Here are the top business stories making the headlines in the morning newspapers.

Starmer says north-east needs more than an investment zone

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says launching an investment zone in the north-east would be a “good idea”, but warned even more must be done to help the area.

It was confirmed in this week’s Budget that the UK Government is to deliver 12 such initiatives nationwide. Each will have access to £80million of support for a range of interventions, including skills, infrastructure and tax reliefs.

When asked if a zone should be created in the north-east, Mr Starmer said: “Anything that attracts investment is a good idea.”

But he insisted that will not be enough to tap into the region’s potential in the shift away from oil and gas to renewable energy.

He told the Press & Journal: “We need a lot more than that. There’s huge potential here in Scotland, but we haven’t got a plan for growth.

"If this brings investment into an area, then of course it is to be supported. But I think that on its own it won’t do the hard yards of being a growth strategy.”

Port boss wants action on Acorn

The chief executive of Peterhead Port Authority has told Jeremy Hunt to pick up the pace on support for the Acorn carbon-capture and storage project – warning the region has “waited too long for this as it is”.

Simon Brebner said it is “frustrating” the area is still awaiting go-ahead for the scheme, which could deliver thousands of jobs for the area.

Energy Voice says his comments come after the chancellor confirmed a £20billionn package of support for carbon-capture, utilisation and storage developments, but no further detail specifically on Acorn which needs funding to kick off.

Deal for Hurricane Energy

Prax Exploration and Production is to acquire Hurricane Energy.

Under the terms of the deal, each Hurricane shareholder would initially receive 4.15p per share.

Further supplementary and special dividends are on the table if the company lifts its next cargo from the Lancaster field on schedule, alongside a percentage share of future Hurricane revenues.

Assuming this is achieved, it would offer Hurricane shareholders 12.5p per share and value the company at approximately £249million.

Headquartered in London, Prax is part of State Oil – a group of midstream and downstream focused companies with units in Singapore and Houston – which employs around 1,300 people in seven countries.

Energy Voice reports that the firm, which acquired the Lindsey oil refinery at Immingham in early 2021, says it is now looking to create “a sizeable upstream business” in the North Sea alongside its downstream operations.

Big US banks support First Republic

A group of big US banks has injected £24.8billion into a smaller regional bank, First Republic, which had been seen as at risk of failure.

The move came as authorities in the US are trying to quell panic over the health of the banking system, after a series of bank collapses.

The BBC says worries about the sector have spread globally, raising fears of a crisis.

US regulators called the move "most welcome", while the banks said their action

Driving-licence delays

Three million UK people who applied for a driving licence during the worst of the pandemic experienced major delays, a report has found.

Some applicants lost jobs or income, and suffered social isolation and mental health problems, parliament's Public Accounts Committee said.

The BBC says the delays affected people who applied by post or had medical conditions.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency said it had prioritised its online services during the pandemic.

That was because most applications were made online, it told the committee.

What happened to my Dairy Milk buttons?

Cadbury has shrunk the size of bags of Dairy Milk buttons by almost a quarter while keeping prices in supermarkets the same.

The company has slimmed down 'Big Share' bags of the circular treats down to 184.8g from 240g - a 23% reduction.

The Telegraph says buttons is the latest edible casualty of shrinkflation – the practice of reducing portions to cut out costs while leaving prices untouched.

French Government forces through pension reforms

Police in Paris have clashed with protesters after the French Government decided to force through pension reforms without a vote in parliament.

Crowds converged on Place de la Concorde in response to raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The BBC says the plans had sparked two months of heated political debate and strikes.

Finally, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne invoked article 49:3 of the constitution - allowing the government to avoid a vote in the Assembly.

The decision was taken minutes before MPs were scheduled to vote on the controversial bill, because there was no guarantee of winning a majority.

Letter-delivery criticism

Royal Mail is falling down on its letter delivery obligations, a group of MPs has said.

The firm has been prioritising parcel deliveries over letters, they said, and called on Ofcom to investigate.

The regulator said Royal Mail's recent performance was "clearly well short of where it should be" and said it would consider the MPs' report.

The BBC reports that Royal Mail said it had clear policies that parcels and letters "should be treated with equal importance".

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