Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 January 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Andrew wants to go before jury
In an unexpected development, lawyers for Prince Andrew have said that he wants to go before a jury to contest the claim brought by Virginia Giuffre. The Duke of York is being sued in the US for sexual assault – allegations he has consistently denied. This position puts him “on a collision course” with the royal family, said the Daily Mail, who are “desperate” for him to settle and avoid the embarrassment of a trial. Prince Andrew has also denied being a close friend of convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
MPs poised for no confidence vote
Senior backbench MPs are poised to send letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson when Sue Gray’s much-anticipated “partygate” report is published. The Guardian said that a consensus has now formed among more experienced MPs that the PM should face a no-confidence vote. “It’s the white, middle-aged backbencher he has to watch,” an MP told the paper. The Daily Mail is forecasting that Johnson will acknowledge that he has made “serious mistakes”, while The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the PM’s allies have set up a 100-strong “save Boris” WhatsApp group.
US rejects Russia’s Nato demand
Washington has rejected Moscow’s demand to bar Ukraine from joining Nato. Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered no concessions, but said that he was suggesting “a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it”. The US state department also said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany will not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine. Tension is growing over Russia’s military buildup around its neighbour’s borders.
Covid cases falling in UK
Daily Covid cases, deaths and hospital admissions were all down on Wednesday, according to government dashboard data. There were another 102,292 positive tests across the country over the past 24 hours, marking a 5% decrease from last Wednesday. Hospital data shows that 1,399 Britons were admitted with the virus on 22 January – 20% lower than the previous week. “Cases are now trending downwards in all age groups apart from under-16s, with the return to classrooms earlier this month thought to be behind the trend,” said The Daily Mail.
Benefits crackdown on jobseekers
Jobseekers will be forced to take work in any sector or face swift financial sanctions under a new crackdown. The move is part of an initiative to get 500,000 people into work by June and fill 1.2m job vacancies nationally. Claimants will be given just four weeks – down from three months – to find a job within their preferred sector. After that, if they fail to make “reasonable efforts” to secure a job or if they turn down any offer, they will have part of their universal credit payment withdrawn.
Diversity record for universities
The number of black and Asian students who won places at prestigious UK universities rose by 19% in a year, reaching record levels in 2021, said The Guardian. This was driven by the rise in higher A-level results awarded in 2021 after the government decided to cancel exams and replace them with teacher-assessed grades. Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) also showed that nearly 21% of students receiving free school meals were accepted onto a university or college course last year – another record.
Rotherham victims urged to come forward
Investigators have identified more than 1,000 victims of grooming gangs in Rotherham and have appealed for more to come forward. An independent inquiry said that 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013, calling it a “conservative estimate”. They added that there had been “collective failures of political and officer leadership” in tackling the crimes, The Independent reported. More than 200 suspects have been arrested, 20 people convicted and jail terms totalling almost 250 years have been handed down.
PM warned on tax hike
MPs have warned Boris Johnson that raising National Insurance contributions will lead to higher prices in the shops. The Commons Treasury Committee said that the planned increase in April could push up inflation, with employers passing on additional costs to consumers through higher prices. “The Treasury should keep these risks at the forefront of their thinking when designing policies at future fiscal events,” they said in a report adding to the pressure on the government to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
‘Dismal year’ for car production
Car production in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 1956, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Disruption caused by Covid and the closure of Honda’s factory in Swindon are being blamed, with 2021 production 6.7% lower than in 2020 and a full 34% below its pre-pandemic level, said the BBC. The SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes admitted it had been “a dismal year” but said there was still reason to feel optimistic thanks to the announcement of £4.9bn in planned new investments.
Masks still required for supermarkets
Plan B measures in England legally ended today after Boris Johnson promised a route back to “complete normality”, but supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons have said that they will continue asking shoppers to wear a mask. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, has said that operators will still ask passengers to wear face coverings “as a courtesy to others”, unless they are exempt.