British people willing to suffer ‘hardship’ to help Ukraine, minister says

‘We are facing a difficult time’, says business secretary

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 09 March 2022 16:52
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Boris Johnson rejects calls to rethink fuel bills help, as Starmer warns of price spike

The British people are willing to suffer “hardship” in the months ahead as the UK economy takes a hit from the Ukraine crisis, a cabinet minister has said.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the public already understood the need to endure economic sacrifices in “solidarity” with Ukrainians under attack from Vladimir Putin’s regime.

It came as experts warned that the ban by Boris Johnson government on oil imports from Russia will could add to the huge hit on households struggling from a cost of living crisis.

Conservative MP Desmond Swayne said the government had to be “clear” with the British people that they would have to make sacrifices while Ukrainians made “so much greater sacrifices”.

Mr Kwarteng responded: “People understand. People are willing to endure hardships in solidarity with the heroic efforts that the people of Ukraine are making. People understand this in this country, because we’re a generous and giving country.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Johnson 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.

Abby Jitendra, principle policy manager at Citizens Advice, said that British households who use oil to heat their homes will feel a pinch from oil prices, which are near historic highs.

With food prices also set to soar, campaigner Jack Monroe told MPs that the impact of the cost of living crisis on the millions of children living in poverty is “going to be, in some cases, fatal”, adding: “And that’s not a term that I use lightly.”

The impact of the Ukraine crisis could cut living standards in Britain by around £2,500 per household this year, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

And the Resolution Foundation has said predicted that the economic fallout from Ukraine will help trigger the biggest fall in living standards for Brits since the mid-1970s – with incomes set to fall by 4 per cent in the year ahead.

Petrol prices also reached record highs of over £2 per litre in London on Wednesday as sanctions against Russia and moves to divesting to other suppliers drives up fuel costs.

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin challenged Mr Kwarteng on whether he understood “urgency” of the crisis and how it would impact on families and businesses. “His hope the situation will rectify itself in a few months is, I’m afraid, hopelessly naïve.”

Mr Kwarteng replied: “We are facing a difficult time, and the department is fully aware of the urgency of the problem.”

He told the Commons that the move to phase out Russian oil products by the end of 2022 will ensure a “smooth transition”, and pledged to establish a new taskforce to help firms find “alternative supplies”.

The business secretary also said he agreed with Mr Johnson that it “didn’t necessarily make any sense” to concrete over the fracking wells in Lancashire as planned.

Downing Street repeatedly declined to deny that a controversial rethink on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in England was under way in a bid to boost energy supply.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow minister for climate, said fracking was a “false answer to our national energy needs and there is no public support for it”, adding: “It is an outdated, dangerous and expensive and has a disastrous impact on the environment.”

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