Keir Starmer Calls For U-Turn On "Total Mess" Energy Measures As Fuel Prices Hit Record Highs
The Prime Minister has defended his government's support for households
Labour leader Keir Starmer has urged the government to go further in its support for households as he warned average bills would rise by £700 even before the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine were taken into account.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last month a £200 loan would be added to all energy bills with the sum expected to be paid back over the next five years. In addition, the government have introduced a £150 rebate on council tax bills to help deal with the increasing cost of living crisis.
But speaking at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the Labour leader said the government's package relied on a "gamble" that fuel prices would drop.
"The Chancellor’s solution? A forced £200 solution for every household, paid back over five years. The big gamble over that policy was that energy costs would drop quickly after a short spike," he said.
"That bet now looks certain to fail. When will the Prime Minister force the Chancellor into a U-turn?"
Starmer said the government was in a "total mess" as fuel prices continue to rise, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushing costs to record levels.
"Working families are facing a £700 spike in April. They won't even receive their £200 loan from the Chancellor until October," he said.
"The wholesale price of oil and gas is now ballooning. So by October when the loan finally comes in, household bills are set to shoot up by another £1,000. It's a total mess."
But Johnson said a U-turn on the policy was the "last thing we want" and accused Starmer of being "absolutely out of his mind".
"We're going to continue to give people support throughout this difficult period as we did throughout the coronavirus epidemic," Johnson said.
"I think a U-turn is the last thing we want."
Starmer also called for a windfall tax on the "bumper profits" made by fuel giants BP and Shell, saying a fund established by increasing tax on oil firms could be used to further cut energy bills.
The Prime Minister said the result of this would be to see oil companies push their costs higher and "make it more difficult for them to do what we need them to do ... and that is divesting from Russian oil and gas".
"That is the way forward for this country. It is to take a sober, responsible approach and end our dependence on hydrocarbons altogether and particularly Russian hydrocarbons."
The government appears to be opening the door to discussions about fracking in the UK again as it begins efforts to stop importing Russian oil and gas.
The Prime Minister's deputy spokesperson said all options are now on the table in a bid to end reliance on Russian hydro-carbons.
"You've seen with the invasion of Ukraine and high global gas prices. it's clear we need to move away from our alliance on Russian hydrocarbons," they said.
"Everybody would expect the Prime Minister to look at all options."
Asked specifically if fracking is one of the "options" being considered, the spokesperson repeated that the Prime Minister would look at "all options".
On Tuesday Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced that the UK would stop importing Russian oil by the end of 2022 in response to their invasion of Ukraine.
Kwarteng said a phase out of the Russian oil would "give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time” to replace Russian imports, which currently make up 8% of total UK demand.
He added that while Britain is "not dependent on Russian natural gas", which makes up around 4% of our supply, he is also "exploring options to end this altogether".
The move was welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said the announcement sent a "powerful signal" to the rest of the world.
Speaking in his daily TV address, Zelenskyy said: "This is a powerful signal to the whole world.
"Either Russia will respect international law and not wage wars, or it will have no money."
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