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April 2, 2024

News diary 1-7 April: Johnny Mercer deadline to name sources in Afghanistan inquiry, Netflix Newsnight film airs

A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.

By Foresight News

A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.

Leading the week

The delivery of NHS services for trans children and youth is set to transform next week after the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) closes its doors on Sunday (March 31). The closure of the clinic was ordered in 2022 after an interim report from the Cass Review found it had not responded adequately to the rapid increase in the number of children needing support. It is set to be replaced by two new gender services at Great Ormond Street in London and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, which are due to become operational on Monday (April 1).

The transition to the two new regional hubs has already attracted criticism after families expressed concerns earlier this month about the lack of clarity over the future of their children’s care.  The changeover coincides with a new ban on the prescription of puberty blockers to children on the NHS, ordered by NHS England in early March and implemented from Monday. The decision to ban the blockers, which pause physical changes associated with puberty such as breast development or facial hair growth, came after an NHS public consultation concluded there was ‘not enough evidence’ they were safe or effective. 

Public debate surrounding questions of transgender identity will be heightened further by legislative changes taking place north of the border, as the controversial Scottish Hate Crime and Public Order Act also comes into effect on Monday. The Act extends protections against the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ to minorities who are not already covered by existing law, including those who identify as transgender. Critics including JK Rowling and Elon Musk have claimed the new law erodes free speech, amid fears it will be used to target so-called gender critical feminists who advocate for the precedence of biological sex over gender identity. But Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has countered that the threshold for charges under the new law will be ‘incredibly high’ and that mere statements of opinion will not result in prosecution.

The Afghanistan Inquiry has given Veterans’ Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer until Friday (April 5) to name the source of his claims that members of the SAS had unlawfully killed Afghan civilians between 2010 and 2013. Mercer, an ex-British Army officer, told Lord Justice Sir Charles Haddon-Cave that he had been told multiple stories of the murder of Afghan civilians and cover-ups, but refused to name the ‘multiple officers’ he said had made the allegations when he was a backbench MP. Haddon-Cave has ordered the MP for Plymouth Moor View to hand over the names of his sources to the inquiry or potentially face jail, branding his earlier refusal ‘disappointing…surprising…and completely unacceptable’, and accused him of having an ‘inappropriate sense of loyalty’. Mercer has until Wednesday (April 3) to appeal the Section 21 order, though is said to be seeking consent from the whistleblowers to pass on their identities.

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Looking abroad

Africa’s youngest president could be sworn in on Tuesday (April 2), when 44-year-old Bassirou Diomaye Faye takes over from Macky Sall in Senegal. Faye had just days to campaign after being unexpectedly released from prison less than two weeks before the March 24 polls, which were controversially delayed from February after a dispute over the final candidates’ list. His surprise victory in the first round, confirmed in provisional results released yesterday, looks set to usher in an era of change in the west African country following decades of rule by ‘insiders’ from the APR, PDS and PSS parties. The former tax collector has pledged to reform the CFA Franc currency in a bid to steer Senegal away from its colonial past and into a more pan-African future, and has promised to increase transparency and tackle corruption following years in which opposition politicians and journalists were jailed. Suggestions that Sall could stay on past the end of his mandate on Tuesday were met with widespread protests, but a smooth transfer of power is still dependent on final certification of election results, which is operating on a tight timeline given the election delay.

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NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday (April 3-4) amid calls for increased international efforts to speed up weapons and ammunition supplies to Ukraine. Ministers will meet privately on Wednesday afternoon before discussing the requests directly with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday during a session of the NATO-Ukraine council, but they’ll be looking to get on the same page after French President Emmanuel Macron’s refusal to rule out Western ground troops in Ukraine caused an uproar last month. Macron and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss support for Ukraine ahead of the meeting, with Blinken scheduled to visit Paris on Monday and Tuesday (April 1-2). The gathering will also mark NATO’s 75th anniversary on Thursday with a wreath-laying ceremony and speeches from Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and many of the bloc’s Baltic and eastern European members.

The Israeli Knesset is due to rise for a six-week recess on Sunday (April 7) despite an ongoing row over new legislation to exempt ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service which is threatening to tear apart Benjamin Netanyahu’s unity government. The Supreme Court ruled blanket exemptions illegal in 2017, and the current government resolution instructing the IDF not to conscript yeshiva students is due to expire on Sunday (March 31). Plans to bring forward new legislation faltered this week amid criticism from all sides over reported proposals to retain the exemption while providing for limited gradual Haredi recruitment targets. War cabinet minister Benny Gantz threatened to leave the government if exemptions continue, while ultra-Orthodox coalition parties demanded they remain in place.

The government is due to respond by this afternoon to petitions filed in the Supreme Court claiming the current law is illegal, and is hoping its plans will be enough to warrant another extension until the end of June. If it fails, Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara has warned that the state will be obligated to begin conscripting yeshiva students from Monday (April 1), absent any legal framework for exemption. The Knesset has faced criticism for taking their spring break while the war in Gaza rumbles on and around 130 hostages remain in Hamas hands – Sunday (April 7) also marks six months since the October 7 attacks.

Also look out for…

April 1

  • Easter Monday bank holiday
  • Energy price cap reduction
  • First stage of free childcare provision
  • New sentencing rules for mothers and pregnant women
  • Easter parades in Northern Ireland
  • National Living Wage increase
  • UK-Canada car export agreement ends
  • Recreational marijuana use legalised in Germany

April 2

  • Deadline for representations to Lucy Frazer over Telegraph acquisition
  • Deadline for Three and Vodafone to respond to CMA competition concerns
  • Tyne Bridge restoration works begin
  • Donald Trump holds primary-night rally in Wisconsin
  • Gabonese Inclusive National Dialogue
  • Forbes annual list of billionaires
  • British Swimming Championships
  • One week ago: Baltimore bridge collapse

April 3

  • BMA ballot on consultants’ pay offer closes
  • Russian Prime Minister’s annual address to parliament
  • State of emergency in Haiti due to expire
  • Sentencing for man guilty of inciting racial hatred on X (Twitter)
  • NEU annual conference opens
  • OPEC+ JMMC meeting

April 4

  • Increased minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa
  • Sentencing for schoolboys guilty of killing animals
  • Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis sentenced for insider trading
  • Public hearings in Canadian inquiry into election integrity
  • US-EU Trade and Technology Council
  • General election in Kuwait
  • Rebel Wilson memoir released

April 5

  • Strikes by train drivers on Avanti West Coast and East/West Midlands lines
  • Sentencing for members of satanic cult in Scotland
  • Al-Quds Day
  • Netflix airs Scoop drama on Prince Andrew interview
  • Cricket County Championship begins

April 6

  • Strikes by GWR, LNER, Northern and Chiltern train drivers
  • Child Benefit income charge threshold increase
  • National Insurance contributions change
  • Scottish Green Party spring conference
  • Fine Gael Ard Fheis (annual conference)

April 7

  • Paul Kagame attends Rwanda genocide anniversary commemoration
  • Japanese Grand Prix
  • Local elections in Poland

Statistics, reports and results

April 2

  • Nationwide House Price Index
  • BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index
  • Bank of England Money and Credit
  • UK manufacturing PMI

April 3

  • NEU survey on Ofsted
  • Euro area inflation

April 4

  • UK services PMI
  • SMMT car sales figures
  • Statistics on UK armed forces suicides
  • ORR rail complaints data and delay compensation claims
  • Fortune Best Companies to Work For

April 5

  • Halifax House Price Index
  • UK construction PMI
  • BRC economic briefing and footfall monitor report
  • US unemployment figures
  • FAO food price index

April 6

  • UK financial year begins

Anniversaries and awareness days

April 1

  • April Fool’s Day
  • National Pet Month
  • Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
  • Global Asbestos Awareness Week (to April 7)
  • 25 years ago: minimum wage introduced in the UK

April 2

  • World Autism Awareness Day
  • International Children’s Book Day

April 4

  • One year ago: Finland became NATO’s 31st member
  • Four years ago: Keir Starmer elected Labour leader
  • Senegal Independence Day

April 5

  • 30 years ago: Kurt Cobain died

April 6

  • Just Pray NO! Worldwide Weekend of Prayer for the Addicted
  • Tartan Day Scotland

April 7

  • World Health Day
  • International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda
  • National Beer Day

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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