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PMQS: Starmer urges government to U-turn on support for household energy bills as rising prices set to bite | Political news

Boris Johnson has announced he will be rolling out an energy independence plan ‘over the next few days’ as April’s price hike looms.

AT Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said his government “must deal with the long-term impact of soaring energy prices”.

The announcement came as the Prime Minister was under pressure from Mr Keir Starmer to force the Treasury to backtrack on government support for working families.

Live updates as the Prime Minister probes UK refugee policy

Last month the Chancellor announced that the ‘vast majority’ of households would receive £350 in aid to reduce the ‘sting’ of rising energy bills.

Starmer calls for more support amid rising energy bills

‘It’s a total waste,’ Sir Keir said of the financial aid promised to households amid rising household bills.

“The typical energy bill will go up by £700 next month and that’s because of pressure before Russia invaded Ukraine,” the Labor leader continued.

“The Chancellor’s solution: a compulsory loan of £200 for each household repaid in mandatory installments over five years.

“The big bet behind this policy was that energy costs would fall rapidly after a short spike. That bet now seems doomed. When will the Prime Minister force the Chancellor to turn back?”

Calling for a windfall tax on the excess profits of North Sea oil and gas companies, the Labor leader accused the government of ‘putting energy profits before workers’.

PMQs return to tradition after rare period of unity

Political Correspondent Joe Pike

Joe Pike

Political correspondent


After fifteen days of rare parliamentary unity over the Ukrainian crisis, today the PMQs returned to their traditions of rambling brawling.

Sir Keir Starmer surprised some by avoiding the subject that annoys Tory MPs: visas for Ukrainian refugees.

Instead, he returned to the crisis in the cost of living and rising energy bills, a topic which Labor says is of growing concern to their constituents.

Sir Keir has called on the Prime Minister to get his chancellor to reverse the “utter mess” of their support for working families.

The PM has attacked Labour’s own record in government (much to the disbelief of opposition backbench MPs when the party left office 12 years ago) and hailed what he has branded Sir Keir’s new pro-nuclear policy.

The Tories greeted SNP’s Ian Blackford with a chorus of groans, but he quickly wiped the smiles from faces as he asked about the UK government’s response to refugees, which he said is “the slowest, most bureaucratic and the most incompetent in Europe”.

The Prime Minister has defended his home secretary (who was not present in the chamber) – yet we know that in the privacy of yesterday’s cabinet meeting ministerial colleagues caused ‘squirms’ Priti Patel as they ‘deeped into the details’ of her embattled visa policy.

Expect an intergovernmental effort in the coming days to help Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Mr Johnson knows he has bolstered his government’s reputation with his response to this crisis, and the visa mess is his greatest weakness.

PM confirms energy plan will be revealed in ‘coming days’

Mr Johnson replied that his government had issued a £20billion support package to help families amid rising costs and “will continue to do more”.

“I think a U-turn is the last thing people want,” he added.

Read more: The cost of living squeeze is set to intensify

The Prime Minister continued: ‘The Chancellor has set out plans to help families with energy costs with unprecedented action to cut council tax by £150 on top of all the other schemes we offer.’

He added that Sir Keir was ‘absolutely right’ that ministers ‘have to deal with the long-term impacts of soaring energy prices’, adding that he ‘will present an energy independence plan for this country over the next few days to ensure that we undo some of the damage caused by the decisions made previously”.

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Protests against the cost of living across the UK

Starmer calls for exceptional tax on corporate profits

Pressing once more for more government support to help reduce household bills, Sir Keir said: “Before Russia invades Ukraine, the North Sea oil and gas companies were making windfall profits. BP earned £9.5bn, Shell £14bn.

“In their own words, more money than they know what to do with.

“Since then, the international price of oil and gas has skyrocketed, as have their profits.

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Calls for an exceptional tax on energy

Read more: Russian invasion drives up gas prices

“When will the Prime Minister admit he was wrong, put a windfall tax on these super profits and use the money to reduce household energy bills?”

The Prime Minister replied that he wanted to “take a sober and responsible approach and end our dependence on hydrocarbons – in particular on Russian hydrocarbons”.

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War drives up energy prices again

Energy prices soar amid conflict

The Prime Minister also warned MPs: “The House should be in no doubt that the pressures on energy will continue.”

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, wholesale energy price have reached record highs, with the cost of natural gas for overnight delivery in the UK trading 10% higher today at 515p per therm – more than ten times the level of a year ago.

Suppliers have been forced to raise prices for consumers, with the industry price cap set by regulator, Ofgem, rising 50% from April.

Read more: What is the energy price cap and why will bills rise so sharply?

The surge threatens to present Mr Johnson’s government with a seemingly intractable cost-of-living challenge, given the sheer volume of other inflationary pressures affecting consumers in supermarkets and at the gas pump.

This week Bulb – the UK’s seventh-largest supplier – brought the total number of energy companies that have collapsed since August to almost 30.

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Average energy bills will increase by 54%

Government offers £350 rebate to help pay bills

Last month, the Chancellor announced that the ‘The vast majority’ of households will receive £350 in aid to relieve the “sting” of rising energy bills.

Rishi Sunak said 80% of all homes in England will get a £150 cut on their council tax bill in April, while all domestic electricity customers will get a £200 cut in October on their energy bills.

This last amount will be reimbursed over five years, starting next April, although the housing tax rebate does not have to be reimbursed.

This is intended to limit the effect of price rises in April, but the money will be recovered from consumers in subsequent years in equal installments of £40 so that the loans can be repaid when energy prices fall.

Households in municipal tax brackets A, B, C and D will receive a rebate funded by government grants.

Councils will also receive almost £150million to help low-income households who live in higher tax properties and households in bands A to D who are exempt from paying council tax.