Cameron threat to prosecute oil bosses
Oil company executives should face criminal prosecution if they are found to have fixed the price of petrol, David Cameron said tonight.
By Peter Dominiczak, Rowena Mason and Steven Swinford
10:30PM BST 15 May 2013
The Prime Minister said he will urgently look at “extending criminal offences” to cover market manipulation in the energy sector, after BP and Shell were raided by European authorities on suspicion of rigging oil prices.
Amid fears that British motorists could have been duped into paying thousands of pounds too much for petrol over the past decade, Mr Cameron told the companies they will face the “full force of the law” if the accusations are true.
However Mr Cameron’s comments also raise the prospect that companies who are found to have manipulated household gas or electricity prices could also face criminal prosecution.
Ministers are under pressure to take action as the investigation already has echoes of last year’s Libor controversy, which saw banks falsely report key interest rates.
Following that scandal the Government created new laws which made it an offence to manipulate the benchmark mortgage interest rate. Now Mr Cameron has said that law could be extended to cover oil prices.
The suggestion that consumers may have been ripped off over petrol prices as well as mortgages could be hugely damaging for the Coalition, which is keen to demonstrate it is trying to help people with the rising cost of living.
Speaking on a trip to the US, Mr Cameron said “major consequences will follow” if consumers have suffered as a result.
“The first thing is, these are hugely concerning allegations and if true very, very serious,” he said. “We have to get to the bottom of what happened first before I think we can pass judgement on the way regulators have worked in the UK.
“It’s totally unacceptable for firms to fix prices and force consumers to pay more. That’s why we are looking at how to extend this criminal offence to the energy sector to make sure that those who manipulate benchmark prices feel the full force of the law.”
It is understood the Government is looking at extending new laws created earlier this year after major UK banks paid hundreds of millions of pounds in fines for fixing Libor. The legislation made it clear that individuals can be prosecuted for manipulating the key financial interest rate.
Mr Cameron is anxious to make sure people can also face criminal charges if they are found to have rigged the oil price and driven up prices for consumers. However, the Government is still seeking to establish whether any new laws could be applied retrospectively.
The Prime Minister’s intervention will now pile fresh pressure on UK authorities to launch their own investigation into the oil market and allegations of price-fixing.
The Office of Fair Trading is facing questions after it found the petrol market was “working well” earlier this year and saw no need for a further inquiry.
Last night, Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, said he has also written to the Serious Fraud Office and City of London Police to ask whether they have any scope to investigate.
In an urgent statement to MPs in the House of Commons, Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, said he is extremely worried about the allegations but warned people not to jump to conclusions about any wrongdoing. “If it turns out to be the case that hard-pressed motorists and consumers have been hit in the pocket by manipulation in the market, the full force of the law should be down upon them. There is no doubt about that.”
MPs today asked the Office of Fair Trading to explain why it gave the petrol market a clean bill of health so recently when a European Commission investigation is now in full swing.
The regulator was warned by a whistleblower in the oil industry that prices are fixed on a daily basis by profiteering traders.
However, a spokesman for the OFT today said while it potentially had “serious concerns” about the market its investigation had received “no credible evidence” that any manipulation had taken place.
MPs from all sides of the House of Commons today urged greater investigation of petrol prices, which have risen by 80 per cent to 135p since 2002.
Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, called on the oil companies involved to “co-operate with a European Union institution, which is doing very good work on behalf of British consumers”, describing the allegations as “extremely serious”.
Others were critical of the OFT for failing to launch a full investigation earlier this year. Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, said the discovery of “anything untoward” would not “shine the OFT in a very good light”.
Alan Reid, a Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, urged the Government to make sure drivers have not lost out.
“Now that the European authorities are investigating the oil companies, will the Government make sure that oil companies here obey the rules?” he said.
“It’s important that the Government’s good policy on fuel duty ends up in the pockets of the motorists not the oil companies.”
Both BP and Shell have said they are co-operating with the authorities but cannot comment further while the European Commission inquiry is active.
'I've never postponed a show in my life... it was very hard for me': Beyoncé pens handwritten apology after cancellation but reassures fans she's 'feeling better now'
By SARAH BULL
PUBLISHED: 08:57 GMT, 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:47 GMT, 15 May 2013
Beyoncé has penned a handwritten apology letter to her fans in Belgium after cancelling a show on Tuesday night due to 'dehydration and exhaustion'.
The 31-year-old singer, who is rumoured to be pregnant with her second child, explained that the decision to postpone the concert at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp was not one she made lightly.
And Beyoncé, who is said to have cancelled the show on doctors' orders, reassured fans that she is feeling 'much better now', and will stick to her schedule to perform in the city on Wednesday night.
I'm sorry: Beyoncé has penned a handwritten apology letter to fans after having to cancel her show in Antwerp, Belgium, on Tuesday night
Deepest apologies: Beyoncé posted the apology letter on her Facebook page
In the letter, posted on her Facebook page, Beyoncé wrote: 'To my dearest fans in Antwerp. I've never postponed a show in my life. It was very hard for me. I promise I will make it up very son. I'm sorry if I disappointed you.
'Thank you for your concern. I'm feeling much better now, and I'm ready to give you a great show. See you tonight. All my love, Beyoncé.'
The handwritten letter went down well with fans, who praised the singer, referencing Rihanna's lack of apology after cancellations of multiple shows.
Beyoncé's cancellation comes amid reports the singer is expecting her second child with husband Jay Z.
Pregnant? The cancellation comes amid reports Beyoncé is pregnant after she was seen sporting an uncharacteristically rounded stomach
The New York Post newspaper claims 'multiple sources' told them Beyonce is pregnant following her attendance at the star-studded Met Ball last week, where the star's rumoured pregnancy was the talk of the night.
The pop superstar is said to have 'carefully' hidden her baby bump in a high-waisted Givenchy gown, but multiple photos have since surfaced of Beyonce sporting a growing stomach on her 65-date Mrs Carter Show world tour, which touched down in Dublin, Ireland, on Sunday.
Pictures of her on stage in London appear to show an uncharacteristically rounded tummy.
The Grown Woman singer welcomed her first child, daughter Blue Ivy Carter, into the world in January 2012.
Baby number two? Beyoncé's Met Gala look was reportedly designed to conceal her growing tummy
Beyoncé and Jay-Z - real name Shawn Carter - remained tight-lipped about her first pregnancy until sensationally announcing it live at the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2011.
Beyoncé recently admitted she would love to give her 18-month-old daughter a sibling, because she enjoyed such a close relationship with her younger sister Solange Knowles, 26, when they were growing up.
She said: 'I would like more children. I think my daughter needs some company. I definitely love being a big sister.'
Ubiquitous: The star is everywhere at the moment, while touring the world with her Mrs Carter, her H&M ads have been springing up across the world
Who runs the world? The star, unfazed by criticism, is on the European leg of the tour before moving on to North America
When pressed on when she may have another child, she added: 'At some point, when it's supposed to happen.'
However a source tells People magazine the baby may not be on the way just yet: 'Beyonce and Jay are planning for another baby after her tour is over and things calm down just a bit.'
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Beyoncé's sister Solange is starting her own imprint record label.
The imprint, entitled Saint Records, will be distributed through Sony.
Announcing the news, Solange wrote on Twitter: 'I’ll be releasing my full length album, and also future music projects that I’m excited about sharing.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2324801/Beyonc-pens-handwritten-apology-cancellation-reassures-fans-shes-feeling-better-now.html#ixzz2TNO88OtH
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Kanye West's $750,000 Lamborghini is CRUSHED as it's trapped by girlfriend Kim Kardashian's electric gates
He's not been having the most successful of months.
And just days after his stumble into a New York street sign was caught on camera, Kanye West's stunning $750,000 Lamborghini has been crushed after getting trapped in Kim Kardashian's electric gates.
The matte black vehicle was being delivered back to Kanye's pregnant girlfriend's Los Angeles house by a driver following a service when the incident occurred.
See the video below
It's just not his month! Kanye West's $750,000 Lamborghini Aventador was seen being crushed by Kim Kardashian's electric gates as it was delivered to her Los Angeles house following a service on Tuesday
Taking things too slow: The car could be seen heading into the property when the gates began to close
Images from the accident scene show the Aventador making its way into the property's grounds, before the heavy wooden gates closed on the vehicle too early.
A source told TMZ.com: 'The driver pulled into the gate but didn't make it all the way in before the gate closed on both sides of the car.'
According to the website, the car repair shop was quick to send out a mechanic to see how much it would cost to fix the damage.
Eyes straight ahead: Kanye was in New York, and was seen strolling around Manhattan, as the incident occurred
Dare to bare: The expectant reality star wore a maxi dress with sheer panels and a black cardigan with her hair in a side braid as she stepped out in LA on Tuesday
Pre-damage: Kanye's car had been serviced by a local garage while he was in New York
Kanye, 35, who was in New York as the incident occurred, has yet to inspect the damage first-hand.
Last Friday, Kanye was enjoying a lunch date with his pregnant girlfriend Kim in Beverly Hills.
when he accidentally walked into a street sign.
He was busy chatting to his girlfriend as they made their way into Vietnamese eatery 9021 Pho when he walked into the signpost, immediately bending over in pain as he placed his head in his hands.
That must hurt: West sported a nasty-looking bump on his forehead as he left Kim's house on Saturday one day after walking into a signpost
Are you ok? Kim looked on with concern after Kanye knocked his head on the signpost on Friday in Beverly Hills
Making the incident even more embarrassing was the fact that the sign was emblazoned with a warning that read: 'Caution: Watch For Pedestrians'.
The Touch The Sky rapper was left with an abrasion in the middle of his forehead and was clearly not impressed.
Heavily pregnant Kim also looked on with deep concerned after her man hit his head, grabbing his arm, trying to coax him.
Not long now: Kim was seen attending a class in Los Angeles, Kanye was not in attendance but she was joined by a supportive Scott Disick
However, after going into the restaurant to nurse his wounds, Kanye did not calm down.
Instead, the rapper came back out of the eatery and started yelling at a photographer.
Caught on video by TMZ Kayne screams: 'Don't take another f**king photo man. All you motherf**kers stop it.'
Kanye looked equally grumpy as he left Kim's house on Saturday morning in Los Angeles sporting a giant protrusion just below his hairline.
The proud rapper strode manfully down the Manhattan sidewalks with his eyes fixed firmly ahead of him.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2324595/Kanye-Wests-750-000-Lamborghini-CRUSHED-trapped-girlfriend-Kim-Kardashians-electric-gates.html#ixzz2TNMls0OC
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Quitting the EU won't solve our problems, says Boris Johnson
Britain’s economic problems would not be solved by simply leaving the European Union, Boris Johnson warns.
This country’s workers are plagued by “sloth” and under-perform compared with their foreign rivals, says the London Mayor.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, he says that if Britain left the EU, “we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused” by Brussels.
Mr Johnson’s intervention comes after Michael Gove and Philip Hammond today became the first two Cabinet ministers openly to support leaving the EU unless there is significant reform.
However, the London Mayor claims the “question of EU membership is no longer of key importance to the destiny of this country”. The political row risks overshadowing more important weaknesses in the economy.
He suggests that the British workforce suffers from “sloth” and that there is a “culture of easy gratification and under-investment” from firms.
David Cameron pledged earlier this year that he would hold a referendum by 2018 if he is re-elected as Prime Minister in 2015. However, many Conservative MPs want the Prime Minister to go further and now write the pledge into law – a proposal being blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
More than 100 Conservative MPs are set to support a Parliamentary amendment which effectively criticises the Queen’s Speech for failing to legislate for the referendum. A key vote on the amendment is expected to be held this week.
Last week, Downing Street insisted Mr Cameron was “relaxed” about the amendment but ministers have now been ordered to abstain from any vote.
In his article today, Mr Johnson says that he supports legislation backing a referendum – but warns that Britain’s problems will not be solved by simply leaving the EU as many of his Conservative colleagues apparently believe.
“If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure,” the London Mayor says.
“Why are we still, person for person, so much less productive than the Germans? That is now a question more than a century old, and the answer is nothing to do with the EU. In or out of the EU, we must have a clear vision of how we are going to be competitive in a global economy.”
Mr Johnson sets out four reasons to stay in the EU and four reasons to leave but welcomes Mr Cameron’s pledge to renegotiate the country’s relationship. He says that he has asked his economic adviser to “blow away the froth and give people the facts” on the pros and cons of membership.
However, he concludes his article by saying: “This renegotiation can only work if we understand clearly what we want to achieve: a pared down relationship based on free trade and cooperation. And our partners will only take us seriously if they think we will invoke Article 50, and pull out, if we fail to get what we want.”
The Government is currently reviewing policy in different Whitehall departments to separate EU-derived legislation from that originating in this country. It is understood that the “balance of competencies review” has already discovered that many rules and regulations blamed on Brussels are actually a result of “gold plating” by Whitehall mandarins.
The London Mayor’s intervention comes after senior serving Government ministers confirmed that they would vote to leave the EU if there was a referendum now.
Mr Gove, the Education Secretary, said: “Yes [I would vote to leave in a referendum today], I’m not happy with our position in the European Union, but my preference is for a change in Britain’s relationship with the European Union. My ideal is exactly what the majority of the British public’s ideal is, which is to recognise the current situation is no good, to say that life outside would be perfectly tolerable, we could contemplate it, there would be certain advantages.”
Mr Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said that he would also support leaving the EU without significant renegotiation of Britain’s membership.
Several other ministers including Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson are also thought to share this view.
The Prime Minister has refused to state how he personally would vote in a referendum if there was not a “significant” renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership – instead stressing that he is confident of repatriating many powers.
Today, other senior Cabinet ministers also avoided answering questions on how they would vote in a referendum held now.
However, Theresa May, the Home Secretary said she was sympathetic to demands for the future referendum to be recognised in law.
“I’ve got sympathy with those who want a level of reassurance about what’s going to happen after the next election on an in/out referendum,” she said. “But what people will see at the next election is that there’s only one mainstream party that recognises, as the public do, that we need to change our relationship with Europe and with the European Court of Human Rights.”
Word of mouth: the farmer converting us to sheep milk
Rose Prince discovers the joys and the health benefits of sheep’s milk from farmer Crispin Tweddell.
Thomas Hardy would have witnessed just such a scene: the early morning milking of sheep in the shelter of a barn on a hill farm in the Blackmore Vale, the area that the novelist and poet called the ‘Valley of the Little Dairies’. Under the magnificence of Melbury Hill, which by Dorset standards is a mountain at more than 800 ft, Orchid Meadow Farm is, however, an oddity in terms of farming activity. Few farms produce ewe’s milk in Britain, and the Tweddell family, who have lived here for 20 years, only began farming dairy sheep in 2000. ‘The land is hilly and un-ploughable, and so is ideal for sheep,’ Crispin Tweddell says. ‘I had eaten some sheep’s milk cheese and thought it stunning.’ The Tweddells supply the milk to make Spenwood, a pecorino-type cheese, and the acclaimed Wigmore, a soft, bloomy rind cheese, and, since 2008, when they bought the Woodlands Dairy from a fellow Dorset farmer, they have also produced a natural, creamy organic yogurt from sheep’s milk.
The sheep, a flock of 1,200, are Frieslands, Dutch in origin and the sheep equivalent of the Friesian cow. Large, with long dreadlocks and bony, Romanesque faces, they lie close and snug together in the barns. (There are also a few ‘Dorset’ sheep in the flock, similar in stature and colour, but distinguishable by a fringe of curls above their eyes.) ‘Meat sheep need to be out on grass a lot, or all, of the time, but dairy sheep have to come in at night, and so we need to feed them cereals and silage,’ Tweddell says. The feed (which comes from their second, arable farm) is produced organically. ‘We look after our sheep incredibly well. In fact, we know more about this kind of sheep farming than the people who set the organic standards.’
The sheep ‘lamb’ three times a year. The young are taken away after four days so the ewes’ milk can be harvested twice a day (female lambs are destined to be reared as replacement dairy sheep while the males are raised for their meat. ‘Our meat sheep are getting a reputation for quality at Frome market,’ Tweddell says. ‘They have what is called a tight skin, not too flabby, which is popular with buyers.’) The majority of the milk produced on the farm is used to make yogurt in a simple, natural process. ‘We “hot pot” the yogurt, meaning after the milk and [bacterial] culture are mixed, the yogurt is set in the pot and not in a vat,’ Tweddell says, ‘so it has the texture of a jelly.’
Sheep’s milk yogurt has a natural creaminess, and also has the advantage over cow’s milk in that it is stable when heated, so can be added without curdling to soups or gratins in place of single cream. While goat’s milk yogurt can have a very pronounced flavour, sheep’s milk is mild and floral, with just a suggestion of ripeness. Another benefit of sheep’s milk is that it contains a higher level of the essential vitamins (including vitamin D) that are needed for us to absorb the calcium in the milk, yet the fats are not those that raise cholesterol. Its lactose content, which is lower than cow’s milk, has also drawn legions of people suffering intolerance to switch to sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese.
The Tweddells are setting an example of how sheep dairy farming can be done successfully on a large scale.
Ambulances prevented from answering emergency calls due to jam-packed A&E wards
Ambulances are being held up at hospitals for hours at a time because they cannot offload sick patients to jam-packed A&E departments.
Thousands of hours of emergency ambulance time are spent every week queuing outside hospitals because there is no room in casualty - preventing paramedics from answering 999 calls.
The ambulance personnel must wait with patients, in some cases for hours at a time, until they can be admitted to A&E, an investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates found.
Patients should be seen no longer than 15 minutes after arriving but can wait for hours in hospital corridors or even inside ambulances outside the doors of A&E.
The bottlenecks are caused by a range of problems including a shortage of hospital beds or doctors, causing congestion that has a knock-on effect on ambulance crew.
The problem has become so acute that the NHS has begun recruiting ‘queue nurses’ employed to look after the sick and injured stranded in hospital corridors who cannot get into A&E departments.
David Davis from the College of Paramedics – the professional body representing ambulance personnel – said: “I’ve seen it ten, fifteen ambulances deep and personally waited for three, four, five, six hours to hand over.
“But the thing that’s remarkable about what’s happening now is this is not just a handful of isolated incidents. This is of absolutely enormous proportion and is presenting significant risk to patients.
He added: “Everything that we see suggests that the situation is getting worse.”
“As a group of professionals, paramedics can perhaps offer some solutions to the problem which is the whole system, the whole NHS and social care system coming under enormous strain and probably at the edge of being able to cope.”
BBC Radio Five Live Investigates asked 11 ambulance trusts in England and Wales how many operational hours were lost for either March or April.
Five ambulances had between them lost almost 14,000 operational hours.
Another three trusts said that ambulances had been delayed beyond the 15-minute target time on more than 48,000 separate occasions within a one-month period.
In one month at Heartlands hospital in Birmingham there were 102 cases where an ambulance was delayed for an hour or more.
There were almost 700 further cases where the delay lasted between 30 minutes and one hour.
The trust running Heartlands hospital said it has the busiest A&E department in the region.
A spokesperson said: “On some occasions up to 20 ambulances an hour are arriving.
“Problems arise when patients can’t be moved out of the department to other parts of the hospital because the hospital is full.”
The trust says it is investing in extra emergency care staff to help cope during those busy periods.
From the start of this month, hospitals will have to take patients off paramedics as quickly as possible or risk a financial penalty from the new Clinical Commissioners.
Hospitals will be fined £200 each time an ambulance is held up for more than 30 minutes and £1000 for more than an hour, with the money going back to the new health commissioners for investment in frontline services.