Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 Feb 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Care residents allowed one visitor
Care home residents in England will be allowed to choose one person to visit them regularly from 8 March. They will be allowed to meet indoors and hold hands but visitors must wear PPE and be tested before entering the home. The Times claims that families will be allowed to meet outdoors over Easter under plans being considered for Boris Johnson’s road map for easing lockdown restrictions.
Hancock broke law over contracts
Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by failing to publish multibillion-pound Covid-19 government contracts within the 30-day period required by law, a high court judge has ruled. Mr Justice Chamberlain said that the health secretary breached the “vital public function” of transparency. The Good Law Project is making a series of legal challenges related to the government’s procurement of protective personal equipment and other services during the pandemic.
Meghan and Harry hit back
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have seemingly struck back at Buckingham Palace after they were stripped of their royal patronages. After a palace statement said that their decision to step down as working royals was not compatible with “a life of public service,” the couple responded with their own statement, adding: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
Cummings ally quits No 10
A key Downing Street aide quit last night after he was reportedly accused by the prime minister and his fiancée of briefing against Michael Gove. Oliver Lewis, who was Dominic Cummings’s most senior remaining ally in Number 10, resigned as head of the union unit, after what allies called a “bollocking” from Boris Johnson. However, Lewis strongly denies giving any briefings.
Biden declares disaster in Texas
US President Joe Biden is set to declare a major disaster for Texas, in a move that paves the way for more federal funds to be spent on relief efforts. Although power is returning in the state and temperatures are expected to rise, 13 million people are still facing difficulties accessing clean water. The US south is struggling to recover from a crippling week of winter weather.
Maxwell ‘said Epstein had secret tapes’
Ghislaine Maxwell admitted that Jeffrey Epstein had secret recordings of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, according to a new book. The British socialite was reportedly tricked by broadcaster Ira Rosen into confirming that the sex offender had taped his famous friends. Maxwell is currently awaiting trial on charges of procuring girls for Epstein to abuse in the mid-1990s. She denies the allegations.
Google sacks AI ethics head
Google has fired the co-head of its artificial intelligence ethics unit. The web giant claimed an investigation found Margaret Mitchell had moved files outside the company, violating a code of conduct. The ethics unit has been under the spotlight since December, following the departure of another senior figure, Timnit Gebru. The BBC says both women had campaigned for more diversity at Google and raised concerns about censorship within the company.
Will Boris bypass aid vote?
Campaigners fear that Boris Johnson will break his promise to give MPs a vote before a “catastrophic” £4bn-a-year cut to overseas aid begins. Legislation is not expected to happen until July – yet the spending reductions will begin from April. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has been told that the cut will lead to 100,000 preventable deaths.
Uber prices ‘to rise’ after ruling
Uber passengers face higher prices after a court ruled that its drivers are workers entitled to holiday, sick pay and the minimum wage. The Supreme Court found that Uber’s drivers should receive basic employment protections. Professor Len Shackleton, of the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, said the decision would mean more expensive journeys for Uber users and “reduce the availability of rides”.
Kardashian files for West divorce
Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from Kanye West, according to TMZ. The celebrity couple have been married for almost seven years and have four children together but rumours have circulated for months that their marriage is on the rocks. Reports in US media suggest the reality star, 40, has requested joint legal and physical custody of their children. Neither has publicly commented.