A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Summer is well and truly over as we look ahead to a packed news agenda next week. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:
On Tuesday (September 19), the Court of Session begins a four-day hearing as the Scottish government makes its case against the Government’s decision to block Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. In January, Westminster used its power for the first time since devolution to block the legislation, which proposes lowering the age someone can legally change gender from 18 to 16 and reduces the time over-18s need to have lived as their acquired gender to three months. Critics claim this could be exploited by predatory men, while Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said it was incompatible with the UK Equality Act. First Minister Humza Yousaf has insisted the challenge go ahead to protect the powers granted by devolution.
The final report in the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre inquiry is published on Tuesday (September 19). The plight of detainees at Brook House was brought to light by a Panorama investigation in 2017, which showed asylum seekers subjected to physical and verbal abuse from staff. With similar facilities being used to house asylum seekers now, focus will be placed on whether the Home Office has learned any lessons from Brook House after the department was accused of putting ‘cost-cutting’ and ‘convenience’ ahead of detainee welfare.
Following on from separate strikes that hit the NHS all spring and summer, junior doctors and consultants hold a historic joint strike on Wednesday (September 20) in an escalation of their long-running dispute with the government over pay. Consultants will also strike on Tuesday and junior doctors on Thursday, but serious disruption is expected during the joint strike, which will be repeated from October 2-4 during the Conservative Party Conference as the British Medical Association blames ministers for refusing to negotiate with the union. The NHS Confederation has warned of a risk to patient safety, while health trusts have worried over the impact of further strikes over the winter.
Next up: the economy, and CPI data on Wednesday (September 20) arriving hot on the heels of labour market figures this week which showed wages catching up with inflation. The recent trend of falling inflation is forecast to see a slight blip this month due to the (once again) rising cost of fuel. Sticky inflation and high earnings would seem to leave the Bank of England’s rate setters with little option but to increase interest rates when they meet on Thursday (September 21), with the base rate expected to rise another 25 basis points to 5.5%.
On Wednesday (September 20), King Charles and Queen Camilla begin a three-day State Visit to France which was postponed in March amid protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms. The trip will see Their Royal Highnesses travel to Paris and Bordeaux, with a busy agenda including a State Banquet at Versailles, a bilateral with Macron, and environmental engagements including a business sustainability reception and a visit to a climate monitoring site. The real highlight, however, will be the monarch’s address to the French Senate, a privilege not even granted to his late mother Queen Elizabeth II.
All eyes are on New York next week for the UN General Assembly’s General Debate, which opens on Tuesday (September 19) with speeches from US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, among others. Notably absent this year is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who becomes the first UK leader in a decade to skip the meeting – officially because of a busy diary, but reportedly at least in part because he risked being excluded from the Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday (September 20) over lacklustre environmental commitments. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who is leading the UK’s delegation alongside Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, is scheduled to address the debate on Saturday (September 23) ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Sunak isn’t the only leader staying away this year, though – of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, only Biden will be in New York, with Emmanuel Macron staying home to welcome King Charles and Pope Francis, and Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping both serial non-attendees. But that doesn’t mean it’s a quiet week: on top of his in-person UNGA address on Tuesday, Zelenskyy is expected to take part in a UNSC meeting on the conflict in Ukraine on Wednesday (September 20) as he attempts to sway countries that have remained friendly with Russia. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, has indicated he plans to use his meetings with Zelenskyy, Lavrov, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to press for the re-establishment of the Black Sea Initiative facilitating crucial exports from Ukraine.
In addition to the climate summit, which is viewed as a key moment in the build-up to December’s COP28, key meetings on the sidelines of the general assembly include the SDG Summit opening on Monday (September 18) and a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention scheduled for Wednesday (September 20). Leaders may also find time for emergency discussions on Libya and Morocco, where thousands of people were killed last weekend following catastrophic flooding and a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.