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Tories pledge to shake-up Equality Act to ‘end confusion’ over legal definition of sex | Politics News

The Conservatives have vowed to change the Equality Act to ensure “biological sex” is a protected characteristic.

The party said reforming the law – which states that an individual must not be discriminated against on the basis of their sex – would clear up “confusion” among public bodies and institutions about access to female-only spaces.

The Tories said it would change the Act to clarify that “sex” meant “biological sex”.

It said the shake-up would make it “simpler for service providers for women and girls, such as those running sessions for domestic abuse victims, to prevent biological males from taking part”.

The party’s latest general election promise came as it claimed that the current terms of the Equality Act, which came into force in 2010 after being passed by Labour, was outdated and had created uncertainty.

It could result in transgender women being barred from female-only spaces.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The safety of women and girls is too important to allow the current confusion around definitions of sex and gender to persist.

“The Conservatives believe that making this change in law will enhance protections in a way that respects the privacy and dignity of everyone in society.

“We are taking an evidence-led approach to this issue so we can continue to build a secure future for everyone across the whole country.”

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch suggested the government was considering the move earlier this year.

At the time, LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said the proposal risked “opening yet another chapter in a manufactured culture war that will see little benefit to women, cis and trans alike”.

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Announcing the pledge on Sunday night, Ms Badenoch said: “Whether it is rapists being housed in women’s prisons, or instances of men playing in women’s sports where they have an unfair advantage, it is clear that public authorities and regulatory bodies are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act – often for fear of being accused of transphobia, or not being inclusive.”

The Conservatives also said the proposed change would not remove the existing and continuing protections against discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment provided by the Equality Act.

The sex of those with a Gender Recognition Certificate will still align with their acquired gender in law outside the Equality Act, for example, marriage law, as is the status quo.

Under the new scheme, the Conservatives will also establish in law that gender recognition is a reserved matter, as they say “this will mean that an individual can only have one sex in the eyes of the law in the United Kingdom”.

The pledge comes as Labour prepares to put defence and national security at the heart of its election pitch to voters on Monday.

Sir Keir Starmer will describe Labour as the “party of national security” as he meets veterans and candidates during a visit to the North West.

He is also expected to reaffirm the party’s commitment to the so-called “nuclear deterrent triple lock”, which includes a commitment to construct the four new nuclear submarines in Barrow-in-Furness.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are set to call for new protections for rivers and coastlines to end what it describes as “environmental vandalism”.

The party has announced an expansion of marine protected areas and a new Blue Flag status for rivers will be included in its manifesto.

Russell Brand ‘ripped holes in woman’s tights’ and ‘refused to call her taxi until she performed a sex act’ | Ents & Arts News

A woman has told Sky News that Russell Brand made her feel “vulnerable and intimidated” – and alleges he refused to call her a taxi until she performed a sex act.

It comes as new allegations continue to emerge about the comedian’s behaviour, as another organisation cut ties with him.

Sarah, whose name has been changed, claims she met Russell Brand on an aeroplane where he “seemed friendly and charming”.

He invited her for breakfast and a walk after the flight and she agreed to travel in his limousine.

“He changed,” she says, “like he wasn’t friendly and charming in the limo. He was aggressive and I felt very vulnerable and intimidated.”

She describes Brand “jumping” on her.

Cast member Russell Brand arrives at the premiere of "Rock of Ages" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California June 8, 2012. The movie opens in the U.S. on June 15.   REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Russell Brand in 2012. File pic

“The limo driver was turning around a few times because I was saying no, but he ripped a hole – more than one hole – in the tights that I was wearing,” she says.

Sarah says they drove straight to Brand’s house where they had consensual sex.

“I mean, it was consensual. I didn’t say no,” she said, “but I feel like there’s a fine line between being forced and being coerced, you know, like being in a situation where the only way out is just to get it over and done with and leave.”

She claims Brand then refused to call her a taxi until she performed oral sex on him.

“I wanted to leave and I said, ‘I need to get a taxi’. And he said, ‘I’m not going to get you a taxi until you do this’, which was a sex act.”

She describes feeling “really trapped” and wanting to “scale that house.”

Sky News has reached out to Russell Brand’s representatives for comment.

Read more:
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‘No, no, no’

The BBC, meanwhile, has said it is looking into new allegations by another woman who claimed he exposed himself to her.

The woman, whom the BBC is naming ‘Olivia’, said she was working in the same building as Brand 15 years ago in Los Angeles when the incident happened.

She claims she answered the door to Brand and his team, and when she went into the bathroom she noticed he was behind her.

Speaking to the BBC, she claims Brand said he was going to have sex with her, to which she replied “no, you’re not”.

Olivia then alleges Brand showed her his genitals to which she responded with “no, no, no”.

She says she returned to her desk afterwards and texted a BBC employee in the office about what had happened.

The employee told her that he knew because Brand was talking about it in the studio, on Radio 2.

Russell Brand in 2008
Russell Brand in 2008

In the broadcast, which aired on 21 June 2008, Brand is heard speaking to his co-presenter Matt Morgan about it.

Morgan said: “[It’s been] 25 minutes since he showed his w**** to a lady,” and referred to “the receptionist”.

Brand is apparently heard laughing in the background.

According to the BBC report, Olivia never made a complaint, but management was informed in 2019 and no formal action was taken.

The BBC said it was sorry to hear the allegations and would investigate them as part of a review into Brand’s time at the BBC.

In a statement reported on BBC News, Matt Morgan said: “I was not aware until now of the nature of this encounter.

“I’ve expressed my regrets now looking back at the impact of the show and this is a further example.

“The recent coverage has been very distressing to read and I reiterate my absolute condemnation of any form of the mistreatment of women.”

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Dispatches programme makers speak

‘Open secret’

Comedian Nish Kumar has also spoken out, on his Pod Save The UK podcast, describing the presence of alleged sexual predators as an “open secret” on the comedy scene.

Brand, 48, has previously been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse by four other women between 2006 and 2013.

He has denied all the claims – saying that his relationships have always been consensual.

The accusations were first reported by the Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4’s Dispatches earlier this month.

The Metropolitan Police subsequently said it had received a sexual assault allegation against Brand dating back to 2003.

As a result, a number of organisations have now cut ties with the presenter.

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C4 boss: Brand allegations ‘disgusting’

The latest to end its association with Brand is the Treasures Foundation, which said it had been “extremely saddened” by the allegations.

In a statement, the charity said it was “founded on Christian principles” and is “totally committed to advocating for the voices of women”.

It continues: “As a result of the recent media investigation into Russell Brand, we have made the decision to no longer receive any support from Mr Brand, and the Stay Free Foundation.

“Moving forward our focus remains on the women under our care.”

PSNI data breach: Two men arrested under Terrorism Act in investigation over ‘linked criminality’ | UK News

Two men have been arrested under the Terrorism Act by officers investigating the breach of data from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The suspects are aged 21 and 22 and were held following a “search in the Portadown area on Saturday”, the PSNI said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It added: “The arrests are part of our investigation into criminality linked to the freedom of information data breach.”

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

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Serving member of UK armed forces charged under Official Secrets Act | UK News

A serving member of the UK’s armed forces has been charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Thomas Newsome, 36, was arrested and detained on 18 April following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

He was charged on 21 April with offences contrary to section 2 and section 8 of the Official Secrets Act 1989.

Newsome has been remanded in police custody and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.

‘An act of sacrilege’: Anger at government plan to house asylum seekers at historic RAF Scampton | UK News

A government plan to place asylum seekers in temporary living facilities at a Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire is facing opposition from locals, politicians and historians.

About 1,500 asylum seekers could be housed at the now disused RAF Scampton.

The airfield, which closed last year, is the former home of The Red Arrows aerobatics display team and the Dambusters – the squadron that carried out one of the Second World War’s most famous air raids.

The government’s plan could see the scrapping of a £300m deal by West Lindsey District Council, aimed at turning the base into a heritage site.

The news has attracted anger from residents like Sarah and Paul Carter, who live opposite the base and had planned to open a cafe next door to coincide with the council’s plans.

“If the government actually came and visited the camp, they would see that is a ludicrous idea,” Mrs Carter said.

“We do not have the infrastructure to support these people that are coming over in a crisis.

“We’ve got a £300m investment for the area and the government is jeopardising it.”

Sarah and Paul Carter live opposite RAF Scampton and say the base shouldn't be used to house asylum seekers
Sarah and Paul Carter

It’s a matter that is personal to her husband – Mr Carter served in the RAF for 22 years, and has lived in the area for 28 years.

He called the move “disgusting”.

“I think RAF Scampton is probably the most famous air base.

“It will be an act of sacrilege to lose that,” he added.

RAF Scampton
RAF Scampton

The local opposition to the plan also included a petition started by Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Lincoln, Hamish Falconer, which has reached more than 40,000 signatures.

More than 40 historians, who are against the proposal, have written an open letter voicing their discontent. The group, led by Tom Holland, also includes Dan Snow and Al Murray.

They wrote: “To erase Scampton’s heritage, rather than preserve, protect and enhance it further, would be a scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness.”

Sir Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, the conservative constituency where RAF Scampton is based, is also against the plans.

He has had “numerous” meetings with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.

The Red Arrows during a flypast at the conclusion of the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade, central London, as the Queen celebrates her official birthday, on day one of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Picture date: Thursday June 2, 2022.
RAF Scampton is the former home of The Red Arrows

Sir Edward, who has been MP for the area since 1983, feels the government has already made its mind up about the decision.

“The reason that they’ve made up their mind is that every time they try to go onto a private site, there’s an injunction, there’s a mass campaign and the private sector withdraws, whereas this is a base they own,” he said.

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A government spokesperson said: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.

Gary Lineker row: The role of BBC director general has always been a tricky balancing act – and it’s not getting any easier | Politics News

Surviving scandal has always been a central challenge for BBC bosses.

Tim Davie, the director general at the heart of the Gary Lineker stand-off with the broadcaster, got his first taste of the top job at the corporation as acting director general after the resignation of George Entwistle over the Jimmy Savile row.

In 2004, Greg Dyke resigned from the same job following criticism of the BBC’s news reporting process in the Hutton Inquiry.

This latest crisis can be traced back to Mr Davie’s pledge to make strengthening impartiality one of his key missions.

Yet what was intended to be a project to protect the organisation’s reputation has ended up damaging it with accusations (vehemently denied) that he has given in to Tory pressure.

Gary Lineker arrives at King Power Stadium ahead of Leicester's Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday
Gary Lineker watched his team Leicester instead of presenting Match of the Day on Saturday

The role of BBC director general has always been a tricky balancing act: leading an organisation which holds those in power to account while being dependent on the government to approve any settlement over its future funding. The corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2027.

This is not the first time Lineker’s political comments have made headlines and, as the former footballer is the face of the organisation’s sports coverage, that clearly concerns Mr Davie.

Commenting on government policy, and comparing the rhetoric around it to 1930s Germany seems to breach the BBC’s editorial guidelines. But as a freelance presenter not working in news, should these rules even apply to Gary Lineker?

Read more:
BBC director-general ‘sorry’ about lost football programmes and ‘working very hard’ to resolve dispute
The BBC’s guidelines on impartiality explained – and do they apply to Gary Lineker?

The BBC’s guidelines say some non-journalists “have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile” and should “avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.

Yet critics of the corporation argue the rules weren’t applied fairly when Alan Sugar, host of The Apprentice, made comments about Jeremy Corbyn online or political interviewer Andrew Neil tweeted about Brexit.

The Lineker row comes just weeks after the controversy surrounding BBC chairman and Tory donor Richard Sharp, who helped facilitate an £800,000 loan to Boris Johnson. Mr Sharp is currently subject to two investigations and former BBC chair Chris Patten is among those now calling for him to stand down.

Mr Davie has said “success for me is getting Gary back on air”. He will be acutely aware that the longer the stand-off lasts, the larger the damage to the reputation of the beleaguered BBC.

Man shot dead at gathering in Waltham Forest in ‘reckless act of violence’ named as police appeal for witnesses | UK News

A man who was fatally shot in Waltham Forest at a gathering of up to 100 people has been named by police.

Two men checked themselves into hospital following the incident, with Sam Brown, 28, dying from gunshot injuries.

His family has been informed.

A second man in his 30s has been discharged from hospital after suffering from stab wounds.

Officers were called to Cheney Row Park in Waltham Forest shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, after reports of shots being fired.

DCI Kelly Allen of Specialist Crime at the Metropolitan Police said: “My heart goes out to the family of Sam, who has lost his life in this reckless act of violence. I can assure them of my total dedication, and that of my team, to ensuring that they get justice.

“I believe there were 50 to 100 people gathered in and around Cheney Row Park at the time of the shooting with music playing. I urgently need to speak with everyone who was at that event – even if you do not believe you saw anything significant, you need to come forward and speak with officers.

“There will have been footage and images captured at the event, and we need to see these. Please ensure that all such material is saved – we will provide a link for it to be uploaded shortly.

“To anyone considering whether or not to come forward to police, I ask you to put yourself in the position of the victim’s grieving mother and father this morning. They deserve answers.

“And whoever took a gun to a gathering like this does not deserve your protection, nor do they deserve to be free to inflict further harm on others. Please do the right thing and make contact today.”

Anyone with information is asked contact police on 101, quoting reference 267/24jul – or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.