Breaking News -- United Kingdom
|Hundreds gather for anti-fracking march in Manchester
Hundreds of protesters marched through Manchester, England on Sunday in what is believed to be one of the largest anti-fracking rallies to take place in the UK.
A recent survey carried out by the Manchester Evening News found that 73 percent of Greater Manchester residents are opposed to the controversial gas extraction technique so on Sunday at noon, up to 1,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown to march from Piccadilly Gardens to Cathedral Gardens.
Many of the speakers and demonstrators included members of the long-standing Barton Moss protest camp in neighboring Irlam, just south of Manchester. There, energy firm IGas is carrying out test drilling to explore potential shale gas reserves beneath the green belt site at Barton Moss.
The purpose of the march in Manchester was to send a clear message to the government and energy companies that the vast majority of Britons oppose fracking, Martin Porter, a spokesman for the Barton Moss camp and a member of Frack Free Greater Manchester, told the Manchester Evening News.
The purpose of the day is to send a message out that we dont want fracking in Manchester or anywhere else. At the moment, Barton Moss is at the center of attention across the country but before long two thirds of people in England and Wales might find a fracking rig on their doorstep, Porter said.
A number of campaign groups were represented at the demonstration, including Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, and the Campaign Against Climate Change.
RT reporter Sarah Firth says people at the march complained that there is not enough awareness on fracking and therefore it is dangerous to pursue.
Extraction by fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground, which creates excess hydro waste. This might lead to an eventual contamination of the water table, local residents worry.
But supporters say fracking brings jobs and opportunities for energy independence though detractors have pointed to exaggerated employment claims and health risks related to the chemicals used in the practice.
The UK government is planning to forge ahead with its plans for fracking, with Prime Minster David Cameron and many other leading figures in the Conservative party pushing to go all out for shale.
In December last year, the government issued a 49-page roadmap outlining how shale deposits could be exploited in the UK.
But despite the government in connection with energy firms offering a £100,000 (US$167,000) sweetener for local communities where test drilling for shale is carried out, the public remains opposed to fracking, with many communities taking to the streets in protest.
Sarah Firth carried out her own poll on Twitter, in which she asked the question, Do you support the Prime Minister's decision for the UK to go 'all out for shale?' Yes or No? She tweeted that the overwhelming majority of people said No.
Insurance group Aviva takes £120m hit from UK storms and flooding
But Britain's largest insurer says turnaround is still on track with 6% rise in annual profits to £2bn.
Aviva has reported a £120m hit from the recent storms and flooding, but confirmed that its turnaround is still on track with a 6% rise in annual profits.
Britain's largest insurer said storms in the UK reduced profits by £60m in December and it faces a further £60m of claims from severe floods in southern England in January and February.
Aviva's chief executive, Mark Wilson, who joined in January last year, has overseen a management shakeup at Aviva and simplified the sprawling group by selling assets in America, Russia and Spain, to focus on fast-growing markets in Asia and eastern Europe in addition to the UK and Canada. The New Zealander, who previously ran Asian insurer AIA, replaced Andrew Moss, who quit in May 2012 after a shareholder revolt over executive pay and company performance.
Now in the second year of his overhaul of the company, Wilson said: "We had a reasonable year We must guard against complacency and there is still a lot to do."
Further small disposals of unwanted assets totalling hundreds of millions of pounds are planned, including the insurer's South Korean business. Aviva is investing in automation in the UK and recently sealed a joint venture in Indonesia.
With strong performances from France and Poland, the insurer reported operating profits of £2bn for 2013, up from £1.9bn in 2012. After tax, it made a £2bn profit against a £2.9bn loss the previous year. Cashflow is up 40%, while operating expenses were down 7%.
Its fund management arm Aviva Investors took a £132m hit after the group discovered "improper" allocation of bond trades by two former employees last year. Internal controls have been improved since then.
Some 400 senior people at Aviva did not get a pay rise last year, including Wilson. No executives received a bonus in 2012.
Last week Aviva completed its management shake-up when it poached Tom Stoddart, the Blackstone banker who formerly advised AIA and has been advising Aviva over the past year. He will succeed finance director Pat Regan, who missed out on the top job a year ago and is moving to Sydney to join Australia's largest insurer QBE.
Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: "Aviva has not yet returned to firing on all cylinders, although these numbers highlight the progress which has been made so far. Aviva remains a recovery story which offers the potential of both income and growth. Whilst the stock is a fair way off its historic highs, it appears that the travails of more recent times have been parked for now."
The City welcomed the news that Aviva reduced an intercompany loan by £1.7bn to £4.1bn and plans to cut it further to £2.2bn.
Aviva was the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 index. The shares jumped 42.4p - a 9% gain - to 508.5p.
'Suppressed' Migration Report Contradicts Cameron, May, Farage
by Asa Bennett - The Huffington Post UK
David Cameron and coalition ministers have now published a report on the impact of migration on British workers after a wave of criticism for trying to sit on it to protect it undermining their rhetoric about migrants "displacing" workers.
The hitherto "suppressed" report will come as awkward news for coalition ministers who have tried to point fingers at immigrants for pushing native Britons out of work. Vince Cable has already taken aim at his colleagues for feeding "scare stories" about immigration.
The joint Home Office and Business Department report concludes that "there is relatively little evidence that migration has caused statistically significant displacement of UK natives from the labour market in periods when the economy has been strong."
In a line ministers will cling to in order to argue that migrants still have an impact on British workers, the report concludes that "some" displacement does happen, hitting low-skilled Brits, in a recession.
The report found that displacement was "more likely" when net migration was high and tends to affect low-skilled workers, with the authors writing: "where displacement effects are observed, these tend to be concentrated on low skilled natives."
It warns that there is "little evidence... of a statistically significant impact from EU migration on native employment outcomes".
The report also makes clear that any negative effect on British workers "dissipates over time", adding: "Any displacement impacts from one set of new arrivals gradually decline as the labour market adjusts, as predicted by economic theory."
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