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Tory MP Warns Cost-Of-Living Crisis Will Damage Election Chances Without More Support

Energy prices are expect to rise significantly from October (Alamy)

3 min read

Influential Conservative MP Mark Harper has insisted further financial support will be needed to help households through the "very, very difficult winter" as energy prices look set to soar further.

The former Conservative chief whip, who is supporting Rishi Sunak's leadership bid, said the ex-Chancellor's promise to take further action would give the public "peace of mind" ahead of the winter, with inflation rates expected to keep rising, and the energy price cap – the maximum energy firms can charge customers – forecast to rise by a further £1,400 in October.

Sunak has promised more assistance with energy bills later this year, despite previously having shied away from spending more government cash on support schemes. He has said he plans to find "efficiency savings" across government to fund "direct support for families to help with the unprecedented situation".

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Harper said that the change in stance, which has been called a "U-turn" by his opponent Liz Truss's team, was necessary to avoid damaging the party's chances at the polls.

"If the government doesn't help the poorest and most vulnerable get through the winter, to pay their energy bills and to put food on the table, then I think that it will be electorally damaging which is why Rishi has said more help is needed.

"He's set out the fact that if he is made Prime Minister there will be more help, people can rely on that assurance looking at his track record through the pandemic and through the energy prices he has already delivered when he was Chancellor and that will provide reassurance and peace of mind to people as they are contemplating what will be very, very difficult winter for many people."

Both leadership candidates face increasing pressure over their plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, with Foreign Secretary Truss saying she wants to support households through the use of tax cuts, rather than offering what she described as "handouts" to the wider public.

But Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey said the country was facing a "social catastrophe" which would leave millions of people going "hungry and cold" during the winter.

Announcing his party's proposals for an "energy furlough scheme", Davey said the next Prime Minister should offset the financial burden on households by taxing oil and gas companies which have secured record profits as a result of the wholesale rise in energy prices.

"We are worried the government seems to have no plan to help millions of families and pensioners who will be hit by this massive rise in energy bills," he told BBC News.

"We have been listening to the Tory candidates for Prime Minister and they have come up with no plan, so the Liberal Democrats are putting forward our plan, and we are saying the rise in the energy price cap due for this October, which could be as much as £1,400 should be cancelled and the government should pick up the bill."

He added: "And it should make the oil and gas companies pay with a one-off tax on their huge profits they are making. That seems a fair approach and will prevent a catastrophe.

"I think we are looking at a social crisis we have not seen in my lifetime with millions of people going hungry and cold this winter, and the government needs to act."

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