News diary 25-31 October: Autumn Budget announced and US appeals Julian Assange extradition block - Press Gazette

News diary 25-31 October: Autumn Budget announced and US appeals Julian Assange extradition block

Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

Monday

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gives evidence in Parliament on the government’s proposed legislation to protect people from online abuse. Haugen’s appearance before the Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee comes after she told a US Senate committee hearing earlier this month that the social media platform was “divisive” and harmful to children’s mental health. Committee members are likely to be particularly interested in Haugen’s allegations that Facebook willingly spread hate speech in the wake of calls to “toughen up” the Bill following the murder of Sir David Amess. Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Maria Ressa gives evidence to the same committee on Wednesday.

The UNFCCC releases an update to last month’s Nationally Determined Contributions Synthesis report, which analysed individual nations’ climate action plans in the lead up to COP26 and concluded that greater ambition was required to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. The updated report covers NDCs submitted between July and October, which include those from Japan, Turkey and Israel, though a contribution from India remains notable for its absence. The update comes ahead of Tuesday’s Emissions Gap Report from the UN Environment Programme, which looks at progress towards achieving national pledges and Paris Agreement goals, and the resulting gap in emissions still due to be cut.

London’s 24-hour Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanded to cover up to the North and South circular roads, in addition to central London. London’s Transport Commissioner Andy Byford says that the widening of the zone to London’s suburbs on Monday would be “a massive tool in our battle against air pollution”. Despite the new charges costing ULEZ non-compliant drivers £12.50 per day and larger cars, vans and HGVs £100 per day, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has not ruled out further measures. Khan says he will “micro-target” hotspots in the outer suburbs beyond the North and South Circular roads and that “nothing is off the table” in terms of future restrictions on vehicle use.

Tuesday

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Nick Carter appear before the Defence Committee on Tuesday, in what promises to be a charged session on the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Wallace has blasted his own department in the run up to the session over data leaks for relocated Afghan families, while General Carter has given his own withering assessment of the withdrawal. Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is likely to come in for heavy criticism after finding himself in a war of words with Wallace at the peak of the crisis.

Following the publication last week of the bombshell report from the special Brazilian Senate panel investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic, senators on the panel are scheduled to vote on whether to adopt its findings. The most serious charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, those of homicide and genocide, were removed at the last minute, making the report’s adoption today more likely. Most observers think that a criminal case against Bolsonaro is unlikely under current circumstances, though the inquiry is likely to sway at least some voters when it comes to next year’s presidential election.

It’s a huge day in Japan, as Princess Mako finally ties the knot with her “commoner” fiancé Kei Komuro in what is expected to be a low-key ceremony, followed by a press conference. The couple, who are due to live in New York where Komuro works as a lawyer, will be hoping the marriage puts an end to the years-long saga that is said to have caused the princess to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Komuro, who was vilified for sporting a ponytail as he arrived back in Japan, has since removed the offending hairstyle.

Wednesday

Rishi Sunak (pictured) told the Conservative conference that the UK’s finances needed to be fixed after the economic woes inflicted by the pandemic, and today he’ll set out how he intends to make the necessary repairs in the autumn Budget. The Chancellor is under pressure to show his party he remains committed to tax cuts, with a reduction to the bank profit levy reportedly in the works. Elsewhere, look out for further business incentives, a minimum wage increase, and COP26-friendly measures to help households with the cost of going green.

Sunak also sets out departmental budgets for the coming year in the Spending Review, which is the third single-year review in a row after the fiscal uncertainties of Brexit and Covid. With spending on the NHS, schools, and defence already allocated, some departments are facing the prospect of operating on even tighter budgets than in 2020/21. The Institute for Government has projected that day-to-day spending will fall in crucial areas such as policing, while local leaders last week issued a plea for long-term funding certainty for councils after dire warnings of the potential impact of rising cost pressures on public services.

The High Court holds a full hearing as the United States appeals against a ruling earlier this year that Julian Assange should not be extradited to face criminal charges. A judge ruled in January that mental health concerns meant the WikiLeaks founder should not be sent to America to face trial after allegedly hacking computers and publishing thousands of classified documents between 2010 and 2011. Numerous supporters of Assange have called on the Biden administration to stop pursing the case, claiming it is politically motivated.

Thursday

Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Facebook Connect conference on the future of augmented and virtual reality, where he is expected to formally announce plans to rebrand the company. The address follows a challenging few weeks for Facebook, including damning whistleblower testimony, a $70m (£50m) fine from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and Zuckerberg himself being named in a consumer protection lawsuit in the US. Zuckerberg is expected to use the conference as an opportunity to divert attention to the future of the company and development of the “metaverse”.

In another COP26 warm-up event, Sadiq Khan delivers an address to the London Climate Summit which is jointly hosted by his office and London Councils. The environment has been at the forefront of the mayor’s policymaking in his time in City Hall; he declared a climate emergency in the capital in 2018 and has committed to making the city carbon-neutral by 2030. Today’s speech is an opportunity to set out what Khan sees as London’s role in the COP, where he is due to assume the chairmanship of the C40 cities network.

The World Wildlife Foundation holds its State of the Planet Address, an immersive evening dedicated to the future of the planet held at the Tate Modern in London. This year’s keynote speech is delivered by former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, renowned for leading the global diplomatic effort that culminated in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Figueres has praised the Scottish government’s efforts on climate change ahead of COP26, saying “it has been for many, many years, a leading country on climate change and decarbonisation”.

Friday

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden meet Pope Francis at the Vatican. Taking place just days ahead of the G20 and COP26, the leaders will discuss climate change, the pandemic, and caring for the global poor. The meeting also comes amid a debate between bishops in the US over whether Biden, a practising Catholic, should be prohibited from receiving communion because of his support for abortion rights. The issue has come to the fore since the passage of Texas’ “heartbeat” abortion ban, which is being challenged in court by Biden’s Department of Justice. The bishops are set to vote on the issue in November, despite Pope Francis calling on them to act as pastors and not go condemning.

A 30-day notice period to French fishermen operating in Jersey’s waters, announced by Jersey’s government on September 29, expires. It officially ends the post-Brexit transitional arrangement, after which all French vessels are required to have new licenses. French fishermen have been highly critical of the number of licenses issued so far, and France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin has implied France, and even the European Commission, may respond with counter-measures.

Saturday

Italy hosts this year’s G20 summit in Rome, though at least four key players – Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – aren’t expected to attend the two-day gathering in person. There’s plenty for leaders to discuss, including economic themes such as inflation fears, energy prices, and supply-chain issues, climate change ahead of COP26, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Somewhat awkwardly, Italy’s technocratic premier Mario Draghi recently cited the UK’s response as a great example of how not to deal with the crisis.

Far from the Grecian gardens of Stowe or Winston Churchill’s idyllic home at Chartwell, the National Trust holds its Annual General Meeting amid a bitter public power struggle. The AGM gives members the opportunity to vote for candidates to fill six vacancies for the Trust’s governing council, positions which are being challenged by a grassroots group, Restore Trust. RT is backed by several high-profile conservative stakeholders and MPs and has vowed to work against perceived “wokeness” in the Trust’s recent policymaking. The Trust has warned of the damage it faces from what it calls an “ideological campaign” by those who hold “extreme” positions and are engaged in waging a culture war on a number of fronts.

For the first time in almost two years, a capacity crowd will fill Cardiff’s Principality Stadium to see Wales open their autumn series campaign against the All Blacks. Scrums outside the venue could prove to be a thing of the past however, with all 74,000 fans now required to produce a Covid pass before entry. Those with tickets to the game will either need to prove their full vaccination status or produce a negative lateral flow test. Once inside the ground the hard work truly begins – cheering Wales to their first victory over New Zealand since 1953.

Sunday

The COP26 summit opens in Glasgow, a year later than scheduled and at the end of two weeks of climate policy announcements and analysis. This year’s session marks the first review of progress under the 2015 Paris Agreement and will see countries try to agree new targets for 2030 amid stark warnings that serious action is needed to contain global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. The UK government’s hopes for a successful summit have been dented by the actions of some of the bigger global emitters, with some world leaders declining to attend and leaked documents showing intense lobbying to water down recommendations on phasing out fossil fuels.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

 

Top picture: PA Wire/PA Images

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