Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 March 2022

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

1

Zelensky urges Russia to negotiate

Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Russia to come to the negotiating table for meaningful talks “without delay”. The Ukrainian president urged Moscow to limit its damages and said it was time to restore “territorial integrity and justice” for Ukraine. Earlier, Vladimir Putin had spoken to tens of thousands of Russians at an event celebrating eight years since the annexation of Crimea. Meanwhile, in Mariupol, the local mayor has told the BBC fighting has reached the city centre.

2

Bercow in furlough row

John Bercow claimed thousands in taxpayers’ cash to put his wife on furlough during the Covid pandemic despite the couple having £400,000 in their company’s bank account, reported the Daily Mail. The former Commons speaker used the scheme to claim for his wife, Sally, who provides administrative support to the firm. Bercow insisted the total figure claimed is “well under £10,000”. He was recently found to be a “serial bully” and a “serial liar” by the parliamentary watchdog.

3

P&O could face criminal charges

P&O Ferries and its Dubai owners have been threatened with criminal charges and an unlimited fine after the ferry giant sacked hundreds of staff on Thursday. The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has warned P&O Ferries it could face a penalty if its summary sacking is found to have breached the law. Writing to the company on Friday, Kwarteng said he wanted to express, “in the strongest possible terms, the UK government’s anger and disappointment”.

4

PM aide talks of 2023 election

David Canzini, the prime minister’s new deputy chief of staff, has told government advisers that they had to begin preparing for the possibility of a general election in the autumn of next year. The Australian strategist, an ally of Sir Lynton Crosby, said that although May 2024 remains the most likely date, the “clock is ticking” and they must be ready for a poll before then, reported The Times.

5

New charges for Everard killer

The former London police officer who was jailed for life last year for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, has been charged with four new offences that took place just weeks earlier. Wayne Couzens, 49, whose job was to guard diplomatic premises, has been charged with four more suspected offenses of exposing himself, which had taken place less than a month before he attacked Everard. He is due to appear at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on April 13.

6

Strip-search girl to sue police

The black schoolgirl who was subjected to a strip-search at school that involved exposure of intimate body parts, has launched legal proceedings against the Metropolitan police and her school. The child, known only as Child Q thanked the “thousands of people across the world” who offered her support, after it emerged this week that she was strip-searched by officers in her school when she was 15 without parental consent and in the knowledge that she was menstruating. The Met has apologised for the child’s “truly regrettable” treatment.

7

Sunak ‘considered standing down’

Rishi Sunak’s relationship with Boris Johnson “completely disintegrated” and the chancellor considered resigning because of a row over the planned rise in National Insurance contributions, an MP has claimed. Sunak reportedly confided in a Tory MP while the PM contemplated scrapping the planned 1.25 percentage point increase during the scandal over lockdown parties. However, a Treasury source told the Daily Telegraph that any suggestion Sunak was considering his future as chancellor was “not true”.

8

Warning over drinking water

Scientists have warned that the permitted levels of toxic PFAS known as “forever chemicals” in UK drinking water are too high. The BBC found that levels of the chemicals exceeded European safety levels in almost 50% of the samples taken but none exceeded the current UK safety level. The chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, are present in many products such as non-stick pans, food packaging, carpets and furniture.

9

Free-range eggs run out

UK consumers will no longer be able to buy free-range eggs from Monday because hens not having been allowed outdoors since November due to fears of avian flu outbreaks. From next week, eggs sold in shops will carry a label saying they are “barn eggs”, the name given to eggs produced by birds permanently housed indoors, said the Guardian. The UK faced more than 80 reported outbreaks of avian flu in England over the winter.

10

China reports new Covid deaths

China reported two coronavirus deaths and 2,157 new community transmissions on Saturday, with the majority in Jilin. The province has instituted a travel ban, with people needing permission from police to travel across borders. China has continued to impose a “zero-Covid” strategy, said The Guardian, meaning the country has seen relatively few infections from the virus because “clusters are tamped down as quickly as they’re discovered”.

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