News diary 12-18 July: Caruana Galizia inquiry wraps up and MPs debate freedom of speech

News diary 12-18 July: Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry wraps up and MPs debate university freedom of speech

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

Monday (12 July)

The government is set to confirm whether the “Freedom Day” changes announced on 5 July will go ahead as planned next week. Assuming the data supports re-opening, people and businesses in England will be able to begin to prepare in earnest for the end of mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, working from home, and limits on visitors to care homes, as well as the re-opening of nightclubs and full attendance at festivals and sporting events. The confirmation will come amid heated debate over whether England should be lifting restrictions all at once even as daily cases climb over 30,000 and experts warn that millions could be forced to self-isolate every week.

MPs get a first opportunity to debate the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill as it begins its passage through Parliament. The bill fulfils a Conservative Party manifesto commitment to stop “no-platforming” and strengthen freedom of speech at universities after a series of student protests against campus events featuring controversial speakers such as former Home Secretary Amber Rudd. A key plank of the new legislation is the creation of a Director of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom to administer complaints against institutions, a role which the Russell Group suggested could threaten institutions’ autonomy.

Protestant communities from across Northern Ireland hold their traditional street processions commemorating William of Orange’s victory over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has described this marching season as “a test of leadership” following reports of nationalist and Alliance Party election posters being placed on bonfires, which are typically lit the night before “The Glorious Twelfth” and have previously been flashpoints for sectarian activity.

Tuesday

The Bank of England publishes the latest Financial Stability Report, a biannual look at risks to the financial system produced by the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee. The previous edition of the report, released at the end of last year, reflected the impact of Covid on business and household finances, with the committee noting significantly higher borrowing by businesses and warning of the ongoing risk of disruption caused by the pandemic and the new UK-EU trading arrangements. A press conference with governor Andrew Bailey and other committee members takes place after the report’s early morning publication.

Team GB’s medal hopefuls have one final opportunity to put the finishing touches on their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics as they take part in the Muller British Grand Prix. Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith both take part, though much of the focus is likely to be on the form of Elaine Thompson-Herah ahead of the defence of her 100m and 200m Olympic sprint titles. Elsewhere, keep an eye out for Netherlands distance runner Sifan Hassan, who looks to shave 12 seconds from her current world record to become the first woman to run a four-minute mile.

Wednesday

The IPPR publishes the final report from its Environmental Justice Commission, exploring ideas and policies to bring about a “rapid green transition” in the UK. The think tank has made a series of stinging policy criticisms in the run up to its publication, arguing most recently that a focus on increasing electric vehicle uptake would be insufficient as a stand-alone measure. Equally troubling for Whitehall’s policymakers could be the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual Minimum Income Standard report, also out today. One of the key conclusions of last year’s report was that temporary uplifts to Universal Credit had proven to be a lifeline for families navigating the coronavirus pandemic, and the same message will likely be reinforced just days after the Prime Minister robustly affirmed his commitment to scrapping the benefits boost.

A new hearing takes place in Britney Spears’ conservatorship proceedings following her bombshell testimony last month, in which she described how she felt “enslaved” by her father’s control over her life and claimed to have been forced to perform and take medication, including lithium, against her will. On 1 July, the judge overseeing the case denied Spears’ request to have her father removed as her co-conservator alongside wealth management firm Bessemer Trust. Today’s hearing concerns a request since submitted by Bessemer Trust itself asking to be removed, saying it was unaware that Spears wanted to end the conservatorship until her testimony last month.

Thursday

The government’s global travel taskforce reviews the traffic light system for foreign travel, including which countries should move to the green, amber or red lists and which countries should be added to the “green watchlist” at risk of moving from green to amber. In a much-needed boost for the travel industry, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 8 July that from 19 July, people who have been fully-vaccinated in the UK will not have to isolate when they return to England from amber list countries such as France, Italy, the US and Canada.

President Joe Biden hosts outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks at the White House, likely Merkel’s last before she steps down after September’s elections. Merkel, who is said to have clashed repeatedly with Donald Trump during his presidency, is the first European leader to visit the White House since Biden took office, a sign of efforts from the Administration to repair ties with the European powerhouse. One issue of contention that is certain to come up is the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany which Biden, like Trump before him, opposes, describing it as a “bad deal for Europe”.

The long-running public inquiry into the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured) is scheduled to complete its work by today, submitting a report to the Prime Minister which should be made public in the following weeks. Galizia, who investigated government corruption, was killed by a car bomb in October 2017, and the inquiry was set up under pressure from the Council of Europe to determine whether the state facilitated or failed to prevent her murder.

Friday

A pre-inquest review into the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, which claimed the lives of five people, is scheduled to take place in Woking. Ahead of the hearing, the family of one of the victims has asked for proceedings to be delayed as they attempt to secure government funds to cover their legal costs. The IRA attacks on the Horse and Groom and Seven Stars pubs resulted in the wrongful convictions of 11 people, giving rise to wider criticisms over the initial investigation into the bombings. The full inquest is not expected to take place until early next year.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee holds its annual meeting to discuss sites of cultural and natural heritage. This year the focus is on sites that are in danger or, in a rare move, could be removed altogether: the World Heritage Committee recently recommended that Liverpool should lose its heritage designation due to a “serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes” caused by development along the city’s waterfront. The Committee is also considering adding Stonehenge to the list of sites in danger due to the government’s plans to build a tunnel nearby, while Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could also be moved to the danger list due to deterioration caused by a lack of action on climate change.

Saturday

The Palme d’Or is awarded at the Cannes Film Festival after two weeks of red carpet glamour and physical screenings following last year’s Covid-enforced cancellation. This year’s jury is headed by 2018 Oscar-winner Spike Lee and 24 films are competing for the festival’s top prize, with familiar names including indie darling Wes Anderson, former Palme d’Or winner Nanni Moretti, actor-turned-director Sean Penn and Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven in the running.

The Tour de France crowns this year’s champion as riders tackle a 31km time trial from Libourne to Saint-Emilion. Whoever holds the Yellow Jersey after the penultimate stage is traditionally not challenged for the lead on Sunday’s climactic sprint into Paris, allowing the  champion to toast the crowds as they navigate the  Champs-Élysées. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar remains in pole position for this year’s title, while Mark Cavendish is on course for a potentially record-equaling Green Jersey win.

Sunday (18 July)

A capacity crowd will watch this year’s British Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton seeks to make up ground on title rival Max Verstappen and claim a record-extending eighth victory at Silverstone. The race was added to the government’s list of spectator pilot events in June, and Hamilton welcomed the return of fans to the circuit but suggested it was premature to run a capacity event. A sell-out crowd would make the Grand Prix the biggest live event in the UK since the first lockdown in March 2020.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: AP Photo/Jon Borg/File

SIGN UP HERE FOR

FUTURE OF MEDIA

Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.