Treasury officials accused Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng of ‘making things up’ when he appeared on TV yesterday morning.
With PM Johnson on holiday in Marbella, a public row has blown up at the heart of the Tory government.
Kwarteng told the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News that there had been meetings between BEIS officials and the Treasury regarding the energy crisis and what support could be given to businesses.
Kwarteng said he could not yet determine ‘what the nature of that support might be’, but went on: ‘What I’m very clear about is we need to help them get through this situation – it’s a difficult situation, gas prices, electricity prices are at very high levels right across the world and of course I’m speaking to government colleagues, particularly in the Treasury to try and see a way through this.’
However, shortly afterwards, unnamed ‘Treasury sources’ told Sky News: ‘This is not the first time the BEIS secretary has made things up in interviews. To be crystal clear the Treasury are not involved in any talks.’
Meanwhile, Kwarteng then appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show where he also said he was working closely with the Chancellor over possible support for energy intensive sectors.
Asked whether there would be additional government help for energy-intensive companies, Kwarteng described the situation as ‘critical’ and said he was ‘looking to find a solution’.
When Marr suggested this sounded like a ‘yes’, Kwarteng countered: ‘No, it doesn’t sound like yes at all. We already have existing support and we’re looking to see whether that’s sufficient to get us through this situation.’
Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, responded: ‘If the situation is critical, why is the government not acting now, today, to address this problem for energy-intensive sectors such as steel?’
Without help in the next week or so, he warned, there will be ‘significant and permanent damage to the UK steel sector’.
The British Ceramic Confederation also accused Kwarteng of not understanding the urgency of the need for ‘action now to save businesses and jobs’.
Energy regulator Ofgem warned that households will see further ‘significant rises’ in the spring, when the energy price cap is reviewed.
- Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News that a Labour government would not renationalise the energy industry.
He claimed that public ownership is ‘not the solution’ for the energy crisis, which he said is ‘down to government policy and poor decisions being made’.