News diary 9-15 March: BBC bosses face grilling by MPs on licence fee and cuts

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

Chinese firm Jingye Group’s acquisition of British Steel is expected to complete on Monday in a deal that could save thousands of steelmaking jobs in the north of England.

Jingye has committed to investing £1.2bn at its new sites in Scunthorpe and Teesside, and the deal marks a significant boost for an industry that has been hit hard in recent years by plant closures and the US-led tariff wars.

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Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is due to go on trial at Edinburgh’s High Court after being charged with multiple sex offences.

Salmond faces a total of 14 counts including attempted rape and sexual assault, with all offences alleged to have taken place over a six-year period during his time in office. Salmond denied the charges during a preliminary hearing in November and the trial is expected to wrap up in the first week of April.

A royal reunion takes place at Westminster Abbey when the departing Duke and Duchess of Sussex join The Queen and family at the annual Commonwealth Service.

The event, expected to be the couple’s final public engagement as senior royals, features an address from boxer Anthony Joshua and performances from Rewind hitmaker Craig David and X Factor winner Alexandra Burke.

Former House of Commons speaker John Bercow delivers a keynote speech on Tuesday at a conference to discuss Parliament and Brexit hosted by UK in a Changing Europe.

The speech follows the release of Bercow’s autobiography Unspeakable, which details the thinking behind the controversial adjudications he made as Speaker during Parliament’s debates and votes on Brexit.

Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington and North Dakota hold primaries to choose their state’s Democratic presidential nominee. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders fell into second place following Joe Biden’s surprise resurgence on Super Tuesday; this week’s contests will see whether the former Vice President can sustain his newfound “joementum”.

Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren have both dropped out following a series of disappointing performances, making it now a two-man race to the convention.

On Wednesday, Rishi Sunak presents his first Budget just 27 days after replacing Sajid Javid as Chancellor with a less-than-ringing endorsement from his former boss.

Sunak’s task of delivering on Conservative manifesto pledges within existing fiscal rules, which the influential IFS think tank has suggested would be impossible without tax rises, has been illustrated in recent days by a row over fuel duty. Some of the more difficult choices may therefore be saved for later in the year, with this Budget expected to be the first in a trio of fiscal events for the Chancellor.

Alongside the Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility publishes a forecast for the UK’s public finances which was delayed from last year by Boris Johnson’s decision to hold an election. The forecast is likely to repeat last year’s notes of caution around weak growth and Brexit-related uncertainty, and may also factor in the potential impact of a global coronavirus outbreak, all of which could leave the Chancellor with little wriggle room in future fiscal statements.

To comply with its statutory requirement to produce two forecasts each year, the OBR also releases a second, updated forecast on Friday in something of a double swansong for the departing Robert Chote.

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein faces up to 25 years in prison at his sentencing in New York, after being found guilty of third-degree rape and a criminal sex act at the conclusion of a lengthy trial last month.

The hearing won’t mark the end of the Weinstein saga: he reportedly plans to appeal the conviction, despite being found not guilty of the more severe charges brought against him, and he also faces multiple sexual assault charges in Los Angeles.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse publishes its report on the nature and extent of the use of the internet to facilitate abuse on Thursday.

Tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google all gave evidence to the inquiry in secret as part of its internet investigation strand, amid concerns that public evidence could help offenders evade detection as well as criticism over the platforms’ abilities to protect children.

In Parliament, members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee grill outgoing BBC director-general Tony Hall (pictured) and chairman David Clementi at an evidence session on the licence fee.

The executives are expected to face questions about Hall’s decision to step down early, the planned overhaul of the BBC’s workforce and changes to the licence fee payments for over-75s, as well as the corporation’s recent equal pay tribunals. A Government consultation into decriminalising the non-payment of the licence fee is ongoing.

The European Central Bank’s monetary policy committee meets in Frankfurt, with speculation rife that the ECB will follow the US Federal Reserve’s lead from last week and announce measures to counteract the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak in the eurozone.

ECB President Christine Lagarde has signalled potential actions, and the issue is sure to be addressed at her post-meeting press conference.

Friday sees the publication of findings from Northern Ireland’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) inquiry. The inquiry was established by the Northern Ireland Executive in January 2017 and investigated its design, governance, implementation, and operation.

Furore surrounding the scheme’s management prompted the resignation that same month of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the subsequent collapse of the Stormont government, which wasn’t restored until this January, ultimately allowing both abortion and same-sex marriage to be decriminalised in the country.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch publishes a final report into the January 2019 plane crash that killed Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.

A preliminary report last year found that Ibbotson was not licensed to carry paying passengers, sparking calls for a clampdown on celebrities using so-called “grey” charter flights as unlicensed air taxis.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson speaks at the party’s Spring Conference on Saturday. The conference is the first major gathering of members since the Lib Dems’ heavy defeat in the December election, and follows the resignation of former leader Lord Steel following the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s accusation that he had “turned a blind eye” to accusations of child abuse against late MP Cyril Smith in the 1970s.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is, at time of writing, scheduled to speak at the South by South West Festival, where she is likely to address the Democratic presidential primary.

SXSW organisers are insisting the festival will go ahead, despite several high-profile tech and media companies – including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Netflix – withdrawing from the event, and an online petition to have it cancelled over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of municipal and mayoral elections, despite government efforts to limit large gatherings in another attempt at coronavirus containment. President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party is steeling itself for disappointing results, after the government pushed through controversial pension reforms despite widespread protests.

The party’s hopes of taking the powerful Paris mayoralty from incumbent Socialist Anne Hidalgo were dented when they had to replace their candidate, Benjamin Griveaux, over a sex scandal a month before the vote.

The 2020 Formula One season gets underway as Melbourne hosts the Australian Grand Prix. The new season could see Lewis Hamilton draw level with Michael Schumacher’s seven world championship wins, but, as with most current events, faces disruption from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April has already been postponed and there are growing concerns that races in Vietnam, Italy, and Bahrain could follow suit. Organisers are determined for the Australian GP to go ahead, despite concerns over whether travel restrictions could end up blocking Ferrari’s team from entering the country.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Parliament TV

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