions of pounds. Ministers have been consulting on imposing a maximum stake for the digital casino-style games since publishing a white paper on gambling reform last year. – Guardian.
Food businesses sending products to the EU have had to fork out an extra £170m in export costs because of Brexit red tape, with the changes described as being “catastrophic” for some exporters. Data shared with the Guardian shows that in the three years since leaving the single market, exporters of foods of animal origin have had to pay the sums to secure sign-offs by vets before they can send their shipments. – Guardian.
Union leaders have warned business groups against pushing Keir Starmer to water down Labour’s plans to introduce sweeping reforms of workers’ rights and a ban on zero-hours contracts. As the Labour leader comes under pressure from industry to scale back its shake-up of employment laws, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the plans were “extremely popular” with voters and good for the economy. – Guardian.
Private firms that lease out trains for Britain’s railway have seen their profits treble in a year, with more than £400m paid in dividends, official figures show. The rolling stock companies paid out a total of £409. 7m to shareholders and profit margins rose to 41. 6% in 2022-23, according to the Office of Rail and Road, as the rest of the railway was told to make swingeing cuts and salaries were frozen. Taxpayer subsidies are still running at twice pre-pandemic levels.
China's JD. com has been looking at a possible acquisition offer for Currys. Just the day before the electricals retailer had rebuffed an approach by private equity. Exploratory talks between Currys and JD had been held over the preceding weeks. Additional bidders may appear. It was understood that Currys had been contacted by multiple private equity firms on an informal basis over recent months after it was forced to cut its dividend payout. It was but the latest example of a British business being taken out and for some showed that British businesses were being chronically undervalued.
Housebuilding in London is “grinding to a halt”, housing associations have warned the government, with the number of affordable homes being built plummeting by three-quarters in the last 12 months. In a letter to the housing secretary, Michael Gove, the G15, which represents the capital’s 11 largest housing associations, said his policies did not go far enough to increase supply and called for an injection of billions of pounds into an affordable homes building programme.
The Bank of England governor has doused hopes that better-than-expected inflation news last month will accelerate cuts in interest rates, stressing the need for further evidence of wage moderation before Threadneedle Street moves. Appearing before the House of Lords economics committee on Wednesday, Andrew Bailey said it was “encouraging” that inflation had remained unchanged at 4% in January but the previous month’s figure for the cost of living had been higher than predicted.
UK shop workers are facing 1,300 incidents of violence and abuse a day and a battle to control “brazen” acts of shoplifting, as pressure mounts on ministers to intervene to protect retail employees. Retailers saw the number of incidents of racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assaults and threats with weapons rise 50% last year, while thefts more than doubled to 16. 7m incidents, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade body which represents most major retailers.
MPs have warned that a planned fleet of small nuclear reactors are unlikely to contribute to hitting a key target in decarbonising Britain’s electricity generation, as the government opened talks to buy a site in Wales for a new power station. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said that ministers’ approach to developing factory-built nuclear power plants “lacks clarity” and their role in hitting a goal of moving the grid to clean energy by 2035 was unclear.
Bosses at Fujitsu have collected about £37m in pay, bonuses and compensation for loss of office since the technology company won the contract to supply the software at the heart of the Post Office Horizon scandal, it has emerged. Accounts going back 25 years reveal the seven-figure sums paid out to executives of the UK division of the Japanese-owned technology company, even as more than 900 people were prosecuted as a result of flaws in the system their company supplied.
The former chief executive of Barclays Jes Staley allegedly stayed in contact with Jeffrey Epstein long after joining the UK bank, according to legal documents that reportedly contradict claims he cut ties with the convicted child sex offender and disgraced financier in 2015. Documents from a now-settled lawsuit, seen by Bloomberg News, allegedly suggest that the two men used an unnamed third person, who “acted as an intermediary for messages between Staley and Epstein”, to stay in contact after Staley took over as chief executive of Barclays in December 2015.
Thames Water has been ordered to update its service commitment plan by the regulator Ofwat after a minister said the company’s performance in regards to sewage dumping and serving customers was “completely unacceptable”. Robbie Moore, the floods minister, said Britain’s biggest water supplier was “under no illusions over the scale of the challenge” as MPs heard that Thames had allowed waterways to become polluted and homes to be flooded with sewage. – Guardian.
The cancellation of the northern leg of HS2 has raised “urgent unanswered questions” and the government does not yet understand how the £67bn high-speed railway will now function, according to a scathing report from parliament’s spending watchdog. The remaining London-Birmingham line will be “very poor value for money”, the public accounts committee of MPs said, with costs now forecast to significantly outweigh the benefits. – Guardian.
Ministers need to intervene to boost the secondhand electric vehicle market and allay “uncertainty and concerns” over the health of their batteries, a House of Lords committee has said. Peers on the environment and climate change committee urged the government to step up efforts to encourage electric vehicle adoption amid consumer jitters over the cost of vehicles, the longevity of their batteries and the availability of charging points. – Guardian.
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