Police to get 10,000 Taser guns

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, is to arm police with 10,000 Taser stun guns in an escalation of the government’s fight against violent crime.

Smith will unveil plans tomorrow that will enable all 30,000 front-line response officers to be trained in firing the electric guns at knife-wielding thugs and other violent suspects.

Smith said yesterday that £8m will be made available to all 43 police forces in England and Wales to buy the new 50,000-volt weapons.

She said their use will be extended from small units of dedicated firearms officers to up to 30,000 police response officers across the country.

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Shining new, latest design and impossible to sell: Car trade in crisis

New cars wait to get loaded onto trucks

THEY sit parked in rows stretching as far as the eye can see, destined for a prolonged battering from the wind and rain as the global economic turmoil stalls sales. The world’s carmakers are also going nowhere fast, some teetering on the brink as they seek massive bail-outs to stay in business.

Britain’s manufacturers felt the chill yesterday, with Honda announcing a two-month halt to production at its Swindon plant from February.

It came as BMW’s Mini factory in Oxford closed for three days ahead of an extended Christmas break because of falling sales.

In a further sign of the gloom enveloping the industry, car production fell by a quarter last month to the lowest level for 17 years. Commercial vehicle making sank even further, down by 41 per cent.

Buyers, nervous about their financial security, are deserting the showrooms, with the trade in Scotland suffering its largest drop in sales last month since the early 1990s. Registrations plunged by 26 per cent to 10,190 compared with October last year.

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Honda to close Swindon factory for two months

The plant’s 4,800 employees will be laid off for the duration of the closure, although they will still receive basic pay

Honda Jazz. Photograph: Garry Weaser/Guardian

Japanese car giant Honda added to the economic gloom today, announcing it is to shut its UK factory in Swindon for two months in February and March next year in response to falling sales.

The plant’s 4,800 employees will be laid off for the duration of the closure, although they will still receive basic pay, the company said. Some will be employed in training and on maintenance.

But the plan alarmed the unions, which believe Honda had considered plans to make 1,300 people redundant but opted to close the plant for two months to avert job losses.

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Pilots threaten to strike over ID cards

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith insists the cards will improve security

The first wave of ID cards to be issued to British citizens has prompted airline pilots to threaten a strike rather than accept the documents.

Aviation workers have warned that proposals to make airport staff register for the cards from next year would do little to improve security. The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which represents 10,000 of the 12,000 commercial pilots and flight engineers in Britain, said its members were being treated as “guinea pigs”. Jim McAuslan, Balpa’s general secretary, said the Government’s “early warning system should be flashing” over opposition to the plans.

The Home Office insists the scheme will help airport workers improve security and streamline pass applications when staff move jobs. Ministers will publish draft regulations on Friday to set up a trial requiring airside staff at Manchester airport and London City airport to sign up for an ID card before they can get security passes allowing them to work there. If the regulations are approved, the first ID cards will be issued at the two airports from autumn next year as part of an 18-month trial.

Under the proposals, airport workers will be the first British citizens to be given ID cards, which are due to be introduced for young people from 2010.

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Independent to shed quarter of journalists

The Independent newspaper and its Sunday sister title will cut up to a quarter of their editorial staff in one of the most savage cuts to hit the UK newspaper industry in recent years, as management seeks £10m of savings the company said on Tuesday.

The UK operations of Sir Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media (INM) will see a total of 90 employees made redundant by early 2009 out of a total of 424 staff in its London office. But the brunt of the cuts, about 60 jobs, will come from the 250 or so editorial staff.

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Manchester being ‘bullied’ by Government into accepting road tolls

I call that blackmail.

If Manchester votes for road pricing, there will be more cash for other cities

The Government is threatening to withhold £1.5 billion of public funding for public transport in Manchester unless the city agrees to become a guinea pig for pay-as-you-drive road pricing.

Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, said funding for new tram lines, extra buses and trains would be cancelled unless a majority of Greater Manchester’s 1.8 million population voted “yes” in next month’s road pricing referendum.

Mr Hoon’s comments, in an interview with The Times, angered opponents of Manchester’s proposed charging scheme. They accused the Government of trying to bully the city into voting for a tax on commuting by car.

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Game beware: it’s the return of the poacher

As times get harder in Britain’s cities, armed gangs are heading for the countryside – and stealing deer, salmon and rabbits to feed a burgeoning black market in food. Andy McSmith reports

Masked poachers caught in the act, hunting rabbits on private land

Once, the poacher was a man with big pockets in his raincoat sneaking on to an aristocrat’s land to steal game for his family pot. Now he is likely to be part of a gang from town, in it for hard cash, rampaging through the countryside with guns, crossbows or snares.

Police in rural areas across Britain are reporting a dramatic increase in poaching, as the rise in food prices and the reality of recession increases the temptation to deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish.

Organised and sometimes armed gangs of poachers are accused of behaving dangerously, intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gates and fences. Squads have also been out in the countryside “lamping”, poachers using lights to transfix animals.

Read moreGame beware: it’s the return of the poacher

UK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

Children are the most excellent mirror of a society!

Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

Comment: Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s

Public intolerance of young people has reached such levels that more than half of all adults think that British children are beginning to behave like animals, a poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, found that 49 per cent of adults regard children as increasingly dangerous both to each other and to their elders, while 43 per cent feel that “something has to be done” to protect society from children and young people.

More than a third of people agree that “it feels like the streets are infested with children”.

The YouGov poll of 2,000 adults suggests that the great strides made towards children’s rights and child welfare through the Government’s Every Child Matters agenda, in which the interests of the child are supposedly put at the heart of all policy, have had little impact on public consciousness.

Read moreUK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months

Experts have warned that up to 50,000 estate agents may lose their jobs in the next year

As many as 50,000 estate agents could lose their jobs by next Autumn because of the worsening economic crisis, experts today warned.

Economists said the collapse in the housing markets meant the true figure would be double previous predictions of 15,000 job losses, with some experts forecasting at least 50,000 out of work by next year.

The panic has led to some businesses making desperate attempts to secure their survival, with one estate agent even converting part of his office into a cafe to generate extra income.

Ben Read, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the toll of job losses would be shocking.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘It will definitely be worse. The housing market has dropped significantly more since May and the outlook for the next nine months is pretty ropey.

‘Because of the worsening situation in the economy you could easily expect that figure of 15,000 to go up by 50 per cent. The true figure could even be as much as 50,000.

‘Most estate agents have let go significant numbers of staff and are working on skeleton staff. I’m sure it will surprise everyone how bad it is.’

Read more50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months

BT slashes 10,000 jobs

• Telecoms giant cuts 6% of global workforce
• Several thousand expected to go in UK
• News of cuts sends shares up 12%

BT is axing 10,000 workers, or 6% of its global workforce, with several thousand expected to go in the UK as the company looks to cut costs and reduce its reliance on contractors in the face of the global economic downturn.

The company, which announced an 11% fall in second quarter profits, said it has already cut 4,000 mostly contractors jobs and a further 6,000 will go by next April. The majority of those job losses will be among BT’s own staff and the axe is expected to fall particularly heavily in the UK.

BT has 160,000 people working for it worldwide, of whom 110,000 are directly employed.

This latest blow to the British economy came just a day after the number of jobless people in the UK hit its highest level since 1997. By the end of September there were 1.825 million people out of work. The claimaint count also rose to 980,900, its highest level since the end of 1997.

News of the job cuts helped to send the company’s shares up 12% in early trading, 13.5p higher at 126p.

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