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Sainsbury’s-Asda merger in jeopardy”:


The UK’s competition watchdog has said the proposed tie-up between Sainsbury’s and Asda could push up prices and cut choice for customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was “likely to be difficult” for the chains to “address the concerns”.

The CMA also said the merger could lead to a “poorer shopping experience”.

Sainsbury’s boss told the BBC the findings were “outrageous” and he would continue to challenge them.

Chief executive Mike Coupe described the CMA’s analysis as “fundamentally flawed” and said the firm would be making “very strong representations” to it about its “inaccuracy and lack of objectivity”.

“They have fundamentally moved the goalposts, changed the shape of the ball and chosen a different playing field,” he told the BBC.

“This is totally outrageous.”

Sainsbury’s shares were down more than 12% in early Wednesday trading.

These are the CMA’s provisional findings and the firms will have a chance to respond, before it publishes its final decision on 30 April.

The watchdog said it had identified two potential remedies to the loss of competition: either blocking the merger entirely or forcing the sale of “assets and operations”, including stores or even the Sainsbury’s or Asda brands.

However, it added that it “currently considers that there is a significant risk that a divestiture will not be effective in this particular case”.

The two chains would need to sell “sufficient assets and operations to enable any purchaser to compete effectively as a national in-store grocery retailer”.

It added that it may not be possible to achieve an effective solution to the loss of competition “without also divesting one or other of the Asda or Sainsbury’s brands, in addition to physical assets and operations”.

Sainsbury's Asda chart

‘Lower prices’

The deal would create a business accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries with a 31.4% market share and with 2,800 stores.

Stuart McIntosh, chair of the CMA’s independent inquiry group, said: “We have provisionally found that, should the two merge, shoppers could face higher prices, reduced quality and choice, and a poorer overall shopping experience across the UK.

“We also have concerns that prices could rise at a large number of their petrol stations.”

However, in a joint statement, Sainsbury’s and Asda said combining the two chains would create “significant cost savings, which would allow us to lower prices”.

“Despite the savings being independently reviewed by two separate industry specialists, the CMA has chosen to discount them as benefits.”

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Analysis

Dominic O’Connell, Today business presenter

Supermarket bosses know that British competition regulators have always had a strong interest in the grocery market. There has been a string of inquiries over the last two decades, both into individual deals and the bigger question of how well the market serves consumer interests.

So Sainsbury’s board members would have been nervous when they proposed a takeover of Asda last year – but they did at least have the encouragement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had approved a tie-up between Tesco and Booker just a few months earlier.

Unfortunately for them, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train.

The regulator has crushed Sainsbury’s plans. There is no veto, but the strong language used, and the breadth of the problems found, suggest there is no way back.

Gilets jaunes: How much anti-Semitism is beneath the yellow vests?


Philosopher Alain Finkielkraut was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse

The French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, has said she won’t join other political parties in a march against anti-Semitism on Tuesday, accusing France’s leaders of doing nothing to tackle Islamist networks in France and saying she will mark the occasion separately.

It comes days after a prominent French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, was verbally attacked for being Jewish as he walked past the weekly “gilets jaunes” (yellow-vest) protests in Paris.

A small group of protesters shouted a barrage of abuse at him as he passed by the demonstration on his way home from lunch on Saturday, calling him a “dirty Zionist” and telling him to “go back to Tel Aviv”.

“I felt an absolute hatred,” Mr Finkielkraut told one French newspaper later that night. “If the police hadn’t been there, I would have been frightened.”

A few days before that, official data suggested there had been a 74% rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France last year.

Now, many here are questioning whether the gilets jaunes movement is providing a new kind of forum for these extremist views, and how central those attitudes are to the movement.

“It’s very serious,” says Vincent Duclert, a specialist in anti-Semitism in France at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences – one of France’s most prestigious colleges.

“The gilets jaunes are not an anti-Semitic movement, but alongside the demonstration each Saturday there’s a lot of anti-Semitic expression by groups of the extreme right or extreme left.”

‘Yellow-vests’ pelt police van with stones

“You can be on the streets demonstrating every Saturday, shouting your slogans against the Jews,” says Jean-Yves Camus, an expert in French political extremism.

“And as there’s no leadership in the movement and no stewarding of the demonstrations, you can be free to do it. I’m afraid there will be more attacks, because the self-proclaimed leaders simply do not seem to care that much.”

Jason Herbert, a spokesman for the movement, says the incident on Saturday is a scandal, but not representative of the gilets jaunes as a whole.

“It’s the inherent weakness of a movement that lets the people speak,” he explained. “Everyone can come and give his opinion – and some opinions are despicable and illegal. To think someone is inferior because of his or her origins is just not acceptable, and it’s completely unrelated to our demands. Amongst our demands, I’ve never heard ‘we want fewer Jews’.”

A protester holds up a sign that says 'Anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, racism is not us'
Some protesters have carried signs denouncing racism and discrimination

The gilets jaunes began life as a protest against fuel tax rises, but have broadened into a loose confederation of different interest groups with no official hierarchy or leadership. Over the past three months, as the movement has appeared more radical, its wider support has dipped.

Vincent Duclert believes that the movement does bear some responsibility for the extremist abuse in its midst, because the violence of the protests – towards the police, state institutions and public property – encourages anti-Semitism by encouraging “transgression”.

And, he says, it’s possible that the gilets jaunes are also offering “a new space for different kinds of anti-Semitism to come together: from the extreme right and extreme left, but also from radical Islamist or anti-Zionist groups, and some types of social conservatives”.

There are signs over the past year, he says, that levels of anti-Semitism have risen within these different groups, because of changes at home, across Europe and in the Middle East, and that French public opinion has been too tolerant.

Gilets jaunes: How much anti-Semitism is beneath the yellow vests?
Marine Le Pen is among those trying to court the support of the protesters

Politicians here have been quick to condemn Saturday’s attack on Alain Finkielkraut. President Macron tweeted that it was “the absolute negation of what we are and what makes us a great nation”.

Others tried to blame it on their political rivals.

A member of France’s centre-right opposition, Geoffrey Didier, told reporters that anti-Semitism was growing “because radical Islamism is growing in France”, while Marine Le Pen said it illustrated “how the anti-Semite far-left is trying to infiltrate the gilets jaunes movement”.

Both Ms Le Pen’s party and that of her far-left rival, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have been trying to win the support of the gilets jaunes ahead of European elections in May.

Jean-Yves Camus believes last week’s attack will help turn public opinion against the movement, saying it has become “a hotbed of radical activity from both sides of the political spectrum and the French do not want that”.

UK employment hits another record high”:


The number of people in work in the UK has continued to climb, with a record 32.6 million employed between October and December, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show.

Unemployment was little-changed in the three-month period at 1.36 million.

The jobless rate, remaining at 4%, is at its lowest since early 1975.

Weekly average earnings went up by 3.4% to £494.50 in the year to December – after adjusting for inflation, that is the highest level since March 2011.

Graph of real wages figures

The number of people in work between October and December was up 167,000 from the previous quarter and 444,000 higher than at the same time in 2017.

The employment rate – defined as the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who are working – was estimated at 75.8%, higher than the 75.2% from a year earlier and the joint-highest figure since comparable estimates began in 1971.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “While the global economy is facing many challenges, particularly in sectors like manufacturing, these figures show the underlying resilience of our jobs market – once again delivering record employment levels.”

ONS deputy head of labour market Matt Hughes said: “The labour market remains robust, with the employment rate remaining at a record high and vacancies reaching a new record level.

“The unemployment rate has also fallen, and for women has dropped below 4% for the first time ever.”

Graph of employment figures

However, Andrew Wishart, UK economist at Capital Economics, warned that next month’s figures may not be so buoyant.

“The labour market data didn’t reflect the slip in hiring surveys in December, with employment rising,” he said.

“However, the surveys deteriorated more markedly in January, so a Brexit effect might start to weaken employment growth in the next batch of official data.”

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Analysis:

By Dharshini David, BBC economics correspondent

The jobs market remains in a robust shape despite the loss of momentum in the economy towards the end of last year – although the Brexit fog effect may be yet to register.

Continuing recent trends, the majority of those entering work were previously inactive (students, looking after home, long-term sick etc).

The demand for labour continues to bolster wage growth. Real wages increased by more than 1% per year, better on the whole than in recent years although about half the rate of the pre-crisis era.

So little sign of Brexit uncertainty hitting hiring so far – but demand in the labour market tends to lag significantly behind changes in output.

More recent employment surveys show a marked deterioration in January, so a Brexit effect might start to weaken employment growth in the next batch of official data.

And productivity – output per hour – was down by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018 versus a year previously, as output rose more slowly than employment. The lack of progress in this area could weigh on wage growth in the longer term.

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Skill shortages

Looking at the average earnings figures, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “With surplus labour extremely scarce and job vacancies rising to a new record high, workers are having more success in obtaining above-inflation pay increases.

“Looking ahead, we doubt that wage growth will slip below 3% this year.”

Despite the wage increases and low unemployment figures, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, did not think that struggling High Streets would benefit.

He said: “The uplift to consumer spending from the recent improvement in real pay growth is likely to be limited by weak consumer confidence and high household debt levels.

“The increase in the number of vacancies to a new record high confirms that labour and skills shortages are set to remain a significant a drag on business activity for some time to come, impeding UK growth and productivity.”

Jewish graves desecrated near Strasbourg in eastern France


The graves were desecrated at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, near Strasbourg

Some 80 graves have been desecrated with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, local officials say.

The damage was discovered on Tuesday, ahead of nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

It occurred at a cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, on the night of Monday into Tuesday, town hall officials told the franceinfo website.

President Emmanuel Macron has condemned anti-Semitic abuse after a prominent intellectual was targeted.

Police stepped in to protect the philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, after he was bombarded with insults and anti-Jewish taunts by a group of “yellow vest” protesters in Paris at the weekend.

Mr Macron visited the cemetery to inspect the damage on Tuesday, before he heads to the Paris Holocaust memorial.

“It’s important for me to be here with you today,” he told local leaders and members of the Jewish community.

Several local officials denounced the desecration on social media.

Mr Castaner has warned that anti-Semitism is “spreading like poison” in the country, with a series of anti-Jewish incidents reported in central Paris last weekend.

These included post-boxes featuring a Holocaust survivor’s portrait being vandalised with swastikas.

Official data suggested there had been a 74% rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France last year.

Jewish groups have also been warning that a rising far right across Europe has been promoting anti-Semitism and hatred of other minorities.

Crime data from Germany released last week revealed that anti-Semitic offences had increased by 10% over the past year – including a 60% rise in physical attacks.

Attacks have been blamed on both the far right and Islamists.

The US cannot crush us, says Huawei founder


Ren Zhengfei described the arrest of his daughter as politically motivated.

The founder of Huawei has said there is “no way the US can crush” the company, in an exclusive interview with the BBC.

Ren Zhengfei described the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, as politically motivated.

The US is pursuing criminal charges against Huawei and Ms Meng, including money laundering, bank fraud and stealing trade secrets.

Huawei denies any wrongdoing.

In his first international broadcast interview since Ms Meng was arrested, Mr Ren dismissed the pressure from the US.

“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he said. “The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”

However, he acknowledged that the potential loss of custom could have a significant impact.

“Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always downsize and become smaller,” he added.

What else did Mr Ren say about the US?

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the country’s allies against using Huawei technology, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them”.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned or blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for their future 5G mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.

Mr Ren warned that “the world cannot leave us because we are more advanced”.

“If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world.”

What did Mr Ren say about investment in the UK?

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has decided that any risk posed by using Huawei technology in UK telecoms projects can be managed.

Many of UK’s mobile companies, including Vodafone, EE and Three, are working with Huawei to develop their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

Commenting on the possibility of a UK ban, Mr Ren said Huawei “won’t withdraw our investment because of this. We will continue to invest in the UK.”

“We still trust in the UK, and we hope that the UK will trust us even more.”

“We will invest even more in the UK. Because if the US doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the US to the UK on an even bigger scale.”

Huawei in numbers
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What does Mr Ren think about his daughter’s arrest?

Mr Ren’s daughter Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested on 1 December in Vancouver at the request of the US, and is expected to be subject of a formal extradition request.

In total, 23 charges are levelled against Huawei and Ms Weng The charges are split across two indictments by the US Department of Justice.

The first covers claims Huawei hid business links to Iran – a country subject to US trade sanctions, while the second includes the charge of attempted theft of trade secrets.

Mr Ren was clear in his opposition to the US accusations.

“Firstly, I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable.”

“The US likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods.”

“We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd"s chief financial officer (CFO), is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters December 6, 2018.
Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver last December

What did Mr Ren say about Chinese government spying?

Huawei, which is China’s largest private company, has been under scrutiny for its links to the Chinese government – with the US and others expressing concern its technology could be used by China’s security services to spy.

Under Chinese law, firms are compelled to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

But Mr Ren said that allowing spying is a risk he wouldn’t take.

“The Chinese government has already clearly said that it won’t install any backdoors. And we won’t install backdoors either.”

“We’re not going to risk the disgust of our country and of our customers all over the world, because of something like this.”

“Our company will never undertake any spying activities. If we have any such actions, then I’ll shut the company down.”

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Is Huawei part of the Chinese state?

Analysis – Karishma Vaswami, BBC Asia Business Correspondent

For a man known as reclusive and secretive, Ren Zhengfei seemed confident, almost cocky in the conviction that the business he’s built for the last 30 years can withstand the scrutiny from Western governments.

Mr Ren is right, the US makes up only a fraction of his overall business.

But where I saw that confidence slip, was when I asked him about his links to the Chinese military and the government.

He refused to be drawn into a conversation, only to saying that these were not facts, simply allegations.

Still, some signs of close links between Mr Ren and the government were revealed during the course of our interview.

He confirmed to me that his daughter Meng Wanzhou was carrying a passport usually issued to China’s government employees when she was arrested in Canada.

But he explained that this was an old expired passport of Meng’s and not because his family curried special favour with the government.

He also confirmed that there is a Communist Party committee in Huawei, but he said this is what all companies – foreign or domestic – operating in China must have in order to abide by the law.

Honda set to close Swindon car plant


Japanese carmaker Honda is set to announce the closure of its Swindon plant in 2022, putting 3,500 jobs at risk, sources say.

The Japanese carmaker will shut the plant in 2022 but retain its European headquarters in Bracknell, Berkshire.

Sources say Honda will make an announcement on the future of the company on Tuesday morning.

Honda declined to comment on the claims, first reported by Sky News. The government also declined to comment.

Honda produces more than 100,000 Civic cars in Swindon for the global market. It is the firm’s only factory in the EU.

Brexit fears

According to Sky, Honda was likely to relocate the facility to its home market of Japan.

Brexit is understood to be a factor in the decision, with the carmaker concerned about the imposition of new tariffs after the UK leaves the EU.

Rival Japanese carmaker Nissan also cited Brexit as one reason for cancelling plans to build its X-Trail SUV in Sunderland earlier this month.

Ford and Jaguar Land Rover have also expressed concern about the risk of a potential no-deal Brexit.

Last month, Honda has said it would shut down the factory for six days in April as part of its preparations for any disruption caused post-Brexit.

The company said the move was to ensure it could adjust to “all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”.

The firm said it would help in recovering lost production if shipments of parts were held up at borders.

Last year, the senior vice-president of Honda Europe warned that if the UK left the EU without a deal, it would cost his company tens of millions of pounds.

Ian Howells told the BBC that quitting the bloc without an agreement would affect the carmaker’s competitiveness in Europe.

He said the Japanese firm was preparing for a no-deal outcome, but had not discussed relocating its Swindon plant.

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A history of Honda Swindon

Honda UK is situated on a former airfield spanning 370 acres to the north east of Swindon.

The carmaker bought the site in 1985 and established Honda of the UK Manufacturing to inspect vehicles pre-delivery.

In 1989, the operations expanded to producing engines. Three years later, a car plant was added, which began producing the Honda Accord.

Since then, the site has gone on to produce the Jazz, CR-V, Civic and Type R.

A second Honda car plant opened in Swindon in 2001, raising production capacity to 250,000 a year.

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Are you an employee at the Honda car plant in Swindon? Tell us about your experiences by emailing  BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk ) or mrbenrory@europe.com )

Huawei risk can be managed, say UK cyber-security chiefs


Huawei has said it is independent and gives nothing to Beijing, aside from taxes

Any risk posed by involving the Chinese technology giant Huawei in UK telecoms projects can be managed, cyber-security chiefs have determined.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s decision undermines US efforts to persuade its allies to ban the firm from 5G communications networks.

The Chinese government is accused of using Huawei as a proxy so it can spy on rival nations.

But Huawei has said it gives nothing to Beijing, aside from taxes.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their future fifth generation mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.

Most of the UK’s mobile companies – Vodafone, EE and Three – have been working with Huawei on developing their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

Huawei in numbers

As first reported by the Financial Times, the conclusion by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – will feed into the review.

The decision has not yet been made public, but the security agency said in a statement it had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”.

Huawei booth
GETTY IMAGES

Huawei has denied that it poses any risk to the UK or any other country

BBC business correspondent Rob Young said the National Cyber Security Centre’s conclusion “will carry weight”, but said the review could still rule against Huawei.

In an interview, Huawei’s cyber security chief John Suffolk told the BBC: “We are probably the most open and transparent organisation in the world. We are probably the most poked and prodded organisation too.”

The former UK chief information officer added: “We don’t say ‘believe us’ we say ‘come and check for yourself’, come and do your own testing and come and do your own verification.

“The more people looking, the more people touching, they can provide their own assurance without listening to what Huawei has to say.”

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Analysis

Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

If anybody knows just how Huawei works and the threat it might pose to the UK’s security, it is the National Cyber Security Centre.

This arm of GCHQ has been in charge of an annual examination of the Chinese telecoms giant’s equipment, and expressed concerns in its most recent report – not about secret backdoors, but sloppy cyber-security practices.

The NCSC has also been giving advice to UK mobile operators as they order the equipment for the rollout of their 5G networks later this year.

They feel they have been given the same cautious nod the agency appears to have given the government’s Supply Chain Review: keep Huawei out of the core of your 5G networks, but you are OK to use its equipment at phone masts as part of the mix of suppliers.

Australia and New Zealand have taken a very different view by taking a far harder line against Huawei.

That isn’t because they know something about the Chinese firm which the NCSC has missed.

Their decisions were probably based on an assessment of the political as well as security risk of ignoring the urging from the US to shut Huawei out.

And whatever the NCSC’s advice, similar factors will determine the UK government’s final decision.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is leading the review into the future of the telecoms industry, said its analysis was “ongoing”.

“No decisions have been taken and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate,” they said in a statement.

Asked whether the findings changed her country’s stance towards Huawei, the prime minister of New Zealand – which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes the UK – said her government would conduct its own assessment.

Jacinda Ardern told reporters: “It is fair to say Five Eyes, of course, share information, but we make our own independent decisions.”

Last year, BT confirmed that it was removing Huawei’s equipment from the EE core network that it owns.

The network provides a communication system being developed for the UK’s emergency services.

Fifth-generation mobile broadband is coming to the UK over the next year or so, promising download and browsing speeds 10 to 20 times faster than those 4G networks can offer.

Will superfast 5G mobile be worth the money?

The US argues Huawei could use malign software updates to spy on those using 5G.

It points to China’s National Intelligence Law passed in 2017 that says organisations must “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

Critics of Huawei also highlight that its founder Ren Zhengfei was a former engineer in the country’s army and joined the Communist Party in 1978.

Huawei recently attracted attention when its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested and accused of breaking American sanctions on Iran.

Australian political parties hit by ‘state actor’ hack, PM says”:


Australia’s parliament was the subject of an attempted hack

Australia’s main political parties and parliament were hit by a “malicious intrusion” on their computer networks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The cyber-attack revealed two weeks ago was carried out by a “sophisticated state actor”, he said.

But he added there was “no evidence of any electoral interference”. The nation will hold an election within months.

The attack being investigated was at first thought to involve only the parliament’s servers.

“During the course of this work, we also became aware that the networks of some political parties – Liberal, Labor and Nationals – have also been affected,” Mr Morrison told the House of Representatives on Monday.

Who might have been behind it?

The Australian prime minister did not say which foreign state was under suspicion, adding he would not provide additional detail on “operational matters”.

The Australian government has faced a number of cyber-attacks in recent years, some of which have been attributed in local media to nations such as China.

Fergus Hanson, cyber security expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, put China “at the top” of the list of suspects but said he “wouldn’t rule out” Russia also being responsible.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the accusations were “groundless” and “made up out of thin air with ulterior motives”.

He urged media organisations to “stop the words and actions” that can harm “China’s bilateral relations with relevant countries”.

How extensive was the hack?

The Australian Cyber Security Centre said that although party systems had been compromised, it was not yet known if information had been stolen.

Mr Morrison, who leads the Liberal-National coalition, said: “We have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system.”

He added that security officials had briefed the nation’s electoral bodies and would provide support to all political parties.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the cyber-attack was “of grave concern” following instances of “malicious activity” in other nations.

“We cannot be complacent and, as this most recent activity reported by the prime minister indicates, we are not exempt or immune,” he said.

In 2015 and 2016, there were high-profile attacks on the government’s weather and statistics agencies. In 2011, senior Australian ministers also had their email systems breached.

After the attack on the parliament’s computer network, officials said there was “no evidence” that information had been accessed or stolen.

However, politicians’ passwords had been reset as a precaution.

Holocaust: Israel summit falls apart in Netanyahu ‘racism’ row


Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (L) met Mr Netanyahu in Warsaw this month

A summit of central European leaders in Israel has been cancelled because of an Israel-Poland row over the Holocaust.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said there would just be bilateral talks in Jerusalem and Poland is staying away.

Poland withdrew after a suggestion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Poles had been complicit in the Holocaust.

Those comments were “racist and unacceptable”, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews, mostly in Poland.

Israel later clarified that Mr Netanyahu had been referring to “Poles” but not to the Polish nation.

He had been quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust.

The meeting hosted by Israel was meant to bring together the four-nation Visegrad Group: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

In Poland’s absence, the three remaining prime ministers will still visit Israel for talks, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

“It will not be called Visegrad, because this entails the presence of all four,” an Israeli spokesperson said. “It’s going to be a summit with Visegrad members.”

On Sunday Mr Morawiecki pulled out, saying Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz would go instead, but on Monday Poland pulled out of the summit completely.

The Polish government says cancellation of the visit is “an unequivocal signal to other governments and international opinion that historical truth is fundamental”.

About six million Polish citizens died in World War Two, of whom about three million were Jews.

The Nazis built many of their most notorious death camps in Poland after occupying the country at the beginning of the war in 1939.

Venezuela crisis: the view from Yare:


Humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans has been arriving in US military planes on the Colombian border. President Nicolas Maduro denies there’s a humanitarian crisis, saying the relief is a cover for a US invasion — and his troops will not let it through. But Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for crowds to converge on the border to collect the aid. The BBC’s International correspondent Orla Guerin reports from Yare where the lack of food and medicines are claiming lives.