Energy Price Cap

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 11:33 am on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 11:33 am, 7th June 2022

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of raising the energy price cap on standards of living.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence Procurement), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of raising the energy price cap on standards of living.

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Government are well aware of the difficulties households are facing, which is exactly why we have provided a further £15 billion of support, on top of the £22 billion announced earlier this year, to support people with the cost of living.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

The energy price cap affects consumers and has major implications for business. The price of energy is recognised as one of the key drivers of inflation, because of rising prices at all levels. That is confounded by the Chancellor’s post-covid rises to VAT on hospitality and tourism. So does the right hon. Gentleman regret not doing more to get the Chancellor to provide more support to small businesses and small business owners, to help them and to help keep prices and inflation down?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The hon. Lady will remember that throughout the covid period my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported businesses to the tune of something like £400 billion. A lot of that support, in the form of loans and the future fund, is ongoing. I do not think we can take any lectures from the hon. Lady on supporting business through what has been a very difficult period.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence Procurement), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

This week, the citizens advice bureaux in Scotland revealed that 62% of the inquiries they receive relate to energy issues. As Ofgem has warned that people can expect a staggering 42% rise in energy prices, does the Secretary of State regret the time he has spent defending the Prime Minister against confidence votes instead of providing much-needed support for businesses and energy consumers to tackle the cost of living crisis?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

As I have said once and am sure I will repeat, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dedicated £37 billion precisely to help people through what is a very difficult time in relation to the cost of living.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the excellent package of support for consumers and businesses, but I am sure he will agree with me—unlike the Opposition parties—that it is not just about what the Chancellor can do to step in: there are lots of steps that consumers and businesses can take for themselves to reduce their own energy costs before the energy price cap is changed again this autumn. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what more can be done to help consumers and businesses to cut their own energy costs?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has raised that issue. As a keen follower of these matters, she will know what we have done in relation to the heat and buildings strategy, which sets out clearly the kinds of steps that we want people to see in respect of insulation and the possibility of selling energy back to the grid. We are doing lots of exciting things in this policy area. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that I am always interested in her ideas and I am delighted that she is heading our Back-Bench policy committee in this area.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

One of the fastest and most effective ways to protect people from the impact of rising energy costs would be an ambitious retrofit and insulation programme, which should have been at the heart of the Government’s approach but has been conspicuous by its absence. The Government support pledged so far for energy efficiency falls £1.4 billion short of their manifesto commitment, so will the Secretary of State tell us what more he plans to do on the issue? In particular, will he tell us with absolute certainty that legislation for ECO4—the energy company obligation—which was due in April, will not face any further delays and will definitely be laid before Parliament before the summer recess?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

It is not my job to say when legislation will be coming into this House—[Interruption.] What I will say—[Interruption.] What I will say specifically in relation to decarbonisation is that we have a clear heat and buildings strategy. The manifesto commitment covered 10 years, so it was not over the term of the Parliament. There was a clear manifesto commitment over 10 years and more money clearly needs to be spent to honour that commitment over a 10-year spending period.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

It would be really nice if the Secretary of State told us when the ECO4 legislation is coming, because ECO4 is not going to work unless that legislation comes forward.

The Secretary of State knows that the new price cap and the increase in customer bills will have a devastating impact on customers’ struggle with the cost of living, so why is his Department directly contributing to the sky-high price cap levels by putting into place new customer levies—such as the socialisation of the costs of failed energy companies, the green gas levy and the nuclear regulated asset base levy—that will add perhaps £100 to the upcoming and future price cap levels, and hence to customer bills? The Secretary of State talks of Government assistance to help customers to cope with their bills, but is it not very much about giving with one hand and taking back with the other? Should customers not be angry at this cynical policy?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

There is no reason to be angry about the support, because the £37 billion of support is very real. On the supplier of last resort, the hon. Gentleman will know that 26 firms had to leave the market as a consequence of sky-high wholesale prices, and all the SOLR levy does is socialise those costs within the industry. It was a necessary device to make sure that customers can ease on to other providers without interruption.