British Queen celebrates

UK news


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.


Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has raised the possibility of standpipes returning to UK streets if the country is hit by a third dry winter in a row.

Mrs Spelman told the BBC's Inside Out programme that while it was "most unlikely" that drought-affected areas would need to use standpipes this year, another dry winter could make it more likely they would have to be brought in.

And while the wettest April on record had been good for the drought situation, she said the heavy rain had not solved the problem - and a wet winter was needed to get things back to normal.

South east, south west and eastern England are in drought along with the Midlands and South and East Yorkshire after two extremely dry winters.

Many areas rely on groundwater for much of their tap water supplies, and the dry winters mean aquifers have not had a chance to recharge when they normally would. Water companies who rely on groundwater for supplies are concerned about what will happen if there is a third dry winter.

Mrs Spelman said: "I'm not deluded into thinking that I can tell you how much rain we are going to get - and it's far too early to tell yet whether we are going to have the wet winter we do need; but whereas it's most unlikely we would have standpipes this year, if we have another dry winter that becomes more likely."



Islamist militants have offered to free a British-South African hostage if London allows radical cleric Abu Qatada to choose a country for his extradition, US monitoring service SITE said.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also threatened that Britain would "open the door of evil" unto its country and people should it send the imam back to his native Jordan where he faces jail, the report said.

AQIM -- Al-Qaeda's North African franchise -- has been holding Stephen Malcolm, 37, and two other Western men hostage since abducting them last November in the northern Mali desert city of Timbuktu.

Britain has been trying to deport Abu Qatada for more than six years, arguing he is a threat to national security, to Jordan, where the cleric was convicted in 1998 in absentia of involvement in terror attacks.

Videos of the cleric's sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by some of the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks, while he has also defended killing Jews and attacks on Americans.

The cleric's removal was blocked in January by the European Court of Human Rights, which cited the risk that evidence obtained from torture would be used against him on his return to Jordan.



A purely Tory government would not be pressing ahead with reform of the House of Lords in this parliament, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke admitted.

The Justice Secretary hinted at tensions within the coalition amid reports that at least six Cabinet ministers would prefer to see the changes delayed.

Philip Hammond, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Owen Paterson and Lord Strathclyde are said to be among senior Conservatives who have voiced doubts.

The party's backbenchers are also threatening a mass rebellion on the issue, with the potential for resignations by several ministerial aides.

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Clarke stressed that he had always been in favour of an elected upper House.

"The existing House of Lords is a curious historical anomaly," he said. "We are ready for democracy, I think. All three political parties were in favour of House of Lords reform in their last manifestos."