Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 April 2022

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

1

Archbishop to criticise Rwanda plan

Boris Johnson’s plan to send some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda is “the opposite of the nature of God,” the Archbishop of Canterbury is to say. During his Easter sermon, Justin Welby will also argue that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a time for “subcontracting our responsibilities”. The Observer described his words as a “scathing intervention” but the government insists the policy is needed to protect lives from people smugglers.

2

Scandal ‘worse than thalidomide’ exposed

An anti-epilepsy drug, which causes health issues for babies when taken by pregnant women, is still being given to patients without safety warnings. In a story that The Sunday Times describes as “a scandal worse than thalidomide,” it has emerged that although doctors knew in 1973 that sodium valproate posed a risk to unborn children and ordered that warnings be removed from packets, almost “50 years and 20,000 disabled babies later,” it is still being prescribed to pregnant women.

3

Tories fear supporters desertion

Senior Tories have warned that traditional supporters are abandoning them due to the lockdown party scandal, reported The Observer. Tory MPs across the country fear that many people who had backed the party before were now having second thoughts after Boris Johnson was fined this week. Meanwhile, former immigration minister Caroline Nokes said she was standing by her decision to submit a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.

4

‘Inhuman’ situation in Mariupol

Moscow ordered Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender by Sunday morning, but the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zekensky, has called the situation in the city “inhuman,” saying any further Russian war crimes would make negotiations impossible. Russia is planning to restrict access to Mariupol from Monday. Meanwhile, Russia has banned Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior ministers from entering Russia due to the UK’s “hostile” stance on the war in Ukraine.

5

North Korea tests new weapon

North Korea has test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon that it describes as being of “great significance”. Although North Korean state media did not say when the test took place, South Korea’s military said it detected two projectiles launched from the coastal city of Hamhung early on Saturday night. Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un observed the test and was pictured smiling as generals clapped behind him.

6

Robots may pick fruit

Robots could be used to pick fruit under plans to address the danger of food shortages. The Telegraph said the upcoming food strategy White Paper has been redrafted to include proposals to reduce Britain’s reliance on foreign imports and the impact of soaring gas prices and climate change on farmers. The new plans could include automation of farms to guard against labour shortages and new investment in “vertical farming”, which would increase efficiency.

7

NHS chief wants masks back

A senior NHS boss has said people should be encouraged to socially distance and wear facemasks to protect the health service. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, wants the government to discuss “sensible precautions” that the public can take to help reduce pressure on the health service. “We think we need a proper grown-up national debate about what living with Covid actually means,” he said. Meanwhile, a small number of cases of a new variant of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 have been discovered in Northern Ireland.

8

Conservation GCSE to be launched

A new GCSE that explores how to “conserve the planet” is to be announced this week. Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, will announce a new GCSE in natural history, which will be available to students from 2025. The Department for Education said the natural history course would “enable young people to explore the world by learning about organisms and environments, environmental and sustainability issues, and gain a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them”.

9

‘Arrogant’ Tory MP ‘lied’

A high court judge has ruled that Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen lied under oath, behaved in an abusive, and arrogant way, and was so dishonest that his claims about a multimillion-pound family dispute could not be taken at face value. Bridgen, who has spent years taking legal action against his family’s £27m potato and vegetable business, could face millions of pounds in legal bills and a referral to a parliamentary watchdog after he was found to have been an unsatisfactory, evasive and combative witness who tried to cover up his misconduct.

10

Prince Andrew fears new book

The Duke and Duchess of York are “braced for more potentially damaging revelations about their private lives,” as a notorious author plans a book on the couple. Andrew Lownie, who said he is “not exactly flavour of the month at Buckingham Palace”, after writing books about the sex lives of royals, said of his next tome: “I simply want to tell the story of why this blue-eyed boy became a pariah figure. He’s the Queen’s favourite son and she’s made a point of publicly supporting him… maybe she knows something we don’t?”

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