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The Telegraph Frontline for Friday 2023 February 03

Davey cartoon
Danny Boyle By Danny Boyle
After the Bank cast doubt on the Government’s ability to drive people back to work, the Chancellor is under pressure to do more. Also this morning, we reveal how energy firms are hoarding cash – and Rupert Everett claims to know Prince Harry’s virginity secret.

Energy firms’ cash pile balloons to £9billion

Concerns have been growing that energy firms are taking too much money from customers in advance. Now, we can reveal that companies hoarded £9billion this winter – more than four times the sum previously calculated. The cash pile ballooned over the last year to a peak at the end of November, when the cost of living crisis was placing household budgets under extreme pressure. The Telegraph has previously revealed that gas and electricity companies have been increasing direct debit payments from customers, even for those who are already substantially in credit. Our Investigations Team reports on the new revelation, which was disclosed under Freedom of Information laws.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is under pressure to do more to provide incentives to work in the forthcoming Budget, with Britons facing the highest tax burden in 70 years. The Bank of England said these factors would damage the economy’s long-term performance, as it sharply downgraded its views of UK potential supply growth – which determines how much the economy can grow before it starts to overheat – to 0.7 per cent over the next couple of years, from a pre-crisis average of more than 2.5 per cent. As economics editor Szu Ping Chan reports, Bank officials cast doubt over the Government’s ability to drive hundreds of thousands of people back to work – highlighting “increasing detachment” among people who had left their jobs since the pandemic.

PS: For Your View, we asked how your memories of 1978’s winter of discontent (if you have them!) compare to today. See the best responses.

Pentagon tracking Chinese ‘spy balloon’ over US

The Pentagon is tracking a Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering for days over continental America, on the eve of the most high-level visit to Beijing by US officials in years. A senior defence official told reporters that the US believes Beijing is using the high-altitude spy balloon to fly over sensitive sites and collect information. One of the places the balloon was spotted was the northwestern state of Montana, which houses several air bases and is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. US editor Nick Allen reports why Beijing might be interested in the “doomsday” base.

Rupert Everett: I know Harry’s virginity secret

It was one of the more intimate revelations in the Duke of Sussex’s memoir and one that, for many, raised more questions than it answered. Who was the horse-mad woman who took his virginity in a field, during what Prince Harry himself admitted was a rather “inglorious episode”? The mystery has now taken a surprising twist after Rupert Everett teased that he knew the identity of the woman in question. Not only that, the actor also mischievously claimed in an interview with The Telegraph that the episode did not take place behind a pub or even in this country.

Also in the news this morning

Brexit | Whitehall did a “c–p job” negotiating Brexit as it was biased towards the EU, David Davis has claimed. The former Brexit secretary said the Civil Service “sympathised with the European view” as Theresa May’s government found itself in a stalemate over the terms of leaving Brussels. Mr Davis, who resigned from Mrs May’s Cabinet in July 2018 as he did not “believe” in her Chequers plan for leaving the EU, said bureaucrats should take some of the blame for the deadlock.

Around the world: ‘You could hear voices in the ruins’

A Russian missile struck a block of flats in eastern Ukraine, killing at least three people and blowing out windows and doors of neighbouring properties. The projectile struck a four-storey building where witnesses told The Telegraph that three families had been living. Hundreds of rescuers including local civilians, police, soldiers and firefighters spent hours moving the rubble brick-by-brick to try to dig out survivors. Roland Oliphant and Julian Simmonds have our dispatch.
Rescue workers clear rubble and search for bodies at the scene of the missile strike.

Rescue workers clear rubble and search for bodies at the scene of the missile strike

Comment and analysis

Editor’s choice

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Bright side | ‘I’ve found the ultimate answer to our growing obesity crisis’

Business briefing: Rental crisis worsens

The Bank of England sounded the alarm over a worsening rental market crisis as high taxes and red tape force landlords to sell up. Demand for properties has continued to outstrip supply, it said. A buy-to-let mortgage has jumped from 2.8pc in December 2021 to 5.95pc at the start of February, doubling monthly payments. It comes as wealthy foreign buyers are snapping up London’s most expensive homes in cash, tempted by a cooling property market and weak pound.

Here is a selection of articles we think you’ll be interested in today.
Job coaches at GP surgeries to push unemployed over-50s back to work
Alexandra Phillips: The new female face of Reform UK
Whitehall did a really c-p job negotiating Brexit, says David Davis
New door for House of Lords to cost £7m
Opinion – Keir Starmer does a Basil Fawlty on the vexed question of strikes

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