Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 24 March 2022

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

1

Historic fall in living standards

Official forecasts have shown that Britain is facing the biggest fall in living standards since records began in 1956. The Office for Budget Responsibility said they would fall by 2.2% in the next tax year, the largest reduction in a year and twice the size of the falls during the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. It also predicted that household energy bills will surge to about £2,800 a year from October, when the price cap on standard tariffs is expected to rise by a record £830.

2

William says slavery ‘stains history’

Prince William has spoken of his “profound sorrow” about slavery during a speech at a dinner in Jamaica. The Duke of Cambridge said slavery “should never have happened” and “forever stains our history”. His words followed protests in Jamaica, and an open letter written by 100 prominent citizens, calling for William to apologise for the royal family’s role in the slave trade. “Some will be disappointed” that the Prince did not give a formal apology, said the BBC.

3

Hackney police taken off beat

The Metropolitan police has confirmed that two of the officers who were involved in the strip search of a 15-year-old black girl in her school in Hackney, London, have been removed from frontline duties. The development was announced at a community meeting held online last night. “Tensions were high on the call,” said The Guardian, with many “frustrated and angry attenders” saying that the force was institutionally racist, and that they had not addressed the issue face on.

4

Taliban bars girls from high school

The Taliban has banned girls aged over 12 years old from attending school. The Times said thousands of girls were “left distraught at school gates” across Afghanistan yesterday after the last-minute decision. Officials blamed the late reversal on a “uniform issue”, but several hard-line Islamic scholars in Afghanistan are known to oppose the move to allow girls’ return to high school in principle.

5

Statins could prevent Parkinson’s

A study has found that statins could stave off Parkinson’s disease by keeping arteries in the brain healthy in old age. US experts tracked nearly 3,000 people with an average age of 76, a third of whom were taking statins. Over a six-year period, those on the cholesterol-lowering drugs were 16% less likely to develop signs of Parkinson’s, such as shaking, stiffness and shuffling movements. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, which leads to parts of the brain becoming progressively damaged over years.

6

Albright dies at 84

Madeleine Albright, the first female US secretary of state, has died of cancer at the age of 84. She was hailed as “a champion of democracy”, the BBC said, and was “instrumental” in efforts to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Guardian said Albright was criticised in 1996 when she said the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were an acceptable price for sanctions on Iraq. She later apologised, describing the remark as “totally stupid”.

7

Assange marries in jail

Julian Assange has married his long-term partner at a ceremony in a London jail. The 50-year-old Wikileaks founder married Stella Moris on Wednesday in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held since 2019. Moris, a lawyer, was greeted by a crowd of supporters as she left the ceremony in south-east London. She told them: “What we’re going through is inhuman.” Assange is wanted by the US over the publication of thousands of classified documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

8

PM tells DVLA to speed up

Boris Johnson has told the DVLA to “expedite the supply of driving licences to the people in this country” as anger grows over a backlog at the agency. Millions of drivers have been caught up in delays at the agency, with some waiting more than a year for driving licence applications or renewals to be processed. The Times reported last week that hundreds of civil servants at the DVLA had done no work on full pay for significant periods of the pandemic.

9

Hancock did not disclose messages

The former health secretary, Matt Hancock, failed to notify his officials about private messages he exchanged with Conservative MP Owen Paterson, a healthcare firm’s paid lobbyist, said National Audit Office. The regulator concluded that the Department of Health and Social Care did not record why it awarded contracts worth nearly £500m to Randox and failed to declare four meetings its ministers held with the company.

10

Epstein’s islands up for sale

Two private Caribbean islands owned by Jeffrey Epstein have been put up for sale and could fetch as much as $125m (£95m). A lawyer for the late sex offender’s estate told the BBC that the two islands – Little St James and Great St James – are on the market. The New York Post said past victims of Epstein and his associates have described in detail trying to swim off the shore in the shark-infested waters, almost drowning to escape the abuse they faced.

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