The Telegraph 2024-04-28 01:00:36

Tory rebels on warpath after MP defects to Labour

Conservative rebels are working on a 100-day roadmap to turn around the party’s fortunes after a Tory MP defected to the Labour Party.

A group of Conservative MPs has crafted a “100 days to save Britain” plan including “quick wins” to convince colleagues to oust the Prime Minister and unite around Penny Mordaunt, the current Leader of the Commons.

It comes as Dr Dan Poulter, a former Tory minister, crossed the floor on Saturday to join the Labour Party just days before the local elections, cutting Rishi Sunak’s majority to 49.

Dr Poulter is the second person to defect to a rival party under Mr Sunak’s leadership, claiming that only the Labour Party could “cure” the NHS.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, welcomed Dr Poulter to his party and said it was “time to end the Conservative chaos”.

His defection sparked bitter words from his constituency association. Sam Murray, a Suffolk County councillor, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Good riddance. So glad I no longer have to apologise for his failure to turn up in North Ipswich regularly.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said that Dr Poulter’s defection would be “disappointing” for his constituents.

Rebel insiders say a “policy blitz” would follow the ousting of Mr Sunak, featuring a budget that prioritises tax cuts to show “we are on the side of working people”, and pledges on immigration, the NHS, crime and welfare spending.

They hope that their plans will encourage other MPs to submit letters of no confidence in Mr Sunak to the 1922 Committee in the event of disastrous local election results.

One Tory rebel told The Telegraph: “The reality is that we are facing an extinction-level event.”

“It’s for colleagues to decide if they want to go down with the sinking ship,” they added.

The strategy – inspired by US speaker Newt Gingrich’s successful Contract with America, which revived Republican fortunes in 1994 – would focus on “quick wins” and manifesto promises. A general election would be held following a wave of policy announcements.

Senior figures from both the One Nation caucus – the moderate wing of the party – as well as those on the Right are involved in the discussions.

On Saturday night, Ms Mordaunt distanced herself from the plotters, with sources close to the Cabinet minister saying it is “codswallop”.

They added that talk of a leadership coup is “unhelpful idle speculation when we should all be focussed on winning votes for Thursday”.

A source on the Tory Right told The Telegraph that there is a whipping operation underway to keep track of the number of MPs who have submitted letters of no confidence in Mr Sunak.

‘Definitely an operation around Penny’

Mr Sunak would face a vote on his leadership if 52 of his MPs, amounting to 15 per cent of the parliamentary party, submitted such letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee.

The plotters believe that Mr Sunak would likely win the vote, but would then “be persuaded that his position is untenable”, leading him to “do the honourable thing and step aside”.

One senior MP from the moderate wing of the Conservative Party said: “The only version that could possibly work, the least-bad option, is a straightforward coronation for a new leader. This all just stems from frustration with Rishi. It is such a feeble straw – but people say it’s the only straw in town.”

A former Cabinet minister added that there is “definitely an operation around Penny”, adding that she never dismantled her support base from the previous leadership campaign and has “about 70” MP backers.

Details of the plot to oust Mr Sunak come as Conservative MPs are braced for disastrous local election results this week. Richard Holden, the Tory party chair, admitted these will be “tough, tough, tough local elections for us, especially given the national polling position.”

Several MPs believe the only way the results could be presented as a success is if the two Tory mayors – Andy Street in the West Midlands and Lord Houchen in the Tees Valley – are re-elected.

‘We’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it’

Some senior figures in the party have warned against a change in leaders. Sir Kenneth Baker, who was Margaret Thatcher’s last party chairman, said a new prime minister would be a “death wish” for the Tories.

“Any attempt to try and replace Rishi after the May elections is an absurdity, it would be a death wish for the party,” he said. “One has to keep Rishi until the general election.”

Meanwhile, another veteran MP said that he sympathised with many of his colleagues who are “looking down the barrel of a gun” and therefore “seriously thinking” about leadership change. But he said this would be “barking”, adding: “We’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it.”

A government source said: “It’s been a tough time for us all dealing with the aftershock of Covid and the war in Ukraine, both to the country’s finances and public services, but we are now turning a corner with inflation halved, interest rates set to fall and the economy forecast to grow.

“The PM is focused on delivering on our plan and taking the fight to Labour who have no plan for the country apart from to spend beyond our means and raise taxes. They would take us right back to square one.”

Sir Keir Starmer said: “It’s fantastic to welcome Dr Dan Poulter MP to today’s changed Labour Party.

“It’s time to end the Conservative chaos, turn the page, and get Britain’s future back. I’m really pleased that Dan has decided to join us on this journey.”

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Britain to deploy homegrown hypersonic missile by 2030

Britain plans to equip the Armed Forces with a homegrown hypersonic cruise missile by the end of the decade, The Telegraph has learnt.

Military chiefs want a weapon capable of reaching speeds exceeding Mach 5 as the Government races to catch up with China, Russia and the US.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has insisted that the new weapon be designed and built entirely in Britain and is understood to have set a deadline of 2030 for it to enter service.

The project has been identified by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as one destination for a planned £75 billion uplift in the defence budget over the next six years.

A government defence source said: “Cutting-edge projects like this are only possible because of the massive new investment the Government has made this week in defence innovation.

“With Labour refusing to match our investment, continuing this project would be impossible under Keir Starmer – the military would be forced to cut the hypersonic programme, in a move that would make Putin’s dreams come true.”

The missile plans are understood still to be at an early stage, with no decision taken so far on whether it would be launched from land, sea or air.

One option is a weapon that could be fitted to a fighter jet like the Typhoon or F-35, which would have a shorter range and smaller payload than a larger weapon launched from the ground. The missile could also be launched from one of the UK’s warships.

The project is being managed directly by MoD headquarters in Whitehall, rather than by one of the three armed services.

Since late last year, the MoD has been running a consortium of around 80 companies to come up with possible designs.

The Hypersonic Technologies & Capability Development Framework Agreement was launched in December in what has been described as a “national mission”.

Sources involved in the project said the construction of the missiles would be especially difficult because some of the materials required do not yet exist, and must be developed from scratch to withstand the high temperatures that come with hypersonic speeds.

Engineers are also working on a British version of a “scramjet” engine, which uses compressed air moving at supersonic speeds to aid the combustion of liquid or solid fuel.

The MoD declined to comment in detail on the plans, citing national security concerns, but a spokesman said: “We are pursuing hypersonic technologies to further develop UK sovereign advanced capabilities. We continue to invest in our equipment to meet current and future threats.”

Most missile projects work as international collaborations between the UK and at least one foreign ally, making the hypersonic cruise missile project unusual.

A separate project could see the UK acquire an even faster and more sophisticated type of hypersonic weapon, known as a glide vehicle, through the AUKUS partnership with the United States and Australia.

Hypersonic missiles, which operate at significantly faster speeds than standard cruise missiles, have the ability to evade an opponent’s air defences by travelling at more than 4,000 miles per hour and manoeuvring in mid-flight.

The US has already successfully tested a hypersonic cruise missile, which it says is vital to keep pace with missile technology in Russia and China, which both claim to have developed similar technology.

Joe Biden, the US president, has described Russian hypersonic missiles launched at Ukrainian cities as being “almost impossible to stop”.

The US has several hypersonic missile programmes. They have suffered months of delays and failures, but a recent test flight over the Pacific Ocean was a success, and Washington hopes to have its first hypersonic weapons in service as early as next year.

Earlier this month, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a new hypersonic missile that could evade South Korean and US air defences, but this claim has been described as “greatly exaggerated”.

China has developed land, sea and air-based hypersonic weapons, including the DF-ZF glide vehicle that entered service in 2018 and is said to be capable of speeds approaching Mach 10.

At that speed, a missile with a long enough range could travel the circumference of the Earth in just over three hours.

Western experts have cast doubt on claims by Russia and North Korea to have produced a true hypersonic missile, with Moscow’s Kinzhal claim to the title dubbed “at best questionable”.

Ballistic missiles, including the Trident system used in British and US nuclear submarines, can already travel at speeds of over Mach 20, but are easier to shoot down because they travel on a predictable trajectory.

The UK is prepared to invest up to £1 billion in its hypersonic project through the defence consortium in the next seven years, although sources said missiles could be purchased from the US if a future defence review found they were needed sooner.

The competition over hypersonics, which has been compared to the start of the Cold War arms race in the 1950s, has prompted debate over whether the missiles are worth their high price tag.

James Black, the assistant director of defence research at Rand Europe, a think tank, said that while the missiles offered “some military benefits”, the money may be better spent on existing technology.

“High cost and enduring challenges to technical feasibility mean that such weapons, if and when they become available to the UK armed forces, are likely to only be available in very small numbers,” he said.

“This raises questions about whether the UK would be better off increasing its stockpiles of cheaper precision weapons and other munitions rather than purchasing too many ‘exquisite’ hypersonic weapons that may be overkill for most targets.”

Once the UK has developed its own hypersonic weapon, it will be shared with the US and Australia in exchange for collaboration on other projects, including AI, quantum technology, hypersonics and undersea drones.

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Migration must be capped at ‘tens of thousands’ to restore trust, says Jenrick

Robert Jenrick has called for a cap on net migration of less than 100,000 a year, arguing that it is the only way to restore voters’ trust.

In an exclusive article for The Telegraph, the former immigration minister called for the Government to commit to reducing net migration from its record high of 745,000 in 2022 to “tens of thousands” enforced by an annual cap set by votes in Parliament.

Mr Jenrick, who will detail his proposals in a report this week with fellow former minister Neil O’Brien, accused the post-Brexit Tory Government of sticking “two fingers” up to the British public by liberalising the immigration system and breaking their promises on leaving the EU to take control of Britain’s borders.

He accused politicians in the “SW1 bubble” of being out of touch with voters by “clinging” to the economic orthodoxy that immigration is an unalloyed economic good and that our public services would collapse without it.” He added: “This myth needs debunking.”

In his report with Mr O’Brien, a former health minister, published by the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Jenrick argues that it is “undeniable” that mass migration has diluted the UK’s capital stock.

“Far too many of the migrants that have come to the UK have been net burdens on the Exchequer over the course of their lifetime,” he said.

“It stands to reason that if all this migration is rocket fuel for our economy, growth would be booming and wages rising. But since 1998, the first year net migration passed 100,000, GDP per capita growth has averaged 1.2 per cent a year, barely half the rate in the four decades before that.”

It’s a dangerous myth that mass migration is good for the economy

Read more

Policymakers have pointed to the economic contribution of the “average” migrant but Mr Jenrick said this masked wide variations in earnings, employment rates and their fiscal impact.

He cited data showing that a migrant from Poland, the Philippines, or New Zealand was 50 per cent more likely to be in work than a migrant from Somalia or Bangladesh.

“This is cause for concern, not least because since leaving the EU we’ve seen migration from Europe radically decrease and an enormous increase in non-EU migration,” said Mr Jenrick.

He called for the UK to create a far more restrictive immigration system that established the UK as the “grammar school” of the Western world where only high-skilled, high-wage migrants who are net contributors to the economy were allowed entry.

Before Mr Jenrick quit the Government over his demands for tougher action on illegal migration, he persuaded Rishi Sunak to introduce measures to reduce legal migration by 300,000, including raising the salary threshold for skilled workers to £38,700 a year and restrictions on migrants’ rights to bring in spouses or family.

However, he warned that “well-meaning” policy was not enough and the discipline of a centrally-fixed cap, citing how officials’ forecasts of only 6,000 foreign social care workers coming to the UK had turned into nearly 250,000 migrants with their families.

He said: “Since we took back control of the levers of migration, these were promises that politicians deliberately broke by liberalising our system even further by lowering salary thresholds and creating new routes with lax rules.

“Frankly, those decisions were two fingers up to the public who haven’t forgotten or forgiven. 

“The only way politicians can look voters in the eye and actually guarantee they can meet their promises to reduce net migration is to introduce a migration cap which would serve as a democratic lock on numbers.

“We propose that this cap should be voted on by all MPs in parliament in a migration budget debate, alongside forecasted impacts of immigration on housing, infrastructure and public services.”

‘Jaw-dropping unprecedented numbers’

He warned that without such action, Britain faced a migration crisis that would drain public services and threaten integration. Already, said Mr Jenrick, the housing crisis had become a migration crisis requiring an “impossible” 515,000 new homes every year to cope with the current levels of immigration.

“For nearly three decades politicians of all stripes have promised to control and reduce legal migration, only to allow it to balloon to extreme levels. The historically unprecedented numbers we have experienced are jaw-dropping,” said Mr Jenrick.

“In the 25 years up to Tony Blair’s election, cumulative net migration was 68,000; in the next 25 years to 2022 it was 5.9 million – almost 100 times the previous 25 years.”

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Prince Harry ‘snubs the King’ by not wearing Coronation medal

The Duke of Sussex appears to have snubbed his father by opting not to wear his Coronation medal alongside others as he presented a military award.

Prince Harry donned four medals to record a video of himself honouring a soldier from the back door of his California home but the one featuring effigies of the King and Queen was notably absent.

His spokesman declined to comment on why he did not wear the Coronation medal that is believed to have been awarded to him on his father’s accession last year.

The medal, made of nickel silver, was given to 400 recipients involved in the Coronation ceremonies and processions, as well as serving members of the Armed Forces and emergency service workers.

Similarly, Harry did not wear the medal when he delivered a video monologue for Stand Up For Heroes in New York last November.

Relations between the Duke and the King remain strained, although they are believed to have improved.

In February, Charles, 75, contacted both of his sons to tell them of his cancer diagnosis.

Prince Harry, who was at home in Montecito, made immediate plans to fly over to see him, prompting hopes of a rapprochement after a turbulent few years in which the pair have barely spoken.

In the event, the pair spent barely 30 minutes together at Clarence House before the King flew to Sandringham and the Duke returned to the US.

The Duke had not seen his father since the Coronation when they barely had time to speak.

Harry arrived in London the day before the May 6 ceremony and headed straight to the airport from Westminster Abbey, via a quick vehicle change, having spent just 28 hours in the country.

The Duke wore a dark suit and tie to record a video message for his friend, Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks, from Arizona, who was named a Soldier of the Year at an award ceremony hosted by the Military Times.

Pinned to his chest were his Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan, his Golden Jubilee Medal, Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Platinum Jubilee Medal.

The Duke first met SFC Marks at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando and said he was “honoured” to call her his friend.

The five-time Paralympic medalist, 33, suffered bilateral hip injuries while serving in Iraq in 2010. In 2017, her left leg was amputated below the knee.

“Good evening everyone, especially those who are serving, have served and continue to serve,” Harry said.

“I have the honour of presenting this year’s Soldier of the Year award.”

The Duke said that when he first met SFC Marks, he presented her with four Invictus gold medals that had won in swimming.

“To me, she epitomises the courage, resilience and determination represented across our service community,” he said. “And this is not just because of her swimming abilities.

“Ellie has courageously overcome every obstacle to cross her path. She has turned her pain into purpose and led through compassion and willpower, showing others that the impossible is indeed possible.”

The Duke said the soldier’s “unwavering commitment serves as a beacon of inspiration, offering hope and setting a powerful example for others to follow.”

In June 2016, when still a working royal, Prince Harry invited members of the Papworth Hospital medical team who had treated SFC Marks in 2014 to Kensington Palace.

He presented them with the 100m freestyle gold medal she had won in Orlando, which she dedicated to the team who saved her life after she fell ill during a visit to the UK for the inaugural Invictus Games.

As soon as the Prince presented her with the medal, she asked him to ensure that it was donated to Papworth Hospital on her behalf, as a mark of her gratitude for the life-saving medical care she had received.

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‘Chestfeeding’ to be banned in NHS crackdown

The NHS is to crack down on transgender ideology in hospitals, with terms like “chestfeeding” set to be banned…

I was determined to finish ITV News at Ten, says Rageh Omaar after falling ill live on air

Rageh Omaar has said he was “determined to finish presenting” ITV’s News at Ten on Friday night after he appeared to fall ill two minutes into the show.

The presenter, 56, was taken to hospital for treatment and is now recovering at home, an ITV News spokesman confirmed.

Omaar slurred and stumbled over his words during the broadcast on Friday night but remained on air until the programme ended almost half an hour later.

“I would like to thank everyone for their kindness and good wishes, especially all the medical staff, all my wonderful colleagues at ITV News, and our viewers who expressed concern,” Omaar said in a statement released by ITV News.

“At the time, I was determined to finish presenting the programme. I am grateful for all the support I’ve been given.”

The spokesman added that Omaar would return to presenting duties “when he feels ready”. It is not known what the cause of his illness was or what treatment he had at hospital.

But on Saturday, questions remained for ITV News chiefs over its duty of care towards the veteran presenter, who first rose to prominence during the Iraq War.

‘ITV News will now need to review this’

Mark Williams-Thomas, the investigative filmmaker who has presented documentaries on ITV, said his illness should have been “spotted and dealt with earlier”.

“It was clear Rageh Omaar was not well last night,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “That’s when you need people in the gallery to step up, go straight to VT .

“It certainly looks like paramedics were called and he was taken to hospital. I wish him well and ITV News will now need to review this to ensure welfare issues [are] spotted and dealt with earlier.”

Angus Walker, a former ITV News correspondent who was employed by the channel between 2000 and 2010, said: “On a Friday evening, the ITV News newsroom is pretty empty even as News at Ten is on air but there is a duty editor on call precisely to make any big calls.

“I’ve been asked to step in for a colleague who fell ill just before going live – [it] can and has been done.”

An ITV News spokesman said: “We appreciate viewers of last night’s News at Ten were concerned about Rageh Omaar’s wellbeing.

“Following medical treatment at hospital, he is now recovering at home with his family.

“We are wishing Rageh a speedy recovery and look forward to him being back on screen when he feels ready.”

Omaar, ITV News’s international affairs editor, appeared to struggle to pronounce his words in the broadcast.

Two minutes into the show, he slurred his words when introducing the first bulletin about the King’s return to royal duties after his cancer treatment.

A few minutes later, Omaar appeared to struggle to read the autocue in an item about Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf battling to stay in power.

As he introduced the final segment of the show at 10.26pm, Omaar appeared to be making a greater effort to speak and seemed to be misreading the autocue as he spoke about weekend nightlife.

Closing the programme, Omaar again seemed to be making an effort to speak before finally saying: “Have a great weekend.”

The camera then stayed focused on him as the closing credits and music were played, during which he could be seen putting his notes away, taking off his microphone and getting ready to stand up from his chair.

ITV later pulled the show from its scheduled re-run on ITV+1, with a message instead telling viewers that the channel was “temporarily unable to bring you our +1 service”.

The broadcast is also not available on ITV X, the channel’s on-demand service.

On Friday night, an ITV spokesman said: “We are aware that viewers are concerned about Rageh Omaar’s wellbeing.

“Rageh became unwell while presenting News at Ten on Friday and is now receiving medical care.

“He thanks everyone for their well wishes.”

Omaar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and moved to Britain at the age of two.

He went to university at New College, Oxford before joining The Voice newspaper as a trainee and then moving to the BBC.

It was during the 2003 war in Iraq that he became widely known, as he utilised his fluency in Arabic and acquired the nickname the ‘Scud Stud’ for his good looks.

Omaar moved on to Al Jazeera in 2006 and then ITV News in 2013, where he became a special correspondent and presenter.

He was promoted to international affairs editor the following year and has been a presenter of lunchtime, evening and 10 o’clock bulletins since 2017.

Omaar anchored ITV’s coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in 2022 and also presents On Assignment, its current affairs programme.

He is married to Georgiana Rose ‘Nina’ Montgomery-Cuninghame, daughter of baronet Sir John Montgomery-Cuninghame of Corsehill, with whom he has three children.

Omaar is also the author of two books, Revolution Day, which is about the war in Iraq, and Only Half of Me, a memoir of his childhood.

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One in three BBC journalism scheme trainees are white Britons

White Britons made up a third of BBC trainee journalists taken on its flagship scheme between 2022 and 2024, The Telegraph can reveal.

Since 2022, 35.90 per cent of the participants in the scheme were categorised as “majority white”. These are individuals who are part of white groups that are in the majority of the population according to the BBC’s definition and identify as white British, English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh.

Individuals from British, Asian, Minority, and Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds made up 41.03 per cent.

A further 23.08 per cent of participants were classed as “other white” – which refers to white groups that are in a minority in the UK population, such as people from Roma, white Gypsy/Irish Traveller, white Irish and white Polish backgrounds.

The figures show that more than seven in 10 of the places had been given to women applicants – making up 28 of those on the scheme over the past two financial years compared with 11 men. 

The two-year programme, referred to as the Journalism Advanced Apprenticeship, provides participants with training and a potentially permanent role at the Corporation.

‘Concerning’ findings

The data also revealed that nearly three-quarters of spots were taken by women (71.79 per cent) and 28.21 per cent men.

MPs have described the “concerning” findings as evidence of a “discriminatory” recruitment strategy within the BBC.

The BBC were unable to provide data on the number of white men who were on the scheme as they said they do not collect data on the cross-section between ethnicity and gender.

However, if the ethnic composition of men on the scheme reflected the ethnic composition across the scheme as a whole, white men would make up around 18 per cent of participants.

The findings raise questions about whether the BBC is fulfilling its obligations to “represent” the UK, as set out in Object 14 of the Charter – which states the BBC must ensure it “reflects the diverse communities of the UK” in its “organisation and management”.

Positive discrimination is also unlawful under the Equality Act (2010).

However, treating one group more favourably than another is lawful providing the action meets several legal criteria – including evidence that the relevant group is disadvantaged.

The BBC apprenticeship gives journalism training to participants and, if all goes well, the opportunity to take on a full-time role in the Corporation.

The apprenticeship pays £25,000 per year, with an additional £5,164 allowance given to those working in London, according to Journo Resources, a newsletter promoting media jobs.

The Telegraph received the figures by requesting a breakdown of participants in the BBC’s flagship journalism training programme by gender and ethnicity.

Sir John Hayes, Conservative MP for South Holland and the Deepings said he would be personally referring the findings to the Equalities Commission.

He said: “These concerning findings show the BBC is potentially in breach of the Equality Act.

“I will be personally referring [them] to the Equalities Commission and I hope they act accordingly.

“White working-class men are being discriminated against by national institutions in pursuit of their progressive agenda.”

Across the BBC as a whole, black, Asian and minority ethnic staff made up 17 per cent, figures collected by the Corporation in July 2023 show.

According to the 2021 census, white Britons made up 74.4 per cent of the population.

People describing themselves as “Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh” accounted for 9.3 per cent. 2.5 per cent identified as “Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean or African: African”.

6.2 per cent identified themselves as “other white”.

Since 2022, there have been 39 participants in the BBC’s two-year journalism training scheme – referred to as the Journalism Advanced Apprenticeship.

‘Woefully under-represented’

Dr Rakib Ehsan, an expert on social integration, said of the findings: “The fact that white Britons are woefully under-represented in the BBC’s flagship journalism training scheme comes as no surprise to me whatsoever.

“DEI policy in the public sector does not live up to its name when it comes to incorporating the white-British mainstream. In fact, it is often deeply exclusionary in how it allocates opportunities and rewards.

“The BBC – our national public broadcaster – unfortunately, has the American-origin virus of racial identitarianism coursing through its veins.

“Under the mantra of ‘diversity’, more and more young and aspirational white-working class people in the regions will be left by the wayside.”

Neil O’Brien MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, said: “These findings are the direct result of a discriminatory recruitment strategy which favours some groups over others.

“It is absurd for the BBC to claim that these findings are not reflective of their recruitment process as a whole given their history of hiring for jobs that are only open to applicants from specific backgrounds.

“Those responsible should be mindful that positive discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act when they go about hiring for new jobs.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Our apprenticeships provide a vital route into the media for people from a range of backgrounds and we aim to reflect, represent and serve all parts of the UK in our workforce, both in news and across the BBC.

“We have nearly 700 apprentices and it is unclear what analysis can be achieved by looking at the make-up of a single course.”

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