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Thursday newspaper round-up: Passport Office, Brexit checks, Elon Musk, BT, windfall tax

The private company behind the Passport Office’s contact centre has been ordered to hire more staff to ease “unacceptable” delays. Teleperformance, the French-owned multinational that is responsible for call handling, has been “urgently tasked to add additional staff” by the Home Office, which is trying to avert a summer of chaos. – The Times
The UK government is set to announce a fourth delay to physical checks on fresh food imported from the EU amid industry reports that neither technology nor infrastructure resources were ready for the July start of the next phase of Brexit. The Brexit opportunities minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is expected to frame the move as use of the UK’s newfound independent powers to control the trade border since the departure from the EU and the single market. – Guardian

Elon Musk has lost a legal bid to get rid of his “Twitter Sitter”, a Tesla lawyer who is in charge of overseeing comments the billionaire wishes to post on social media about his electric car company. Last month, the Tesla chief asked a US judge to end his 2018 deal with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which included scrutiny of his tweets, claiming it violates his right to free speech. – Telegraph

The Serious Fraud Office has intensified its inquiry into the business empire of metals magnate Sanjeev Gupta after its investigators raided sites across his GFG Alliance to obtain documents. The co-ordinated and unannounced operation yesterday involved GFG trading sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Investigators used Section 2 notices to demand the immediate provision of documents including “company balance sheets, annual reports and correspondence” related to the investigation, the fraud office said. – The Times

Rishi Sunak has opened the door to a windfall tax on oil and gas companies despite previously dismissing the policy, as Labour accused the government of burying its head in the sand over spiralling bills. The chancellor hinted at a possible U-turn on a tax on oil and gas providers, having repeatedly refused to countenance the idea in the past when suggested by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. – Guardian

BT is to be phased out as a “flagship” brand for millions of consumers as the former state-owned phone monopoly seeks to see off rivals in the fierce broadband market. The BT Group has said that it will instead focus on promoting its EE division, in sweeping reforms that will spark fears the company’s much-loved BT television adverts are to be consigned to history. – Telegraph

The foreign secretary believes that the war in Ukraine could last for years and fears President Putin could deploy weapons of mass destruction in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock. Liz Truss, in a speech at Mansion House in London, said that Putin was a “rogue operator” and warned that he could invade other countries, including Georgia and Moldova. – The Times

The Conservatives have been hit by yet another House of Commons sex scandal after a female minister reported seeing a male colleague watching porn on a mobile phone in parliament. A string of the party’s female MPs have complained to the whips about sexism and misogyny within its ranks in a heated meeting on Tuesday night. – Guardian

Matt Hancock blamed Public Health England (PHE) for discharging untested hospital patients to care homes, after the High Court ruled the policy was unlawful. The former health secretary said PHE failed to alert him to asymptomatic transmission of the Covid virus, after the judges’ ruling on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) policy in the early stages of the pandemic. – Telegraph

The owner of Facebook and Instagram has suffered its slowest quarterly sales growth in a decade but the number of users exceeded Wall Street forecasts sending the stock sharply higher. Shares in Meta Platforms rose by 18.9 per cent in late trading last night as the world’s largest social media group revealed a rise in activity and posted stronger than forecast profits. – The Times

Ministers will formally start the process of privatising Channel 4 on Thursday – despite widespread opposition from the British media industry, the broadcaster’s current management, and a large number of Conservative MPs. The government insists that the publicly owned channel needs to be sold off, but there are doubts over whether they have the political support required to pass the necessary legislation. Ministers will also finally publish the conclusions of a 60,000-strong public consultation on the sale, with most comments expected to be against privatisation. – Guardian

The Silicon Valley life coaching startup employing Prince Harry is facing a mutiny from staff who have accused the company of questionable ethics while questioning the value of the royal’s role. The Duke of Sussex was appointed “chief impact officer” at BetterUp, a life coaching and mental health firm, last March. – Telegraph

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