Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi today admitted he is ‘deeply concerned’ that Britons could freeze from the cold this winter due to the soaring price of gas and electricity.
With average energy bills set to rocket to £3,549 a year from next month – and with costs set to rise even further next year – Mr Zahawi insisted ‘there’s nothing off the table’ as ministers consider what extra support to provide.
Although he is expected to lose his job as Treasury chief when either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak replaces Boris Johnson as Prime Minister next week, Mr Zahawi has been putting together different options for the incoming premier.
He acknowledged there were ‘no easy options’ for dealing with the cost-of-living crisis but said ‘no one should be cut off’ because they can’t afford their heating bills.
Mr Zahawi is backing Ms Truss for the Tory leadership. And the Foreign Secretary today gave another strong indication that more support for struggling families is imminent, should she become PM.
She vowed to ‘deliver immediate support to ensure people are not facing unaffordable fuel bills’ this winter.
Mr Zahawi has this week visited the US for talks on how to deal with the global energy crisis, which has been worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been blamed for using gas supplies as a ‘weapon’ amid the deep tensions with the West.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi acknowledged there were ‘no easy options’ for dealing with the cost-of-living crisis but said ‘no one should be cut off’ because they can’t afford their bills
Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss vowed to ‘deliver immediate support to ensure people are not facing unaffordable fuel bills’ this winter
Britons are forecast to suffer from ever-increasing energy bills over the coming months as the Government comes under pressure to provide more help
Speaking to Sky News on his trip to America, Mr Zahawi revealed his Treasury was ‘looking at all the options’ in providing extra help for hard-pressed Britons this winter.
He said: ‘There’s nothing off the table. We are looking at all the options.
‘Everything from the chief executive of Scottish Power talking about help where we need to maybe create some sort of a fund for companies to be able to continue to help their customers.
‘All the way through to making sure we target the help to both households and small and medium-size businesses and probably some larger businesses.’
Mr Zahawi added he was worried about ‘the scarring effect on the economy’ should ‘perfectly viable businesses’ be harmed or ‘no longer exist because of Putin’s use of energy as a weapon’.
The Chancellor revealed he had been looking at pledges made by Ms Truss and Mr Sunak during the Tory leadership contest – as well as ‘everything else that we’ve been told by the energy sector’ – as the Treasury puts together possible measures.
Asked if he could guarantee that no one would find themselves in a position where they are cut off because they cannot afford their bills, Mr Zahawi replied: ‘No one should be cut off because they can’t afford their bills.
‘I’m working with the companies to make sure, and NGOs of course, to make sure those people who really are struggling get that help both financially… but the companies themselves have already started to write letters and emails to ask people if they are vulnerable, if they are feeling that they can’t pay, that they should contact their supplier, their companies.’
Mr Zahawi pledged to ‘deliver’ the £37billion worth of support for households that has already been announced, but also promised to ‘go beyond that’.
‘We need to send a message to Mr Putin that this strategy is not going to work,’ he added.
He acknowledged that ‘of course’ the current level of support offered by Government to deal with rising energy prices would not be enough.
In an article for The Sun today, Ms Truss promised ‘radical’ action should she win the race to become the new PM.
The Foreign Secretary vowed to ‘deliver immediate support to ensure people are not facing unaffordable fuel bills’.
But she once again failed to add more detail over her approach, insisting ‘it isn’t right to announce my entire plan before I have even won the leadership and got my feet under the table’.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was today forced to deny his plan to freeze energy bills at their current level – before October’s rise – merely amounted to ‘kicking the can down the road’.
He has urged the Government to keep the energy price cap at its existing level – which means energy bills of £1,971 a year for typical households – until April.
Sir Keir accepted the ‘challenge’ that, under his plan, more action would need to happen in April to deal with soaring gas and electricity costs.
But he insisted his proposal was ‘meeting the concerns of millions of people’ across the UK.