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Morning Wrap: today's top business stories

News stories from around the web.

Pensioners' incomes rising fastest, says IFS (BBC)

UK pensioners' incomes have risen faster than all other age groups in the last 30 years, a study has shown.

Airbus A350 makes maiden test flight (BBC)

The newest aircraft from European planemaker Airbus has taken off on its maiden test flight.

The Airbus A350 is designed to be more fuel-efficient, and a direct competitor to US rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Britain could overtake France to become second-largest car maker in Europe (Telegraph)

Britain could overtake France and become the second-largest car maker in Europe within the next five years, according to two of the industry’s top executives.

Bombardier blow as Siemens wins £1.6bn Thameslink deal (Telegraph)

Ministers are embroiled in a jobs for British workers row after confirming that Siemens had won the £1.6bn contract to build rolling stock for the Thameslink line.

Stephen Hester: Anatomy of a departure (FT)

Sir Philip Hampton likes to see himself as a marriage counsellor, who has often been called upon to manage a rocky relationship between the government (Royal Bank of Scotland’s biggest shareholder) and Stephen Hester (the bank’s now departing chief executive).

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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.