Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 March 2022

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

1

West warns Putin on chemical weapons

Joe Biden has pledged that Nato would respond “in kind” if Vladimir Putin used chemical weapons against Ukraine. The US president said “the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use”. Boris Johnson said the West’s reaction would be “very, very severe” and the consequences of Putin launching a chemical strike would be “catastrophic for him”. Earlier, a Western official had said it is “highly unlikely that Nato would go directly into conflict with Russia”.

2

North Korea tests ‘monster’ missile

North Korea has confirmed it tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korean state media said that Kim Jong Un had personally guided the launch of the weapon, which was described as a “powerful nuclear war deterrent”. CNN said the development marks “a potential new era of regional confrontation” and an analyst told the BBC the weapon was “a monster missile”. The US described the test as a “brazen violation” of UN Security Council resolutions.

3

Trump sues Clinton

Donald Trump has launched legal action against Hillary Clinton, claiming that in a bid to rig the election she was part of a conspiracy that made Watergate “pale in comparison”. Six years after he beat her to the White House, Trump alleged that she is guilty of “racketeering” and a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood”. Trump’s new lawsuit claims that in the run-up to the 2016 election, “Hillary Clinton and her cohorts orchestrated an unthinkable plot – one that shocks the conscience and is an affront to this nation’s democracy.”

4

Mobile driving loophole closed

A loophole that allowed motorists to escape punishment for using a handheld phone if they are taking a photo or playing a game has been closed. In a move described by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a “zero-tolerance approach”, people can now be fined up to £1,000 and receive six points on their licence for scrolling through playlists or taking pictures on a handheld device. The law change, which does not apply in Northern Ireland, was welcomed by the AA.

5

P&O admits law breach

The chief executive of P&O Ferries said he knew the firm was breaking employment law by firing 800 seafarers without consulting unions, but did it anyway. Peter Hebblethwaite told a Commons hearing “There is absolutely no doubt we were required to consult the union.” He added that he “chose not to do that” because  “it was our assessment that the change was of such a magnitude that no union would possibly accept our proposal”. He also said he would “make the same decision again”.

6

Covid admissions rise among elderly

Covid-19 hospital admissions among those aged over 75 in England are at the highest level for a year, said the UK Health Security Agency. Infections are increasing in all age groups and in all regions and health bodies are warning of further increases. Ministers have said they are relaxed about the trend because relatively few people are becoming seriously ill, but the HSA said: “The rate at which we’re seeing cases increasing is a reminder to us all that the pandemic is not over.”

7

Kremlin attacks ‘anti-Russian’ PM

Boris Johnson has been described as the “most active anti-Russian leader” by the Kremlin. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said: “We see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian. It will lead to a foreign policy dead end.” In response, Downing Street said Putin was “among the most active anti-Putin leaders” but has “no issue with the Russian people”. Ahead of a meeting with Nato allies, Johnson said that Russia had crossed a “threshold of barbarism” and sanctioning gold reserves could “shorten the slaughter”.

8

Grade lands Ofcom gig

Michael Grade has been named as the government’s preferred candidate to head Ofcom, drawing to a close a two-year search. The former BBC chairman is a “broadcasting industry grandee” who will bring “decades of experience to the role”, said The Times. In January, he suggested that the BBC licence fee was “too high”, but dismissed calls to fund the corporation through advertising and said subscription was not necessarily the answer. Grade entered the running after Paul Dacre, the former Daily Mail editor, was deemed to be “unappointable” by an independent interview panel.

9

Dairy farmers warn on costs

A UK dairy giant has said milk supplies could be under threat unless its farmers are paid more. Ash Amirahmadi, the boss of Arla Foods, said that “because of the recent crisis, feed, fuel and fertiliser have rocketed and therefore cashflow on the farm is negative”. He said farmers are producing less milk due to higher costs. David Christensen, an Arla dairy farmer based in Oxfordshire, said he had “never experienced conditions like this in 30 years” of working in the industry.

10

Sunak responds to Russia claim

Rishi Sunak has defended his wife over allegations that his family is “benefiting" from Vladimir Putin’s regime. Akshata Murty owns a £430m stake in Infosys, an Indian tech giant that continues to operate out of Moscow. Sunak, who has urged firms to stop investing in Russia, was challenged during a television interview if this meant he was a hypocrite. A spokesman for the chancellor said: “Ms Murty is one of thousands of minority shareholders in the company. It is a public company and neither her nor any member of her family have any involvement in the operational decisions of the company.”

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