Boris Johnson refuses extra help on energy, amid warnings of £1,000 spike due to Ukraine war

‘He must be absolutely out of his mind’: PM dismisses Labour call for windfall tax on power firms

Boris Johnson rejects calls to rethink fuel bills help, as Starmer warns of price spike

Boris Johnson today rejected calls to offer more help on energy cost, as Labour leader Keir Starmer warned that war in Ukraine could force a further £1,000 spike in household bills this autumn.

At prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Starmer called for “urgent” help for households and an expansion of nuclear and renewable power, funded by a windfall tax on oil companies.

The Labour leader called on Johnson to sweep aside Tory opposition and relax planning laws on onshore wind farms, which he said could produce enough power to completely replace Russian gas in the UK energy mix.

But the PM dismissed his plea, accusing the Labour leader of being “absolutely out of his mind”.

He mocked Starmer for reversing Labour’s previous opposition to nuclear, and warned that additional taxes on oil giants - which have earned bumper profits as prices spiral upwards - would simply be passed on to consumers.

“Protecting energy profits, not working people,” responded the Labour leader. “Doesn’t that say it all?

“Britain can’t afford another crisis like this. We need to improve our long-term energy security.

“That starts with supporting new nuclear and renewables. But the Conservatives have effectively banned new onshore wind. As a direct result of this short-sighted approach, we’re using more gas each year than we import from Russia. That’s ludicrous.”

Sir Keir said that chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £9bn package of assistance with energy costs was designed on the basis of a “big gamble” that the £700 hike in average energy bills due in April would be followed by a rapid return to more normal levels.

But he said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the sanctions imposed in response, means the chancellor’s bet “looks certain to fail”. He warned this will add another £1,000 a year on bills from October, which could bring the average household’s annual expenditure on gas and electricity close to £3,000.

Global crude prices rose to fresh highs on the markets today, after the UK and US announced boycotts of Russian oil on Tuesday.

The Labour leader called on Mr Johnson to demand a U-turn from Sunak to provide more help for families.

But the PM retorted: “If he is asking for the chancellor to U-turn on the support that we're giving to families and households, I think that he is absolutely out of his mind.

“We are going to continue to give people support throughout this difficult period, as we did throughout the coronavirus epidemic, with unprecedented levels of support.”

Pointing to Mr Sunak’s offer of a £200 repayable discount on bills, a £150 reduction in council tax bills and £144m for councils to help the vulnerable, he said “a U-turn is the last thing we want.”

But Starmer replied: “We’ll see how long that position lasts.”

He told the PM: “Before Russia invaded Ukraine North Sea oil and gas companies were making bumper profits. BP made £9.5bn, Shell made £1bn - in their own words, more money than they know what to do with.

“Since then, the international price of oil and gas has skyrocketed and so will their profits. When will the prime minister admit he's got this badly wrong? Put a windfall tax on those super-profits and use the money to cut household energy bills.”

Mr Johnson replied: “The net result of that would simply be to see the oil companies put their prices up yet higher.”

He said that he would be unveiling his energy independence strategy - announced earlier this week - within the next few days, to deliver “a long-term, sustainable, independent energy supply policy”.

This is expected to include an expansion of drilling in the North Sea as well as investment in new nuclear and renewables, with a row brewing over whether a revival of fracking is also on the cards.

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