Government ‘will knock some heads together’ in crisis talks with energy bosses

Education Secretary James Cleverly confirmed the meeting as he sought to downplay concerns over energy blackouts this winter.

10 August 2022

Crisis talks to “knock some heads together” will take place between energy sector bosses and the Government after the price cap was forecast to hit more than £4,200 in January.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will ask gas and electricity company executives to submit a breakdown of expected profits and payouts as well as investment plans for the next three years.

Education Secretary James Cleverly confirmed the meeting as he sought to downplay concerns over energy blackouts this winter.

The Cabinet minister said the UK is in a “better position than many” when it comes to domestic energy production but cautioned: “It’s not going to be easy.”

James Cleverly
James Cleverly (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Leaked Government documents have warned a “reasonable worst-case scenario” could see outages for homes and businesses in January if there is a combination of below-average temperatures and a drop in gas imports, according to reports.

In a new dire outlook for households, Cornwall Insight said bills are set to soar to around £3,582 in October, from £1,971 previously, before rising even further in the new year.

There has been widespread anger at Shell, BP and British Gas owner Centrica announcing bumper financial results while households struggle with soaring bills.

Mr Cleverly told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB): “The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Business Secretary are actually calling in the leaders of those big energy companies to knock some heads together and basically hold them to account about what they’re going to do with those profits.

“The increase in energy costs has been driven by the war in Ukraine and a global crunch, this is affecting everyone pretty much across the world, everyone in the developing world is seeing those energy bills go up.

“What we need to do is make sure that we have a short, medium and long-term plan, so the Chancellor and the Business Secretary are getting those energy companies in as part of the short-term response.

“Our system means that once the Prime Minister has said he is going to stand down there is a well-established principle, which is that an outgoing prime minister should not make very big policy-changing decisions.”

Asked if people should be braced for energy blackouts this winter, Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “We’ve got to understand that we are in a global market, we are in a global energy market, and the things which are affecting us are affecting everyone around the world.

“We are in a better position than many in terms of our domestic energy production and there is every reason to believe that we can get through this.

“It’s not going to be easy, but we are resilient, we’ve seen through the Covid situation, we are a resourceful, resilient, agile country and will continue to be so.”

Greg Jackson, founder of energy company Octopus Energy, said households are “safe” from possible blackouts this winter.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the reality is that domestic supply is safe and that industry, from time to time – sometimes driven by prices, by the way – voluntarily reduce their energy usage.

“So we have a terrible price crisis, but I think the UK is more fortunate than many of our European neighbours that we’ve got more resilient supply.”

Consumer champion Martin Lewis called on the two Conservative leadership candidates to set out how they will tackle the energy crisis to alleviate the “mental health damage” facing millions in the UK.

Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss hit out at “bizarre” proposals to agree support for rising energy bills with the Government and her rival Rishi Sunak before the contest is over.

Mr Lewis told GMB: “What we’re facing here is a financial emergency that risks lives.

“I accept the point that Boris Johnson is running a zombie Government and can’t do much, but the two candidates – one of them will be our prime minister – they need to get together in the national interest to tell us the bare minimum of what they will do.

“What we need to hear now – because the mental health damage for millions of people who are panicked about this is manifest – is we need to hear accurate plans.”

For Labour, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson told BBC Breakfast it is “clear that greater action is going to be needed” to fight rising energy costs.

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