Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 26 October 2021

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

1

Sunak to end pay freeze

Rishi Sunak plans to end the public sector pay freeze for millions of workers and increase the national minimum wage in his autumn budget. The chancellor is expected to confirm that the yearlong “pause” on public sector pay — which affected teachers, police and civil servants during the pandemic — will be lifted. Economists, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies, have warned that the move will not compensate for inflation rises and cuts to universal credit. The Treasury has so far committed to almost £26bn of spending in a rush of announcements before Sunak presents his budget tomorrow.

2

Passports could lead to pub crowding

Vaccine passports could encourage people to pack into poorly ventilated pubs instead of larger venues, the government’s own impact assessment has warned. In one passage, the document examines whether the policy could have “any displacement effects to other types of venues not included for certification”. Under government plans, Covid-19 certification would be required at indoor settings with 500 or more attendees, outdoor settings with 4,000 or more attendees, any venue with 10,000 or more attendees and nightclubs.

3

Rich nations broke climate pledge

The world’s richest nations have admitted that they broke a promise to deliver $100bn (£72.7bn) a year to developing nations to help them deal with climate change. A report prepared by leaders from Canada and Germany found the pledge, which was supposed to run from 2020 to 2025, would not be met until at least 2023. Cop26 President Alok Sharma, who commissioned the report, said the news that the promise would be met at all was “significant progress on a totemic issue”.

4

Bloodshed during Sudan coup

Soldiers have fired on crowds opposing a military takeover in Sudan, killing at least three and injuring around 80. Protests erupted after the military dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and called a state of emergency. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was among those arrested. According to reports, troops have gone door-to-door in the capital Khartoum, arresting protest organisers.

5

Zuckerberg ‘controls 3bn people’

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg “has unilateral control over three billion people”, the whistleblower Frances Haugen told MPs yesterday. Haugen, a former Facebook employee who released tens of thousands of damaging documents, said the company’s culture prioritised profitability over its impact on the wider world. The Guardian said that Facebook’s profit topped $9bn (£6.5bn) during its most recent financial quarter despite an onslaught of bad publicity.

6

Tories hit back at sewage critics

The government has launched a social media drive after Tory MPs were criticised over last week’s sewage vote. The Conservatives voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill that would have placed a legal duty on water companies not to pump waste into rivers. MPs including Steve Brine, Ben Everitt, Michael Fabricant, Anne Marie Morris and Sally-Ann Hart published similar “explainers” about the vote on their websites. Martin Salter, chief policy adviser at the Angling Trust, described the posts as “unconvincing, identikit replies”.

7

Women face bullying and abuse in army

A study has found that women are suffering serious and long-lasting physical and mental health problems from “widespread” emotional bullying, sexual harassment and physical assault in the UK military. According to findings published in the BMJ Military Health journal, 22.5% of female veterans said they had been sexually harassed, while 5.1% said they had been sexually assaulted. Emotional bullying was inflicted on 22.7% of respondents, while 3.3% said they had been physically assaulted.

8

PM ‘lost plot’ over recycling comment

Boris Johnson has told children that recycling plastic materials “doesn’t work” and “is not the answer” to threats to global oceans and marine wildlife. Answering questions ahead of the Cop26 summit, the prime minister said reusing plastics “doesn’t begin to address the problem” and insisted “we’ve all got to cut down our use of plastic”. The Recycling Association said Johnson’s remarks were “disappointing” and that he had “completely lost the plastic plot”.

9

UK’s first black train driver honoured

Britain’s first black train driver has been honoured with a blue plaque. Wilston Samuel Jackson, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica as a member of the Windrush generation in 1952, became a train driver in 1962, despite the widespread vetoing of black applicants for driver roles. Some white colleagues tried to block his appointment. The blue plaque was yesterday unveiled at King’s Cross Station at a ceremony attended by his daughter.

10

Met to apologise to grieving family

The Metropolitan Police will apologise to the family of two murdered sisters for failings in its response to them going missing. Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, were stabbed to death by Danyal Hussein in north London last summer. Their friends found the bodies after organising their own search party and the Independent Office for Police Conduct found the Met failed to follow their missing person’s policies. The victims’ mother, Mina Smallman, has said she believes race was a factor in the Met’s slow response time.

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