Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

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Britain's gross domestic product grew by 1.9 per cent last year, the most since 2007, according to the Office for National Statistics. The last quarter's growth was 0.7 per cent, a little less than the 0.8 per cent of the previous quarter. In the fourth quarter of 2013, construction actually declined by 0.3 per cent, and economic output was still 1.3 per cent less than in the first quarter of 2008. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, promised in a speech that Labour would restore the 50 per cent rate of tax on higher earnings. Daniel Evans, a former Sunday Mirror journalist, told the Old Bailey that he had intercepted voicemails 'on a fairly grand scale' at the paper between 2003 and 2005; he had also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemails at the News of the World between 2004 and 2010. Google spent �400 million to buy DeepMind, a Londonbased company that specialises in machine learning algorithms.

RBS said it had to set aside another �3.1 billion for claims against the bank, bringing its losses for the year to some �8 billion. Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and TSB cash machines and debit cards failed to work for several hours. The Lloyds banking group said it would cut 1,080 jobs as part of a plan announced in 2011 to shed 15,000 employees. Barclays planned to close a quarter of its 1,600 branches in Britain.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, visited Scotland to comment on the prospects of an independent Scotland keeping the pound. The government said it would take in some hundreds of refugees from Syria. The Queen should 'eke more money' according to Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which blamed the Royal Household and the Treasury for deterioration of buildings such as the mausoleum at Frogmore, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert lie.

The Environment Agency denied that its neglect had led to the inundation of 28,000 acres of Somerset, much of it flooded since the end of last year. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, had to go down to the Somerset Levels to be shouted at by angry residents. The Diocese of Bath and Wells said it could not support the eviction by the Church Commissioners of the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the new Bishop of Bath and Wells, from the bishop's palace in Wells and the provision for him of lodgings in a house four miles away that cost them �900,000. …

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