27 September


Good morning,

Women will finally take the driving seat in Saudi Arabia next summer after King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree yesterday ending the historical ban. 

The decision is part of a broad reform program in the Kingdom. Last week it was announced that women are now to be allowed into sports stadiums and eight months ago women were able to run and vote in local elections for the first time.

According to some commentators, the lifting of the driving ban marks a symbolic shift in the kingdom's willingness to embrace more progressive values, following decades of criticism from human rights organisations and foreign governments. However, more sceptical observers say the move has less to do with improving women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and more to do with the damage that the no-driving policy has done to the kingdom’s international reputation.

Furthermore, as The New York Times reports, beyond improving their image in the west, letting women drive could help the changing Saudi economy, as low oil prices have eliminated many government jobs that Saudis have long relied on.


Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will deliver his flagship speech at the annual conference in Brighton today. Corbyn is expected to promise a “new common sense” model for British life that will overturn 30 years of liberal free market economics. He will urge Theresa May’s cabinet to “pull yourself together or make way” and let his team negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union. He is also expected to close Labour’s annual gathering with an upbeat message that insists his party is a “government in waiting”.

French President Emmanuel Macron set out a wide-ranging vision for European Union reform, detailing a desire for a major overhaul of the single currency bloc and ideas on deeper defense and immigration cooperation. Addressing students from several European countries at the Sorbonne University in Paris, Macron hinted that Britain might perhaps rejoin the bloc if it became more effective and less bureaucratic, as he envisioned.  

Ireland is to hold a referendum on legalising abortion next summer, only months before a planned visit by the Pope. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, confirmed yesterday that the national ballot would be held in May or June 2018.

Business and Economy

The US Department of Commerce ruled in favour of Boeing and imposed an interim tariff of nearly 220% on Bombardier's new commercial jets, prompting fears in Northern Ireland that aerospace jobs in the region could be in peril. Boeing took its Canadian plane-making rival to court in the US, alleging it had received unfair, anti-competitive state support from the Quebec regional government. The case will now be considered by the US International Trade Commission for a final ruling in February. 

Dyson, the engineering company best known for its vacuum cleaners and fans, plans to spend £2bn developing a "radical" electric car. The firm's chief executive Sir James Dyson told employees in an email that a team had secretly been working on plans for an all-electric vehicle for more than two years. It hopes to launch its first model by 2020.

US credit report giant Equifax has announced that its chairman and chief executive, Richard Smith, is stepping down with immediate effect. The move comes as Equifax struggles to rebuild its reputation after it emerged earlier this month that the firm had suffered a massive data breach. Data on up to 143 million Americans may have been stolen by hackers between mid-May and July. About 400,000 Britons and a number of Canadians were also affected.

Social media site Twitter is trialling longer character limits to help users "easily express themselves". Twitter currently limits tweets to 140 characters, but has doubled that to 280 characters for a small group of users.


What happened yesterday

The FTSE 100 closed 15.55 points lower at 7,285.74, as traders remained cautious about the political standoff between the US and North Korea, the German election and tensions in Spain over the Catalonian independence referendum.

WPP was one of the biggest fallers on the index after Morgan Stanley cut its rating on the advertising giant to "equal-weight" from "overweight".

The biggest risers on London's top-flight index were NMC Health, which climbed 2,8%, cruise lines operator Carnival was up 2,7% and easyJet closed up 1,6%, after UBS analysts said the budget airline was likely to benefit from Ryanair's staffing woes.

In oil, Brent crude was down 1.4% at $58.26 per barrel, as it fell back from a 26-month high with investors taking profits.

The pound fell 0.3% against the dollar to $1.34220 but rose 0.3% against the euro to 1.14010 euros.


Avingtrans plc (AVG)

Hotel Chocolat Group plc (HOTC) 


Circassia Pharmaceuticals plc (CIR)

Crawshaw Group plc (CRAW)

Destiny Pharma Holdings plc (DEST)

Eden Research plc (EDEN)

Havelock Europa plc (HVE)

Immupharma Plc (IMM)

Patagonia Gold (PGD)

redT Energy plc (RED)

Strix Group plc (KETL)

Xeros Technology Group plc (XSG)

Trading Announcements

Grainger Plc (GRI)

UK Economic Announcements

(7:00) Nationwide House Price Index

(9:30) Current Account

(9:30) Gross Domestic Product 


Aortech International (AOR)

Duke Royalty Ltd (DUKE)

Entertainment One Ltd (ETO)

Fulcrum Utility Services Limited (FCRM)

Gateley Holdings plc (GTLY)

Joules Group plc (JOUL)

Octagonal plc (OCT)

PZ Cussons Plc (PZC)

International Economic Announcements

(9:00) M3 Money Supply (EU)

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)

(15:00) Pending Homes Sales (US)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of note

In The Times, Daniel Finkelstein is assessing Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Europe. The author reviews the party’s history and its relationship with the EU over the years, suggesting that Corbyn “must choose between supporting the single market and staying true to his anti-capitalist beliefs”. 

Writing in The Spectator, Tom Goodenough examines European Council President, Donald Tusk, visit to Downing Street yesterday. While Tusk delivered a stark message saying “there is not sufficient progress yet”, the author notices that with tory conference just days away, Theresa May now has “another Brexit battle on her hands: reassuring those closer to home that she isn’t now giving too much away”.

Did you know?

King cobras may be best known as the species of choice for the snake charmers of South Asia. Although cobras can hear, they are actually deaf to ambient noises, sensing ground vibrations instead.

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

In recess until 9th October for party conference season

House of Lords

In recess until 9th October for party conference season

 Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions

Education and Skills

Ministerial Statement

Air Quality: Delivering Improvements for Public Health and the Environment

Scottish Government debate

Recognise and Support Paisley's 2021 UK City of Culture and Dundee's 2023 European Capitalof Culture Bids


General Questions

First Minister's Questions

Members' Business

S5M-07165 Richard Leonard: Importance of Worker Ownership to the Scottish Economy
S5M-07560 Ruth Maguire: Flexible Working, Maximising Talent and Driving Inclusive Growth

Stage 1 Debate: Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill