In last week’s column, I wrote about the international and domestic causes of rising energy bills, and called upon the Government to act quickly to protect consumers. As Shadow Business Secretary, this week, alongside Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, I’ve been proud to present Labour’s concrete plan to prevent British families and businesses bearing the brunt of the energy crisis.
Under our plan, Labour would take fully-funded measures to reduce the expected price rise in April, cutting VAT on gas and electric bills to save most households around £200 a year or more. We would also target extra support to the squeezed middle, pensioners and the lowest earners, who would all get help to the tune of up to £600 off the sky hill bills currently expected.
This action would prevent the ticking time bomb of a national fuel poverty crisis that could see people more for their spring bills than their winter ones, and making difficult decisions family budget by family budget to ensure skyrocketing energy bills don’t topple households who have been just about managing into real financial difficulties.
But we also know that short term fixes aren’t the whole answer. To help keep energy bills lower in the future, we will reduce our reliance on imported gas by accelerating home-grown renewables and new nuclear initiatives. We will ensure 19 million homes are warm and well-insulated, saving households an average of £400 a year. And we will regulate the energy market properly, so no firms can play fast and loose with the rules.
There would be more help for energy intensive industries which are struggling with rising fuel costs, like British steel and ceramics too. We would introduce a windfall tax on the North Sea oil operators who’ve done so well from the energy price hikes, producing a £600 million contingency fund to support struggling business in high-fuel sectors.
Without this action, the Government risks letting viable firms go to the wall. We used to joke that Conservative governments like to pick winners and let everyone else sink. Sadly this Troy Government seems happy to kick winners, and let otherwise thriving businesses face unnecessary risk because they’ve been asleep at the wheel through an energy crisis. That doesn’t feel very British to me.
Under Johnson and Sunak, this Government have failed on gas storage, failed to regulate our energy market properly leaving dozens of small firms bust, failed to meet Britain’s renewable potential, and failed to make more homes warm. There is an alternative. The Government haven’t bothered to do the urgent work necessary to draw up the detail so I’m proud to have helped Labour do it for them.