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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 April 2023

1

Sunak faces standards probe

Rishi Sunak is being investigated by Parliament’s standards watchdog over a possible failure to declare an interest when first asked. The prime minister is facing a series of questions over a potential breach of transparency rules relating to his links to a childcare firm in which his wife is an investor. “On the Richter scale of these things, it feels like a rather minor tremor,” said Chris Mason, political editor of the BBC. However, opposition parties said the investigation was a sign sleaze had returned to No 10.

‘Rishi Rich’: How the Sunaks made their fortune

2

Prepayment ban for over 85s

Forced instalments of prepayment energy meters in homes of customers over 85 in Britain will be banned under new rules from Ofgem. The regulator has also ruled that suppliers will have to give all customers more chances to clear their debts before making them switch. However, campaigners said the new rules did not go far enough and vulnerable people could still face forced installations. An investigation by The Times earlier this year found debt collectors working for British Gas had forced their way into the homes of vulnerable customers.

The call to switch off energy prepayment meters for good

3

Bank calls time on cash

Cash will become “less useable” as high streets go contactless, said the deputy governor of the Bank of England. With consumers flocking to online shopping and stores increasingly rejecting bank notes, Jon Cunliffe said that it will become harder to spend physical money. Therefore, he argued, the Bank should launch an electronic version of sterling, or digital pound, which can underpin future confidence in the financial system.

The pros and cons of ditching cash

4

Just Stop Oil disrupts snooker

A match at snooker’s World Championship was disrupted after a protester climbed on to a table and covered it in an orange powder. There were “gasps” from the audience as the man interrupted last night’s match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry, said the BBC. Another protester tried to glue herself to the table of a separate match. Both activists, from Just Stop Oil, were later arrested by South Yorkshire Police. The group said it is “demanding that the government immediately stop all new UK fossil fuel projects”.

Just Stop Oil: Do radical protests turn the public away from a cause? Here’s the evidence

5

Food prices soar up to 80%

The price of food basics such as cheddar cheese, white bread and pork sausages has soared by up to 80% over the past year, according to Which. The consumer group found that an 180g pack of Dragon cheddar cheese in Asda was priced 80% higher than a year before. Porridge oats topped the price increase ranking among a basket of British basics, with prices up by an average of 35.5%. The shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, said British families are “having to fork out even more for their tomatoes, carrots and cauliflower”.

Price of pasta doubles: what food is getting more expensive in UK?

6

EU ambassador attacked in Sudan

The EU’s ambassador in Sudan has been assaulted at his home in Khartoum. Aidan O’Hara was not “seriously hurt”, the Irish government has confirmed. Fighting between rival military factions has been escalating in recent days with more than 200 people thought to have been killed and around 2,000 estimated to have been injured. The rival groups have rejected calls for a ceasefire, despite pressure from the US, UK, African Union and Arab states.

A new wave of violence hits Sudan

7

‘Zombie knives’ to be banned

Machetes and zombie knives will be banned in England and Wales under a series of proposals to close loopholes in the law. Blades that are “designed to look menacing” will be made illegal unless they have a “practical use” under the measures to be announced today. A new offence will also be created that would cover those who carry knives in order to “cause fear of violence”. Labour said the government “have dragged their heels” and the weapons should have been banned years ago.

What are zombie knives – and why are they being banned?

8

Clampdown on trans pupils

Forthcoming government guidelines mean single-sex schools will not be forced to accommodate transgender pupils. Under the new rules, head teachers of girls’ schools will be told they can reject pupils who are legally male but identify as female, without risk of legal action. The same will apply for boys’ schools receiving applications from girls who identify as male. According to sources, teachers will not be required to call children by their preferred pronouns, the source.

Where schools stand legally on children’s trans rights

9

Report damns rail funding

Britain’s “teetering” railways face more delays and cancellations due to lack of funds, according to a leaked presentation obtained by The Independent. The government’s funding plans for the next five years will not allow Network Rail to “operate, maintain and renew” the railway at its current level of reliability, concluded the internal report, intended for rail industry bosses and marked “official-sensitive-commercial”. The Department for Transport said it has pledged a “record” £44.1bn for Network Rail.

Rail nationalisation: should British railways be public or private?

10

Maternal care has racial disparities

MPs have condemned what they call the government’s failure to tackle “appalling” and “glaring” racial disparities in maternal health. A report described as “scathing” by The Guardian, found that black women are still almost four times more likely to die from childbirth than white women and too many black women receive treatment that “falls short of acceptable standards”. Yesterday, Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, said that less than half the measures set out in the government’s plan to tackle racial inequality and level up communities had been delivered.

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