Politics latest news: Government eyes taxpayer-funded loans amid crunch talks on energy crisis
E nergy firms could be bailed out using taxpayer-funded loans, as the Government scrambles to resolve the mounting gas crisis. Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, has had held several meetings with energy bosses over the weekend and they are expected to continue this week, amid warnings that dozens of companies could go bust. A bailout fund is one of several options on the table, with the industry fearing a financial crisis-style collapse. James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, signalled a willingness to let some of them collapse, telling the BBC: “We would much prefer to see diversity in the market… but our priority is to protect the consumer and protect the integrity of gas supply.” Speaking to Sky News, he added: “We will do absolutely everything we can to protect our consumer… Exactly how we do that will be up for discussion.” He insisted that the UK was “in a pretty good place” because of the nature of supply both domestically and from “reliable” partners such as Norway. Speaking from New York, Boris Johnson said the bounce-back from Covid had caused a global “bottleneck”. Asked whether the problems could last for months, Mr Johnson said: “It could be faster than that, it could be much faster than that.” A s always with Monday, things are only pencilled in until the Speaker has selected urgent questions or ministerial statements later on today – but here is the schedule as things stand. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t a debate on the energy crisis, but even without that the cost of living is likely to dominate this afternoon’s debate on the Social Security Bill. The House of Commons sits from 2.30pm today. Find out what’s on in the House of Commons today in the #OrderPaper: https://t.co/1kgGNrkA11 Follow the Chamber in real time: https://t.co/HEBiZuz0lv pic.twitter.com/NWBVAfhUIQ I t’s been many years since the country faced a real “cost of living crisis”, but many commentators believe that is precisely what we are in for. The energy crisis, food shortages and labour shortages are all pushing up prices, with warnings that Christmas could be cancelled (but this time, it’s the turkey that will be missing, rather than your family). That is combining with tax rises and the end of the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit – which could push more than 800,000 people into poverty, according to the Legatum Institute think tank. Some of these issues are outside of the Government’s control – but many are very much within their power to resolve. Either way, there are warnings it could lead to political danger for Boris Johnson and co. Have your say in the poll below. B oris Johnson might be in New York, but back in Westminster he risks a Tory rebellion over plans to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit led by two senior backbenchers. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, and Damian Green, the deputy prime minister under Theresa May, have tabled an amendment to pensions legislation in a bid block the end of the temporary benefits boost, which will coincide with higher gas bills and the end of furlough. The architect of the Universal Credit system is hoping to have his amendment tacked onto the Social Security (Up-Rating of Benefits) Bill, although there are no guarantees it will be selected as it is not directly relevant. Even if Sir Lindsay Hoyle does so, the vote will be non-binding. However it could give the Government something of a bloody nose – at a point when the cost of living looks set to become a real political risk for the PM. A fter a few days spent ironing out the branding, Michael Gove’s bolstered department has finally got its name. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will become the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – having narrowly avoided becoming DULU (the Department for the Union and Levelling Up). Mr Gove’s job title equally verbose: Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary. and minister for intergovernmental relations. The change was announced over the weekend, along with the news that Andy Haldane, long-time chief economist at the Bank of England, will head the levelling up taskforce launched by Boris Johnson and Mr Gove. He joins as a permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, on secondment from the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) for six months. S ir Keir Starmer should investigate whether abuse towards Rosie Duffield is coming from within Labour and make sure it is “nipped in the bud asap”, an MP has said. Ms Duffield, the MP for Canterbury, has said she will not attend the party’s conference next week over fears for her safety (see 8:56am). Colleague Emma Lewell-Buck told the BBC it was Ms Duffield’s “personal choice”, saying: “If she feels that she wouldn’t be safe then I think she’s got no choice but to stay away.” She added: “This is symptomatic of how polarised and volatile debate has become in this country, people no longer respect other people’s views or other people’s opinions and they react to each other with anger and aggression. I’m really sad that Rosie doesn’t feel conference is going to be a safe space for her and that is something that we need to tackle. “It’s something that Keir needs to have a look at and say: ‘Where is this coming from?’. If it’s coming from people within our movement then that needs to be nipped in the bud asap.” T he combination of tax rises, cuts to Universal Credit and surging energy prices could present “real political danger” for the Government, a Tory peer has warned. Gavin Barwell, a former MP who served as chief of staff under Theresa May, told the BBC the rise in gas prices ” definitely has the potential to become a crisis”. He added: “I think that the first concern of Government will be about ensuring security of supply, making sure that we’re all still getting the gas that we need, both domestic and businesses. But the second concern will be about prices that consumers are being asked to pay… “More generally, they will also be worried about the cost of living. We’ve got the tax increases that they’ve just brought in, we’ve got the Universal Credit reduction, that’s about to come online, plus rising energy bills, I think there is a real political danger here of cost of living issues becoming a real difficulty for the Government.” A further 29 climate change protesters have been arrested at junctions on the M25 and A1M, Hertfordshire Police said, as Insulate Britain demonstrators glued themselves to the road. Chief Superintendent Nick Caveney said: “Officers were on the scene within minutes of being alerted to protest activity, allowing us to put diversions in place to ease the traffic and to make numerous arrests. All protesters involved in this morning’s protests have been arrested and will be taken to custody. “We are working closely with other affected forces to ensure that any further activity is dealt with effectively and efficiently,” he added. “I understand and appreciate the frustration regarding the considerable delays and inconvenience that has occurred as a result of the protests.” In the last week, Hertfordshire Police have made 76 arrests, with a “full investigation” underway “to ensure that hose breaking the law are brought to justice.” T he Government should not expect taxpayers to “write a blank cheque” to resolve the energy crisis, but allow free-market forces to play their part, a think tank has said. Julian Jessop, economics fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The poorest households should be protected from soaring bills, but the taxpayer should not be expected to write a blank cheque to bail out energy companies. “Market forces need to be allowed to work and if this means that relative prices have to change to balance supply and demand, then so be it. “There may be a case for Government loans to fundamentally sound businesses that are facing temporary problems as a result of global shortages. However, these companies should still be expected to borrow on commercial terms. “Otherwise, there is a risk that the industry fails to adapt and that it remains vulnerable to further shocks.” F rance has cancelled a ministerial defence meeting with Britain this week amid an escalating diplomatic row over a nuclear-powered submarine deal. Paris was left blindsided by the announcement last week of a new trilateral security pact between the UK, US and Australia – known as Aukus – as Canberra cancelled a £72.8 billion deal with the French for diesel-electric submarines as a result. Reacting with fury this weekend, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the UK of “permanent opportunism”, while the French Europe minister Clement Beaune accused Britain of being a vassal state of Washington. On Sunday night it emerged that French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had decided to scrap a meeting planned for this week with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. O ne of the small energy firms grappling with the current crisis has warned that it is “unlikely we will see the winter through”, without Government support. Peter McGirr, chief executive of Green Energy, which supplies around 360,000 people in the UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “the outlook is looking bleak” with current events in the market, including continued rising prices and the shortage of gas. Mr McGirr added: “It is not that I have a bad business model or I have a bad business. “We just don’t have as deep pockets to keep going through this crisis. I think that all suppliers are feeling the pinch of this but some of them just have a lot deeper pockets to try and ride out the storm.” “Ego-driven” protesters blocking the M25 are “adding nothing” to the cause of tackling climate change, a Government minister has said. F oreign Office minister James Cleverly told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “It is a completely inappropriate way of making the point they’re trying to make.” He added: “The vast, vast majority of people want to see us tackling climate change, we are tackling climate change… the UK is actually a real leader on this. “So I have to say, my belief is that those disruptions and protests are more ego-driven, rather than issues-driven. And I would strongly urge the people involved in it not to put themselves and others at harm by this continued disruption.” He added: “These protesters are waking up at lunchtime and claiming credit for the sunrise. The simple fact is the UK is already pushing the world to do more and we are walking the walk as well as talking the talk and these protesters are adding nothing to that discussion.” T he chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, has said the country could be two weeks away from British meat disappearing from supermarket shelves because of a shortage of CO2. Nick Allen told Sky News: “The meat industry, in particular the pig and poultry industry, use CO2 for humane slaughter. Eighty per cent of pigs and poultry are slaughtered using that process… [the fertiliser plants] closed at very short notice with no warning. It really hit us cold. “We’re hoping and praying the Government can negotiate with these plants to reopen. But even then, it’ll take about three days to restart.” Mr Allen said meat manufacturers have said they have between five and 15 days’ supply left. He added: “Then they will have to stop. That means animals will have to stay on farms. That will cause farmers huge animal welfare problems and British pork and poultry will stay off the shelves. We’re two weeks away from seeing some real impact on the shelves.” A Labour MP who will miss her party conference this week amid fears over her safety has said abuse against women “always turns to violence”. Rosie Duffield, who has clashed with transgender rights campaigners, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that male ministers who “have had to resign” – such as Matt Hancock – get ” jokey, off-the-cuff and silly” abuse, while women ” get the violence, pictures of guns, pictures of mocked-up nooses”. Ms Duffield added: “There are groups that would be at the Labour Party conference where my presence would irritate. “It is hard to know how serious to take threats from people who post them online – I don’t always very often take them that seriously – but they are pretty awful and I did not want to subject myself and other people to that kind of abuse.” T here will be “no need” for Boris Johnson to “bang any tables” as he looks to persuade Joe Biden to restart travel between the UK and US, a minister has said. The Prime Minister is expected to make an “impassioned” case for why the US President should lift his travel ban by allowing fully vaccinated people in the UK to travel directly into America. James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “Obviously international travel is incredibly important for the UK. We want to get to situation where Brits can travel to one of our closest partners in the world.” Mr Johnson will be making the case that “travel to and from UK is safe, it is important to us and as a strong international partners it is what we should be looking to do”, he added, stressing that the recent Ausuk deal demonstrated that the two countries were “very much on the same page”. He added: “I have no doubt there will be no need to bang any tables to get the point across.” T he Government will be looking to maintain the “the diversification of supply”, during crisis talks with energy firms this week, a minister has said. James Cleverly, the Foreign Officer minister, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “Ultimately, [Kwasi Kwarteng], the Business Secretary, will be discussing with the market, with the sector, what we can do to ensure two things happen. “Firstly to protect consumers from unpredictable price hikes- and the cap is in place to do that. But also security of provision. Exactly how we do that will be up for discussion. “But we want to make sure diversification of supply – it is better for consumers, it is generally healthier.” T he looming food shortage crisis prompted by the closure of two large fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire could prompt more CO2 suppliers to launch, a minister has said. James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the number of suppliers would be “defined largely by the market”, but that the crisis did “highlight a situation where there small number of providers”. But Mr Cleverly stressed that it was “short-term challenges, driven by the world economy coming out of Covid-19”. A minister has refused to say how many British dual nationals were being held in Iran, saying it is not in their best interest to do so. James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told LBC that Iran “currently hold a number of British dual nationals in detention, completely arbitrary detention”. He insisted he did know the figure, but refused to disclose it, saying: “I’m not going to discuss that this morning because, actually, it’s not always in the best interests of the people that we’re trying to help…. It’s not always in the best interest of the individuals for their cases to be publicised.” Pushed as to whether he knew the figure, he said: “I do, I work on this all the time.” T he major military deal struck between the UK, US and Australia is “not about France,” a minister has said today, amid a diplomatic row. James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told Sky News: “With any international relationship there are ups and downs. I have no doubt we will be able to resolve any frictions that there are currently with France… This is Global Britain engaging with the world, working with all partners across the world – including Australia and the US.” Responding to reports this morning that France has said trade talks with Australia are now “unthinkable”, Mr Cleverly said: “Contractual relationships between Australia and France is for Australia and France.” T here is no connection between the growing energy crisis and Brexit, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has said. Asked if there was a link, he told LBC: “No, no, this is hitting a number of countries around the world and it is – I think the Prime Minister summed up rather well – this is a byproduct of the sudden increase in demand as we come out of Covid. “Globally, the UK is in a better position than many countries because, obviously, we have a domestic gas production capability, and our imported gas is from very, very reliable partners like Norway. “So whilst this is affecting many, many parts of the world simultaneously, actually the UK is in a better position than many.” T he release of dual nationals by Iran will be “top of the agenda” at a meeting between new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her Iranian counterpart, a Foreign Office minister has said. Ms Truss will meet with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday. James Cleverly said: “We will continue pushing and we will not rest until we get them all home. Their incarceration is arbitrary, it’s completely unjustified and we have made it clear that we will not stop working to get those British dual nationals home.” Asked how confident he was that Ms Truss would succeed where others had failed, he said: “Well, it is never easy negotiating with the Iranian leadership. But… she’s an incredibly focused and energetic minister, she’s well-regarded for that, and I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations.” T he Government’s “priority” is ensuring that food supplies are unaffected by gas shortages, a minister has said. Speaking after the owner of Bernard Matthews warned that C)2 shortages mean “Christmas will be cancelled” (see post below), James Cleverly said the Government was working to address “some short-term shortages.” The Foreign Office minister added: “We will ensure that we are able to put food on the tables, that is a real priority.” On the medium and longer-term, he said the Government wanted to ensure “the UK is increasingly self sufficient in terms of good production, logistics chain – HGV drivers and so on.” I celand is not the only food business to raise a warning over the impact of CO2 shortages on Christmas. This weekend, Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, said the closure of two large fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire due to a sharp rise in gas prices could mean “Christmas will be cancelled”. CO2 is essential to the humane slaughter of livestock, extends the shelf life of products and is vital to cooling systems for refrigeration purposes, industry leaders have said. He said: There are less than 100 days left until Christmas and Bernard Matthews and my other poultry businesses are working harder than ever before to try and recruit people to maintain food supplies.” He said that “the gaps on the shelves” that he had warned about in July were “getting bigger by the day”. Boparan continued: “The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies. Now, with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled. A shortage of CO2 could cause food shortages in the run-up to Christmas, the managing director of Iceland supermarket has said. Richard Walker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that suppliers who are looking at some of the stock they hold and their just-in-time chains are suggesting this “could become a problem over the coming days and weeks”. He said: “This is not an issue that is months away, that is for sure. We are building up our stocks on key lines like frozen meat just to make sure we can deal with any unforeseen issue. “At the moment we are fully stocked and our suppliers are OK, but we do need this sorted as quickly as possible.” F oreign Office minister James Cleverly said the energy price cap was not there for “preventing any increase in prices in perpetuity” ahead of a planned 12 per cent rise on October 1. He told Times Radio: “It was about making sure that those increases were modest, and predictable, and it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do. “It’s already protected hundreds of thousands of people from volatile energy prices and will continue to do so. It’s about making sure that people can budget and they know what’s coming, and it has done exactly what it was designed to do. “But, as I say, we will explore with the sector about how to make sure we protect the consumers of energy, both domestic and commercial, and also make sure we protect the long-term supply of energy to the UK.” B oris Johnson will push Joe Biden to change Covid-19 travel rules and let Britons fly to America when they meet on Tuesday in the White House for the first time. The Prime Minister will make an “impassioned” case for why the US President should lift his travel ban by allowing fully vaccinated people in the UK to travel directly into America. Mr Biden’s failure to ease restrictions – despite both leaders pledging to take action when they met at the G7 summit in June – has frustrated Whitehall and left UK businesses despairing. There will also be a push for Mr Biden to promise billions of dollars more in climate financing for developing nations to help Mr Johnson hit a flagship Cop26 UN climate conference target. T he Prime Minister flew to New York on Sunday, kick-starting a four-day US visit where he will attend the UN General Assembly before his first White House trip since entering Number 10 in July 2019. But there is plenty of drama back here in Westminster, with the Government scrambling to address the energy crisis – and questions about whether it could even lead to Christmas being cancelled (again). 📰The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph ‘Johnson to press US to open up for UK visitors’#TomorrowsPapersToday Sign up for the Front Page newsletter:https://t.co/UsfUCzx4yO pic.twitter.com/DawOsyTbjH We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.
See all stories on this topic