Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 June 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
MPs fear freedom delays
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted that he does not expect any further delay to the final easing of coronavirus restrictions. Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that measures would remain in place until 19 July due to the spread of the Delta variant. However, Tory MPs and commentators are concerned the rules could stay in force for longer. The Telegraph points out that Johnson refused to offer a “cast iron guarantee” that there will be no more delays to reopening. Tory MP Mark Harper, who leads the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said: “It’s very concerning that the prime minister couldn’t rule out either a further delay beyond July 19 or the imposition of further restrictions in the autumn and winter.”
The government has been accused of “shamelessly [and] knowingly” underfunding the early years sector in England over the past decade. A two-year investigation by the Early Years Alliance, an educational charity, found private government briefing documents revealing that 2020-21 early years funding levels for the Conservatives’ free childcare offer for three- and four-year-olds are less than two-thirds of what ministers believed was required to fully fund the scheme. The findings were described as “shocking” by Labour.
Aung San Suu Kyi on trial
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, has gone on trial more than four months after the military seized power in a coup. A court in the capital Naypyidaw heard the first criminal cases against the deposed leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Suu Kyi “seemed not very well”, her lawyer told CNN, adding that “throughout the hearing she seemed quite interested and paid keen attention”. She faces a wide range of charges, including breaching a natural disaster law by breaking coronavirus restrictions and allegations that she broke a communications law and an import law by illegally possessing walkie-talkies.
UK agrees Australia deal
The “broad terms” of a trade deal between the UK and Australia have been agreed, according to the BBC. Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison shook hands on the deal over dinner at Downing Street last night. The agreement, which would be the first trade deal to be negotiated from scratch since the UK left the EU, is expected to be formally announced later today. It would give UK and Australian food producers and other businesses easier access to each other’s markets.
McCann suspect slams ‘prejudice campaign’
The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has spoken publicly for the first time since his arrest. The convicted paedophile has reportedly penned a handwritten letter, headed “Christian Brueckner press release”, which was obtained and published by German tabloid newspaper Bild. The letter accuses prosecutors of perpetrating an “unbelievable scandal” by starting a “public prejudice campaign” against him. It is accompanied by a hand-drawn cartoon of two people ordering “filet forensics” at a restaurant.
Betting giants accepted stolen money
Gambling companies won £1.3m in stolen money from a betting addict without establishing where the funds came from. Andy May was sentenced to four years for fraud after admitting siphoning funds from the company where he was a senior manager. May placed thousands of bets, some with stakes of more than £50,000, with companies including Betway and Betfair. The Guardian says the case has reignited concerns about whether gambling firms perform sufficient due diligence on punters who lose large sums.
PM hints at Lloyd Webber exception
Boris Johnson has hinted that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest production could be exempt from the delay in lockdown easing. After Lloyd-Webber said he would open his theatres on 21 June regardless of whether restrictions are relaxed, and was prepared to be arrested in doing so, the prime minister said he had “colossal” admiration for the composer. Johnson told reporters at yesterday’s press briefing: “I think we’re in talks with him to try to make it work and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful.”
Sunak refuses to extend furlough
Rishi Sunak has rejected calls to extend the furlough scheme, despite the delay in ending lockdown restrictions. The scheme, which pays 80% of employee’s wages, is due to start being wound down within weeks. From July 1, the government’s share will fall to 70% with employers contributing 10% as part of a “tapered” withdrawal. Although business leaders have called on the chancellor to delay the end of the scheme, a Treasury source said that the timetable would remain the same.
Rolls Royce boss in ageism storm
The boss of Rolls-Royce has sparked anger with his comments that the company’s workforce is “too old”. Speaking at a technology conference, Chief Executive Warren East said: “To me, joining Rolls-Royce, one of the challenges I saw was our workforce was frankly a bit too old.” His remarks sparked a furious response, with critics calling his comments “disgraceful” and “immoral”. A Rolls Royce spokesperson said: “Sorry if that’s how it came across.”
Teigen apologises for being a ‘troll’
US model and influencer Chrissy Teigen has broken a month-long social media silence to apologise for bullying people on Twitter. Teigen, who currently has 13.5m Twitter followers and 35m on Instagram, reflected on “the crushing weight of regret for the things I’ve said in the past”. She added: “There is simply no excuse for my past horrible tweets. I was a troll, full stop. And I am so sorry.”