Energy price cap rise: ‘Zombie’ Government’s response criticised by opposition parties as a ‘dereliction of duty’

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Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey accused the Conservative Party of being ‘unfit to govern’ over its response to the price cap increase

The Government has said it is “developing options for further support,” after Ofgem increased the energy price cap by 80%.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi gave no indication that a freeze or reversal of the cap is currently being considered, despite the average household energy bill set to hit £3,549 in October.

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Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for a freeze on energy prices, while the Green Party’s proposals would see the cap set back to the level it was in October last year.

The Conservatives were accused of a “dereliction of duty” after ministers failed to appear on any of the early morning broadcast rounds to lay out the Government’s response to the crisis.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson is yet to make a statement on energy price cap rise, with accusations he is presiding over a ‘zombie’ government until the new Tory leader is elected on September 5.

Meanwhile, analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows energy bills will rise 35 times faster than wages and 57 times faster than benefits in the last three months of this year.

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Chancellor ‘working flat out’ on solutions to energy crisis

Ofgem confirmed today that the energy price cap will rise by 80% from October, meaning the average household’s annual bill will increase from £1,971 to £3,549.

The cap will come into effect for around 24 million households in England, Scotland and Wales on default energy tariffs on October 1, and will remain in place until December 31, when it will be adjusted again by a similar proportion.

Although no government ministers appeared on the morning broadcast rounds, the Treasury released a statement from Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who acknowledged that the rise would cause “stress and anxiety” for people across the country.

He said: “I know the energy price cap announcement this morning will cause stress and anxiety for many people, but help is coming with £400 off energy bills for all, the second instalment of a £650 payment for vulnerable households, and £300 for all pensioners.

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“While Putin is driving up energy prices in revenge for our support of Ukraine’s brave struggle for freedom, I am working flat out to develop options for further support.

“This will mean the incoming prime minister can hit the ground running and deliver support to those who need it most, as soon as possible.”

Liz Truss, the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race, has so far failed to commit to increasing the level of direct support provided to households, instead favouring tax cuts.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Truss said that if elected, she will “immediately take action” by cutting taxes and suspending green energy tariffs.

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They said: “This is on top of ongoing work such as the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which will see a £400 discount paid to consumers from October, and the £1,200 package of support for the most vulnerable.

“Liz will work flat out to deliver long term energy affordability and security, unleashing more energy by maximising our North Sea oil and gas production - helping keep down bills in the future.”

Government criticised as ‘unfit to govern’

All the main opposition parties have called for some form of freeze on energy bills, funded by taxing the profits of gas and oil companies.

Labour’s plans involve a windfall tax, used to fund a freeze in energy bills which it says would be worth £1,000 to households.

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In the long term, the party has committed to a mass home insulation programme and significant investment in both onshore and offshore wind as part of a wider green energy strategy.

The Labour leadership has repeatedly rebuffed calls for energy firms to be nationalised, stating that this would mean spending money on paying out shareholders at a time of crisis.

However, many figures on the party’s left have publicly called for specific firms to be nationalised, including British Gas, while the Green Party’s plans would see the ‘big five’ energy firms all brought under public ownership.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Conservatives “now face an urgent choice”.

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She said: “They can carry on letting oil and gas companies make huge profits whilst every family suffers with bills rising this winter.

“Or they can act now and stop the energy price cap rising, by bringing in a windfall tax on those oil and gas profits.

“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.

Presenters on breakfast news programmes, shows where Government ministers are usually booked to appear, pointed out the absence to listeners and viewers on Friday morning.

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Earlier this week, the Government put up schools minister Will Quince to speak about GCSE results, but no ministers were on any of the main broadcasters on Friday morning to speak about the increase in the energy price cap.

Kate Garraway, one of the presenters on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, urged the Government to put forward a representative to speak to them.

“Who we’re not hearing from so far this morning is the Government themselves,” she said.

“And we would love you to come on and give us some guidance.

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“I know there is a leadership election currently there, so there will be issues about who is actually going to be at the helm come the week, 10 days when that decision is made, but we would love to hear from you this morning, because there are a lot of people that want clarity.”

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Reeves criticised the government for failing to send a minister on to discuss the tariff rise.

“The fact that no Government minister is available to come on your programme today is just appalling.

“They are not here to give assurances, they are not here to set out what they are going to do. That is a dereliction of duty.”

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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said that the rise in the energy price cap is “nothing short of a catastrophe” for millions of households.

He said: “The only option is for energy prices to be frozen before these rises wreak havoc on our communities. Then we need a proper plan to be put in place to bring bills down next year.”

“As millions suffer the Conservatives do nothing. No policy from the government, no plan from Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak. They have no idea how much pain these energy prices will cause our country. They are simply unfit to govern.”

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