Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 April 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Energy websites crash as rise hits
Millions of households found that the websites of the major energy providers crashed yesterday as they were overwhelmed by a rush of customers hoping to secure cheaper bills ahead of Friday’s huge hike in prices. The Guardian said “panicked customers” rushed to submit meter readings, responding to advice to ensure they didn’t overpay for energy they had already used. An unprecedented £700-a-year rise in energy costs takes effect today, as council tax, water bills and car tax are also rising for some.
PM U-turns on conversion ban
Boris Johnson has “performed a hasty retreat” in the face of a backlash over an announcement that he was abandoning plans to ban conversion practices, said The Guardian. Although he had promised to outlaw conversion practices to change or suppress a person’s sexuality, a government spokesperson said last night they were looking instead at ways of preventing it through existing law and “other non-legislative measures”. ITV later reported that the PM had “changed his mind” after seeing the reaction to the earlier announcement. Health professionals working with transgender people will be exempted after fears that they would have been criminalised as an “unintended consequence” of the ban, said The Times.
Putin ‘in cage he built himself’
Russia is now a “lesser country” due to its invasion of Ukraine, according to the British Defence Secretary. Speaking to Sky News, Ben Wallace said President Vladimir Putin is “not the force he used to be” and “is now a man in a cage he built himself”. Striking a similar tone, White House director of communications Kate Bedingfield said that Washington has evidence that the war against Ukraine has been “a strategic disaster” for Russia.
Shapps reverses P&O action
Unions said P&O had “got away with” its summary sackings after Grant Shapps decided against taking legal action and all but one employee accepted the firm’s payoff. All of the Dubai-owned company’s crew working on British contracts issued out of Jersey were fired on 17 March, to be replaced by cheap agency workers. Last week Boris Johnson told parliament: “We will take them to court… P&O plainly aren’t going to get away with it.” The transport secretary has since admitted that “the government are not in a position to take court action”.
Andrew embroiled in ‘fraudster’ case
Prince Andrew was given more than £1m by a Turkish “fraudster” and is now entangled in a court battle for the missing money, The Telegraph said. The Duke of York reportedly received “suspicious” payments on the orders of Selman Turk, a former Goldman Sachs banker. Nebahat Isbilen, 77, claims she was tricked into giving him money “by way of payment for assistance” with her passport. The High Court was told the prince has since repaid the cash and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.
Biden authorises oil release
Joe Biden has ordered a substantial release of oil from US reserves in an effort to bring down high fuel costs. The president’s decision to release 180m barrels of oil over six months is the largest since the reserve was created in 1974. Although oil prices dropped in response to the news, analysts say it is unlikely to resolve the energy crisis. In a separate development, Vladimir Putin has said that “unfriendly countries” buying gas from Russia must pay in roubles or their contracts will not be honoured.
Jabs ‘extra strong in previously infected’
Two new studies have found that Covid-19 jabs provide significant extra protection to people who have already been infected with the virus. A study in Brazil found that four vaccines – made by AstraZeneca, Janssen Pfizer and Sinovac – provide extra protection against symptomatic reinfection and severe outcomes. Meanwhile, the second study, from Sweden, found that vaccination against Covid provided at least nine months of additional protection to those who had had it before.
Oxford student ‘gagged’ over rape
An Oxford college silenced a student after she complained of being violently raped by another student in her university room, reported The Times. Lady Margaret Hall warned the young woman in writing not to reveal anything about the alleged attack or its safeguarding arrangements on social networks or to the media. She was told that “publishing material in the press will result in expulsion from Lady Margaret Hall”. The “blanket gagging clause” was imposed when Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, was college principal, said the report.
Glasgow sorry for slave links
Local authorities in Glasgow have apologised for the city’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. “Follow the Atlantic slavery money trail and its tentacles reach into every corner of Glasgow,” council leader Susan Aitken told colleagues after the release of an academic study about the city’s connections to the trade in human beings. The report found that 40 out of 79 lord provosts or mayors from Glasgow were connected to the slave trade between 1636 and 1834. Some 62 Glasgow streets are named after slave owners.
Pilot fabricated experience
A pilot who lied about his flying experience to land a job at British Airways was caught out when he pressed a button “no qualified pilot would”, reported The Times. Craig Butfoy, 49, was jailed after entering false details and altered entries in his flight logbook so it appeared that he was more experienced than he was, Snaresbrook crown court was told. “Pilot integrity is at the heart of aviation safety and we will take all steps necessary to maintain that position,” said Jonathan Spence, general counsel at the Civil Aviation Authority.