Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 April 2022

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

1

PM to order MPs to block probe

Boris Johnson will order Conservative MPs to block an investigation into claims that he misled parliament over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, said The Times. As he offered a “wholehearted apology” yesterday, the PM insisted that he had not misled the House of Commons when he said last December that Covid rules were followed at all times in Downing Street. Conservative Party whips have ordered all MPs to be in the Commons tomorrow to vote against a motion referring Johnson to a formal investigation by the privileges committee for contempt.

2

Donbas battle continues

Ukrainian forces have repelled “numerous attempted advances” by Russian forces in the Donbas, said the UK Ministry of Defence. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy added that the intensity of Russian firing in the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions has increased, even targeting civilian structures. “The fate of tens of thousands of Mariupol residents who were relocated to Russian-controlled territories is unknown,” he said during his nightly video address to Ukrainians. 

3

UK: slowest growth in G7

The UK is set to have the slowest economic growth out of the countries in the G7 group of leading Western nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. The UK’s economy is now predicted to grow by just 3.7% this year, down from the previous forecast of 4.7% made in January. This means the UK will no longer be the fastest-growing economy in the G7 group but will be the slowest in 2023, said the BBC. According to the IMF, the UK was the fastest-growing G7 economy in 2021.

4

Harry speaks about Queen visit

Prince Harry said he is making sure the Queen is “protected” and wants to ensure she has “the right people around her”. In an interview with NBC’s Today show, the Duke of Sussex spoke about stopping off to see his grandmother with wife Meghan Markle on the way to the Invictus Games in the Netherlands last week, describing the monarch as being “on great form”. The Guardian reported that Harry and Meghan have been invited to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations.

5

Energy chiefs warn of ‘horrific winter’

Energy bosses have called for more government support for vulnerable households facing a “truly horrific” winter, warning that up to four in ten people in Britain could fall into fuel poverty when the price cap rises again this autumn. “We are expecting a severe impact on customers’ ability to pay,” Michael Lewis, the chief executive of energy supplier E.ON UK, told MPs at the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee in parliament. The energy regulator lifted the price cap on bills earlier this month, sending the average household dual-fuel tariff from £1,278 to £1,971, reported The Guardian.

6

Films allowed in self-driving cars

Motorists in self-driving cars will be permitted to watch films and television shows at the wheel under planned changes to the Highway Code this summer. However, the use of phones and tablet devices will remain illegal after studies found that they pose a greater risk of distraction. The first self-driving vehicles are likely to be approved for use on Britain’s roads later this year, said the Times. Trudy Harrison, a transport minister, said the move was a “milestone in our safe introduction of self-driving vehicles”.

7

Decline in Netflix subscribers

The number of Netflix subscribers has dropped for the first time since 2011, reported the BBC. The streaming company announced that it lost 200,000 members in the first three months of the year. The declines came after the firm raised prices in key markets, including the US and UK. Writing to shareholders, Netflix warned that it expected another two million subscribers to leave in the three months to July. In the UK, households cancelled more than 1.5m streaming subscriptions in the first three months of the year.

8

Cook death ‘convenient for Blair’

A former Home Office minister has said that Robin Cook’s death was “rather convenient” for Tony Blair. Cook, the former foreign secretary, was the most senior figure to oppose the invasion of Iraq. He then died of a heart attack while hill-climbing in the Highlands in 2005 at the age of 59. Conspiracy theories have since circulated since then, said The Times, suggesting Cook may have been targeted by the security services. “His death was certainly rather convenient for Blair and his circle,” said Norman Baker, a former junior Home Office minister and Liberal Democrat MP. Police have been ordered to release details of the circumstances surrounding Cook’s death. 

9

Fake reviews to be outlawed

Paying someone to write a fake review will become a crime under new government plans. Ministers said that websites which host fake reviews might also be criminally liable unless they take “reasonable steps” to check the reviews are genuine. The average UK household spends about £900 each year after being influenced by online reviews, noted the BBC, and the proposed new laws may mean businesses such as Amazon and Tripadvisor have to outline what they have done to stop companies or individuals from exploiting their systems.

10

Concern over deer cull

More than 25,000 deer face being culled under plans to “rewild” parts of the UK’s largest national park. Management at Cairngorms National Park say the cull is needed to allow for the restoration of woodland and peatland but rural workers say the proposals will threaten rural jobs and are inhumane, reported The Telegraph. Alex Hogg, the chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said deer managers often express alarm over a policy of constantly slaughtering “an iconic species, much loved by the people of Scotland”.

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