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Martin Lewis challenges Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to live TV grilling on energy bills

Tory contest winner urged to join consumer champion on special programme ‘asap’

Adam Forrest
Thursday 01 September 2022 05:19 BST
'We should have a plan in place today': Martin Lewis lambasts Tories over energy crisis

Consumer champion Martin Lewis has challenged Tory leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to set out their plans to tackle soaring energy bill in a live television interview.

The candidates are under growing pressure to freeze the energy price cap rise or agree to a huge expansion in financial support to ease the pain of soaring bills.

Truss – who remains strong favourite to be named the next PM when results are announced on Monday – was accused of “running scared” after ditching a BBC interview earlier this week.

Mr Lewis – who has warned that some people will die unnecessarily this winter because they cannot afford the 80 per cent rise in the price cap – said the cost of living crisis “has left millions worried how they’ll make ends meet”.

Addressing Truss and Sunak on Twitter, the money-saving expert said: “It’s like to formally invite you, as the new PM, to join me asap once you take office for a special hour’s discussion / Q&A to answer / ease people’s concerns.”

Mr Lewis said ITV would broadcast a special programme. The presenter said his preference was to do it “live in the evening”, but said he was happy to work with the Truss and Sunak camps on scheduling in the next few days.

Lewis has been scathing about the government’s failure to set out new support for soaring energy bills this summer – urging ministers to work with Truss and Sunak on an emergency support plan.

“We should have a plan in place today,” he said on Friday when Ofgem announced that average annual bills would rise to more than £3,500 from 1 October. “I’m begging and praying and pleading that there is more help.”

Truss cancelled her only TV interview of the Tory leadership campaign, scheduled to take place with Nick Robinson on Tuesday. Her campaign claimed she is too busy – raising fresh questions about her willingness to face scrutiny.

Sunak has pledged £5bn in extra payments for the most vulnerable through the benefits system to ease the pain of rising gas and electricity bills.

But Truss frontrunner, who has prioritised immediate tax cuts, has yet to commit to any further direct payments. The Tory frontrunner is said to be considering boosting support to the most vulnerable through the benefits system, but has ruled out universal “handouts”.

Sunak has warned that there is a risk of markets losing confidence in the British economy – as he said he struggled to see how his rival plans “add up”.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sunak said it would be “complacent and irresponsible” for a prime minister and chancellor “not to be thinking about the risks to the public finances”.

Truss and Sunak will make a final push to win over Tory party members at the final leadership hustings at Wembley Arena on Wednesday evening, before voting closes at 5pm on Friday.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have reiterated calls for an expanded windfall tax on the oil and gas giants to pay for an energy price cap freeze this winter.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer defended his plan to freeze energy bills for all households for six months, rather than focus on targeted support.

“I think there will be many people watching who accept ‘I’m not the hardest-up, I’ve got a decent wage, but £4,000 on my energy bills is more than I can afford’,” he told Jeremy Vine on 5 on Wednesday.

It comes as Britain’s big gas producers and electricity generators are reportedly in line to make excess profits of up to £170bn over the next two years.

Leaked Treasury analysis shows the huge scale of gas producers and electricity generators’ potential excess profits in the two years ahead, according to Bloomberg News.

But the Treasury said it did not recognise the figures. A government spokesperson: “We don’t recognise this analysis. The government has been clear that it wants to see the oil and gas sector reinvest its profits to support the economy, jobs, and the UK’s energy security.”

The latest poll shows 82 per cent of the British public backs the idea of freezing the energy price cap at its current level of £1,971 a year.

The Deltapoll survey also found that one in four people will “definitely” not be able to afford the looming hike to more than £3,500, while 40 per cent said they would “probably” not be able to pay the extra costs.

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