Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 26 November 2021

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

1

Variant fear sparks travel curbs

Travellers arriving in England from several southern African countries will have to quarantine in hotels as concern grows about a new Covid variant. After an expert described the strain, known as B.1.1.529, as “the worst one we’ve seen so far”, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that from midday today six countries would be added to the red list and with flights would be temporarily banned. Scientists said the variant carries an “extremely high number” of mutations which may evade the body’s defences. No cases of the variant have been confirmed in the UK.

2

Ministers urged to act on migrants

The government has been warned that more lives will be lost in the Channel unless it abandons its current approach to policing the Channel. After 27 people, including a pregnant woman and three children, drowned on Wednesday, the charity Safe Passage International called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to resign. “Choosing to play politics with people’s lives, the government has failed to prevent people risking the crossing and this is the result,” its chief executive said. Conservative MP Scott Benton called for tougher action to deter crossings. “There is nothing compassionate or moral about allowing criminal gangs to exploit vulnerable people,” he said.

3

A&E queues common, study finds

A new survey has found that ambulances are being forced to queue outside the majority of emergency departments before they can unload patients. Around two-thirds of A&E centres polled by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine indicated they were struggling to meet the standard of handing over patients within 15 minutes. The group said it is “facing a crisis in urgent care and a crisis of patient safety”. The Department of Health said Ambulance Trusts have been given an extra £55m in funding.

4

Tax office landlord in tax haven

HMRC will move thousands of tax workers to an office that is owned by an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven. The tax collectors will be located in Pilgrim’s Quarter, a property in Newcastle run by the billionaire property tycoons David and Simon Reuben. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the Reuben family, who have donated about £800,000 to the Conservatives during Johnson’s premiership.

5

Three in court for 1996 murder

Three people have appeared in court in Scotland charged with the murder of the 14-year-old schoolgirl Caroline Glachan in 1996. Robert O’Brien, Andrew Kelly and Donna Brand appeared in private before Dumbarton sheriff court. Glachan, from Bonhill, was found dead on the banks of the River Leven in Renton, West Dunbartonshire, on 25 August 1996. The three suspects made no plea and were remanded in police custody.

6

National Trust bans trail hunts

The National Trust has said it will no longer issue licences for trail hunts, in which dogs and riders follow an artificial scent along an agreed route, on its land. The charity acted after video emerged of a prominent huntsman talking about how to use the meetings for covert illegal fox hunts. Harry Bowell, the National Trust’s director of land and nature, said there had been “a loss of trust and confidence in the Masters of Foxhounds Association”.

7

Storm to bring 75mph winds

Storm Arwen is due to arrive in the UK today as 75mph winds lead to travel disruption and damage to buildings in northeast England and Scotland. The Met Office issued an amber wind warning from 3pm this afternoon until tomorrow at 9am. Light snow is also expected until early next week. Mountaineering Scotland, the hillwalkers’ organisation, said that it “looked like a good weekend for festive shopping or getting cosy indoors”.

8

Religious given homophobia exemption

Religious people in Australia will be protected from legal action if they make anti-gay comments, under a law that the prime minister said would guard against “cancel culture”. Scott Morrison said people “should not be cancelled or persecuted or vilified because their beliefs are different from someone else’s”. After Australia legalised same-sex marriage in 2017, some churches and other groups said they had been marginalised.

9

Bank to host slavery exhibition

The governor of the Bank of England rejected suggestions that the central bank had “gone woke” as he announced that Threadneedle Street will host an exhibition about slavery. The display at the Bank’s headquarters will include portraits of former governors and directors linked to the slave trade, which were taken down during the summer. “Quite a bit of the material that we’ve moved is going to reappear in the public part” of the Bank, he told students at the Cambridge Union.

10

Record Black Friday spending expected

Shoppers are expected to spend big on what could be the most lucrative Black Friday yet. Analysts at PWC predict £8.7bn will be spent – up from £7.8bn in 2019 and about twice as much as last year, when the UK was in lockdown. However, consumers have been warned to expect less generous discounts and shortages of some products in this year’s sale. Black Friday, which began in the US as a one-day event, is now “almost a month long blizzard of promotions”, said the BBC.

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