Ministers to hold talks with energy bosses over winter price hikes

Energy bosses will face pressure from ministers over how they can help customers cope with rising bills at a critical meeting on Thursday.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will pressure gas and power company executives to find solutions to projected rising bills over the winter.

The summit with utility bosses, set to take place in Downing Street, comes after Cornwall Insight bills are expected to soar to around £3,582 in October from £1,971 previously, before rising even further over the course of the new Year.

Leaders are asked to submit a breakdown of expected earnings and payouts, as well as investment plans for the next three years.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested scrapping price caps and negotiating lower tariffs with energy bosses, according to reports.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss continue to face questions over what they will do to help struggling families, while the Labor Party has called for the closure of a ‘loophole’ in the windfall income tax on the oil and gas to raise more support funds.

I want to challenge them, tell them are you making the investment? How can you help your customers? What more can we do together?

Nadhim Zahawi, Chancellor

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the Chancellor told reporters: “I think it’s important that we all get around the table, I will continue to do the job that I have to do as Chancellor, but I also want challenge them, tell them you are making the investment? How can you help your customers? What more can we do together? That’s the reason for the meeting.

Speaking in Belfast on Wednesday, he added: “What I want to do tomorrow is better understand how they are engaging in this gas investment because whatever happens we need energy security. and we have a solid strategy that Kwasi and I will continue to push hard.

“The other area I want to look at is some power producers, if you look at renewable power producers, the amount they get is tied to gas prices.

“So they haven’t changed anything about what they’re doing, they haven’t had any increase in their input costs, but they’re getting a much higher return because of the unusually high gas price because of Putin .”

Mr Zahawi also said the Treasury was preparing “options” for the next Prime Minister on what additional support could be given to people this winter.

Tory leadership candidate Mr Sunak told the BBC it would be his ‘moral responsibility’ to offer more help for the bills if he was chosen as prime minister, particularly retirees and benefit recipients.

Ms Truss appeared to be moving away from her previous stance of no longer providing ‘handouts’, telling GB News she would ‘do everything I can to support working families’ if appointed Prime Minister, while emphasizing his preference for tax cuts.

Labor has called on the government to scrap the energy windfall tax investment allowances, which they called a “loophole”, to help households pay the bills.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: ‘The Tories are giving oil and gas giants billions in tax breaks, just to pass it on to shareholders. The government should be ashamed that this loophole existed in the first place.

“It’s not just at a time when people are worried about how they’re going to pay their bills.”

There has been widespread anger at Shell, BP and British Gas owner Centrica announcing bumper financial results as households grapple with soaring bills.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on ministers to negotiate with energy companies (Andrew Milligan/PA)

(PA wire)

Meanwhile, Mr Brown told the Guardian the government should ‘suspend any further cap increases’ on bills and negotiate lower rates with each firm after reviewing their balance sheets.

He also suggested that ministers temporarily nationalize any suppliers that go bankrupt.

“Time and tide wait for no one. Neither do crises. They don’t take holidays and politely suspend fire – certainly not to suit the convenience of an outgoing prime minister and the whims of two potential successors,’ the former Labor prime minister said.

Mr Brown, who had previously called on Tory leadership candidates to put aside their differences and work on a contingency plan with Boris Johnson, was joined in his appeals by a boss from one of the biggest UK energy companies.

Philippe Commaret, EDF’s Chief Customer Officer, said: “We are calling on the government and the two Conservative candidates to work with industry so that we can find a workable solution for the customers who need it most this winter.

“Clients need to know now that help is coming. Delaying a decision will cause anxiety for millions of people, and discussions need to happen now.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis also made similar pleas, telling broadcasters: ‘I accept the fact that Boris Johnson is running a zombie government and can’t do much, but the two candidates – one of them will be our Prime Minister – they must get together in the national interest to tell us the bare minimum of what they are going to do.

A government spokesperson said: “We are engaging with the electricity sector to drive reform forward and ensure the market delivers better outcomes for UK citizens.

“In the meantime, and as we announced in May, the government continues to assess the extraordinary profits seen in parts of the power generation sector and the appropriate and proportionate action to be taken.”

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