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'Britain should be unafraid to call itself Christian'

Downing Street has hit back amid criticism of the Prime Minister's claim that Britain is a "Christian country".

A spokeswoman said Mr Cameron had made clear as far back as December 2011, in a speech to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, that he believed the UK was a Christian country "and should not be afraid to say so".

"He also added that this was not to say in any way that to have another faith - or no faith - was somehow wrong," she said.

"He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country."

Read: PM criticised for claiming Britain is a 'Christian country'

Govt to launch register of 'true company owners'

A law making companies publicly declare who their true owners are is set to be launched in the Queen's Speech as part of the Government's crackdown on tax evasion, it has emerged.

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The register is backed by Vince Cable (left) and David Cameron (right). Credit: PA

Business Secretary Vince Cable confirmed ministers are ready to go ahead with plans for an open, publicly available register of beneficial ownership of firms in a drive against what he called the "darker side of capitalism".

The move will be popular with anti-poverty campaigners, who have long argued the world's poorest countries lose out on billions in tax revenue because firms use shadowy "shell companies" to shield profits.

David Cameron announced last October that the register - which he originally proposed as part of Britain's chairmanship of the G8 - would be made available to the public as well as to tax authorities - a key demand of the campaigners.

Firms registered in Britain will be required to supply information on individuals with an interest in more than 25% of the shares or voting rights, to a central register held and maintained by Companies House.

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Fifteen fire engines tackle Leeds blaze

The blaze began on Albion Way in south-west Leeds.
The blaze began on Albion Way, south-west of Leeds city centre. Credit: Google Maps

Fifteen fire engines have been sent to tackle a huge blaze at an industrial complex in Leeds.

West Yorkshire Police said emergency services were called to the Tradepak industrial building at 2.34am this morning.

Nearby streets have been cordoned off and members of the public advised to close windows and doors due to large amounts of smoke.

No people have been reported hurt as a result of the fire so far.

Britain needs 'capital injection' to tackle payday loans

The UK needs a "capital injection" to tackle the reliance on payday loans, a think tank has said.

Mat Lawrence, one of the report's authors, said the payday loan industry had grown "in large part" to lend to households High Street banks had been unwilling to give credit to.

The payday lending industry has grown in large part because of a gap in the credit market that mainstream banks are unwilling to fill.

Regulation can reduce the harm done by payday lenders but it alone cannot ensure that the public interest is properly served in the provision of affordable credit.

Britain needs an initial capital injection to expand the provision of affordable credit and new 'match saving' incentives for people on low incomes to enable people to build up a stronger asset base of their own and reduce their reliance on credit.

– Mat Lawrence

Four crew members 'also accused of abandonment'

Two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer have been detained on allegations they failed to protect passengers, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The four crew members are also reportedly accused of abandoning the ship.

AP says prosecutors are considering whether to apply for a formal arrest warrant to allow for a longer period of investigation.

The ferry's captain and two other crew members have already been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

Read: Captain's actions described as 'tantamount to murder'

Call for one off levy on payday loans companies

A £450 million one-off levy on the payday loans industry should be used to create a "new generation" of affordable lenders to take on Britain's legal loan sharks, a leading think tank has said.

Read: Miliband's payday loans attack

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Eight million people use the payday loans industry annually, figures show. Credit: PA

Read: Payday lender employee may be behind MP Twitter smear

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) called for a levy to be used to compensate for the "direct financial harm" caused by the £180 billion consumer credit market.

Revenue from the levy would then be used to mobilise not-for-profit institutions to compete with firms such as Wonga, Quick Quid and Payday Express.

Not-for-profits and credit unions could be hosted by the Post Office, and lend "small amounts at affordable rates to ordinary people", the report said.

UK households collectively owe nearly £160 billion in unsecured consumer credit, with low-income households "vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous firms".

Read: Clampdown on payday loans

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President: Ferry captain's actions 'tantamount to murder'

South Korea's President Park Guen-hye has attacked the actions of the captain and some of the crew aboard the capsized Sewol ferry.

NBC News' Bill Neely reports:

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S Korea's president says the actions of the captain and some of the crew of the sunken ferry #Sewol are "tantamount to murder".Strong words

Police warn over chemicals at Leeds blast site

Police are warning residents in Leeds city centre to keep windows and doors closed due to "potentially hazardous" chemicals at the site of a large fire at Albion Way industrial estate.

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said: "Police were called at about 2.34 am this morning to respond to the incident which is taking place at a business on the site. A number of fire engines are currently attending.

"Due to the potentially hazardous nature of chemicals on the site residents in the city centre area are being asked to keep windows and doors closed while the cause of the fire is assessed.

"As a precaution, due to smoke, the Armley Gyratory road is currently being closed for the safety of drivers."

Leeds fire: Emergency teams arrive amid explosions

Emergency services have arrived at the scene of a large fire in Leeds amid a series of loud explosions, according to ITV News reporter James Webster.

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Large fire in Leeds. Loud explosions. Many police and fire here. Close to kirkstall road. Some roads shut

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