News diary 28 March-3 April: Energy price cap rises and Prince Andrew to make public appearance - Press Gazette

News diary 28 March-3 April: Energy price cap rises and Prince Andrew to make public appearance

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

The coming week is set to be dominated by debates over the worsening cost of living crisis, after the Chancellor made his spring statement on 23 March. The new price cap on energy is set to be put in place on 1 April, which is predicted to give the average household a 50% spike in energy bills.

Prince Andrew is reportedly set to make his first public appearance since the settlement of his sexual assault lawsuit in February at a service of thanksgiving for the late Duke of Edinburgh.

MONDAY

Rishi Sunak (pictured) faces questions from the Treasury Select Committee on his 23 March spring statement, which it’s safe to say did not land well. The Chancellor is likely to be asked to respond to accusations from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Resolution Foundation that the package he outlined last week will benefit top earners more than anyone else and push 1.3m more people into “absolute poverty”. MPs will also hear from Office for Budget Responsibility chair Richard Hughes following the fiscal watchdog’s bombshell assessment that Brits will face the biggest drop in living standards since 1956.

Former grenadier guardsman David Holden goes on trial in Belfast is charged with manslaughter over the February 1988 death of Aidan McAnespie, who was shot in the back after he passed a checkpoint en route to a Gaelic football match. Holden told the Historical Enquiries Team that he had fired the shot that killed McAnespie, but that his hands were wet and his finger slipped on the trigger guard. The government’s controversial proposals to impose a statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions could make Holden’s case the last of its kind, though the legislation, due last autumn, has yet to be introduced.

TUESDAY

A service of thanksgiving is held for the late Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April last year at the age of 99. Senior royals including the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to attend, though Prince Harry will remain in the US following a row over police protection and his family’s safety. However, there are concerns as to whether The Queen will be able to commemorate her late husband due to recent bouts of ill health, with a decision likely to be made on the day. Prince Andrew is also reportedly planning to join, in what would be his first public appearance since the settlement of his sexual assault lawsuit in February.

Pop stars including Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol and Emilie Sandé perform at a concert in Birmingham to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) humanitarian appeal in Ukraine. The Ukrainian pop-rock quintet Antytila, whose members have remained in Kyiv to fight, has sent a video message to Sheeran offering to perform remotely at the gig.

WEDNESDAY

Boris Johnson’s regular grilling by the Liaison Committee comes as the prime minister faces a series of crises that would individually test any leader. Johnson’s response to the Ukraine conflict and his handling of the cost of living crisis at home will feature heavily, particularly on what “more” help the government might offer to households after the broadly critical reaction to the Chancellor’s spring statement; awkward questions about police interviews and potential fines are also likely to be raised after the Met’s latest Partygate update.

A state memorial for Shane Warne takes place in Melbourne following a private ceremony in the city last week. The public service is held at the MCG, where Warne took his 700th test wicket in 2006, with more than 50,000 fans expected to attend to pay tribute to one of the finest spin bowlers and most popular characters to grace the game.

THURSDAY

The Northern Ireland Executive faces a deadline to make abortion services available in the country by today, per a direction issued by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis in July 2021. The High Court ruled against a legal challenge by pro-life campaigners in February, rejecting the argument that the central government had no authority to impose regulations. Lewis announced last week that it was “increasingly clear” that today’s deadline would be missed, but that the government would not intervene until after the 5 May Assembly elections.

The findings from a review into the disruption caused by Storm Arwen, which caused widespread damage and power outages and resulted in the deaths of three people in November last year, are due to be released today. An interim report by the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee, published in February, found some households suffered “unacceptably long power cuts” during the storm. A separate review by Ofgem is due to be published later in spring.

Yorkshire county cricket club members vote on proposals to restructure the club board at an extraordinary general meeting delayed twice already by internal wrangling over the chairmanship of Lord Patel. The meeting was proposed in the wake of the club’s handling of allegations of racism by former player Azeem Rafiq, and the club’s ability to begin hosting international fixtures at Headingley is partly dependent on the passage of the reforms today.

FRIDAY

With the cost of living crisis already a main focus for the week, the increase to the energy price cap takes effect today, with the average bill set to rise by more than 50% from this month. The OBR has forecast that this year’s second increase in October could result in annual bills of almost £3,000 for some households, and many groups are warning of the prospect of a huge increase in fuel poverty this year. Glimpses of a plan to steady prices could come in Johnson’s energy supply strategy (rebranded to energy security strategy in the spring statement), which is expected this week, though there was a hint of a further delay in Sunak’s promise that we would see the announcement “in the coming weeks”.

Despite rising Covid cases and what unions have called “very serious disruption” in schools, 1 April marks a significant change in coronavirus guidance in England following legal changes in February. From today, people who suspect they have Covid are no longer advised to stay at home, but will be given new guidance encouraging them to be “careful and considerate of others”. They’re unlikely to have a confirmed diagnosis, as the government’s free testing programme also ends today, alongside the use of the NHS Covid Pass and requirements for employers to consider Covid in health and safety risk assessments. While most measures are being scaled back, the government moves forward with its vaccination programme, as all children over the age of five become eligible for jabs.

The UK takes over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who has not pulled her punches in her criticism of Russia, traditionally holds a briefing laying out the UK’s priorities, which will come ahead of another month expected to be dominated by the conflict in Ukraine. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will likely chair at least one meeting as part of the UK’s presidency.

SATURDAY

Cost of living protests, organised by the anti-austerity People’s Assembly campaign, take place in cities across the UK for the second time in recent weeks. The group first called for demonstrations against rising energy bills and household costs in February with support from trade unions and opposition MPs, and this week’s events will also see demands for support for sacked P&O Ferries workers.

Pope Francis heads to Malta for a two-day visit. The trip, initially planned for May 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, includes a strong focus on the plight of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean, with the Pontiff set to meet with migrants on Sunday. The Pope will be in and out of the news all week, with a series of meetings with Canadian Indigenous groups planned ahead of expected travel there later this year.

SUNDAY

Parliamentary elections take place in Hungary, where opposition parties are fielding a unified candidate – Hódmezővásárhely mayor Péter Márki-Zay – in what is being viewed as the first serious challenge to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party in over a decade. Orbán, who has for years cultivated good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin while enjoying the benefits of EU and NATO membership, has been doing his best to delicately navigate the tight spot he now finds himself in thanks to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The opposition, meanwhile, has been attempting to capitalise on Orbán’s ambivalence, pitching the election as a clear choice between a future with the liberal West or one dominated by an authoritarian Russia. Orbán’s decision to put dog-whistle anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to a referendum coinciding with elections pretty much sums up the choice facing voters.

The 64th Grammy Awards are held in Las Vegas, having been postponed from January amid the surge in Omicron cases. The run-up to this year’s ceremony has been dominated by the news that Kanye West has been pulled from performing over his repeated online attacks on ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s new boyfriend, Pete Davidson. Davidson’s writing partner Trevor Noah is hosting the awards. Jon Batiste leads this year’s artists with 11 nominations, closely followed by Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters / Peter Cziborra

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