A further half a million will be in fuel poverty! warns shadow business secretary Miliband

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British Gas workers during their strike against fire and rehire on new wage-cutting contracts – 500 were sacked for refusing to sign

‘THERE is absolutely no question of the lights going out,’ Kwasi Kwarteng, Tory business secretary claimed yesterday

He was making a statement after a number of companies went bust as global gas prices soar.

Kwarteng claimed: ‘There will be no question of people being unable to heat their homes, there will be no three day working weeks or a throw back to the 1970s. Such thinking is alarmist, unhelpful and completely misguided.’

He claimed that the UK has ‘capacity to reach demand’.

However, he then admitted that a number of energy companies have already gone to the wall and, globally, he expects a number of big players to ‘exit the market’, but that is ‘normal in a competitive market’.

He said: ‘While we are not complacent, we do not expect supply emergencies this winter.’

He confirmed: ‘We are committed to that price cap and it will remain in place, adding: ‘Cold weather payments will continue to help consumers with their energy bills.’

However, Labour’s shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband pointed out that although the energy cap remains it has been raised, and so will plunge hundreds of thousands more into fuel poverty.

Miliband said: ‘On consumer support he is right to keep the price cap in place, it is a measure that I have long supported.

‘But the rise in the price cap of £139 means half a million more families will be plunged into fuel poverty.

‘Now, at a minimum, he should be looking to making the operation of the £150 Warm Homes Discount automatic and possibly extending it.

‘But even that will not be enough. Families are facing a triple whammy – Rising energy prices, National Insurance rises and at the end of this month the £1,000 cut in Universal Credit.

‘These energy price rises turn the indefensible decision on Universal Credit into an unconscionable one.

‘If he really wants to put consumers first, if he really wants to help working people, if he really wants to tackle fuel poverty, isn’t it time, even at this late stage to cancel this terrible decision on Universal Credit.’

The government are considering offering emergency state-backed loans for the big companies and allowing the smaller energy firms to go to the wall. This will mean the tax payer propping up private energy companies.

Five small energy companies have already gone bust since August.

Kwarteng confirmed that he’d held crisis talks with industry bosses including Centrica and E.On.

The UK’s sixth largest energy company, Bulb, is seeking a bailout, while another four smaller firms are expected to go bust in the coming days as a result.

Gary Smith, GMB union General Secretary, said: ‘GMB has warned the government since 2018 that we are facing a crisis in our energy market.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has shown starkly how quickly global supply chains can collapse and the impact this can have on workers, communities, and the basics of everyday life.

‘Our energy supply is critical to our national security and affordability. If we cannot power industry or heat homes, then we cannot feed, medicate or protect ourselves in times of crisis.

‘Once again, government have downplayed the crisis and been too slow to act – just like during the pandemic – and everyone is paying the price for it.

‘We can’t have a repeat of 2008 where the banks got a get-out-of-jail free card. Any bailout must come with cast-iron guarantees on significant changes that tackle the UK’s growing energy crisis.

‘Otherwise, we’ll only be lining the pockets of bandit capitalism once again, while losing more and more control over our energy future.’