Foresight News rounds-up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…
It’s a bumper week for statistics: in addition to the usual weekly releases, monthly figures published this week are the first to cover a significant post-corona lockdown period, giving us a fuller picture of how society and the economy have been affected.
Stats out this week include: deaths registered in England and Wales, unemployment, Universal Credit, labour market in the UK regions, PAYE earnings and employment (Tuesday); CPI and RPI inflation, producer price inflation, private rental prices (Wednesday); coronavirus business loans, the economic and social impacts of coronavirus, property transactions, immigration, criminal justice system, CBI Industrial Trends Survey (Thursday); retail sales, public sector finances, and overseas travel and tourism (Friday).
Crown Court jury trials resume in England and Wales as the UK continues to gradually emerge from lockdown. Proceedings can re-start on a limited basis at the Old Bailey or Cardiff Crown Court, with trials running under strict physical distancing restrictions. Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett has warned that the longer-term operation of the court system has been forever changed by the pandemic.
Transport for London is due to begin increasing London Bus, Tube, Rail and Overground services today after reducing services in March. TfL aims achieve full capacity for rail, 85% for buses and 70% for Tube and overground trains and will also be reopening 30 of the capital’s Tube stations. London’s transport operator has warned that the crisis will cause a £4 billion loss this year, calculating a 90% drop in income since the lockdown began.
Two releases from the ONS today will reveal the full economic and societal impact of Covid-19 during the first weeks of restricted life in the UK. Labour market statistics are likely to be in stark contrast to last month’s release, which showed employment was at a record-high level before lockdown began.
Meanwhile, universal credit figures covering the period immediately after the lockdown was announced will provide some detail to Work and Pension Secretary Therese Coffey’s revelation that the claimant rate is currently six times higher than normal. The statistics will also give an indication of how successful government interventions have been so far, or how much further ministers will need to go to provide security to struggling employees over the coming months.
There won’t be the usual crowds at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but horticultural enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the sight of spectacular gardens from the comfort of their armchairs as the Chelsea Flower Show goes virtual this year.
The show’s cancellation – the first since the Second World War – was one of many signs of the strain the UK’s garden industry has been under this spring, but the RHS’ decision to broadcast from presenters’ homes and display private gardens demonstrates how even venerable institutions can adapt and battle on during lockdown.
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer face off at PMQs before MPs depart (figuratively, in most cases) for the short Whitsun recess which may come at an opportune time for the Prime Minister after recent performances. Today’s sitting may also mark the end of the “hybrid” House of Commons after Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg last week said, much to the chagrin of opposition parties, that he was unlikely to seek an extension to the measures. Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s response suggests that the issue may not yet be settled, however.
MPs on the Treasury Committee quiz Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey for the second time since his appointment in March in a session focused on the bank’s monetary policy reports. The latest report warned that the UK is in line for its deepest recession in 300 years, and last week’s GDP figures confirmed the economy’s perilous state. Committee members may also take up accusations made by economists that Bailey’s forecast of a V-shaped recovery was too optimistic.
Max and Keira’s Law comes into effect in England, assuming automatic consent to organ donation from any deceased person unless they had previously opted out. The law change will not apply to members of excluded groups, for example those under the age of 18 or those who lack the required level of mental capacity to make the decision.
The bill is the result of a successful lobby campaign by Max Johnson and his family after the parents of Keira Ball, a nine-year-old girl who died in a road traffic collision, donated her heart to Max to save his life after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition.
ABC publishes its monthly newsbrands snapshot of the combined circulation for both print and digital media. Last month’s release revealed several free newspapers had taken a substantial hit as the UK entered lockdown, the Metro (7%) and Evening Standard (11%) particularly affected. This month’s release, covering April, follows widespread cuts and staff furloughing at most of the UK’s newspapers.
In China, the annual Two Sessions begin with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, followed on Friday by the National People’s Congress. The high-profile annual legislative meetings, which had to be delayed from March, are generally used to tout achievements from the previous year, as well as to lay out plans going forward. A significant focus this year is expected on fiscal measures to ensure continued growth amid warnings of a major global recession.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and chief financial officer Julian Kelly are among top officials facing a virtual quizzing by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee. The session, on capital expenditure in the health service, comes after the National Audit Office reported that ambitious plans to digitise the NHS were unlikely to be realised without additional investment. MPs may take the opportunity to seek an update on the state of NHS finances more generally after several months of pandemic-battling.
The Executive Board of the World Health Organisation meets virtually following the annual World Health Assembly earlier in the week. India’s nomination for the Board’s chairmanship is expected to be ratified at this session, and the country has reportedly already come under pressure from other members to take a strong stance against China. China has been accused by countries such as the US and Australia of not having been fully transparent at the start of the outbreak, and of politicising the pandemic by rejecting calls to allow Taiwan to participate in the WHO as an observer.
The Office for National Statistics publishes annual figures from the International Passenger Survey detailing passengers who entered or left the UK by air, sea and tunnel routes in 2019.
The statistics, which last year showed visitor numbers and spending had declined in 2018, are likely to present a rosier picture than the current state of the travel industry, as airlines and holiday providers warn that the pandemic has had such a damaging effect that it is unlikely the sector will return to pre-2020 levels. Companies are racing to resume summer flight schedules, although the UK Government has warned that summer holidays are “unlikely” to be possible this year.
Argentina faces the very real prospect of defaulting on its debt as an extended deadline to reach an agreement with creditors expires. The debt crisis, which comes less than a year into leftist president Alberto Fernández’s first year in office, may yet define his presidency, especially if the country is once again frozen out of credit markets and drawn into protracted legal battles with so-called ‘vulture funds’ said to be buying up Argentine bonds.
This year’s Eid festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, takes place at a time when many countries are still restricting travel and social gatherings. Measures still in place in the UK mean families and communities will have to have to limit celebrations, while elsewhere around the world Saudi Arabia has imposed a 24-hour curfew, there have been calls for a lockdown extension in India, and Pakistan has suggested it may reimpose restrictions if social distancing rules are ignored.
Comet C/2019 ATLAS passes “close” to Earth. The comet, discovered in Hawaii in December 2019, is projected to pass by at 72 million miles away and will be visible through telescopes. It had been hoped that the comet would be visible to the naked eye until the Hubble Space Telescope captured images of its disintegration. Those images, however, have provided valuable new evidence of comet fragmentation, helping to improve understanding of the makeup of comets and how they die.
Assuming there has not been a further last-minute twist in the long-running saga, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go on trial in the Jerusalem District Court on charges of fraud and corruption in the form of bribery. Netanyahu, who defied the odds to secure a further term in office after reaching an agreement with his main opponent Benny Gantz, will become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to face a criminal trial.
Spain’s state of emergency, which has now been in place for over two months, is once again due to expire, though could be extended by parliament on Wednesday if the government requests it. The last extension, agreed on 6 May, was only passed after the opposition Popular Party abstained from voting, the first time it had declined to approve the measure.
Spanish media reports suggest Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will seek an extension, potentially for a month rather than 15 days, but with reduced powers that reflect Spain’s plans for gradually re-opening.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Reuters/Andrew Winning