The TUC set itself on a collision course with Gordon Brown on public sector pay last night by backing strike action by millions of public sector workers, foreshadowing a new “winter of discontent”.
Civil servants, local government workers, teachers, transport workers, prison officers and postal workers agreed with a unanimous show of hands at the TUC conference in Brighton to back coordinated strike action against the government’s 2% pay limit and privatisation of services.
The UK’s monthly trade deficit with the rest of the world grew in December to its biggest since May, as the nation also hit a record annual trade gap.
The Office for National Statistics said the goods trade deficit was £7.14bn ($14bn) in December, as against £6.87bn the previous month.
December’s figures helped push the annual trade deficit to its biggest since figures began in 1697.
The total UK trade deficit for 2006 was £55.8bn, up from £44.6bn in 2005.
Ross Walker of RBS said the trade figures are “a little bit worse than expected, a larger deficit than expected”.
The UK is the world’s third largest importer of illegal timber, according to a report from conservation body WWF.
The charity has called on ministers to press for European legislation to prevent the import of illegal timber.
WWF says most illegal timber, wood from trees felled against local regulations or exported without duty being paid, came through Russia and Scandinavia.
The UK’s current account deficit rose to £10.2bn during the third quarter of the year, the highest cash figure since records began in 1955, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday.
Britain last night attacked a world trade deal hammered out in Hong Kong as “one stage from failure” and as a disappointment for poor countries.
As EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson gave his verdict of the last-minute agreement, aid agencies called the lack of major concessions to the developing world a “fraud”.
World Trade Organisation negotiators agreed on minor changes to trade rules including an end to European Union export subsidies by 2013 and an aid package for the poorest nations.
But to prevent talks from collapsing like previous summits in Seattle and Cancun, Mexico, details were left vague. Prime Minister Tony Blair wants a new summit to reopen the major issues early in the new year.
Third-world countries said the deal means they will have to open their economies to competition from the rich nations and received only trivial concessions in return.
We are all part of an unfair system of international trade that benefits big business at the expense of communities and the environment.
Trade needs to be rebalanced in favour of people
and the planet.