British Queen celebrates

UK news

A rapturous flag-waving crowd of more than 100,000 cheered Queen Elizabeth II at Epsom racecourse in Britain on Saturday as she began four days of celebrations for her diamond jubilee.

Gun salutes rang out across the country to mark the anniversary of her coronation before the 86-year-old queen arrived to watch the races, smiling broadly as she and husband Prince Philip were driven past the winning post.

In a surge of enthusiasm for the monarchy across Britain, thousands of people paraded through Perth in Scotland for the jubilee, many held community parties, and villages competed to create the longest stretch of bunting.

Crowds even turned out to watch military bands rehearse in London ahead of the main celebrations for the queen's 60 years on the throne. 

"It's not every morning you wake up on a day that will be written about in the history books," declared The Sun, Britain's best-selling newspaper.

"Make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. It may be centuries before another comes along."

Cloudy weather and forecasts of rain did not deter the public from partying amid the highest support for the royals in decades. A recent poll showed about 80 percent of Britons want the country to stay a monarchy.

People were already camping in tents beside the Thames river ahead of a pageant of about 1,000 boats that will sail through London on Sunday with the queen in a royal barge decked with 10,000 flowers.

"There is huge excitement. The queen has done a terrific job in the past 60 years," said Andrew Phasey, whose canal narrowboat will be part of the pageant.

"We feel hugely privileged to be taking part. It will be a terrific day."

Britons have planned more than 9,500 street parties for Sunday, although there are concerns about forecasts of heavy rain.

On Monday, some 4,000 beacons will be lit across the Commonwealth following a huge picnic and star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace.

Tuesday, which like Monday is a public holiday, will be devoted to ceremonial events including a thanksgiving service and carriage procession. 

The queen, a keen rider and racehorse owner, and her husband were on Saturday watching races including the Epsom Derby, Britain's richest horse race.

Paratroopers descended to the racecourse trailing huge Union Jack flags and red smoke ahead of their arrival with sons Andrew and Edward, young princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and other members of the royal family.

The queen wore royal blue and her trademark matching hat with flowers, while Prince Philip, 90, waved his top hat to the crowd of 130,000 people.

Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins sang the national anthem, while Buckingham Palace posted on Twitter: "And we're off! The #diamondjubilee weekend begins."

Queen Elizabeth later presented the 110-year-old Coronation Cup, renamed the Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup for the occasion, to the team behind winning horse St Nicholas Abbey, who also won the race last year, ahead of the Derby.

Rachel Molloy, 28, a singer from London, said over strawberries and champagne, "We waved to her and it was very exciting because we've never seen the queen this close. She looked happy."


Queen Elizabeth II told her grandson Prince William to rip up the guest list he was given for his wedding and do it again himself to include his friends, he said in an interview.

The Duke of Cambridge also said he got got just half an hour's sleep before last year's wedding to Catherine Middleton, which was watched by billions around the world.

In extracts released Tuesday from a forthcoming ITV television documentary to mark the queen's jubilee, William said he went to his grandmother with his concerns about the guest list drawn up by royal officials.

"There was very much a subdued moment when I was handed a list with 777 names on -- not one person I knew or Catherine knew," he said.

"I went to her (the Queen) and said, 'Listen, I've got this list, not one person I know -- what do I do?' and she went, 'Get rid of it. Start from your friends and then we'll add those we need to in due course. It's your day'."

The April 29 wedding at Westminster Abbey in London was attended by around 2,000 people and more than one million people lined the processional route to see the happy couple.

William, the second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, admitted that his grandmother was a tough act to follow.


A Scotland Yard officer has denied racially abusing a suspect after the summer riots.

Pc Alex MacFarlane elected to be tried by a Crown Court jury as he appeared before magistrates accused of telling 21-year-old Mauro Demetrio: "The problem with you is you will always be a n*****, yeah?".

The bespectacled 52-year-old was granted bail to appear again at Southwark Crown Court on June 29.

Suited MacFarlane, wearing black glasses with tinted lenses, chose not to stand in the dock at Westminster Magistrates' Court as he entered a not guilty plea to a racially-aggravated harassment offence.

He confirmed his date of birth and gave his address as Forest Gate police station as the charge against him was read out.

The indictment detailed that he intended to cause "harassment, alarm or distress" to his victim and "used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour".


A new memorial commemorating the 255 British servicemen who died in the Falklands War is to be unveiled during a special service.

More than 600 veterans and their families are due to attend the National Memorial Arboretum for the event that comes 30 years after the British task force landings on the disputed South Atlantic Islands.

The service will end with a flypast of the UK's last airworthy Vulcan, which served in the islands.

It will be flown by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers DFC - the pilot who led the Black Buck 1 raid on Port Stanley's runway.

The memorial has been built to honour the task force, remember the servicemen and merchant seamen who gave their lives in the conflict and inform visitors to the Staffordshire centre of remembrance about the historical event.

Incorporating a seven foot high curved wall of rugged Cotswold stone facing a rock from the Falklands, it has been built to reflect the Falklands' landscape and echoes the commemorative wall in San Carlos cemetery.

It also features two granite benches and a number of granite plaques, including one engraved with the names of three Falkland Islanders who lost their lives.


A glittering lunch for the world's sovereigns to be held on Friday to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II has been marked by a withdrawal and protests over the guest list.

Spain's Queen Sophia has pulled out of the event at Windsor Castle, west of London, amid tensions over Gibraltar, while there were protests over the invite of Swaziland's King Mswati III.

Rights groups are also angered that the guest list, released by Buckingham Palace on Friday, includes Bahrain's King Hamad, whose Gulf island country is in a state of civil unrest following a deadly crackdown on protests.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The sovereigns lunch is a matter for Buckingham Palace, but we understand all reigning sovereigns have been invited.

"The jubilee celebrations are about marking 60 years of the queen's reign, they are not a political event. 

"The palace is not releasing further details, including details of the guest list, until the day of the engagement."

Queen Sofia, the consort of King Juan Carlos, cancelled her trip due to tensions with Britain over the tiny Gibraltar peninsula, which Spain ceded to Britain in perpetuity in 1713.

Last week Madrid protested to London over a planned June 11-13 jubilee visit to Gibraltar on behalf of Queen Elizabeth by her youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

"The government considers it is hardly adequate that in the current circumstances, Queen Sofia take part in Queen Elizabeth's jubilee," a spokesman for the Spanish royal household said Wednesday.

The Spanish king and queen were due to attend the Windsor lunch, which is being held to mark Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne, but King Juan Carlos had already pulled out, recovering from hip replacement surgery after a fall during an elephant hunting expedition in Africa.

After the lunch, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are hosting a dinner for the foreign sovereign monarchs at Buckingham Palace in London.


The trade deficit in the UK shrank in March as exports to the US, China and Russia grew strongly, official figures have shown.

The UK's trade deficit on goods and services was £2.7 billion in March, compared to £2.9 billion in February, while the deficit on goods alone was flat at £8.6 billion.

Exports to countries outside the European Union (EU) grew by 12%, driven by chemicals and cars, while the eurozone crisis continued to take its toll as EU exports were flat month on month.

While the deficit shrank slightly, economists said net trade was still likely to have knocked 0.2% off gross domestic product (GDP) growth, putting a dampener on hopes that growth figures for the first quarter of the year will be revised upwards.

Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said: "March's UK trade figures showed a bit of an improvement, although the external sector still looks likely to have dragged on GDP growth in the first quarter overall."

The UK economy shrank 0.2% in the first three months of the year, following a 0.3% decline in GDP in the final quarter of 2011, meaning the country entered a technical recession.

Chancellor George Osborne is relying on a shift in the economy towards the private sector, particularly in manufacturing and exports, to withstand his far-reaching package of public sector spending cuts.





Government plans to withdraw child benefit from parents earning more than £50,000 are "seriously flawed in principle and in practice", and threaten public confidence in the tax system, the official accountants' body has warned.

Just months before the scheduled introduction of the changes next January, the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) urged the Treasury to rethink its plans or risk "an operational and reputational disaster for the Government and HM Revenue and Customs" (HMRC).

Labour branded the policy a "complete mess" and called on Chancellor George Osborne to change course. But the Treasury argued that it was unfair to expect households on £20,000 to pay through their taxes for benefits for those earning £80,000 or £100,000, and insisted HMRC is confident the reform can be delivered effectively.

Under plans set out in Mr Osborne's Budget in March, the benefit - worth more than £1,000 a year for families with one child and almost £2,500 for those with three - is to be withdrawn gradually from households with a parent earning more than £50,000. Parents with an income above £60,000 will lose it altogether.

In a briefing paper, the ICAEW warned that this will breach the principles of confidentiality and individual taxation which underpin the tax system. The organisation also said it will undermine the principle of fairness, as families in similar circumstances will be treated differently.

A household with one working parent earning more than £50,000 will lose out while neighbours with two parents earning £49,000 each will continue to receive the benefit in full. The policy will create additional administrative burdens, creating up to 500,000 new self-assessed taxpayers and possibly leading to lower service standards from HMRC, warned the ICAEW.


Senior coalition figures are set to begin their fightback following dismal election results that have heaped pressure on the already-straining partnership.

Tensions are mounting as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats come under attack from their own ranks over the growing public disenchantment with the Government.

Prime Minister David Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg are expected to carry out a joint visit in the coming days as the two-year anniversary of the formation of the coalition, symbolised by the infamous No 10 rose garden press conference, approaches.

They will use that to attempt to drive home the message that the Government is focusing on "jobs, growth and the economy", and restate the basic principles underpinning why the two parties joined forces.

Meanwhile, Chancellor George Osborne has been put forward as the Tory "big beast" to face broadcasters and defend the party in the wake of its election drubbing.

Labour exceeded expectations in England, Scotland and Wales, by gaining 824 seats and winning control over an additional 32 authorities, while 403 Tories and 330 Liberal Democrats fell victim to a cull of coalition councillors.

The High Court has lifted an injunction preventing the removal of the last anti-war protest tent near the Houses of Parliament.

Judges said that it would be "lifted immediately", leaving Westminster Council free to clear Parliament Square of the tent as soon as it is ready.

The injunction had been in place while veteran peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui challenged the legality of new byelaws giving the local authority power to remove tents and sleeping equipment from the road and pavement around the square.

Last week, High Court judge Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, and Mr Justice Silber ruled the byelaws lawful.

Ms Gallastegui returned to court to ask for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the basis that her case raised issues of general public importance and it was arguable that the High Court had got the law wrong.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency website has been taken temporarily offline after it was targeted by computer hackers.

The distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack - which involves web addresses being hit by a flood of visits - was carried out on Wednesday night, a Soca spokesman said.

The incident did "not pose any security risk to the organisation", he added.

DDOS attacks on the Soca website have previously been linked to the loose-knit international "hacktivist" group Anonymous.

Soca's website has been down since 10pm on Wednesday.

A spokesman said: "The action was taken to limit the impact of a DDOS attack on other clients hosted by our service provider.