6 April

@AdamDShaw

6 April

Good morning,

The killing of dozens of civilians in northern Syria in an apparent chemical weapon attack on Tuesday has, understandably, sparked international condemnation. However, as the last six years have shown, strong words mean little if they are not backed up by action.

During a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday afternoon, US President Donald Trump labelled the attack an “affront to humanity” and said that it “crossed many many lines, beyond a red line” – an interesting choice of words considering Trump’s criticism of President Obama’s inaction after using the exact same term in 2013.

Trump insisted that there will be a “message” but that he wouldn’t be sharing his plan of action with the assembled White House press corps.

Whether he simply wishes to keep his cards close to his chest or he has not yet formulated a plan is unclear. However, doing nothing will simply reinforce the notion that the Assad regime can continue acting with impunity. 

 

News

Aung San Suu Kyi, de-facto leader of Myanmar and Nobel peace prize winner, has denied that there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population taking place, despite widespread reports of abuse in the country. In an interview with the BBC’s Fergal Keane, she acknowledged problems in Rakhine state in the west of the country but said that “ethnic cleansing” was too strong a term to describe what is happening.

The Supreme Court will rule today on whether a father should have been fined for taking his daughter out of school to go on a family holiday during term time. John Platt was fined two years ago by Isle of Wight Council after taking his daughter to Florida for a week without the head teacher’s permission. Platt successfully challenged the original fine last year at the High Court. Parents could be criminalised on an unprecedented scale if judges reverse the earlier ruling.

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, has been removed from the US National Security Council – a reversal of the controversial decision to give the political adviser unprecedented input to security discussions. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, have been added to the NSC in a move described by a White House spokesperson as restoring the body "back to its core function of what it’s supposed to do". 

Business and economy

The Co-operative Group has posted an annual loss of £132 million despite revenues rising three per cent and a strong performance in its insurance business. However, the ‘Rebuild’ programme, a cautious zero valuation on its 20% stake in the Co-Operative Bank, and changes to the value of the company’s bonds, led to the loss, which is a significant fall from 2015’s £23 million profit.

Bovis, the struggling housebuilder, has appointed a new chief executive after the collapse of a proposed takeover by fellow housebuilder Galliford Try. Greg Fitzgerald, a former chief executive and chairman of Galliford Try, has taken the reins at Bovis, with the company saying in a statement that it will now pursue an independent strategy under Fitzgerald’s leadership.

The new lifetime ISA (“Lisa”), the government’s flagship savings programme, launches today albeit no bank or building society will be offering it straight away. The initiative, unveiled by former Chancellor George Osborne, offers savers a 25% annual bonus on deposits of up to £4,000 a year. Nationwide has said it will not be offering Lisas with RBS and Lloyds also expressing scepticism. However, most banks say they will consider launching a Lisa in the months ahead.

Another new development for the new financial year is the implementation of cuts to working age benefits, which were announced back in 2015. Bereaved families and those with three or more children will have their benefits cut due to a reform of tax credits. Meanwhile, the personal allowance is rising to £11,500 and the threshold for higher rate taxpayers is also going up by £2,000 to £45,000. Chancellor Philip Hammond said the Government had to make tough decisions to tackle the deficit, but the Resolution Foundation claims that 80% of the tax gains will go to the richest half of households, while two-thirds of the benefit cuts will fall on the poorest one-third of households.

Markets

What happened yesterday

The FTSE 100 was up marginally yesterday at 7,331.6 points – an increase of 0.13%. Mining companies made gains thanks to higher oil and metal prices, however the biggest riser was Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, which ended the day up 2.95%.

Old Mutual was down 4.38% on the back of concerns surrounding political instability in South Africa.

On the currency markets, the pound climbed 0.31% against the dollar to $1.2479 and was 0.48% higher against the euro at €1.1712.

 

Finals

Electrical Geodesics Inc. (DI), Gulf Keystone Petroleum Com Shs (DI), M.P. Evans Group, PureTech Health, Zegona Communications

Q1 Results

Ferrexpo

 

 

AGMs

Leeds Building Society 13 3/8% Bearing Shares, Scottish American Inv Company, Smith & Nephew

International Economic Announcements

(07:00) Factory Orders (GER)

(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

 

Columns of note 

The Times columnist David Aaronovitch bemoans the influence of right-wing Conservative MPs who favour “a hard Brexit” and do not care about who they upset. He argues that their approach endangers EU trust in the UK, potentially undermining negotiations. 

Writing in The Guardian, Kate Aronoff claims that Ivanka Trump’s perception as a force for good in The White House is unmerited. She says that Ivanka’s articulate and thoughtful manner make her built-in damage control for the President but that she is complicit in what her father has been doing as the occupant of the Oval Office.

Parliamentary Highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

In recess until 18 April 2017

House of Lords

Oral questions

Curbing the use of tax havens - Lord Sharkey

The programme for the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and the expansion and strengthening of international cultural, trade and investment initiatives - Lord Chidgey

Increasing the number of women on boards and in senior posts of sports governing bodies - Lord Addington

Bereavement benefits for parents with dependent children - Baroness Altmann

Legislation

Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill - 3rd reading - Baroness Gale

Debate

Report from the EU Committee 'Brexit and the EU budget' - Baroness Falkner of Margravine

Scottish Parliament

In recess until 18 April 2017

TOMORROW

House of Lords

No business scheduled