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Another Row Awaits Liz Truss Over Telling Public To Curb Energy Use

Liz Truss met with European leaders in Prague this week to discuss dwindling energy supplies (Alamy)

3 min read

The prime minister is under growing pressure to ditch her vehement opposition to a government information campaign telling people how they can cut down on energy usage in the face of possible blackouts this winter.

Guy Opperman, for Conservative MP for Hexham, tweeted on Friday he was "fully behind" an information campaign and dismissed claims that it is tantamount to a "nanny state".

"It is preserving supply, saving money for everyone, and encouraging localism," he said.

The National Grid announced yesterday that blackouts lasting up to three hours could impact homes in the coming months if the UK does not import sufficient enegy supplies from Europe.

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, said it would be "wrong" for the prime minister to veto a communications campaign as the UK prepares for possible blackouts this winter.

The Times reported on Thursday night that Truss blocked plans for an information campaign which had been signed off by Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Jacob Rees Mogg. Sources told the newspaper that the prime minister is "ideologically opposed" to the state advising people how they can use less energy in the weeks ahead.

PoliticsHome reported that the prevailing view within government is that public will take steps to limit how much energy they use without government encouragement, with a Cabinet minister who agrees with Truss insisting that people are "smarter than you think". 

There is also a feeling that there is no need for a government-led communication campaign this winter because the information is available elsewhere. 

But Miliband told PoliticsHome: "It is entirely possible and sensible to give the public factual information about how they can save money on their energy bills.
“It would be wrong for Liz Truss to block the provision of this kind of information because of dogma or embarrassment about the energy crisis that failed Conservative energy policy has caused."

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said: "Liz Truss is ideologically opposed to the public interest."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been critical of the UK government's energy plans, and has urged Scots to use less energy, said it was "absurd" that she had not properly heard from the prime minister since she arrived in Number 10. 

"There's not been a phone call," she told the broadcaster ahead of the SNP's annual conference this weekend.  "I don't know whether that is arrogance, lack of respect or insecurity. Whatever it is, it's not the right way to do government in a grown up way," she added. 

When Truss first became prime minister early last month, she was advised by officials to launch an information blitz as a further means of protecting the country's energy supplies.

Kit Malthouse, the education secretary, wrote for The House this summer in his former capacity as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster that "communicating to the public how we can all help reduce our energy usage... will be the critical challenge."

In a bid to protect the country's energy supplies this winter, from November there will be financial incentives for people to reduce their energy usage at peak times. They could do this by taking steps like using the washing machine overnight, for example.

The National Grid stressed, however, that in the meantime households should not be affected, despite "unprecedented turmoil and volatility" in the energy market caused by Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking yesterday in Prague, where she had talks with other European leaders, Truss insisted that the country "can get through the winter”.

“What we’re clear about is we do have a good supply of energy in the UK," she said.

"We are in a much better position than many other countries but of course, there’s always more we can do. That’s why I am here working with our partners making sure we do have a secure energy supply into the future.”

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