Energy prices: industry bosses demand ‘immediate action’ on crisis amid Kwasi Kwarteng and Treasury spat

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The plea for action comes as a feud erupted in Whitehall with the Treasury denying that they were in talks with the Business Department over any support for the industry

Industry bosses have demanded “immediate action” from the government in a bid to stop firms going to the wall amid rising energy costs.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng held talks with industry leaders last week, and ministers and officials are set to continue speaking with businesses on Monday and throughout the week.

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It comes amid a feud in Whitehall as the Treasury flatly denied having been in talks with the Business Department over any support for the industry.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Mr Kwarteng has pledged to keep the energy price cap in place to help households struggling with rising costs. But he has offered no new support for businesses after bosses and some Tory MPs called for help to prevent them going under as wholesale prices soar.
  • Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, has called on the Prime Minister to “bang ministerial heads together” to avoid an industry crisis hitting his sector.
  • Ministers and officials will continue to speak to industry figures on Monday and throughout the week, the PA news agency reports.
  • Mr Kwarteng indicated on Sunday that struggling manufacturers and energy firms will not get much more support but said he was working closely with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help the industry.
  • However, a senior Treasury source insisted to the PA news agency that no such talks have taken place despite firms pleading for help to prevent further collapses as wholesale gas prices spiral.

What’s been said

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dave Dalton, chief executive at British Glass, said a meeting on Friday had started the process of asking for support.

He said: “We didn’t get to specifics, the meeting was very much an introductory one, and we had rather hoped over the weekend and today that that dialogue would be extended.

“It’s very alarming to hear the Treasury are making denials over the approach, let alone anything else. We need immediate action.”

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On Monday, Home Office Minister Damian Hinds denied Mr Kwarteng lied when he said there were discussions between Government departments about help for energy firms.

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Mr Hinds said: “These unnamed sources stories come out from time to time.

“The fact is Government departments, Government ministers talk to each other the whole time and of course with an issue like this, with these rising global prices and business having to grapple and deal with it to make sure they break even and can make a margin of course that is something that the Business Secretary – and, of course, the Energy Secretary – is going to be totally focused on.

“Something that the Treasury, of course, is also very focused on as the economic management department of the nation.”

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Labour MP Pat McFadden said ideology “must not get in the way” when the Government is trying to resolve the crisis

The former shadow business secretary told Sky News: “We mustn’t let ideology get in the way because, having supported the economy through the pandemic, it would be tragic now if we stood back and let these key industries go to the wall.

“They’re asking for help and it’s really important that the Treasury and the Business Department stop fighting with one another and get around the table and get to the bottom of what these industries really need.”

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