News

The Emirates airline has announced an order for up to 36 Airbus A380s.

The $16bn (£11.5bn) deal amounts to a reprieve for the A380 after Airbus threatened to stop making the jet if it could not come to a deal with Emirates. Emirates is the only airline to have put the A380 at the heart of its operations and had been expected to place an order for more of the jets at the Dubai Airshow last November. However, it then ordered 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners instead. Emirates said it had now made a firm order for 20 of the A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, with options to buy a further 16. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2020. Emirates is already the largest customer for the plane, with 101 currently flying and 41 more firm orders previously placed. On Monday, Airbus sales director John Leahy said the company would have to halt the A380 programme if Emirates did not place another order.

The A380 project was first conceived in the early 1990s as an eventual successor to the Boeing 747, with development work beginning in earnest in 1993. The plane has twin decks of seats, and is designed to incorporate amenities such as bars, lounges, beauty salons and duty-free shops, according to customer specification. Before this latest deal, there had been a total of 317 orders for the A380 since its launch in 2007. It made its debut commercial flight in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines flying from Singapore to Sydney. Qantas took orders of the plane in 2008, flying the route between Melbourne and Los Angeles. Air France and Lufthansa have also flown the Airbus A380, but its largest customer over the years has been Emirates.

Bitcoin has traded below $10,000 for the first time since early December.

The value of one bitcoin fell to $9,958 (£7,222) before making a slight recovery, according to the price index run by the news site Coindesk. That represents a drop of nearly 50% since it peaked close to $19,800 five weeks ago. Other crypto-currencies including Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash have also experienced steep falls over the past day. There has been concern among some experts that a bubble had been forming in the market as casual investors piled into an asset they did not fully understand.

Trading restrictions

It is notoriously difficult to be certain of what causes moves in Bitcoin’s value – the asset has been much more volatile than most traditional currencies and commodities to date – but speculation that regulators may be about to restrict trade has been causing concern. In particular, South Korea has suggested that it might soon take action. “The government stance is that it needs to regulate crypto-currency investment as it is a largely speculative investment,” its finance minister Kim Dong-yeon said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

The shutdown of virtual currency exchanges is still one of the options that the government has.

Earlier this week, the Bloomberg news agency reported that the Chinese authorities were planning to restrict local access to crypto-currency trading platforms, having already taken steps to curb Bitcoin mining – the process that validates transactions. Investors may also have been spooked by Bitconnect’s announcement that it was closing down its lending and exchange platform on Tuesday. The business had centred on its own digital token – the Bitconnect Coin – which crashed in value following the announcement, despite the firm saying it would still be supported. Bitconnect said it had faced “continuous bad press” – including claims it had been running a Ponzi scheme – and had received cease-and-desist letters from two US watchdogs. Last Wednesday, the influential investor Warren Buffett predicted further trouble ahead, although he was vague about the timing. “In terms of crypto-currencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending,” he told CNBC . “When it happens or how or anything else, I don’t know.” However, photography firm Kodak has seen its stock price soar since last Tuesday when it announced its involvement with two crypto-currency-related ventures.

By Roger Harrabin

Three-fifths of new cars must be electric by 2030 to meet greenhouse gas targets, ministers have been warned.

Homes also need to be built to a higher standard, the Committee on Climate Change – the official watchdog – says. The government says the UK is cutting emissions faster than any other G7 nation – and the committee agrees there has been a big shift under Theresa May. However, it says the UK will fall short of its ambitions unless ministers do more to turn pledges into reality. The warning comes less than a week after the prime minister launched a 25-year plan to protect the environment, including eradicating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. The committee agrees the government’s recently-published Clean Growth Plan is a big improvement, and says the UK has been a world leader in cutting emissions so far. But it argues that the plan still doesn’t offer detailed policies to meet legal carbon targets. Carbon capture from industry must be made to happen, it says, and wood and plastics should be banned from landfill in order to re-use them. More trees should be planted to soak up carbon dioxide, with a view to creating 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of new woodland by 2025, and farming must do more to cut emissions.

Major change

Industry, too, is urged to take greater responsibility. The committee’s chairman Lord Deben, told BBC News:

If you’re going to sell an electric car your dealers have got to understand these things, so training dealers is essential. If you’re running a big fossil fuel company, you have to start thinking about the realities of when, not if, because it is not if any longer, we use a lot less fossil fuels.

He also criticised construction firms for only doing the “absolute minimum” required on building energy efficient homes. The committee points out that better insulated homes would cut people’s bills as well as tackle climate change, and calls for more incentives to encourage “able to pay” households to install efficiency measures. Lord Deben said the Clean Growth Strategy had “changed the tone” of the government on the issue.

These issues have been put into the centre of government policy – that’s a major change.

But, he said, ambitions alone are not enough. “The strategy doesn’t deliver enough action to meet emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s,” he said. “The government’s policies will need to be firmed up as a matter of urgency and supplemented with additional measures if the UK is to deliver on legal commitments and secure its position as an international climate change leader.” He added:

All departments now need to look at their contribution towards cutting emissions – including the Department for Transport.

The committee wants 30% to 70% of new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2030, as well as up to 40% of new vans, as part of efforts to phase out sales of conventional petrol and diesel versions by 2040. Currently, fewer than 5% of new car sales are “alternatively fuelled”, which also includes hybrid models. Prof Michael Grubb, from University College London, said: “There are plenty of good ideas out there on low-carbon energy, cutting emissions from buildings, clean transport and more, but as the committee rightly points out, concrete plans need to be put in place, and soon.

The government is making all the right noises on support for the low-carbon economy, but these must be turned into action: we need a year of decision-making.

Richard Black, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, agreed: “We’re not on track to meet emissions goals that kick in in just five years’ time. “That leaves ministers little time for enquiries and consultations – they’re going to have to put new policies in place fast.” Mr Black suggested quick-win policies including: cutting company car tax for electric vehicles; repealing the ban on onshore wind power (the cheapest form of electricity generation), and re-starting the programme for Zero Carbon Homes.

Ambitious

A business department spokesperson said: “The scrutiny of the independent Committee on Climate Change plays an important role. “The UK has reduced emissions on a per-person basis faster than any other G7 nation, and our clean growth strategy is the next ambitious milestone in our work to de-carbonise the UK. “We have always said it is only the start of a process. Our proposals will continue to evolve – whether in response to costs of renewable energy coming down, improved evidence about climate change, wider trends in technology or the economic opportunities delivered through our industrial strategy.”

Ford says it will boost its investment in electric vehicles to $11bn (£8bn) in the next five years, more than doubling a previous commitment.

Chairman Bill Ford said the car maker would have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its range by 2022. It comes as countries around the world put more pressure on car makers to rein in carbon emissions. General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen have already outlined ambitious plans to offer more electric vehicles. Speaking at the Detroit Auto Show on Sunday, Mr Ford said the focus would be on electrifying existing Ford models without naming any specific cars. He said the firm would offer 16 fully electric vehicles by 2022 and 24 plug-in hybrids. Mr Ford told reporters:

We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them. If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.

Stephanie Brinley, a senior automotive analyst at IHS Markit, said it was part of a bigger trend of car makers investing in electrification. “Part of it is about tougher regulation but also the expectation that electric vehicles will support autonomous driving. “The big question is how quickly consumers will adapt, as electric is only 1% of the market right now. “Changing that will take better infrastructure on our roads, but also having more electric vehicles available.”

Competitors investing

Last year, America’s biggest carmaker GM said it would add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its range by 2023. Volkswagen said in November it would spend $40bn on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022 – doubling a previous commitment. Ford’s $11bn investment pledge is much higher than a previously announced target of $4.5bn by 2020 and was spearheaded by new chief executive Jim Hackett. During the Detroit show, Ford teased the release of its first performance electric vehicle – the Mach 1 – without giving any details about how it would look or its spec.
The SUV will be inspired by a Mustang sports car of the same name, made in the 1960s and 70s, and will be released in 2020. The US firm also unveiled a more fuel-efficient version of its Ranger pick-up truck, the Ranger 2019. The SUV will have a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, 10-speed auto transmission and automatic emergency braking.

The government has ordered a fast-track investigation into directors at the failed construction firm Carillion.

The UK’s second biggest construction firm went into liquidation on Monday, after running up losses on contracts and struggling with heavy debts. The Business Secretary has asked for an investigation by the Official Receiver to be broadened and fast-tracked. The conduct of directors in charge at the time of company’s failure and previous directors will be examined.

It is important we quickly get the full picture of the events which caused Carillion to enter liquidation,

said Business Secretary, Greg Clark, in a statement. He also said:

Any evidence of misconduct will be taken very seriously.

The role of Carillion’s auditor KPMG will be examined by the Financial Reporting Council.

The UK’s inflation rate has fallen for the first time since June, mainly due to the impact of air fares.

The inflation rate dipped to 3% in December, down from November’s rate of 3.1% – a six-year high. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that while air fares rose last month, it had a smaller impact than at the same point in 2016. The ONS added it was too early to say if this was the start of a longer-term reduction in the rate of inflation. The Bank of England has said it thinks inflation peaked at the end of 2017 and will fall back to its target of 2% this year. In November, the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised its key interest rate for the first time in more than a decade from 0.25% to 0.5%. But Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said:

The continued weakness of underlying price pressures means that the MPC has little need to rush the next rate hike.

Scotland’s economy would be £12.7bn a year worse off under a so-called hard Brexit, according to analysis by the Scottish government.

The figure is contained in a paper on the impact of UK withdrawal from the European Union. It calculates the cost to Scotland of the UK leaving the single market with or without a trade deal. The UK government insists it is seeking a Brexit deal that will work for the whole of the UK. And the Scottish Conservatives dismissed the analysis as “completely over-the-top scaremongering”. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the paper with a speech in Edinburgh, alongside her Brexit minister Mike Russell. She said none of the options included was “as good as staying in the European Union”, but said retaining single market membership would be the “least damaging” approach. She said:

For the sake of jobs, the economy and the next generation, today we are calling on the UK government to drop its hard Brexit red lines so that Scotland and the UK can stay inside the single market and customs union.

The Scottish government document, titled Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, considers three potential outcomes for Scotland’s economy when Britain exits the EU in March 2019. They include the impact of Scotland remaining within the single market and customs union or the UK securing a free trade agreement. The final scenario considered is the impact on Scotland’s GDP figures if trade with the EU reverts to so-called WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms. That would involve the UK accepting tariffs on goods imported from, or exported to, the single market.

The Scottish government concludes that if the UK was to pursue a WTO relationship, the cost to Scotland would be about 8.5% of GDP. That would be equivalent to £12.7bn a year by the year 2030, compared with current full EU membership, their analysis found. The paper says that would equate to a loss of about £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. If the UK achieves a free trade deal similar to that the EU struck with Canada – the only model Ms Sturgeon said was likely if Theresa May’s government sticks to its current red lines – Scottish GDP would be 6.1% worse off by 2030, compared with the baseline of EU membership. This would equate to £9bn in 2016 cash terms, or £1,610 per person. The paper estimates that retaining single market membership, which Mr Russell described as the “least worst” option, would see Scottish GDP 2.7% worse off come 2030, working out at £4bn in cash terms, or £688 per person.

Demographic challenges

Ms Sturgeon said single market membership would be “the number one priority” for the Scottish government when phase two of the Brexit talks begin, urging Mrs May not to repeat the “mistakes” of previous talks. She said:

It is time for the UK government to stop deluding itself, and misleading others, about what will happen if it maintains its red lines.

The first minister also called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to change his “ridiculous” position on Brexit and join other opposition groups in pushing for single market membership. The Scottish government has also argued strongly in favour of free movement of people, something Mr Russell said Scotland “cannot do without”. The paper notes that due to “demographic challenges” facing Scotland, all of the increase in population projected over the next decade results from immigration. It states: “Without immigration, the number of people of working age, working and paying towards public services in Scotland, is likely to fall.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the UK government was “committed to working closely with the Scottish government as we negotiate our future relationship with the EU” – but was critical of the analysis paper. He said: “These figures fail to acknowledge that above all we need to avoid anything that might fracture the vital UK internal market, which is worth around £48bn to the Scottish economy – or four times more than trade with the EU.
“They also do not recognise that we’re seeking a new deep and special economic partnership with the EU that works for Scotland, and indeed the whole of the UK, and is of greater scope than any existing agreement. “At the weekend, Nicola Sturgeon made it clear her real priority is holding a second independence referendum in Scotland, not getting a good deal as we leave the EU.”

Cannot be trusted

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins, meanwhile, accused the Scottish government of “scaremongering”, saying the SNP had proved with their 2014 white paper on independence that “their financial forecasts simply cannot be trusted”. Scottish Labour said the Tories’ “reckless and incompetent Brexit” risked “devastating our economy, jobs and public services”, and that the UK government had so far “delivered nothing but uncertainty and attacks on hard-won workers’ rights and devolution”. However, the Scottish Greens said it was actually Labour who were under pressure, saying it was “disappointing” to see them “refusing to join us” in arguing for single market membership “and instead essentially choosing to back the Tories’ job-destroying hard Brexit”. The Lib Dems also urged Labour to “come on board and protect our UK and Scottish economies”. While backing the paper as “worthwhile”, leader Willie Rennie urged the SNP to “drop the threat of an independence referendum”.

European planemaker Airbus has said it will stop making its A380 “superjumbo” if it does not get any more orders.

Sales director John Leahy said Airbus would have to halt the programme if the plane’s main customer, Dubai’s Emirates airline, did not place another order.

But I’m hopeful that we work out a deal with Emirates,

Mr Leahy added. Sir Tim Clark. president of Emirates Airline, told the BBC:

We remain optimistic that a deal can be concluded.

Airbus said Emirates was probably the only airline to have the ability to take a minimum of six planes a year for a period of eight to 10 years. Airbus’s comments came as it revealed that had received more orders for planes than Boeing last year, the fifth year in a row that it has beaten its US rival. The pan-European firm said it had booked 1,109 aircraft orders and a record 718 deliveries last year. US rival Boeing booked 912 orders and 763 deliveries. Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier said overall deliveries could rise to 800 this year, thanks to the increased pace of production of its medium-haul A320neo aircraft. He said deliveries of the A320neo were slowed last year because of problems with the plane’s engines, but these issues were now being resolved.

Twin decks

The A380 project was first conceived in the early 1990s as an eventual successor to the Boeing 747, with development work beginning in earnest in 1993. The plane has twin decks of seats, and is designed to incorporate amenities such as bars, lounges, beauty salons and duty-free shops, according to customer specification. There have been a total of 317 orders for the the world’s largest passenger airliner since its launch in 2007. The Airbus A380 made its debut commercial flight in October that year with Singapore Airlines flying from Singapore to Sydney. Qantas took orders of the plane in 2008, flying the route between Melbourne and Los Angeles. Air France and Lufthansa have also flown the Airbus A380, but its largest customer over the years has been Emirates.

Construction giant Carillion is to go into liquidation, threatening thousands of jobs.

The move came after talks between the firm, its lenders and the government failed to reach a deal to save the UK’s second biggest construction company. Carillion ran into trouble after losing money on big contracts and running up huge debts. Its failure means the government will have to provide funding to maintain the public services run by Carillion.

All employees should keep coming to work, you will continue to get paid. Staff that are engaged on public sector contracts still have important work to do,

said government minister David Lidington. Carillion is involved in major projects such as the HS2 high-speed rail line, as well as managing schools and prisons. It is the second biggest supplier of maintenance services to Network Rail, and it maintains 50,000 homes for the Ministry of Defence. Carillion chairman Philip Green said it was a “very sad day” for the company’s workers, suppliers and customers.

The company has 43,000 staff worldwide – 20,000 in the UK. It is not clear yet how those staff will be affected. Carillion also employs thousands of smaller firms, who will be keen to know how they are affected by its collapse. Some of Carillion’s contracts will be taken on by other firms and some could be taken back into the public sector.

Pension impact

Thousands of current and former staff have money in Carillion pension funds, which have deficit of almost £600m. Those funds will now be managed by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). The PPF said it was aware news of the liquidation would “raise serious concerns for all people involved”.

We want to reassure members of Carillion’s defined benefit pension schemes that their benefits are protected by the PPF.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour wanted a full investigation into the government’s dealings with Carillion:

This company issued three profit warnings in the last six months, yet despite those profit warnings the government continued to grant contracts to this company.

She added that she did not want the government to take on the contracts that were loss-making, while selling the profitable ones to other private companies.

Carillion’s government projects:

  • HS2 Building part of the high-speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester
  • MoD homes Maintains 50,000 homes for the Ministry of Defence
  • Schools Manages nearly 900 buildings nationwide
  • Network Rail Second largest supplier of maintenance services
  • Prisons Holds £200m in prison contracts

Contingency plans for the failure of Carillion are in operation:

  • Network Rail says rail services will run as normal because Carillion’s work does not involve day-to-day running.
  • Oxfordshire County Council has taken over services provided by Carillion including some school meals and cleaning. It said the fire service was on standby to deliver school meals if necessary.

Carillion has a big international business, including a huge construction project in Qatar related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is also a big supplier of construction services to the Canadian government.

Confidence shaken

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, said Carillion’s collapse “really shakes public confidence in the ability of the private sector to deliver public services and infrastructure”. He said there needed to be a change of “mindset” at companies that do a lot of work for the taxpayer. He said:

You’ve got to treat yourself much more as a branch of the public service, not as a private company just there to enrich the shareholders and the directors,

Ironically, Whitehall tends to do contracts with companies that it always does contracts with, because that’s the safe thing to do – that’s the perception. A great many small and medium-sized companies feel excluded.

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: “This is disastrous news for the workforce and disastrous news for transport and public services in Britain. “RMT will be demanding urgent meetings with Network Rail and the train companies today with the objective of protecting our members jobs and pensions.”
Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: “What’s happening with Carillion yet again shows the perils of allowing privatisation to run rampant in our schools, our hospitals and our prisons.”

Health data has provided crucial evidence at a trial in Germany, in which a refugee is accused of rape and murder.

Apple’s Health App accurately records steps and has been pre-installed on the iPhone 6S and newer models. Data suggesting the suspect was climbing stairs could correlate to him dragging his victim down a riverbank and climbing back up, police said. The accused – Hussein K – has admitted his guilt but disputed some details. The 19-year-old medical student Maria Ladenburger was murdered in October 2016 and the trial – at the district court in Freiburg – started in September. Ms Ladenburger was raped and drowned in the River Dresiam. The suspect – identified by a hair found at the scene of the crime – refused to provide police with the PIN code to his phone so investigating officers turned to an unnamed cyber-forensics firm in Munich, which broke into the device. The health data app on iPhones records activity – including how many steps are taken, nutrition and sleep patterns as well as various body measurements such as heart rate. As well as locating Hussein’s movements, the phone also suggested periods of more strenuous activity, including two peaks, which the app put down to him “climbing stairs”.

An investigator of similar build to the suspect went to the area where the body was found and recreated how the police believe he disposed of the body. The police officer’s movement data on the same app showed him also “climbing stairs”. “For the first time, we correlated health and geo-data,” chief of police Peter Egetemaier told the court, according to German paper Die Welt. Complicating the trial are attempts to pin down Hussein’s real age. He initially claimed that he was 17 but his father, tracked down to Iran, has disputed this. Age will play a part in sentencing. The maximum for someone under 18 is 10 years, whereas the adult sentence for such a crime could be up to 30 years.