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Peugeot Citroën's half-yearly sales tumble 13 per cent

The steepest drop was seen in the Italian market, which shrank by 21.5 per cent.

Sales declined by 13 per cent in the first half of 2012 for PSA Peugeot Citroën. The French car maker sold 1,619,000 units of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles worldwide, compared to 1,860,000 units for the same period last year.

The company’s European market was down by 10 per cent, largely due to the unfavourable country mix. Demand for cars and light commercial vehicles declined over the period by a steep 7.2 per cent in Europe. The Italian market declined by 21.5 per cent; the French by 13.3 per cent; the Spanish by 10.2 per cent and the central and eastern European markets by 1.6 per cent.

The company’s German and the UK market, however, improved by 0.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively. 

Frédéric Saint-Geours, executive vice-president of brands at PSA Peugeot Citroën, said:

In a very tight automotive market environment in Europe, our strategy of moving upmarket and globalising our operations is proving to be more relevant than ever.

With our recent model introductions – the Peugeot 208, the Citroën DS5 and the diesel hybrid versions of the Peugeot 3008 and 508 and the Citroën DS5 – and the launches scheduled over the rest of the year – the Peugeot 301, the Citroën C-Elysée and C4L, as well as the new C3 in Latin America – we have the vehicles to defend our positions in Europe and to pursue our expansion in emerging markets.

As well as launching new models, the group vehicles emitted less than 110g CO2/km during the first half of the year.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.