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Wednesday newspaper round-up: Syria, Nationwide, Oil

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Cameron calls use of chemical weapons in Syria ‘morally indefensible’; Nationwide warned over cutting lending to SMEs; North Sea oil tax breaks to ‘enhance’ output.

Britain cannot stand idly by in the face of the ‘morally indefensible’ use of chemical weapons, David Cameron said yesterday, as he laid out the case for a missile strike against Syria. The White House is preparing intelligence material, including intercepted communications, which it says will prove that the Assad regime was responsible for last Wednesday’s attack, The Times says.

The Bank of England has warned Nationwide it is forbidden from cutting lending to small firms to meet tougher safety rules. Threadneedle Street last night reacted angrily to reports that Britain’s biggest building society has delayed plans to start lending to small and medium-sized businesses, The Daily Mail writes.

Tax breaks for the oil industry introduced by Chancellor George Osborne should lead to a “substantial enhancement” of output from the North Sea, according to Aberdeen University economist Alex Kemp, according to The Scotsman.

As a shake-up of the accountancy market nears its conclusion, HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered – which between them pay more than £150m in fees annually to the bean counters who sign off their books – argue that the measure would be costly, disruptive and potentially harmful to competition and the quality of oversight, according to The Times.

Angela Merkel has said Greece should never have been allowed into the euro and put the blame on former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. “That [a unified euro area] is such a treasure, such a boon, that we can’t place it in doubt,” she told her supporters. “That’s why the euro is more than a currency. For this reason we’ve shown solidarity, but solidarity always linked to responsibility for reforms in those countries that experience our solidarity,” she added, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Regulator Ofgem promises the biggest shake-up of the energy retail market since competition began. All UK households will receive simplified gas and electricity tariffs by the end of the year and must be told the cheapest deal available from their supplier by the spring, industry regulator Ofgem said on Tuesday, The Guardian explains.