Zahawi’s latest intervention on cost of living “pathetic”, Reynolds declares

Katie Neame

Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds has branded Nadhim Zahawi’s latest intervention on the cost-of-living crisis “pathetic” and demanded that the government act now to deal with spiralling energy costs.

The Chancellor said nobody should be cut off this winter because they cannot afford to pay their energy bills. Zahawi promised there would be additional help for those struggling but reiterated that it would fall to the new Prime Minister – due to be announced on Monday – to set out any measures.

In an interview with Sky News this morning, the Shadow Business Secretary declared: “People in this country cannot, in the main, afford domestic energy bills of £4,000 a year. Businesses cannot cope, large and small, with the kind of energy prices and bills they’re already facing. Action is required now.”

Reynolds added: “I know the Conservative Party is picking its new leader. It’s lost in its own world. They need to understand, with respect, that the rest of the world, the real world, cannot cope with the schedule they’ve got. They’ve got the real-world pressures to face and that requires reassurance and action now.

“And frankly, saying it’s coming down the line, we can’t tell you what it is. It will take weeks after this announcement’s made of the new Prime Minister for anything to happen. For it be implemented will take even longer.”

Asked whether he welcomed Zahawi’s statement that nobody should be left without power if they cannot afford to pay, the Labour frontbencher said: “That’s really the minimum we might reasonably expect.

“I thought, to be frank, that interview was pathetic. You’d think it was an interview with some disconnected commentator looking at the energy market and the state of the UK. That’s the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

“Promises of something maybe happening in the future will not do it, because the pressure and the problems are here now and we’re losing businesses and people are frantically worried they won’t get through the winter,” Reynolds stressed.

Ofgem announced last week that the energy price cap will rise by 80% to £3,549 in October, bringing the cap to almost triple what it was at the same time last year.

Ofgem said it would not make predictions for the next price cap change, due to take place in January 2023, because the market is “too volatile”. The energy regulator warned, however, that prices “could get significantly worse through 2023”.

Commenting following the announcement, Rachel Reeves warned that the Conservatives “face an urgent choice” to “carry on letting oil and gas companies make huge profits” or to “act now and stop the energy price cap rising”.

The Shadow Chancellor said: “People deserve a government that can meet the scale of this national emergency – not this spectacle of a Tory leadership race or a Prime Minister that put his out of office on months ago.”

Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak went head to head in a final hustings with Tory Party members on Wednesday. The ballot of party members closes on Friday, with the winner due to be announced at 12.30pm on Monday.

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