Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 September 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Charles aide quits over honour claims

One of Prince Charles’s closest aides has left his role following claims he offered to help secure an honour for a rich Saudi donor. The Sunday Times reported that Michael Fawcett, a former assistant valet to the prince, had coordinated support for an honour to be given to businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz. The Saudi paid tens of thousands of pounds to fixers with links to the prince who had told him they could secure the honour.

2

Taliban attacks women’s protest

Taliban officials have broken up a women’s rights protest in Kabul. The demonstrators say they were targeted them with tear gas and pepper spray as they tried to walk from a bridge to the presidential palace. Meanwhile, militia forces say they are facing “heavy assaults” as they battle the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, the final holdout against hardline Islamist control.

3

Grenfell Tower ‘to be demolished’

The government is expected to announce the demolition of Grenfell Tower, more than four years after a fire tore through the block of flats in west London, killing 72 people. According to Whitehall sources, the decision to pull down the charred remains of the building is a “fait accompli” due to concern that it poses a safety risk to the local community. However, campaigners say the government is trying to erase the memory of the tragedy.

4

Starmer engulfed in care fund row

Keir Starmer is facing pressure from across the party to commit to taxing the wealthy as a way to provide a social-care system fit for the 21st century. As the government prepares to announce an increase in national insurance, the TUC is calling instead for an increase in capital gains tax to meet the costs of reform, and higher wages for care workers.

5

Fifty shops close every day

In the first six months of this year, an average of 50 shops a day disappeared from British high streets, shopping centres and retail parks, according to new research. More than 8,700 chain stores closed, with city centres suffering most. However, the rate of failure has fallen compared with a year earlier. Lisa Hooker of PwC said: “We might have expected a higher number of store closures this year.”

6

Ethiopia kills 5,600 rebels

The Ethiopian military claims it has killed more than 5,600 members of the Tigray rebel forces. Although conflict has been raging in the north of the country since November, the statement from senior general Bacha Debele gave no timescale for the casualties. He accused the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front of trying to break up Ethiopia, as the group made incursions into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

7

Taxman rescinds 40% of demands

HMRC is forced to U-turn on three out of five tax demands, The Telegraph reported. According to analysis of official figures, taxpayers challenged almost 32,000 decisions during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 tax years, triggering reviews that resulted in almost 20,000 claims being cancelled or altered. John Hood of Moore Kingston Smith, a tax firm, said the figures were “extraordinary” and “alarming”.

8

Labour demands child jab decision

Labour has demanded clarity on Covid vaccines for children to prevent further disruption to their education. The government’s independent vaccine advisers have concluded the net health benefit in vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds was too small to recommend it on medical grounds alone, and suggested that the chief medical officers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should offer advice on broader societal benefits. Labour says “the government needs to take a clear decision”.

9

Plane crash at air festival

Two people were injured when an aerobatics display team plane crashed at the Bournemouth Air Festival. Dorset Police were called just before 4pm on Saturday to reports that a small aircraft, that was part of the AeroSuperBatics Wingwalkers display team, had crashed into the water in the Sandbanks area of Poole Harbour. Ed Clark, a groundsman from the Bournemouth area, said: “It flew over the top of me on the beach. Sounded like the engine was backfiring.”

10

Border Force under pressure on Heathrow

The Home Office says that long queues for immigration checks at Heathrow have been “unacceptable”. Heathrow has blamed Border Force, which manages the checkpoint at the airport, for the problems, saying it was “very disappointed” that they did not have enough staff on duty on Friday night. Passengers have complained of waiting times of up to five hours, as well as a lack of social distancing and access to toilets and water.

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