Category Archives: Business

Brexit: Ministers see off EU Withdrawal Bill challenges

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The second day of debate in the Commons over the EU Withdrawal Bill has ended with the government winning every vote.

Amendments had been put forward by Labour regarding issues such as employment rights and environmental legislation after Brexit.

However, the government managed to win five votes during the course of the day – despite its majority falling as low as 12 at times.

The dates of six more debating days in the Commons will be confirmed later.

If passed, the withdrawal bill will bring existing EU law into UK law and allow the government to use so-called Henry VIII powers to change it without full parliamentary scrutiny.

The powers have been criticised by members on both sides of the House, and one of Labour’s amendments called for full debates before changes to any EU laws.

Shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook said the powers could be used to “chip away at rights, entitlements, protections and standards that the public enjoy and wish to retain”.

Conservative former Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed with Mr Pennycook, saying that laws of “very considerable importance” to the public would be brought to the “lowest possible status” without full scrutiny.

But Ken Clarke was the only Tory MP to vote for the amendment and it was defeated by 311 votes to 299 – with nine DUP MPs and two former Tories sitting as independents voting with the government.

‘Listening carefully’

Six more days of debates are required before completing the committee stage of the bill.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom is expected to confirm the dates later.

Solicitor general Robert Buckland said: “The Brexit process will in no way whatsoever be used to undermine or curtail the rights of workers that have been enshrined both in domestic law and in law by virtue of the EU.”

He also hinted that concessions may be made at the next stage in the progress of the bill – the report stage – when it returns to Parliament.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May said the government was “listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill”.

Theresa May hopes MPs can ‘come together’ on Brexit

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Theresa May says she hopes Parliament can “come together” despite MPs’ differences over Brexit strategy.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, she said the government was “listening carefully” to those who were trying to change its flagship EU bill.

It comes after rebel MPs vowed to oppose Downing Street’s bid to enshrine the precise date of Brexit in law.

Several Tories brushed off criticism of their stance, including being labelled “mutineers” in a newspaper attack.

The Daily Telegraph’s front page was also condemned by a government minister, and later in the Commons Mrs May was asked to agree that part of MPs’ jobs was to scrutinise legislation.

She replied that while the UK was definitely leaving the EU, there was a “lively debate” going on with strong views being aired on both sides of the House.

“We are listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill and I hope we can all come together to deliver on the decision that this country took,” she added.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is a key part of the government’s strategy for leaving the EU following last year’s referendum.

It aims to stop EU law from applying in the UK and avoid confusion on Brexit day – 29 March 2019 – by putting all existing EU law onto the UK statute book.

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But there have been hundreds of suggestions by MPs to change the way it is worded and the government only has a majority with the help of the 10 Democratic Unionist MPs.

Ex-minister Stephen Hammond told BBC Radio 5 live the bill, which is currently being debated line-by-line by MPs, was “the most important constitutional thing we will do for 50 years” adding: “We might as well do it right.”

The government were “boxing themselves into a corner” in using the bill to specify the exact date and time of Brexit – 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019 – he said, because the UK would be “hamstrung” if the negotiations needed to be extended at the last minute.

“It’s not about frustrating Brexit, it’s about getting the best economic deal for this country,” he added.

Mr Hammond said the Telegraph’s front page, picturing him and 14 colleagues with the headline “the Brexit mutineers”, was “silly” and criticised colleagues “lecturing” him on party loyalty.

Several more of those named hit back at the headline on Twitter.

Pro-EU ex-minister Anna Soubry, described it as a “blatant piece of bullying that goes to the very heart of democracy” while Bob Neill said he and his colleagues would “continue to work constructively for the best Brexit possible – that’s our duty – and what parliamentary democracy is all about.”

Also among the critics was Brexit Minister Steve Baker, who tweeted: “I regret any media attempts to divide our party.

“My Parliamentary colleagues have sincere suggestions to improve the Bill which we are working through and I respect them for that.”

‘Backdoor authorisation’

MPs began eight days of detailed scrutiny of the bill on Tuesday evening, with ministers seeing off the first attempts to change the legislation.

The debate continued on Wednesday, with the government winning a series of votes on subjects including employment rights, environmental protections and the status of EU law after Brexit.

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Speaking in the Commons for the first time since quitting as international development secretary last week, Priti Patel said MPs’ job was to deliver on the referendum result in as practical and open way as possible.

She said: “There are members tabling amendments and rightly so but what I don’t think we should listen to, really, is those who simply do not have the confidence in this House, in our democracy and also in our country going forward along with the suggestion we are incapable of governing ourselves.”

Labour’s Heidi Alexander made the case for the UK remaining in the EEA – which would give it full access to the single market but require it to accept freedom of movement rules.

Ministers, she argued, were seeking “backdoor authorisation” to leave the EEA at the same time as the EU – a sequence of events she described as an “economic suicide pact”.

Retaining EEA membership, she claimed, would give the UK more influence than a bespoke trade deal with the EU and would be a “simple and most surefire way… to stay close to the EU without actually being in it”.

But Solicitor General Robert Buckland said the public expected the UK to exit the “institutions of the EU” when they vote to leave last year and staying in the EEA was not compatible with that.

Meanwhile, German MEP Manfred Weber – a close ally of Angela Merkel – has said the next few days could be “decisive” in shaping the future direction of Brexit talks.

Speaking after meeting Theresa May in Downing Street, Mr Weber said he was more hopeful than before of progress but he said “concrete compromises” would be needed for the EU to agree to move on to the second phase of negotiations – focused on the two sides’ future relationship – in December.

Chevron says it will push for Myanmar human rights

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US oil giant Chevron has responded to criticisms over its partnership with a government accused by the United Nations of ethnic cleansing.

The firm has multibillion dollar energy investments in Myanmar.

About 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled ongoing violence in the country since August, the UN has said.

After years of pressure from activist investors, Chevron said it will work for “a business environment that respects human rights”.

“Chevron values the on-going dialogue with the stockholders on this critical issue of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar,” the firm wrote in a statement to the BBC.

“We believe that US investment is a strong mechanism for economic growth and development.

“We will continue to work with other US companies and the government to promote the value of US investment in Myanmar and the need to foster a business environment that respects human rights”.

Conflict zone

Chevron, with French oil giant Total, has oil and gas exploration projects in the resource-rich Rakhine Basin, as well as established projects in other parts of Myanmar.

The northern Rakhine state has been the site of alleged human rights abuses including rape, mass murder and the destruction of villages.

Criticisms have been levelled against the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who in October formed an emergency economic committee to resettle displaced refugees.

Foreign investors have to work in partnership with the country’s national Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) if they want to invest in the country’s still largely state-owned energy sector.

‘Reputational risk’

Activist Chevron investor Joshua Brockwell from Azzad Asset Management told the BBC: “There is concern for business assets in the region as well as reputational risks that go along with having your name associated with a country that is possibly engaged in genocide,”

Azzad Asset Management became the first major business to pressure Chevron since a senior UN official in September called the crisis “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”, amidst intensifying global attention.

The firm has asked Chevron to push the government to implement effective policy to bring peace to the region.

Azzad Asset Management has called upon the oil giant to consider “not doing business” in the country.

The US firm handles $53bn worth of assets, including funds from Chevron.

Chevron’s historic and current business involvement in the country was also questioned by Azzad Asset Management, Mr Brockwell said, after a closed conference call with Chevron in October.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine state and arriving in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh for more than a decade.

The latest flare-up of violence in August is blamed on a militant reaction to prolonged and intensifying fighting in Rakhine.

Human rights organisations report accounts of violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslims, including refugee eyewitnesses of their villages being burned down by the country’s military.

“Rape is an act and weapon of genocide”, UN senior official Pramila Patten said, responding to widespread accounts of sexual violence reported by Rakhine refugees arriving in Bangladesh.

China also has major state-owned investments in Rakhine; a $7.2bn deep sea port, and gas pipelines which run under Rakhine State, pumping gas from the Bay of Bengal into China.

India also has a multibillion dollar multi-transport hub in the country.

‘Rakhine Economic Zone’

The creation of a committee for a ‘Rakhine Economic Zone’ was announced in October, to develop key economic areas of Rakhine State, including fishing and agriculture.

“Myanmar’s leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi fully understands the terrible things that have been happening in Rakhine State and is really committed to bring about something better,” Sean Turnell, special economic advisor to Myanmar’s de facto leader told the BBC.

Mr Turnell said the economic redevelopment was to resettle Rohingya refugees.

“Of course we’re talking about the Rohingya. Both those returning from Bangladesh, but also the [internally displaced] local Rakhine population.

“This is a recognition that in a country as poor as Myanmar, the people with money are basically businesspeople.

“But of course, economics isn’t everything”.

Within days of the committee’s first meeting, Aung San Suu Kyi made her first visit to Rakhine since August with one of the country’s most prolific businessmen.

Suspicions

But there are suspicions on many sides. Philippines-based Bob Herrera-Lim from Teneo Intelligence, which analyses business risk in South East Asia, told the BBC:

“There are definitely suspicions as to whether or not this is simply for show.

“A large amount of Myanmar’s natural resources, like oil and gas, forests and minerals, are in conflict zones. So there will have to be improvements in governance and perceptions of Myanmar.”

Foreign Investment

“So far we haven’t seen any significant pullout in foreign investments”, Mr Herrera-Lim continues.

But there has been a slowdown in new extensions to existing projects, says one key Myanmar investor.

Thura Ko Ko’s company YGA Capital has $100m worth of active investment in Myanmar.

“We still see the long term potential of Myanmar given the population size, increase in consumerism, the telecomm revolution,” he said.

“Having said that, there is a lot of political noise on the Rakhine situation. It’s fair to say our investors are aware of that and staying close to it.

“Some of the new gas exploration projects may have dialled back a little bit, but a good chunk of that may not be politically driven – and just the nature of the sector as oil and gas prices have come down globally.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Government considers diplomatic protection

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The Foreign Office is still considering whether it will give diplomatic protection to a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held by Tehran since April 2016 after being accused of spying – charges she denies.

Her husband raised the issue of her being given diplomatic protection in a meeting with the foreign secretary.

The Foreign Office said lawyers would discuss the issue but said the question was whether it would help her case.

Richard Ratcliffe met with Boris Johnson after the foreign secretary said during a Commons committee hearing that Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe was in Iran to “train journalists” – which could lead to her five-year jail term being doubled.

He has since apologised for the remarks – made on 1 November – and retracted “any suggestion she was there in a professional capacity”.

Her family have always maintained she was on holiday with her daughter.

Mr Ratcliffe told a press conference after the meeting that diplomatic protection – which allows a state to take diplomatic action on behalf of a national – would be “important and helpful”.

The protection would signal that the UK is treating the case as a formal, legal dispute between the UK and Iran.

But he said the Foreign Office expressed reservations about whether the protection would help his wife’s case.

“They have agreed to answer the questions and then for the lawyers to sit down and talk it through. Both legally and then also practically.

“But certainly, I think it is an important thing for us to be pushing for.”

The Foreign Office said its lawyers would meet in the coming fortnight to discuss the issue further.


What is diplomatic protection?

By James Landale, BBC News Diplomatic Correspondent

When a British citizen is jailed overseas they normally get basic consular help from the local embassy, including contacting family, legal support and medical help.

Conferring diplomatic protection on the citizen would ratchet up their status, so that diplomats working on the case would no longer treat it as a consular matter but a formal, legal dispute between Britain and that country, conducted under the rules of international law.

The citizen’s interests would be taken as those of the state.

Diplomatic protection is very different from diplomatic immunity. The latter is something given to diplomats to ensure their safe passage and protection from prosecution.

What is diplomatic protection?


Mr Ratcliffe said he discussed with the foreign secretary the possibility of a joint trip to Iran before the end of the year.

He said Mr Johnson had no fixed date for his planned visit to Iran, but the foreign secretary was “keen” for him to travel with him.

He also spoke about the health of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who he said had found lumps in her breasts.

“She talks about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I absolutely believe that’s true.

“I think it’s important I don’t exaggerate anything in the media and I’m not melodramatic, but she is in a difficult place.”

Mr Ratcliffe’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, who joined him in the meeting, said he had failed to obtain a visa to visit Iran over the last 19 months and had not seen his daughter Gabriella, who is living in the country with her maternal grandparents, during that time.

She said they had communicated over Skype but his daughter had lost the ability to speak English.

“So, if he gets to go with the foreign secretary, he gets to see his daughter for the first time in 19 months. And if he’s there, he has the right to visit Nazanin in prison as her relative,” she said.

Ms Siddiq added that Mr Johnson had made clear he would “certainly” push to see Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe himself in prison if he goes to Iran.

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The Foreign Office said the meeting had been “positive”.

It said the British ambassador in Iran had raised the case with the country again, urging for consular access, appropriate medical treatment, a decision on Mr Ratcliffe’s visa application and access for him to visit his wife if a trip takes place.

“The foreign secretary concluded the meeting by saying that no stone would be left unturned in the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and that of our other dual nationals detained in Iran,” the Foreign Office added.

Social housing: Ministers move debt to boost building

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Plans to encourage housing associations to borrow money to invest in new homes are being announced as part of a fresh government house-building drive.

The government is to take about £70bn of housing associations’ debt from its balance sheet, allowing them to borrow without affecting overall debt figures.

Housing providers said changing their financial status would help them secure the “long-term finance” needed.

But Labour said there was no coherent plan to address the “housing crisis”.

Thursday’s announcement will see housing associations reclassified as private rather than public bodies which ministers hope will provide greater certainty and allow them to raise money more cheaply.

It comes a week before Chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn Budget, in which support for housing is expected to figure prominently.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to take “personal charge” of the government’s strategy to address what is widely regarded as the chronic shortage of new affordable homes being built, particularly for rent.

In her much-maligned leader’s speech to the Conservative conference last month, she promised to kick start a new generation of council house building – by making available an additional £2bn for social housing, while leveraging an extra £5bn in resources for councils and housing associations.

The state, she said, must get “back in the business” of building subsidised homes for those not able to buy.

And it must do more to increase the supply of land for development and overcome other obstacles.

But critics said the sums being allocated were modest.

And there have been reports of tensions within the cabinet about whether the government should be borrowing tens of billions to directly fund more schemes.

‘Rootless generation’

In a speech in Bristol on Thursday, Mr Javid will say the decision to remove housing association debt from the UK balance sheet will help create a more “stable investment environment” for the thousands of providers.

In 2015, the Office for National Statistics reclassified housing associations as public bodies because of the way they were funded.

That decision was greeted with dismay by the sector. It said the government’s focus on reining in overall debt levels could have a negative impact on house-building.

At the time, ministers said they would consider the best way to let housing associations act as private sector bodies and to take advantage of low interest rates, to borrow, to invest.

Mr Javid will say the rethink by the ONS, along with other initiatives, will help “lay the foundation” for thousands and thousands of new homes.

But he will warn new thinking is required to stop “a rootless generation” of tenants drifting from one short-term tenancy to another.


By BBC’s Home Editor Mark Easton

In 2015, the Office for National Statistics shocked the government by announcing that ministerial control of housing associations had become so intrusive they could no longer be seen as charities or private businesses.

Overnight, all their borrowing was added to the public debt.

Now, after the drafting of new regulations currently going through Parliament, the ONS has agreed the government has become hands-off enough again to take all that debt away.

The announcement of the change, before the new regulations have come into law, appears to be part of a move to encourage Philip Hammond to offer more help to the housing sector.

Whether such pressure will move the Treasury to loosen the purse strings remains to be seen.


“There are many, many faults in our housing market, dating back many many years. If you only fix one you will make some progress but not enough. This is a big problem and we have to think big.”

On a visit to a housing development in north London, Mrs May will say successive governments have failed to build enough homes and those that have been built have not been done quickly enough.

“This will be a long journey and it will take time for us to fix the broken housing market,” she will say.

More than 1.2 million families in England are currently on the waiting for council accommodation while in 2015-6 only 6,800 social rented homes were completed.

The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said there were encouraging signs – with 50,000 new social homes being started in 2016-17, a 13% increase on the year before.

But the Local Government Association said councils should be given the same freedom to borrow to build.

Labour, which pledged ahead of June’s general election to build more than 60,000 social homes for rent within two years, said the Tories record over the past seven years was one of failure.

Labour suspends deputy leader Alex Rowley during conduct probe

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Scottish Labour has suspended MSP Alex Rowley from the party at Holyrood amid claims about his conduct.

The Fife MSP stepped aside from his roles as interim and deputy leader after allegations he had sent abusive text messages to a former partner.

In a statement, Mr Rowley rejected the allegations and said he would work to clear his name.

The party subsequently announced it would be removing the whip from him for the duration of the investigation.

Mr Rowley referred himself to the party’s investigation unit and announced he would step aside from the leadership after claims were published in The Scottish Sun.

He had been absent from the Scottish Parliament for the past two weeks, with party bosses citing a chest infection. Fellow MSP Jackie Baillie, who had been filling in for him at first minister’s questions, has now been appointed interim leader.

Suspension calls

After former leader Kezia Dugdale said she would have suspended Mr Rowley had she still been in charge, both leadership candidates – Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard – said he should be suspended.

Party business manager James Kelly subsequently announced that the MSP would have the whip withdrawn in the Scottish Parliament throughout the probe.

In a statement Mr Rowley said: “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name.

“These allegations must be properly and thoroughly investigated in line with our party’s procedures – and I will refer myself to the party so such an investigation can take place.

“While that investigation is carried out, I will step aside as deputy leader, as well as interim leader, of the Scottish Labour party.”

Mr Rowley, who previously served as election agent for former prime minister Gordon Brown, has been standing in as the Scottish Labour leader since Ms Dugdale stood down in August.

In a statement, Ms Dugdale said that had she remained in charge, she would have suspended Mr Rowley from the party while the “serious and deeply concerning” allegations were investigated.

This was subsequently echoed by both candidates to replace her as leader. Mr Leonard said suspension would be “appropriate”, while Mr Sarwar said there were “clear procedures” which meant he should be suspended “while a robust, fair and thorough investigation is carried out”.

The party then announced he would be suspended from the Labour whip in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Kelly said: “It is important that the investigation into these allegations is fair and transparent, and the matter will be thoroughly investigated using the Labour Party’s internal complaints procedure.

“However, in light of the serious nature of the allegations, Labour at Holyrood has taken the decision to remove the whip from Alex Rowley for the period of this investigation.”

The winner of the party’s leadership contest is due to be announced this weekend.

Mr Rowley’s position as interim leader had previously been questioned when he was caught on tape backing Mr Leonard as the “best candidate”.

Price of Football 2017: Premier League clubs cut or freeze majority of prices

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Huddersfield Town fans

More than 80% of ticket prices in the Premier League have been either reduced or frozen for the 2017-18 season, the BBC’s Price of Football study has found.

Average season ticket prices across English football’s top flight are at their lowest levels since 2013, having fallen for the second consecutive year following a record £8.3bn global TV rights deal signed last season.

However, replica shirt prices have continued to rise in the Premier League this season, with the average adult shirt now costing more than £50 for the first time, while the average cost of a junior shirt has topped £40.

Now in its seventh year, the BBC Sport study requested information from 232 clubs across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Europe, which is a wider remit than any previous years.

For the first time, we also asked clubs to provide information on whether they offer special ticket prices for young adult fans aged between 16-24.

Premier League away fans are still guaranteed to pay no more than £30 on their travels after a price cap was introduced last season.

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The average cost of the dearest adult away ticket comes in at just under £30, with some clubs opting for further reductions – Southampton charge £20 for all away fans visiting St Mary’s.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, Stoke, Watford and West Brom also charge less than the £30 cap.

In a statement, the Premier League added: “This season, more than half of all Premier League tickets will cost £30 or less.

“The hard work of clubs to make Premier League football available to a range of supporters, combined with the impressive commitment of match-going fans, has resulted in record stadium occupancy of more than 96% for three consecutive seasons.”

The average cheapest season ticket prices offered by clubs is down, from £472.75 to £464. The most expensive average season ticket is also cheaper this season, down just over 2% from £864 to £843.58. That brings the average down to levels lower than in 2013.

The average cost of the cheapest matchday ticket has increased from £29.05 to £29.30.

Supporters are also paying more for food and drink at Premier League grounds.

More than half of clubs increased the price of their pies, while the average cost of a cup of tea has also gone up.

Price of pie, tea, programme graphic

The Huddersfield effect

Newly-promoted Huddersfield Town offer one of the cheapest season tickets across the English and Scottish leagues.

More than 4,000 fans benefited from the chairman’s ‘Premier Pledge’ this year, paying just £100 to see all their home league games.

When Dean Hoyle took charge of the club in 2009, he promised that fans who held season tickets during his time as chairman would pay the reduced rate for the card if the club reached the top flight.

Huddersfield’s most expensive season ticket is £299 – the same as the cheapest season ticket offered by any of the other clubs (Manchester City) – but the majority of season tickets were sold for £199. At £199, fans are paying £10.47 to watch each Premier League home game at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The Yorkshire club’s prices reduce the averages across the league, with their highest single ticket price for an adult home fan being £30 – the cheapest in this category in the league.

The Terriers have however increased the prices of their cheapest home (from £15 to £30) and away single tickets, along with pies, programmes and both junior and adult shirts since last season.

Liverpool fans

What else did we discover?

  • The cheapest day out in men’s football in England is at Liverpool, where a ticket, pie, tea and programme could cost as little as £18.40. That is thanks largely to the availability of 500 £9 tickets at Anfield for fans living in the L postcode area.
  • Arsenal have the most expensive matchday ticket at £95.50 – but this has been reduced from last season. Their season ticket includes all home Premier League games and seven European and FA Cup games.
  • The cheapest pie in the Premier League is at Chelsea, for £2.50 – but that has to be ordered through an app. The most expensive pie is at Tottenham, but the £4.30 price is set by Wembley, which is their home this season.
  • As in previous years, three London clubs have the most expensive season tickets – Arsenal (£1,768), Tottenham (£1,700), Chelsea (£1,250) – but Arsenal and Tottenham’s have been reduced and Chelsea’s has stayed the same.
  • Huddersfield’s £100 season ticket is bettered only by Woking and Sutton United in the National League, who offer fans a £99 season ticket. Boreham Wood also offered a much cheaper season ticket at £100 this season.

Premier League clubs are continuing to see the benefits of their bumper TV deal – which includes £5bn for domestic rights and another £3bn globally. Each top-flight club will receive a minimum of £100m.

In this year’s study, we contacted 232 clubs across 23 leagues in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and on the continent.

We have analysed ticket prices in more categories this season too – cheapest matchday, dearest matchday, cheapest online, dearest online, cheapest away ticket, dearest away ticket, cheapest and dearest season tickets – as well as collecting data for the prices of teas, pies, programmes and junior and adult shirts.

The cost of kits

  • The cost of replica football shirts continues to rise, for both adult and junior ranges, by more than 2%. The average adult shirt in the Premier League will cost you £50.90, while the junior shirt average is £40.25.
  • Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham sell the most expensive adult shirts at £60. Manchester United sell the most expensive junior shirt at £50.
  • Burnley offer the cheapest adult and junior shirts at £40 and £32 respectively.
  • By way of comparison, Aston Villa’s adult and junior shirts are the most expensive in the Championship, at £55 and £45.
  • AFC Fylde in the National League and Sheffield FC Ladies sell the cheapest adult shirts across the leagues at £19.99.

What about other leagues?

  • The Championship’s average lowest matchday ticket price has fallen from £22.11 to £20.58. The average cost of an away ticket, though, remains the highest in any league in Britain.
  • Matchday and season ticket average costs in League One have been reduced – for both the cheapest and most expensive ranges.
  • In League Two, the average cost of both the cheapest and most expensive season tickets rose.
  • Away tickets in the Scottish Premiership have increased, both in the cheapest and most expensive brackets.
  • Season ticket prices have increased in Wales, but it remains the cheapest league to watch men’s football.

How do European prices compare?

  • Matchday and season ticket prices tend to be cheaper on the continent. You can pay as little as 15 euros (£13) to watch Bayern Munich, 12.50 euros (£11) for Ajax or 10 euros (£8.90) at Paris St-Germain. Juventus and Barcelona charge from 25 to 33 euros (£22 to £29) respectively.
  • Replica shirts, on the other hand, can cost more in Europe. Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax‘s adult shirts are priced at 89.95 euros (£80).

Other Premier League offers

  • All of Brighton‘s home and away matchday tickets and season tickets include travel to the Amex Stadium from within a designated travel zone.
  • Leicester fans get free cupcakes for the chairman’s birthday and free mince pies at the home Christmas fixture.
  • Spurs offer a Wembley Pass this season for fans who do not have a full season ticket and that gives them a discounted price for all home league games.
  • Watford fans living more than 75 miles from Vicarage Road get to choose 13 of the 19 home league games for a reduced price.

Food and drink

More than half of clubs in the Premier League increased the cost of their pies. Only West Ham reduced the price.

The average price rise for a pie this season is £3.65, up 4.58% – which is higher than the 3% rate of inflation for October 2017 as measured by the Consumer Prices Index.

The average cost of a cup of tea at a Premier League ground is £2.12 – that is 3p cheaper than in the Championship. Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United charge the most for tea (£2.50).

Supreme Court backs Scottish minimum alcohol pricing

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The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol, rejecting a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in court challenges.

In a unanimous judgment, seven Supreme Court judges said the legislation did not breach European Union law.

The judges ruled the measure was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink” by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

‘Absolutely delighted’

The whisky association had claimed the move was a “restriction on trade” and there were more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse.

After the Supreme Court verdict, ministers are expected to make Scotland the first country in the world to establish a minimum price per unit of alcohol, possibly early next year.

A small number of countries, including Canada and Russia, have some form of minimum price structure, according to the Institute for Alcohol Studies.

Many others have rules aimed at restricting cheap alcohol sales.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Absolutely delighted that minimum pricing has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“This has been a long road – and no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics – but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health.”

The Scotch Whisky Association said it accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling.

How does minimum pricing work?

The Scottish government’s aim is to reduce the amount that problem drinkers consume simply by raising the price of the strongest, cheapest alcohol.

The move is not a tax or duty increase. It is a price hike for the cheapest drink, with any extra cash going to the retailer.

Last year, Alcohol Focus Scotland claimed the maximum recommended weekly intake of alcohol (14 units) could be bought for just £2.52.

It said super-strength cider and own-brand vodka and whisky could be purchased for as little as 18p per unit of alcohol.

The 50p-per-unit minimum outlined by the legislation would raise the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine (9.4 units of alcohol) to £4.69, a four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager (8 units) would cost at least £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky (28 units of alcohol) could not be sold for less than £14.

Normal strength cider (5% ABV) would cost at least £2.50 a litre but a super-strength version (7.5% ABV) would have to cost a minimum of £3.75 for a litre.

  • £13.13 Vodka (70cl bottle at 37.5% ABV)

  • £1 Lager (500ml can at 4% ABV)

  • £2.50 Cider (1 litre bottle at 5% – normal strength)

  • £4.69 Red wine (75cl bottle at 12.5% ABV)

Off-sales and supermarkets

Minimum pricing will not raise the prices of all alcoholic drinks because many are already above the threshold.

Pubs and bars are unlikely to be affected as they usually charge much more than 50p per unit.

The aim is to hit consumption of strong alcohol which is sold at low prices.

The new laws would be “experimental” and expire after six years unless renewed.

Supporters of minimum pricing believe the move is necessary to tackle the country’s binge drinking culture, with Scots buying 20% more alcohol on average than people in England or Wales.

What the Supreme Court said

The judges at the Supreme Court rejected the Scotch Whisky Association’s claim that an excise duty or tax would be an equally effective way of achieving the government’s objectives.

Their judgment said minimum pricing targeted “the health hazards of cheap alcohol and the groups most affected in a way that an increase in excise or VAT does not”.

The judges said a tax would increase prices “across the board” and not just the cheap, strong alcohol which is the focus of the legislation.

They also agreed that minimum pricing was “easier to understand and simpler to enforce”.

Minimum pricing would not allow retailers to “absorb” the cost in the way a duty rise would, they said.

What has the reaction been to the verdict?

Scotland’s health minister Shona Robison said: “This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol.

“In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy.”

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said: “We will now look to the Scottish and UK governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch Whisky as a consequence of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the Scottish government would have his party’s support on implementing the legislation.

He said: “We look forward to seeing whether or not minimum pricing can make any impact on Scotland’s complex and damaging relationship with alcohol.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the decision was a “massive victory for Scotland’s health”.

She said: “Minimum unit pricing is effective because it targets the kind of drinking most likely to lead to the greatest harm.

“The price of a pint in the pub won’t change but the price of strong white ciders and own brand spirits that are mainly bought by dependent drinkers will rise markedly.”

Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: “As doctors we see every day the severe harms caused by alcohol misuse and the damage it causes to individuals and their families.

“There are no easy solutions, but minimum unit pricing can make a significant contribution to reducing these harms and saving lives.”

Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert Linda Bauld said: “Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer.

“It’s a shame expensive legal action has delayed this welcome measure.”

BBC Reality Check: Does minimum pricing work?

Canada is one of the very few countries to have brought in a form of minimum pricing for alcohol, where it’s known as a “Social Reference Price”.

Each of Canada’s 10 provinces is able set the lowest price per litre that alcoholic drinks can be sold for in shops.

Canadian academic studies suggest that the policy has successfully reduced alcohol consumption.

According to research by Tim Stockwell at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, a 10% increase in average minimum prices in one province led to an 8% decrease in alcohol consumption per person.

The price rise was also associated with a 9% decrease in patients being hospitalised for alcohol related diseases.

But other factors could also be contributing, such as the ageing population. Older Canadians tend to drink less, which might also explain the fall in consumption.

It is also difficult to draw a direct comparison between Canada and Scotland.

In Canada the extra revenue generated by the minimum pricing goes to the government rather than the retailers. This means retailers in Scotland may have an extra incentive to increase sales because they will profit directly.

Timeline: Minimum pricing for alcohol

The Supreme Court ruling was the final stage of a five-year legal battle, with the cases already passing through courts in Edinburgh and Luxembourg. After an initial challenge at the Court of Session failed in 2013, the SWA appealed to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The European court said the legislation might break EU law if other tax options would prove as effective, but said it was “ultimately for the national court to determine” whether they did.

The Scottish court subsequently backed the measures for a second time, ruling that tax measures “would be less effective than minimum pricing”.

However, in December 2016 the Court of Session judges then allowed the SWA to go to the Supreme Court to challenge their ruling.

May 2012: MSPs pass Scots booze price plan

May 2013: Minimum drink price challenge fails

December 2015: Minimum drink price ‘may breach EU law’

October 2016: Courts back minimum alcohol price

December 2016: Whisky firms allowed minimum price appeal

July 2017: Supreme Court judges retire to consider minimum pricing appeal

What’s the situation elsewhere in the UK?

The UK government supported the devolved Scottish administration during the legal process, arguing that minimum pricing was compatible with EU law.

In 2012, then Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to introduce minimum pricing – but the plan was shelved a year later in the face of fierce opposition from the drinks industry.

The Home Office has said the policy remains under review and calls for its reintroduction in England are likely to be reignited when it is implemented in Scotland.

Legislation to establish a minimum price is currently under active consideration by the National Assembly for Wales and by the Irish Seanad (the upper house of the Irish parliament).

In Northern Ireland, former Health Minister Jim Wells had been seeking to introduce minimum pricing before resigning in April 2015.

Isabel Dos Santos sacked from Angola state oil firm

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The president of Angola, Joao Lourenco, has fired the daughter of his predecessor as head of the country’s state oil company Sonangol.

Isabel Dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos, is Africa’s richest woman.

Mr Dos Santos was Africa’s second longest-serving leader until he stepped down in September after 37 years.

President Lourenco, known as JLo, has promised to tackle corruption

Correspondents say he wants to weaken the influence of the Dos Santos family.

The country is under increased scrutiny since it was revealed, in the Paradise Papers leak, that its national sovereign wealth state has paid tens of millions in fees to a businessman, who works closely with Isabel’s brother Jose Filomeno.

Angola is Africa’s second-biggest oil producer but its economy has been hit by a drop in oil prices.

Isabel Dos Santos dismissed criticism of her appointment to the head of Sonangol in 2016, later telling the BBC she had faced prejudice:

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“The key reason for my appointment is because I come from the business sector and I’ve had a track record of building business,” she told BBC Focus on Africa radio.

Earlier this month, she was the only African woman named in Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017.

Dubai Airshow: Airbus seals order with US firm Indigo

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Airbus has struck its biggest single deal with an order for 430 aircraft worth $49.5bn at list prices from US investment firm Indigo Partners.

Indigo, whose interests include Europe’s Wizz Air, US-based Frontier, and Mexico’s Volaris, will buy Airbus’s A320neo family of aircraft.

The order on the penultimate day of the Dubai Airshow comes after what could have been a difficult week for Airbus.

On Sunday, Emirates appeared to snub Airbus over an A380 superjumbo deal.

Indigo’s managing partner, Bill Franke, 80, flew to Dubai for the signing ceremony, although there are still final details of the deal to be worked out.

He said these should be completed by the end of the year.

‘Fits the bill’

The Airbus aircraft, whose wings are made in the UK, will be deployed across Indigo’s airlines, which also includes JetSmart in Chile.

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They operate what Mr Franke called an “ultra-low cost model… To be successful you have to have a plane that can be worked hard. Airbus fits the bill.”

The Indigo deal more than doubles Airbus’s existing order book for the year, which stood at about 290 aircraft as of the end of October.

Wednesday’s deal beats a 2015 order for 250 single-aisle planes valued at $27bn by Indian budget carrier IndiGo. The two companies are unrelated.

Despite the headline list price of the Indigo order, airlines typically get discounts on bulk-buys. “Regretfully, Indigo will not be paying $49.5bn,” said Airbus sale chief John Leahy when asked about discounts.

Clinching the deal was seen as a personal triumph for Mr Leahy, who retires at the end of the year after 20 years at Airbus and who had said he hoped to clinch one more big order before going.

He has sold more than 15,000 jets worth an estimated $1.7 trillion.

Emirates concerns

The Airbus announcement beats an order unveiled earlier this week by arch rival Boeing, which secured a $40bn deal for 787 Dreamliners from Emirates.

That announcement, on Sunday, was due to be unveiled alongside an Emirates’ order for A380s.

But the A380 announcement was cancelled minutes before a press conference convened. It is thought that Emirates asked for last-minute changes.

Mr Leahy declined to say if the A380 deal could happen this week. “You’ll just have to walk over there [to Emirates’ show chalet] and ask them,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Boeing on Wednesday announced an order from Gulf airline flydubai for 225 medium-haul 737 MAX aircraft with a list price of $27bn, hailing it as the “largest-ever single-aisle jet order” from a Middle East carrier.


Analysis by Dominic O’Connell, Today business presenter

Airbus’s celebration of Indigo’s massive order for the A320 NEO – which at $49.5bn is its biggest ever single deal – will be muted.

The Dubai show has shown up the sharply contrasting fortunes at each end of the European plane maker’s product range.

Its smallest plane, the A320, is selling like hot cakes. It can’t make them fast enough.

The largest plane, the superjumbo A380, can’t find a buyer. Airbus can’t make them slowly enough.

Read more from Dominic here.