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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.

UK & World

Moscow’s call for joint investigation into Salisbury poisoning branded ‘perverse’

April 4 2018

Moscow’s call for a joint UK/Russian investigation into the Salisbury poisoning has been dismissed as “perverse” by Britain’s delegation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.The move came as the OPCW’s executive council met in The Hague to discuss the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal at the request of Russia.The Russian initiative was described by the Foreign Office as a “diversionary tactic” designed to undermine the OPCW’s work in analysing samples of the substance identified by the UK as a Novichok nerve agent.Tension between Moscow and London has risen a notch after the head of the Porton Down military research facility said scientists had not verified Russia as the source of the substance.Vladimir Putin seized on the comments from the chief executive of the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Gary Aitkenhead, as he accused the UK of launching an “anti-Russian campaign”.And Labour’s Diane Abbott suggested the Government had rushed to blame the Russian president.Russia has flatly denied UK claims that it was to blame for the March 4 attack, with foreign intelligence service director Sergei Naryshkin even claiming it was staged by the UK and US as a “provocation”.Mr Naryshkin told a global security conference in Moscow: “Even as far as the Skripal case goes – which is a grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and US intelligence agencies – some European countries are in no hurry to follow London and Washington, preferring to sort the situation out.”Moscow continues to demand that Britain hands over samples of the substance so it can carry out its own checks.But the UK OPCW delegation said in a tweet: “Russia’s proposal for a joint UK/Russian investigation into the Salisbury incident is perverse. It is a diversionary tactic, and yet more disinformation designed to evade the questions the Russian authorities must answer.”And a Foreign Office spokesman said there was “no requirement in the chemical weapons convention for the victim of a chemical weapons attack to engage in a joint investigation with the likely perpetrator”.The spokesman described Wednesday’s meeting in The Hague as “yet another diversionary tactic, intended to undermine the work of the OPCW in reaching a conclusion”.He said: “Russia has called this meeting to undermine the work of the OPCW which, fully in accordance with the chemical weapons convention, is providing the UK with technical assistance and evaluation through independent analysis of samples from the Salisbury attack.”Mr Aitkenhead said on Tuesday that Porton Down had identified the substance used in Salisbury as a military-grade Novichok nerve agent which could probably be deployed only by a nation-state.But he told Sky News it was not the role of his lab to work out where the agent came from and said the Government’s conclusion that it was highly likely to be Russian was based on “a number of other sources”.His comments appeared to contradict the answer given by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson when asked on German TV on March 20 why the UK believed the source of the nerve agent was Russia.“The people from Porton Down, the laboratory, they were absolutely categorical,” Mr Johnson said. “I asked them that myself. I said ‘Are you sure?’ He said ‘There’s no doubt’.”And on March 22, the Foreign Office issued a tweet saying: “Analysis by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down made clear that this was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent produced in Russia.”Ms Abbott said the development raised questions about the Government’s approach, and said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should now be given credit for demanding more evidence before allocating blame.“It doesn’t surprise me Porton Down is saying this because the security services were always very cautious in what they said,” the shadow home secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.“What surprised me was that so many were willing to rush into the media and say it was unequivocally Putin. That’s not necessarily what we were told.”Ms Abbott acknowledged that Prime Minister Theresa May had been “quite careful” in her language, but added: “Boris Johnson apparently going on international media and saying he was 101% certain it was Putin – I don’t understand where he got that information from.”During a visit to Turkey, Mr Putin called for a thorough investigation into the poisoningy, saying “the speed at which the anti-Russian campaign has been launched causes bewilderment”.Following Mr Aitkenhead’s comments, a Government spokesman said ministers had always been clear that the identification of the substance as Novichok by the Porton Down experts was “only one part of the intelligence picture” leading to the assessment that Russian state involvement was the only plausible explanation for the attack.But Russia’s EU ambassador, Vladimir Chizhov, insisted that the nerve agent “could have been manufactured anywhere”.Russian news agency Tass quoted Mr Chizhov as saying he was “not surprised” by Mr Aitkenhead’s comments, as Novichok “is widely known – its formula is even available on the internet”.

Politics

Benefits cuts plan passes first hurdle

January 9 2013

The Government’s plan for a real-terms cut in working-age benefits has cleared its first Commons hurdle, after heated exchanges between coalition and Labour MPs. MPs voted by 324 to 268 to give the legislation a second reading but former Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather rebelled and warned attacks on the poor could lead to the “fragmentation” of society. Labour branded the plan a “strivers’ tax”, as 68% of households caught by the below-inflation rise in benefits were in work. But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith accused Labour of tying working families into the benefits system and “buying votes” by increasing handouts. The Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill limits rises in most working-age benefits to 1% in 2014-15 and 2015-2016 instead of linking them to inflation. Similar measures for 2013-14 will be introduced separately. A Labour bid to block the Bill and insist on a “compulsory jobs guarantee” was defeated by 328 votes to 262. Mr Duncan Smith said that since the beginning of the recession incomes for those in work have risen by about 10% but for those on benefits they have risen by about 20%. He said: “What we are trying to do over the next few years is get that back to a fair settlement and then eventually it will go back on to inflation.” But shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne claimed the Bill was a “hit and run on working families” who were paying the price for the Chancellor’s economic failure. “Millionaires will have £107,000 more from next year to help them heat the swimming pool,” he said. “It’s not Britain’s millionaires who are picking up the tab, it is Britain’s working families. This bill is a strivers’ tax, pure and simple.” Labour former foreign secretary David Miliband described the bill as “rancid” and claimed it was motivated by party politics. Ms Teather, who lost her job as children and families minister last September, hit out at the way the arguments over the below-inflation rise had been characterised as a division between “shirkers and strivers.” In the Autumn Statement Mr Osborne said the measure was about “being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits”. But Ms Teather said: “A fissure already exists between the working and non-working poor. Hammering on that faultline with the language of shirkers and strivers will have long-term impacts on public attitudes, on attitudes of one neighbour against another.”

Think tank launch in Foreign Office signed off by Johnson raised No10 concerns

February 22 2018

Boris Johnson’s decision to allow a think tank set up by an arch Brexiteer to host its launch in the Foreign Office (FCO) without charging it for using a room raised concerns in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, documents suggest.The Foreign Secretary threw open the doors to Whitehall’s most opulent department building for the IFT, run by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan.Internal government emails, obtained by Greenpeace investigative arm Unearthed, show Mr Johnson signed off on the IFT using a suite for free, waiving the £6,000 hire cost, although the event was later moved to the building’s Map Room, the fees for which are not revealed in the documents.Mr Johnson claimed in the House of Commons on Tuesday there was “no cost to the public purse” for the launch, in response to a question from Labour MP Chris Bryant.The Foreign Secretary used the event to call for Britain to become a world leader in opening up economies, while his Brexit campaign allies Michael Gove and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox also attended.But on September 26, the day before the launch, an unnamed official wrote that Downing Street raised concerns that the Government could “come in for some criticism” over the free use of the room, according to Unearthed.And the day after the event another official said Cabinet Office ethics director Sue Gray was “clear that IFT should pay the room fee, at full commercial rate”, according to the documents.But in a Wednesday letter to Unearthed, the Foreign Office revealed it had not subsequently asked IFT to pay for the room despite Ms Gray’s concerns, although the think tank had paid for security and refreshments.Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace, said: “It looks like Boris Johnson and Liam Fox pulled out all the stops to help launch a new pressure group that wants to weaken precious British standards around food, animal welfare and the environment – the very areas Gove and May claim will be protected when we leave the EU.“The IFT advocates the hardest of Brexits to secure a trade deal with Trump’s America and now we know the British people helped pay for their coming out party. Taxpayers will wonder why they’re putting their money where Daniel Hannan’s mouth is.”Responding to concerns about the launch raised by Labour MP Chuka Umunna, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said the event was “handled in line with longstanding policy” and its guest list included politicians, EU and non-EU ambassadors and representatives from other think tanks and from the business world. He wrote to Mr Umunna: “Official involvement in organising the event was limited to basic logistical support. IFT covered all expenditure arising from the event. Given that the event supported the Government’s objectives on free trade, IFT was not charged for its use of the FCO rooms.”Sir Jeremy said FCO policy has since been updated to ensure non-government organisations pay a fee and secure the support of a department directorate to host an event in the rooms, moving it in line with other Whitehall departments.He added: “The FCO also considered whether to charge IFT a booking fee retrospectively.“However, as the approach to charging for the event was within the scope of the FCO room booking rules at the time, they decided that it would not be appropriate to do so.”Sir Jeremy said he had not found any breach of the Civil Service, special advisers or ministerial codes.But responding, Mr Umunna, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign for close ties with the EU, said: “As if Boris Johnson launching such an overtly political event on FCO premises was not bad enough, the fact they provided the room for free, contrary to government protocol, is frankly unacceptable. The ideologues running the IFT shouldn’t be given freebies by the Government.”Mr Bryant, who also supports Open Britain, said: “Boris Johnson was flying by the seat of his pants (on Tuesday).“He pretended that he had been completely exonerated, but in fact the Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that the Foreign Office should have charged the IFT for the use of the Map Room in line with the practice across the rest of government.“The truth is this was a private party going on free of charge on Government premises, using civil service staff and sanctioned by the Foreign Secretary.“The IFT may seem like a fringe group of wacky fanatics, but the reality is they are highly influential and are pushing a dangerous agenda.”

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