Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 December 2022

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1. Sunak warned that public back strikes

A new poll has found that almost two in three voters would back NHS nurses taking more strike action next year if their pay demands are not met, with only 24% opposed. The same study found that more voters expressed support for fresh strikes by rail staff, bus drivers, postal workers and teachers than those who said they were opposed to further industrial action. The results have led to Rishi Sunak being warned that his “high risk” strategy on public sector pay rises could backfire, said The Independent.

2. BP criticised for ‘astounding’ plans

BP is under fire over plans to spend as much as double the amount on oil and gas projects than on renewable investments next year. The company has set aside up to $7.5bn (£6.2bn) for oil and gas projects, compared with a range of $3bn to $5bn for green energy. “Where you spend your money says a lot about your priorities,” said Friends of the Earth. “It’s astounding that in the middle of a climate emergency BP is planning to invest billions more dollars on planet-warming fossil fuels than on clean, green renewables.”

3. May calls for slavery caution

Theresa May has warned Rishi Sunak that tightening modern slavery laws to prevent migrants using them to avoid being deported could create other loopholes that could be exploited. The prime minister has vowed to “raise the threshold someone must meet to be considered a modern slave” and “remove the gold-plating” in the system. But May, who introduced the Modern Slavery Act, as home secretary to protect vulnerable people from exploitation, domestic servitude or being trafficked for sex, said “we need to ensure we don’t reduce our world-leading protections for victims of modern slavery”.

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4. Row over Israeli LGBTQ comments

Doctors should be allowed to refuse treatment to LGBTQ patients on religious grounds, said one of the new Israeli governments ministers. In a radio interview, the incoming national missions minister, Orit Strook, of the Religious Zionist party, said that a doctor could refuse care to a patient if doing so violates his religious beliefs “as long as there are enough other doctors who can give this service”. Benjamin Netanyahu called Strook’s remarks “unacceptable” but critics believe he is “too weak to control his ultra nationalist and ultraorthodox coalition partners”, said The Guardian.

5. Prosecco up as people party at home

Supermarket chains said sales of Prosecco are rising as rail strikes encourage more people to spend New Year’s Eve at home. One in three pub and restaurant reservations were cancelled through December, and Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality’s chief executive, blamed the rail strikes and the cost of living crisis. “In a normal year, December is around 120, 130% of what you’d get in a usual month’s trading,” she told The Telegraph. “It looks as though December has been just a normal month.”

6. Sea dippers worry about sewage

Boxing Day sea swimmers are worried about the safety of open water dips following recent sewage discharges along the UK’s coastline. In Folkestone, Kent, where hundreds of people took part in the annual Boxing Day swim, Bridget Chapman, a Folkestone resident and frequent swimmer, said: “I was really careful today to make sure I didn’t get any water in my mouth and I will go home now and I will shower.” A local politician said: “There have been cases of people with the obvious sort of stomach afflictions and the rest of it following sea swimming.”

7. ‘Stealth taxes’ hit middle-class

“Middle-class families” will be up to £40,000 worse off over the next decade due to the chancellor’s “stealth taxes” to reduce government borrowing, said The Times. After chancellor announced plans to freeze the levels at which people pay different rates of income tax until 2028 at the earliest, research from the House of Commons Library found that a family with two earners on £60,000 a year each will be £40,880 worse off over the coming decade.

8. Beijing lifts quarantine for arrivals

China has signalled the last major shift from its zero-Covid policy, announcing that it will lift quarantine for travellers from 8 January. Currently, incoming travellers are subject to five days of hotel quarantine and three days of self-isolation at home but under the new arrangement, they will only be required to show a negative Covid test result obtained within 48 hours before departure. Meanwhile, there are reports that hospitals are overwhelmed and elderly people are dying, as the virus tears through the country after restrictions were lifted.

9. ‘Perfect storm’ hits mental health sector

More people will be excluded from mental health services if no new funds are invested in the next two years, warned experts. Sean Duggan, chief executive of the mental health network at the NHS Confederation, said that a perfect storm of a lack of long-term investment and an expected surge in demand due to the cost of living crisis would cause unsustainable pressure on the system. The mental health charity Mind said that with demand for support already “greatly” exceeding capacity, even more people would be shut out if no new investment were freed up.

10. Hunters ‘slashed activists’ tyres’

A hunt in South Dorset has warned its supporters not to engage with saboteurs after its members were accused of slashing tyres as meets gathered for Boxing Day. As thousands joined hunts across the country on Monday for the first time in two years without any pandemic related restrictions, there was opposition from activists, including a group in Dorset who said their tyres had been slashed to stop them interrupting the local hunt, said The Telegraph. Activists claimed that dogs were hit by cars as a hunt crossed a main road near Okehampton, Devon.

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