1996: what does it hold in store?

Electronic cash, the return of Slade - and strikes, war against the motor car, and a scandal over Arts Council grants. Our specialists predict
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And a few other things ...

NEW YEAR'S resolutions you make - and break - yourself. But, from tomorrow, a whole swath of other changes in our lives are being implemented.

Coaches are being banned from the outside lane of three-lane motorways and limited to 65mph. So it might take coaches longer to get to the coast, but greater competition will make it easier to cross the Channel: Stena Sealink is increasing the number of its ferries from three to four on its Dover-Calais route in response to the Eurotunnel challenge. It is also changing its name to Stena Line.

But anyone setting off with a one-year's visitor's passport faces disappointment: the pounds 12 document previously issued at post offices becomes invalid tomorrow. A full 10-year passport will be needed.

Britain's biggest civil service union comes into being, with the official merger of the NUCPS and the Inland Revenue Staff Federation. Representing one in four Whitehall staff, it is called the Public Services, Tax and Commerce Union (PTC).

More colourfully, the Models' Guild, set up by Amie Bongay and with 1,500 members in five US cities, will be open to applicants from Britain. In a gesture of solidarity, Michael Goodwin, president of the US Office Workers' Union, spoke up for the new body. Its members were "no different from other exploited workers" he reportedly said, "simply more beautiful". Of more downbeat concern is the impact of the new housing benefit system. The changes will reduce the amount of housing benefit to claimants and are expected to make it harder to secure and pay for decent housing. In another government crackdown, courts will get new powers to seize profits from the sale of counterfeit watches, perfume, and clothing. Pirated computer software, videos and CDs count too.

So if you're a coach driver with a one-year passport or a claimant with a penchant for dodgy deals, you may be tempted to drown your sorrows in drink. Sherry, say. As a result of a legal struggle dating back to the mid-Sixties, 1 January will see the disappearance of so-called "British sherry" and "Cyprus sherry", at least under those names.

The Sherry Institute of Spain says this is no bad news for Britain: more than half the real sherry industry is British-owned or has substantial British interest. Cheers!

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