Truss energy bills plan “loading” burden onto working people, Starmer declares

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Keir Starmer has accused the government of “loading the burden” of the cost-of-living crisis onto working people after Liz Truss set out her plan to respond to the spiralling cost of energy.

The Prime Minister announced a new ‘energy price guarantee’ today that she said would ensure a typical household pays no more than £2,500 per year for their energy for the next two years from October 1st.

Truss said the move would save a typical household £1,000 per year on top of the £400 support payment announced by the government back in May. She also confirmed plans to temporarily suspend green levies on energy bills.

She told the Commons that the government would bring forward emergency legislation to deliver the policy and that Kwasi Kwarteng would set out the expected costs as part of a fiscal statement later this month.

The Prime Minister announced an equivalent price guarantee for businesses for the next six months, adding that further support would be provided to vulnerable sectors, including hospitality, after that period.

Addressing the Commons following the announcement, the Labour leader said: “We’re in the middle of a national emergency. People are really scared and families don’t know if they can warm their homes this winter, and businesses ask if they can keep the lights on.

“That is why the Labour Party spent the summer fighting for a price freeze, so that no household would pay a penny more on their bills.”

Starmer highlighted that Labour’s plan had been “dismissed” as “handouts” by opponents. Truss rejected Labour’s plan during the Tory leadership campaign, comparing it to a “sticking plaster” and stressing: “What’s not right is throwing money at the problem without dealing with the root cause.”

Starmer said: “Those objections could never last. The Prime Minister had no choice. No government can stand by while millions of families fall into poverty, whilst businesses shut their doors and the economy falls to ruin.”

“The real question the government faces, the political question is, who is going to pay,” Starmer declared, highlighting that energy producers are estimated to make £170bn in unexpected profits over the next two years.

Truss again confirmed her opposition to a windfall tax during today’s debate, saying the government “will not be giving in to the leader of the opposition” as such a move would “undermine the national interest” by discouraging investment.

Starmer said it was “ridiculous” to claim that a windfall tax would deter investment, arguing that the Prime Minister is “driven by dogma, and it’s working people that will pay for that dogma”.

He said “every pound the Prime Minister’s government refuses to raise in windfall taxes” is an additional pound of borrowing, “loading the burden of the cost-of-living crisis onto working people”.

Starmer told MPs: “It’s a very simply question of whose side are you on.” He declared that the government want to “protect the excess profits”, while Labour wants to “protect working people”.

Starmer argued that the UK had been more exposed to the energy crisis because of a “failure to prepare, a failure to increase our energy independence, a failure to rapidly decrease our reliance on fossil fuels”.

“Fracking and a dash for gas in the North Sea will not cut bills, nor strength our energy security. But they will drive a coach and horses through our efforts to fight the looming climate crisis,” the Labour leader emphasised.

Truss announced in her speech that the current ban on fracking would be lifted. She said the move would enable gas to be flowing in six months where there is local support. Truss also announced a new oil and gas licensing round, which she claimed would lead to more than 100 new licences.

Commenting on the government’s proposals, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Freezing energy bills this autumn is essential for families and to protect jobs and businesses. But the Prime Minister is making the wrong people pay.

“She should have imposed a much larger windfall tax on profiteering oil and gas giants. And she should have required all firms getting help with energy bills to commit to no lay-offs for the lifetime of the help, to protect livelihoods.

O’Grady said Truss “needs to do more to help families”, adding: “That means a real plan to get wages rising, a big boost to universal credit, child benefit and pensions, and a massive rollout of home improvements to cut bills. And it’s time to bring energy retail into public ownership to make sure this crisis never happens again.”

GMB national secretary Andy Prendergast said the announcement “only scratches the surface” of what is needed to ensure the UK’s long-term energy security, declaring: “It is a stain on this government that our nation’s energy supplies are in such a vulnerable state. The Tories have been in office for 12 years.

“Their failures to build new nuclear power stations, to protect and utilise our gas storage capacity and willingness to engage in political groupthink on domestic and offshore resources means we are playing catch-up in the race to defend ourselves against the global energy crisis.”

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