hello. this is bbc news with simon mccoy. the headlines at 13.30. president putin says he will resist calls to retaliate against america's expulsion of 35 russian diplomats. the us has accused the kremlin of hacking the emails of senior democrats and then publishing them during the american presidential campaign. a nationwide ceasefire appears to be largely holding in syria, although some clashes have been reported. islamic state fighters and militants linked to al-qaeda are not part of the deal. 17 people — including the driver — have been taken to hospital, after a coach overturned in thick fog on the mao in oxfordshire. the vehicle came off the slip road near thame in the early hours. the government is considering plans to allow learners to drive on motorways. they'll be given access for lessons under plans to improve road safety. let's cross to the bbc sport centre — and join tim hague. hello, thank you very much.
george north will return for northampton saints in their premiership match at gloucester on sunday. it will be the welshman‘s first game since suffering a head injury against leicester on december third. that was north's fifth concussion in two years — including two in the match on your screen now between england and wales in february 2015. a review board said north shouldn't have continued to play against leicester but they didn't sanction northampton. england wing anthony watson will also be back in for his first appearance in three months — after being named on the bench for bath's match with exeter tomorrow. watson broke his jaw in england's training camp in october, but now is on course to return for the six nations. the hull city manager mike phelan says 2016 has lived up to expectations, being "turbulent and difficult". hull are bottom of the premier league, going into tonight's match against everton. we are we a re pretty we are pretty open as staff and honest with the players at this club. they understand that we all
need to do better when it comes to trying to win a football match. i think what they have shown is a great appetite, a great passion for their play in the premier league. it's difficult for them, but don't think for one instance they've dropped away from the challenge. i think isa already and willing to ta ke think isa already and willing to take it on again in the new year. a difficult one, and they lost it's a difficult one, and they lost we st it's a difficult one, and they lost west ham away, 1—0. but hull was the better team, and i west ham away, 1—0. but hull was the betterteam, and i think west ham away, 1—0. but hull was the better team, and i think they had four five posts. times on the posts. and that means that don't focus about positions on the table. it's a tough one, it's a difficult one and we need to be at our best to get a good result. when middlesbrough play manchester united tomorrow, it'll be a first return to old trafford for the brazil defender fabio da silva. he and his twin brother rafael both played under sir alex ferguson — they spoke to our reporter steve crossman about what kind of reception fabio might expect. it's hard.
i try stuff, and i go think about what it's going to be, how it will be, a thousand things in my head, like how can it be? how are they going to reaction, like, how i'm going to react? but think it's going to be nice. i think it might be strange for you, because you have to decide who you will support. well, well, i love all the support. all the supporters. but i have to support my brother in this time! to be clear, you'll be supporting middlesbrough? well, yeah. i will support my brother, so i want him to win. so i think i will be supporting middlesbrough! brothers will be brothers, you have to support your brother, don't you? and you can see more of that interview on football focus tomorrow at 12 o'clock on bbc1
australia have completed an unlikely victory over pakistan, to win their three—match test series with a game to play. after four days of bad weather in melbourne, the match appeared to be heading for a draw — but australia bowled out pakistan for 163, to win by an innings and 18 runs, mitchell starc taking 4—36. ealier, captain steve smith hit 165 as australia declared their first innings on a massive 624—8. and south africa have gone 1—0 up in their three—match test series against sri lanka. chasing a target of 488, sri lanka were all out for 281 at port elizabeth. kagiso rabada and spinner keshev maharaj each took three wickets as south africa won by 206 runs. before we go, a quick update from abu dhabi, where andy murray is playing his first match of the season — he's up against david goffin in the semi—finals of the world tennis championship. it's going with serve in the first
set. that and plenty more on the bbc sport website. i'll have more in the next hour, including the latest on andy murray's match. tim, thank you much. back to our top story — and president putin says russia won't order any us diplomats to leave in response to the expulsion of russian officials by washington. president 0bama announced a range of sanctions against moscow yesterday over allegations of the kremlin‘s involvement in hacking during the us presidential election. sir tony brenton is a former uk ambassador to moscow. this thing which will be at the top of his mind now is, how do i establish a good working relationship with tromp? —— with trump? and this is part of preparing for that. new relationship, starting from a very low point. i'm the peacemaker, i want a good relationship —— the peacemaker in
syria. he's trying to build a good relationship with trump. trump, as you know, has said we want a better relationship with russia. let's not kid ourselves. it's sad that british politicians haven't got the message yet. we were in an extraordinary dangerous situation with regard to the usa and russia a few months ago, when generals were talking about shooting down each other‘s planes over syria. russia was demonstrating nuclear missiles. we need to get away from that. try‘s arrival and his talk of a defroster gives us an opportunity to do that —— trump's rival. everyone should encourage that. what does that mean for vladimir putin? will that mean he will continue strengthening his position? his position is not under threat. he has the support of 75% of the russian people. again, there is a false impression in the west that oui’ a false impression in the west that our problem is president putin. that's not the case, our problem is
russia. he speaks for russia. when he says, ukraine matters to us and we're not going to let it slide, that's not putin. that's putin, the russian security sector and all of russia. when he says crimea is ours, we may view it is unacceptable and illegal, but all of russia more or less as one says it is theirs. london's main share index, the ftse 100, has ended the year at a new all—time high — more than 14% above the level where it started 2016. our business correspondentjoe lynam is here...... it was up and down over the course of the year. everything is a pre—brexit and post brexit analysis was it has finished up 14%. after the brexit road, the footsie crashed. but it recovered rapidly, and the for that is it is an index of international companies —— the
ftse crash. most of the 100 companies in the index are glibly facing. so they are in a lot of their money in foreign currencies. —— are globally. how surprised we have been at the beginning of the year? at the start of the year, most people would have predicted at arrow being up 14% people would have predicted at arrow being up14% and people would have predicted at arrow being up 14% and there will have the no vote to leave the european union, they would have said, i don't know about your credentials. markets react rapidly in one direction and then rapidly in another. in this case, they have had a look and said, what's good for us? for big, giant companies, you want to invest in them if they earn in dollars or a non—sterling currency, euro four example. they'll be better off. because they'll be bringing home a lot more where the currency. the pound has stayed low, around 16% or
70% below where it was... 17%. you're bringing that money back to london. is their confidence about the uk comic, or is that taking it too far? the ftse 250 is a better reflection, that is up 3.7%. that is much better than interest rates, many indexes around the world. but considerably less than the ftse100. confident in big giant british companies is buoyant, but domestic confidence is a little bit more subdued. 3.7% is good, much higher than the growth rate of the uk economy, but could be much higher. if there's one prediction 2017, it's not to make them. —— about 2017. learner drivers are to be allowed on motorways for the first time under new government plans to improve road safety.
the department for transport is launching a seven week consultation on the proposed changes from today. it says the idea is designed to improve awareness and experience for new road users. earlier i spoke to jack cousens from the aa, who told me that the association had been calling for learners to gain motorway experience for some time. as motorways have evolved, we now have smart motorways. it's important that new drivers learn how to interact on the motorway. the good thing about this is that it's not going to be compulsory. there are people who decide they don't want to drag on motorways, and people who don't live near them. we are actually very supportive —— drive on motorways. what about those have passed that test, many experienced. 0ther going to feel this makes motorways less safe? that of course is one of the great unknowns. driving in and around town, there is that respects that we were all learners once, when we were learning to drive, and the reciprocal relationship of giving them a bit of space and a bit of interactivity with the road is all well and good.
that's what we're calling for ford experienced and passed motorists. we need to remember that driving is a skill, you don't learnjust to pass a test, but because it is something you throughout your life. on that argument, the idea that you should have a number of hours, all the more i was the better, something you work, although not mandatory? correct. the advancement in ours is not mandatory, but it's trying to stop people who turned 17 and have their test either on their 17th birthday or a couple of days just after. what is calling for is that drivers need to build up a log of time, to get some proper experience before a test. we want to put people forward who are ready for their test, rather than just chance forward who are ready for their test, rather thanjust chance it forward who are ready for their test, rather than just chance it on a whim because they've had a lot of time driving on private land with mum and dad. the difficulty is that anybody who has had children going through this process, driving lessons a re through this process, driving lessons are so expensive. we're talking about extra hours on dual controlled cars. it will be an
expensive process, this experience think i isn't it? expensive process, this experience thinkl isn't it? the issue about the hours at the moment is still very early. it looks as if it will bea very early. it looks as if it will be a log that will be both approved driving instructors as weapons with mum and dad, or of course any other —— as well as with mum and dad. mum and dad, or of course any other -- as well as with mum and dad. does the aa have a policy on howard thinks the roads could be safer still? we've seen from our research of over 7000 drivers is that a large percentage think that motorways have become more dangerous over the last four years. people undertaking, holding the middle lane and not moving in when they could do. there are moving in when they could do. there a re lots of moving in when they could do. there are lots of things that are changing. of course we want to make roads safer, and improving driving instruction and improving people who are taking their lessons can only be are taking their lessons can only be a good thing. anybody he drives on a motorway recognises everything you have just described and say that the problem is that there aren't enough police in comparison with just a few
yea rs police in comparison with just a few years ago, who are out on the roads, policing these things. that's something that the government does have to look at. we do need more police who could be available to find these kind of issues. what we have found is that people who hold the middle lane, that is a problem, and it seems to be growing in its severity in terms of what drivers are telling us. so that needs to be looked at as well, but that a wider policing issue. certainly from a learner perspective, that can all be taught, of course, from the first lesson that they have on the motorway. 0f lesson that they have on the motorway. of course, they're not going to be straight on their first lesson going to be straight on their first lesso n o nto going to be straight on their first lesson onto the motorway. they will have progressed through a period of driver lessons, so through a period of driver lessons, so they won't just through a period of driver lessons, so they won'tjust be through a period of driver lessons, so they won't just be fresh through a period of driver lessons, so they won'tjust be fresh in the car. they'll have some experience and quite possibly, of course, they will have been driving on a high fast lane dual carriages as well. we have had a clear message this
morning on the danger of driving in bad weather. i wonder whether you think it is a good idea that lessons should be taken in extreme weather conditions? most riders have not experienced fog or snow will when they passed their test and hit the roads for the first time the. there are courses available for people who don't feel confident, they can call us don't feel confident, they can call us at the aa, we offer driver conference courses. in scandinavian countries, they offer lessons in inclement conditions, if there is an opportunity for that, it will be welcomed. national parks in england have lost a quarter of their government funding in the past five years, according to research by the press association. campaigners warn it could threaten the areas for future generations, but the government says their budgets are protected until 2020. clare fallon reports. with stunning scenery and rare wildlife, 19 million people visit them every year, but england's national parks have had their funding cut in recent times, down by a quarter since 2010. areas loved by many and described by the government as national treasures simply aren't getting the cash they used to. figures show the grants given to nine out of ten national parks in england have been shrinking, reduced by more than £10
with inflation factored in, that's a real—terms cut of up to a0%. in a statement, the department for environment, food and rural affairs says.. there are efforts to bring in more money by bringing in more visitors. there is a government plan for encouraging school trips and overseas tourists. campaigners, though, point to information centres closing, bus services being axed and staff cuts in some national parks. they say there will need to be more cash so the beauty of the parks can be enjoyed by generations to come. the headlines. president putin says
russia won't order any us diplomats to leave in response to the expulsion of russian diplomats in washington. the serious ceasefire between the government and rebel groups appears largely to be holding. —— the syria ceasefire. the coach overturns on the mao in oxfordshire, injuring 17 people. more on our top stories at 2pm. but now another chance to see meet the author from earlier this year, in whichjim naughtie talks to the writer alexander mccall smith about his latest novel ‘precious and grace'. alexander mccall smith is one of britain's most prolific authors. he's most famous his series of books about botswana's number one there are 11 volumes in another
someone we dislike to be in the company of someone they like, someone they feel they would like to sit down in real life with and enjoy a cup of tea —— i think we like. she provided that. you illustrate one of the qualities that people who know the books will recognise, a sort of placid kind of life, the of life you like to write about. it's not devoid of excitement, not devoid of drama, but they are somehow domestic dramas, and they? yes. i think people respond quite well to that, in that most of us lead relatively uneventful lives. most of which lead lives in which nothing really spectacular happens, there aren't co nsta nt spectacular happens, there aren't constant explosions and kidnappings and things like that. we like to spend time in the fictional sense in those circumstances. i think that you can, in very gentle fiction, make big points about the world. you can say things about some of the profound issues that we face. but do it in profound issues that we face. but do itina profound issues that we face. but do it in a rather gentle way. and in a
sense, you make more of a point with people if you do that. if you use humour to make people if you do that. if you use humourto makea people if you do that. if you use humour to make a point, you're more likely to get your point across. botswa na likely to get your point across. botswana is a perfect setting for that. it's a country of which you have become very fond, you know very well. it is an exceptional country, in the sense the reason why read these books is because it had that effect on me. i was so pressed with its ——i effect on me. i was so pressed with its —— i wrote these books. i stood in admiration of the country of that had been in difficult circumstances, surrounded by conflict, but it managed to maintain its integrity, it approached life in a quiet and organised way, and i was just very taken by this, and taken by the politeness and courtesy of the people. the niceness of the people. i felt that this was an island of peace, tranquillity and wisdom in a sense. you're describing very clearly you're in style, and if you ta ke clearly you're in style, and if you take for example the aa scotland st
stories, set in a block in edinburgh, yourown stories, set in a block in edinburgh, your own city, where the doings of the various people are explored meticulously. it's a particular kind of fiction that you enjoy, a sort of parting the lace curtains and having a peek. jess! i suppose you could call it social comedy, socialfiction, looking at the quirks and poking fun at them. i enjoy that very much. we're all absurd, toa enjoy that very much. we're all absurd, to a greater or lesser extent? yes. we can make terrific mountains out of molehills. he has made a big mountain out of all these molehills. your extraordinary prolific. your scotland street series has been running and running. of course another branch is in its 17th volume. you're savvy isabel novels, she is very interesting, she
is mad about something, as you are. you don't have to scratch very hard to see. your enthusiasm for auden is well known. what is it about him? when i first started reading the poetry many years ago, i was just so arrested by it, and struck by the strength of the ideas, the complexity of the ideas and the beauty of the language. he is a poet who manages to say the most profound things about life in a very, very beautiful way. there is an enormous breadth, as you say. you are a polymath in many ways, because
you're and academic, in the medical law field. and many suddenly discovered that writing was more or less taking over your life. you are producing three, four, five books a year. had he managed to organise your life to do that? is admittedly loosely organised ? your life to do that? is admittedly loosely organised? you have to be careful about organisation —— is it meticulously organised. i have a season for each series. be a period ofa season for each series. be a period of a few months when i know what i have to write. you know that this is the time it has to be done and you sit down and do it? yes, i have to do it. one thing you can't do as an author is wait for inspiration to strike you. you can't wait to the news to appear, you have to be there at your desk. she won't? she made, once you have sat down, you may suddenly realised that the news has slipped into the room. looking for the kinds of books that you read
yourself and admire, i know that an author you particularly admire who perhaps hasn't had the attention that many people think she deserves is barbara pym. what is it about her box video it ties in with something you said earlier on, the feeling of calm. the calm exploration of small matters. she was the 20th century jane austen. capable of saying very big things about people on a very small canvas. she would have a character saying, for example, as happens in one of her books, i never thought i was the sort of person who would deserve my own bathroom. that's a wonderful statement. very poignant, very moving. poignancy is something that i think you have got a very strong feeling for. the sadness of things that happen in
everyday life, the lack of fulfilment in some small way, that adds up to, you know, disappointment. or, alternatively, to contentment. that's what interests you, what moves you. to contentment. that's what interests you, what moves youm does interest me. ifind myself very moved by certain things. for example, in one series character has had a poor background has a beautiful little lace handkerchief. that represents everything that she would like to have in this life, it represents beauty, her ideal of beauty. i find myself represents beauty, her ideal of beauty. ifind myself very represents beauty, her ideal of beauty. i find myself very moved represents beauty, her ideal of beauty. ifind myself very moved by that sort of thing. word you go from here? the productivity is extraordinary. 17 books in this series, almost as many, getting that way, in another. canisius of carrying on forever? i think so, yes. it wouldn't be forever —— can you see yourself carrying on. anybody... i remember you telling me a story about being on a plane,
sitting opposite somebody on a transatlantic flight who was finishing one of your books and saying, you know, oh dear, oh dear, not realising you are there. you're getting off and said, don't worry, there will be another one along in a minute. as it happens, i was writing the next one in that series is this person was reading the previous one. you could have sent her an e—mail. thank you much. —— thank you very much. the weather has been causing a few problems today. you can see a lot of cloud affecting scotland, northern ireland and wales, that's how it will stay the rest of the day. in england, some places seeing sunshine, but for a good chunk of the country, for central and eastern england, it is low cloud and fog for the rest of the day. the fog spotted there, lurking at heathrow. i have an flight delays and cancellations are some of our airports. the fog will continue to linger and later
through the rest of the day across parts of the midlands, and the lincolnshire area as well. moving northwards, quite a bit of cloud in northern england, scotland are staying cloudy. rain across the far north—west of scotland today, so quite what this afternoon for the finals of the highland, into the western and northern isles. the fog will cause the most problems today. across central and eastern england, before beginning to affect these areas throughout the afternoon, and probably overnight as well. there could be further localised transport disruption. through the rest of the night, it becomes cloudy and western wales and western england. there could be some rain, but milder compared with recent nights. temperatures into double figures overnight in northern ireland and scotland. rain still in scotland, gradually sinking its way southwards. that continues for new year's eve, southwards. that continues for new yea r‘s eve, eventually southwards. that continues for new year's eve, eventually we will see the rain getting in across the central belt and swing into northern ireland during the afternoon. england and wales, the south—westerly breeze will again to pick upa south—westerly breeze will again to pick up a bit, and that should help lift some of the murkiness away. a
lot of cloud around, the best chance of brightness of the north—east of england. towards new year's eve evening, if you like, and towards the midnight hour, this rain sink southwards into northern england and also wales. if you're out and about around the midnight hours and bridging the new year, you might be looking up and seeing a face full of rain across wales in northern england. dry weather to the south of this, but colder air is seeping in across scotland and northern ireland, so you'll need to wrap up warmly. a new year's day, cold arctic air continues to plunge its way southwards. that'll be slow to clear, this is a cold front and behind it to the air turns much colder. temperatures typically around four or colder. temperatures typically around fouror5 colder. temperatures typically around four or 5 degrees, but with some sunshine. across the north of scotland, it will be good enough data recorder for scotland, it will be good enough data recorderfor some scotland, it will be good enough data recorder for some snow. particularly over the scottish hills in the north. that's the latest weather, goodbye for now.
this is bbc news — i'm simon mccoy. the headlines at 2pm: president putin says he will not expel anyone in response to president 0bama ordering 35 russian diplomats out of the us for alleged hacking. drivers are told to take care in fog and freezing conditions, as a coach overturns on the mao in oxfordshire injuring 17 people. clinging on for life — the only survivor of a boat that capsized off kent earlier this week speaks out about his 11—hour ordeal. also in the next hour: the ceasefire in syria appears to be largely holding. there's been calm on the front lines, but there are reports of sporadic clashes and some air raids. and learner drivers could soon be allowed on motorways, in a move ministers hope will make roads safer.