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The government is to prohibit the removal or transfer of key Daily Telegraph journalists during a public interest probe into the newspaper’s prospective takeover by a state-backed Abu Dhabi investor.

Sky News has learnt that Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, is preparing to make an interim enforcement order (IEO) that will impose a set of restrictions on the Daily and Sunday Telegraph’s current owners.

City sources said the IEO – which has been notified to the Barclay family – was likely to be made public later on Friday.

Both the family and RedBird IMI are said to have agreed to the restrictions.

It will come within hours of the government issuing a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) that will subject the change of control at the broadsheet titles to a probe by Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority.

The IEO will prevent the Barclay family or RedBird IMI from expediting a further change of ownership, removing directors or transferring top editorial staff without the secretary of state’s approval, according to one insider.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer leaving Number 10 Downing Street, London, after a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday June 20, 2023.
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Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer

Whitehall officials had been considering using a separate order to ensure the newspapers’ independence during the PIIN, but sources said the IEO would effectively achieve the same objectives.

News of the IEO may assuage concerns raised by a growing number of Conservative parliamentarians about the Barclay family, which has owned the Telegraph since 2004, or RedBird IMI attempting to exert renewed influence on the newspapers.

Ms Frazer is seeking the regulators’ responses before the end of January, after which the takeover of the broadsheet newspapers could be approved or blocked.

Dozens of Conservative MPs, including the former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, have called for the deal to face further investigation under national security laws.

The repayment of a £1.16bn debt to Lloyds is, however, unaffected by the PIIN.

Earlier on Friday, Sky News revealed that shareholders in Lloyds Banking Group could reap a windfall worth more than £500m early next year following the deal to repay the loans.

Lloyds is expected to receive the funds early next week from the Barclays following an agreement between the family and RedBird IMI, an Abu Dhabi-based vehicle which is majority-funded by members of the Gulf state’s royal family.

RedBird IMI plans to convert a £600m chunk of the loan into shares in the Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine if it gains regulatory approval for the deal.

RedBird IMI, which is fronted by the former CNN president Jeff Zucker and funded in large part by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the owner of Manchester City, has pledged to preserve the Telegraph’s editorial independence.

A trio of independent directors, led by the Openreach chairman Mike McTighe, will remain in place while the public interest inquiry is carried out.

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RedBird IMI’s move to fund the loan redemption has circumvented an auction of the Telegraph titles which has drawn interest from a range of bidders.

Prospective bidders led by the hedge fund billionaire and GB News shareholder Sir Paul Marshall had been agitating for the launch of a PIIN.

The Telegraph auction, which has also drawn interest from the Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere and National World, a London-listed local newspaper publisher, is now effectively over.

Until June, the newspapers were chaired by Aidan Barclay – the nephew of Sir Frederick Barclay, the octogenarian who along with his late twin Sir David engineered the takeover of the Telegraph in 2004.

Lloyds had been locked in talks with the Barclays for years about refinancing loans made to them by HBOS prior to that bank’s rescue during the 2008 banking crisis.

The DCMS and a spokesman for the Barclay family declined to comment.

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Worst airlines for customer satisfaction revealed

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Worst airlines for customer satisfaction revealed

The worst airlines for customer satisfaction have been revealed

The UK’s flag carrier airline, British Airways, ranked among the worst airlines in the survey.

BA’s customer score for long-haul flights was the joint third lowest out of 17 carriers analysed by Which?, at 59%.

The airline received just two stars out of five for boarding experience and value for money, and achieved three stars for the other six categories assessed.

For short-haul flights, British Airways’ score was 56%, which was the fifth lowest among 22 airlines.

At the other end of the spectrum, the best airline for long-haul flights was Singapore Airlines (83%) and for short-haul Jet2.com (81%) took the top spot.

The worst performers in the long-haul ranking were Lufthansa (56%), Air Canada (58%), American Airlines (59%) and British Airways.

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The pilot was reportedly left 'penniless'
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Pic: PA

Wizz Air (44%) was ranked bottom for short-haul flights for the second year in a row, followed by Ryanair (47%), Iberia (49%) and Vueling (53%).

Which? said the standard of service last year often “fell well short of the mark”, with many passengers struggling to get support when they needed it.

UK air fares reached record highs in 2023.

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Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “Air fares have soared in recent years, and the bare minimum passengers should expect in return for their hard-earned cash is a reliable service, with friendly, easy to access customer support when they are let down.

“While the likes of Jet2 continue to excel in this regard, our survey shows that passengers of many airlines are sadly being shortchanged – with high rates of last minute cancellations, abysmal customer service and sneaky extra fees for luggage hiking up the final price.”

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We always work hard to get our customers to where they need to be on time.

“We apologise to customers for any disruption they’ve faced during these challenging periods and again thank them for their understanding.”

Marion Geoffroy, UK managing director at Wizz Air, said: “We do not consider the findings of this report to be representative or the methodology used to be transparent.

“Only 124 Wizz Air passengers were surveyed, while Which? spoke to several thousand people who had flown with some of our competitors.”

The survey of Which? members was conducted in October last year and relates to more than 10,000 flights with customer scores based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood to recommend an airliner to a friend.

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Energy price cap to fall but bills to include ‘temporary’ charge to help tackle record debt

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Energy price cap to fall but bills to include 'temporary' charge to help tackle record debt

The energy price cap is to fall by £20 a month, the industry regulator has announced, but households are to face an additional “temporary” charge to help suppliers support struggling customers with record levels of debt.

Ofgem confirmed a 12% price cap reduction will take effect from 1 April, taking the annual energy bill for a typical household paying by direct debit for gas and electricity to £1,690.

The current level, in place from January to March, is £1,928.

The fall reflects lower wholesale prices, with natural gas costs over the peak winter season falling across Europe due to higher stockpiles.

A mild winter has been a factor in the drop.

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The adjustment by Ofgem, while some relief for household budgets squeezed by the tough economy, still leaves the cap more than 50% up on pre-crisis levels.

The regulator confirmed alongside the cap figure that it was taking action to tackle a record £3.1bn in bill arrears, though prepayment meter customers would not be affected.

A handheld SSE smart meter for household energy usage is held next to an energy-efficient LED light bulb. Families across Great Britain will find out on Friday how tough energy bills will be this winter but they may have to wait to discover what the Government will do to help Picture date: Thursday August 25, 2022.
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Ofgem’s plans aim to bolster support for energy customers in debt to their suppliers. Pic: PA

“To address this challenge in the short-term, Ofgem will allow a temporary additional payment of £28 per year (equivalent to £2.33 per month) to make sure suppliers have sufficient funds to support customers who are struggling”, its statement said.

“This will be added to the bills of customers who pay by direct debit or standard credit and is partly offset by the termination of an allowance worth £11 per year that covered debt costs related to the COVID pandemic.”

Ofgem said its wider action would include further closing the gap between the higher charges that prepayment meter customers pay and what most other households face.

It said those on prepayment meters would save around £49 per year while direct debit customers would pay £10 per year more.

The watchdog said the new figures, taken together, meant bills would still fall to their lowest level since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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Ofgem says lower unit charges will mean that bills will fall for everyone in April, despite the debt aid elements. Pic: iStock

Russia’s vast gas supplies to the continent were shut down shortly after its military action began, forcing a scramble for replacement volumes.

Much of the void has been filled by additional supplies from Norway and heightened shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Market experts have warned that a return to pre-crisis energy prices is unlikely to occur given the new realities over the source of supply hampered, in the short term at least, by attacks on shipping in the Red Sea that have forced LNG cargos to make longer journeys.

The trend of higher prices has led to questions over whether the price cap, initially introduced to prevent rip-off charges, has become a barrier to competition. Ofgem is working with the government to address the cap’s future.

It is now utilised by the vast majority of homes in the wake of the supplier crisis that began in 2021 that saw dozens of operators collapse, including Bulb.

Fixed deals have been hard to come by ever since but there are some that have undercut the price cap.

Read more: What is the price cap – and how will it affect my bills?

Research for professional services firm KPMG, released separately on Friday, suggested 48% of households believed the price cap was a barrier to fixed-term offers by suppliers.

A third of respondents said they no longer shopped around because of the cap.

Price comparison site uSwitch said Ofgem’s wider action on elements of the price cap bill should help improve the volume of offers.

Its director of regulation, Richard Neudegg, said: “Consumers have been patiently waiting for better tariff choices, and many are desperate to take advantage of cheaper rates.

“If you are on a standard variable tariff, now is the time to start keeping an eye out for deals.

“The end of the Market Stabilisation Charge also on 1st April will be a positive step, taking out an unnecessary premium on deals.

“However, Ofgem’s decision to extend the Ban on Acquisition-only Tariffs for another year is a gamble.

“Although this could be cut to six months, while it’s in play, fixed deals risk being more expensive than they would otherwise be, at a time when customers are finally hoping to lock in some certainty.”

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Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells formally stripped of CBE

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Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells formally stripped of CBE

Paula Vennells, the former chief executive of the Post Office, has had her CBE formally stripped from her by the King for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”.

Ms Vennells received the honour in 2019 but was widely criticised amid the fallout from the Post Office scandal.

She had previously said she would give up the honour.

Ms Vennells was portrayed by an actor in the ITV drama, Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which brought the scandal to the wider attention of the public earlier this year.

More than 700 sub-postmasters and mistresses had their reputations ruined by allegations of theft and false accounting, with many left bankrupt or in prison, as a result of a computer system called Horizon.

Between 1999 and 2015, many people who ran branches were found guilty, and despite years of campaigning, only a small number of them had their convictions quashed.

The government has since pledged to exonerate those who were wrongly convicted.

More on Post Office Scandal

In 2022 a statutory public inquiry began into what has been described as the “worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history”, with hearings still under way.

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