"Beware yet another election where Mr Blair
says one thing to get your vote on polling day and does something
quite different afterwards," Mr Howard told a crowd of supporters
in central London.
"Mr Blair is already secretly grinning at the
prospect of his third victory," he said. "Well, you don't
have to settle for that.... There is a better way." In Newcastle
upon Tyne, north east England, Mr Kennedy — whose wife expects to
give birth to their first child midway through the campaign — said
the Lib Dems would address the hopes of the British people, and not
"For a country like ours with so much going
on, a fairly prosperous society, a fairly stable society, a society
and a country that by international standards measures up well, we are
going to be positive, we are going to be ambitious about our country
and what we have to offer our country," he said.
"So I am not going to spend these next few
weeks talking Britain down. I am going to be addressing people's
hopes, not playing on people's fears. That is going to be the positive
message from the Liberal Democrats." Labour wants to focus the
campaign on its strong economic record.
CHINA ANGER OVER EU TEXTILE MOVE
A fresh row over China's textile trade is brewing
over Europe's response to growing Chinese clothing imports.
A new "early warning system" instituted
by Brussels to start an investigation of imports if they breach set
levels has provoked Beijing's ire.
The proposal "seriously violated" World
Trade Organisation rules, China said.
Fears are growing about China's strength in
textiles following the end of quotas after a 30-year agreement was
abolished at the beginning of 2005.
Europe's system was in fact intended to avoid
Announced by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson,
they fall some way short of those demanded by the EU's textile
The European trade fears it could be swamped in the
wake of the demise of the Multi Fibre Agreement.
But Mr Mandelson said that with only two months of
data, caution was required.
He will start an investigation if China exceeds
permitted increases of between 10% and 100% for various categories of
textile imports this year.
China was unhappy, with a Commerce Ministry
spokesman warning that the rules would "exert an extremely
negative impact not only on the textile trade between China and
Europe, but also on global textile trade".
The US has taken a harder line and has begun a
probe at the behest of its own clothing industry, who say they have
already seen a 1,000% rise in goods from China.
WTO rules allow for countries which say they have
suffered "market disruption" from Chinese imports to limit
textile import growth to 7.5% a year till 2008.
UK ECONOMY 'STRONG' IN ELECTION YEAR
UK businesses are set to prosper during the next
few months — but this could trigger more interest rate rises,
according to a report.
Optimism is at its highest since 1997 and business
will reap the benefits of a continuing rise in public spending, say
researchers at BDO Stoy Hayward.
The BDO optimism index — a leading indicator of
GDP growth two quarters ahead edged up in January to 102.5, from 102.2
The rise is due, in part, to an increase in public
spending and increased merger and acquisition activity.
Its BDO's output index — which predicts GDP
movements a quarter in advance — remained at 100.8 for January,
implying GDP growth at 2.9% in the second quarter of 2005.
ALL INDIA 'TO HAVE POWER BY 2009'
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has unveiled a
plan to bring electricity to every village in the country by 2009.
The scheme aims to bring power to the remaining 56%
of rural homes — 78m houses — that have never had the benefits of
Mr Singh said India had taken "far too long a
time to bring the light and energy that electrification
He called it "one of the most important
promises we are committed to".
Mr Singh said: "The electrification of rural
India is a key foundation stone in the modernisation of our
agriculture and in improving the quality of life of our citizens.
"We cannot delay the implementation of this
basic commitment any longer. We shall honour it this time in full
JAPAN ADJUSTS TO FREE TRADE DEAL
A free trade agreement between the world's second
largest economy and its eighth largest has come into effect.
Japan signed the agreement with Mexico last year
after two and a half years of tough negotiations.
In the past, Japan has been reluctant to sign free
trade agreements because of pressure from its inefficient farming
But the government now believes it must open up the
economy if it is to compete with China for influence in the region.
From Friday, Japan's 9,000 pig farmers will
experience something entirely new — competition.
Under the terms of a landmark free trade agreement
with Mexico, pork will be subject to much lower tariffs along with a
range of other products. In fact, more than 90% of Mexican products
will have their tariffs cut altogether.
POPE JOHN PAUL'S FUNERAL
Millions mass for the funeral of Pope John Paul II
held at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Political and religious leaders from around the
world attending the Mass.
Giant video screens are dotted around the city for
the millions of other pilgrims who have flocked to the Italian
Roman Catholics around the world follow the funeral
on television and attended Masses in their local churches.
The three-hour ceremony conducted by Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, which will
begin electing the Pope's successor on 18 April.
The service began with the Pope's wooden coffin
being carried out of St Peter's and placed on the stone steps of the
basilica by members of the Pope's household staff.
Among those attended are US President George W
Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac
and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads the
world's largest Catholic country.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Palestinian
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei are also took part.
ROVER SUPPLIERS OFFERED £40M AID
A £40m support package has been put in place for
firms that supply MG Rover, the UK trade secretary has said.
The announcement was made as MG Rover's 6,000
workers wait to find out if the stricken UK car maker can survive.
The firm called in advisers amid reports it was on
the verge of collapse after talks with a possible Chinese investor
With parts suppliers pulling credit and production
stopped, industry analysts say its demise may be inevitable.
OIL COST DIPS DESPITE IMF WARNING
Oil prices dropped below $54 a barrel lasy Friday
as worries about stockpiles eased, but warnings that the world is in
for sustained high prices persisted.
But at the same time, the International Monetary
Fund warned high oil prices were a "permanent shock" to the
In its six-monthly World Economic Outlook, IMF
senior economist Raghuram Rajan said oil was set to stay at $39-56 a
barrel in today's money for much of the next 25 years.
Before adjusting for inflation, that meant a
headline price of $67-96 as demand from China and the rest of the
developing world continued to soar on the back of improving living
China could need 18.7 million barrels a day by
2030, up from the current 6.4 million, the IMF said.
World demand was likely to grow to 138.5 million
barrels from 82.4 million, with demand for oil from producers' cartel
Opec set to more than double.
ECB, BOE KEEP RATES ON HOLD
The European Central Bank held its key rates steady
at the historically low level of 2.0 per cent for the 22nd month in a
row last Thursday as the economic gloom over the 12-country euro zone
deepened following recent disappointing data.
The ECB, which has now left its key "refi"
refinancing rate unchanged at 2.00 per cent since June 2003, also held
its other two key rates - the deposit rate and the marginal lending
rate — steady at 1.00 per cent and 3.00 per cent respectively. The
ECB's decision came just 45 minutes after the Bank of England also
announced it was holding its own rates unchanged at 4.75 per cent for
the eighth month on a row.
MCI REJECTS $9.1BN BID FROM QWEST
US telephone operator MCI has rejected a $9.1bn
(£4.8bn) takeover offer from telecoms firm Qwest.
The rebuff, the latest twist in a two-month
takeover fight, reaffirms MCI's preference for a lower $7.6bn bid from
rival operator Verizon. MCI emerged from the ruins of bankrupt
telecoms operator Worldcom last year.
GOLD FIELDS WINS MINE STRIKE CASE
South African mining giant Gold Fields has won a
court order to force 30,000 striking employees back to work.
Johannesburg's Labour Court ruled that the
industrial action was "unlawful and unprotected," the
About 50,000 South African miners have walked out
in a dispute over pay, including living allowances, and planned
AUSTRALIA MAINTAINS RATES AT 5.5%
Australia's central bank has decided to keep the
country's benchmark interest rate on hold at 5.5%.
The Reserve Bank of Australia's decision follows a
quarter percentage point rise last month.
The bank increased interest rates to their highest
level in four years in March, despite data showing weak growth in the
The Sydney-based central bank said last month it
was raising rates in an attempt to curb inflation.
UK'S LATEST RICH LIST REVEALED
Seven of the 10 wealthiest billionaires living in
Britain come from overseas, according to this year's Sunday Times Rich
Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal comes out on
top with a fortune estimated by the newspaper at £14.8bn.
Roman Abramovich drops to second place, but the
Russian oil tycoon and Chelsea football club owner is reckoned to be
The Rich List says the pair are among 40
billionaires living in Britain.
That is the biggest number yet recorded.
The combined wealth of the top 10 on the list is
£52.55bn — £10bn more than the top 200 a decade ago.
It is also the highest wealth total yet recorded
and represents a 23.3% rise on last year.
HOUSE PRICES STAGE RISE IN MARCH
House prices rose by 0.5% in March, according to
the Halifax, reversing the 0.5% fall seen in February.
However, annual price inflation continued to slow,
dropping to 9.7% in March — the first time it had slipped below 10%
since November 2001.
The figures contrast with Nationwide's March
figures, which showed a 0.6% fall — the largest in almost 10 years.
HI-TECH CRIME COSTS UK PLC £2.4BN
Big UK businesses lost more than £2.4bn to hi-tech
crime in 2004, the UK's top technology police force says.
According to a survey for the National Hi-Tech
Crime Unit (NHTCU), almost nine out of 10 firms suffered some kind of
IT-based crime last year.
JAPAN BACKS HUGE POSTAL SELL-OFF
Japan's government is to press ahead with the
sell-off of the multi-trillion dollar postal savings system.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has signed off on
a programme starting in 2007 and lasting a decade.
The plan has been watered down in the hope of
calming ardent opposition from his own MPs, who fear mass lay-offs.
The system's 350 trillion yen ($3.2 trillion; £1.7
trillion) in assets have provided a source of spare cash for
politicians' pet projects.