NEWS
27/11/2017 20:58 GMT | Updated 28/11/2017 16:01 GMT

10 Important Stories Buried By All That Royal Wedding News

The world kept turning. Here's what you might have missed.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’sengagement has dominatedthenewsagenda, after the pair on Monday announced plans for a Spring wedding.

Official word came from Clarence House just after 10 am, prompting near blanket coverage from newspapers, websites and TV news channels.

But here are ten stories at home, abroad and at Westminster, that, on any other day, would be getting more attention.

1. MILLIONS HAVE BENEFITS FROZEN, AGAIN

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Millions will see benefits payments frozen once more, it was confirmed on Monday

Millions are set to have their benefits payments frozen for another year, the Government confirmed on Monday.

The move to continue the freeze of benefits was confirmed in an email sent after the announcement of a Royal engagement, the Mirror reported.

It means working-age benefits will be worth less as prices increase via inflation. The policy was devised by former Chancellor George Osborne to slash billions off the benefits bill by 2020.

For example, the overall cap on benefits will remain frozen at £20,000 for those outside London. 

That’s despite the cost of living increasing by three percent this month. 

2. ‘SECRET’ BREXIT REPORTS HANDED TO MPS - BUT ONLY IN PART

Peter Nicholls / Reuters

Ministers finally gave ground on a series of ‘secret’ Brexit reports that outline the economic impact on 58 sectors of quitting the EU, from aerospace and aviation to tourism and legal services.

On Monday, the Brexit Select Committee of MPs - and its counterpart in the Lords - was handed the 800-page document.

However, it was not without more controversy as the Government has cut out anything it feels could harm the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

Brexit Committee members will meet on Tuesday morning to discuss which part of the report can be made public, but some are already furious the Government chose to edit the document before handing it over.

Labour MP Seema Malhotra, who sits on the Committee, said: “We cannot and should not be short-changed. The public and Parliament must no longer be kept in the dark.”

3. FIRST UK CIVIL CLAIM AGAINST WEINSTEIN

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The UK's first civil claim against Harvey Weinstein has been launched.

The first civil claim against disgraced US movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been lodged in a UK court.

A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges a series of sexual assaults by the producer.

The claim was lodged by personal injury solicitor Jill Greenfield, and is expected to total more than £300,000, the BBC reported.

The woman has yet to contact police, but Greenfield said she expected a criminal case to run alongside the civil suit.

Dozens of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein since a New York Times exposé.

4. GOVERNMENT’S ‘INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY’ LAUNCHED

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
The Aga foundry in Telford, Shropshire, will close for good at the end of November, ending 300 years of production

Theresa May’s Government published a long-awaited Industrial Strategy on Monday morning, just hours before Harry and Meghan’s announcement.

The flagship review into improving Britain’s economic output was timed to coincide with news that two huge pharmaceutical companies will bring an expected 1,700 jobs to the UK.

The long-awaited plan was unveiled by Business Secretary Greg Clark, who said productivity is currently “well below what can be achieved”.

The paper is merely advisory and will not be enacted straight away. Nonetheless, proposals include: increasing research and development funding; setting up a world-class “technical education system”; and a £725m fund for new industry.

5. FACEBOOK EXPANDS BID TO PREVENT SUICIDE

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Facebook revealed plans to expand its suicide prevention programme

Facebook will expand pattern recognition software to other countries after successful tests in the US to detect users with suicidal intent, the world’s largest social media network said on Monday.

The firm began testing the software in America in March, when it started scanning the text of Facebook posts and comments for phrases that could be signals of an impending suicide.

Facebook has not disclosed many technical details of the program, but the company said its software searches for certain phrases that could be clues, such as the questions “Are you ok?” and “Can I help?”, Reuters reported.

If the software detects a potential suicide, it alerts a team of Facebook workers who specialise in handling such reports. The system suggests resources to the user or to friends of the person such as a telephone help line. Facebook workers sometimes call local authorities to intervene.

“Speed really matters. We have to get help to people in real time,” Facebook VP of Product Management, Guy Rosen said.

6. THERESA MAY ‘RIGGING PARLIAMENT’

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Theresa May is facing fresh accusations of “rigging Parliament” with an unprecedented move to prevent MPs from changing legislation on the Budget.

Labour attacked May’s latest “power grab” after it emerged that the Government will deploy a little-used procedural device to effectively eliminate any attempts to amend the Finance Bill.

The tactic will severely restrict MPs’ ability to secure alternative tax measures, such as a DUP-backed plan to abolish VAT on all domestic fuel after Brexit.

It also ensures that no backbench rebels can join Labour or other parties in ambushing the Government on particular plans - as they have in recent years on issues like the ‘tampon tax’ or taxes on solar panels.

The move follows heavy criticism from both Tory and Labour MPs of the Prime Minister’s recent attempts to protect her wafer-thin majority by ignoring Opposition Day motions and packing bill committees with Conservatives.

7. EX-RUSSIAN MINISTER ‘THOUGHT $2M STASH WAS BOOZE GIFT’

Tatyana Makeyeva / Reuters
Ex-Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev yawns while leaving court earlier this month

A former Russian economy minister has told his bribery trial that he thought a bag containing $2 million cash was a “gift of alcohol”.

Alexei Ulyukayev faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of accepting the cash from oil executive Igor Sechin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

The court heard the alleged bribe was in exchange for the approval of a state-owned oil company.

Police detained Ulyukayev seconds after he took the bag from Sechin. He was fired by Putin the next day.

Ulyukayev, speaking to the court, said he had believed the package contained a gift but that a trap had been set for him. “All this was an action directed against me, planned in advance, a provocation organized in advance,” he said. 

The ex-minister said the bag which Sechin gave him last year at Rosneft headquarters in a law enforcement sting operation weighed about 15 kg and he thought there had been expensive wine or spirits inside.

Sechin has been issued with four summonses to testify in the trial, but has failed to show up, Reuters reported, despite being a key witness. His lawyer said in a letter to the court that Sechin had been away on business trips.

8. BALI VOLCANO CAUSES CHAOS

Johannes Christo / Reuters
The glowing light of hot lava reflected on volcanic ash on Mount Agung on Monday

Indonesia raised its warning for Bali’s Mount Agung volcano to the top level four alert on Monday.

Authorities closed the holiday island’s airport and told residents around the mountain to immediately evacuate, warning of an “imminent” risk of a larger eruption.

Bali’s airport was closed for 24 hours from Monday morning, disrupting 445 flights and some 59,000 passengers, due to the eruption and the presence of volcanic ash from Agung, but local officials said the closure could be extended.

Video footage shared by the disaster agency showed cold lava flows (lahar) at a number of locations on the mountainside. Lahar carrying mud and large boulders can destroy houses, bridges and roads in its path.

9. BREWING TORY REBELLION ON DEFENCE SPENDING

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New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made his debut at the dispatch box on Monday

New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made his debut at the House of Commons dispatch box, and attempted to head of a Tory rebellion over spending on the military.

Williamson, who assumed the role much to the chagrin of his colleagues, told MPs he believed the 2 per cent of GDP commitment to defence is a ‘base’ - rather than what has widely thought to be the maximum.

Against fears Chancellor Philip Hammond is poised to squeeze the Ministry of Defence budget in an upcoming security review, Tory MP James Gray issued the sternest warning.

“Will he speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make sure he digs deep into his pockets to produce the money we need?,” he said in the chamber.

“Above all, will he speak to the chief whip to remind him that if he does not do so, he will face a very substantial rebellion?”

10. UK RIFT WITH IRELAND THREATENING BREXIT

Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters
The border between Lifford, Ireland, and Strabane, Northern Ireland 

Tensions over the border between UK and Ireland, one of the biggest obstacles to a ‘clean Brexit’, was ratcheted up.

The Government has always insisted the UK – including Northern Ireland – will leave the customs union after Brexit, but there will be no ‘hard’ border with Ireland and the current soft border arrangements will be maintained.

But politicians from the Republic want further assurances there will be no hard border after Brexit, with Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney insisting EU leaders would not give the green light for EU-UK trade talks to begin at their summit in December unless there was progress on the issue. 

On Sunday, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox declared: “We can’t get a final answer to the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state.” In other words, stalemate.

On Monday, tensions continued as Labour MP and Brexiteer Kate Hoey suggested Ireland should have to pay for any hard border erected between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit. Many suggested she sounded not unlike Donald Trump talking about Mexico.