Government ‘cannot completely undo’ pressure on energy costs, minister says
It is not possible to “completely undo” energy price pressures, a Cabinet minister has said, as protesters rally across the country over the cost of living crisis.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the government is “watching…at all levels what we are doing with public money”, and “will provide whatever support we can as we go along.” as we can” to ease the price hike sting.
The People’s Assembly said it expects thousands of protesters to take to the streets in dozens of locations across the UK to highlight those suffering ‘real hardship’ due the combination of rising fuel and food prices, inflation and low wages.
Unions have complained that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement last week did nothing to allay fears over soaring fuel bills and rising inflation, with the TUC calling for an emergency budget to help families.
Friday’s lifting of the energy price cap will create an “impossible choice for many” to eat or heat, the People’s Assembly said.
A spokesperson for the campaign group said: ‘Public outrage over the cost of living crisis is growing rapidly and our response is gaining momentum.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Lewis said the government could not ‘completely undo’ the effects of the global pressure on energy prices, but ministers will put in place support measures to the extent possible.
“I know, even this week, where I live, we’re on oil heat, I’ve seen that change directly in the price of oil – and actually the ability to get it,” he said. declared.
“At my house, my family went for a few days where we had no oil, just waiting for suppliers and seeing the very big price increase on that.
“We can’t completely negate the impacts of global markets and global pressure, for example, on energy, which is obviously the main focus right now for most people.
“But we’ll give whatever support we can, as we can, as I said, looking at…at all levels what we’re doing with public money.”
On Saturday there will be a protest outside Downing Street in London, with similar events in cities like Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Doncaster, Glasgow, Hanley, Hull, Ipswich, Lancaster, Leicester, Liverpool . , Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Preston, Redcar, Sheffield and Southampton.
Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will speak at the London protest, said: ‘With rising fuel, food and energy bills, the soaring cost of living is plunging millions of people in poverty, and the disgusting treatment of sacked P&O workers requires urgent action. of the government.
“Protests will take place across the country, with thousands of people coming together to demand the redistribution of wealth and power and decent wages for all, as well as justice for P&O workers.”
Laura Pidcock, National Secretary of the People’s Assembly, who will speak at the Liverpool protest, said: “What people are going through is intolerable.
“No matter how patiently we explain that government inaction in the face of soaring energy and fuel costs and soaring food prices is deepening poverty, misery and hunger, it comes up against at best to indifference and at worst to the same thing.
“The truth is that they are so attached to the economic system that we have, comfortable with a hands-off approach, that even when the markets are clearly failing us, they carry on as if nothing had happened.
“We tell them about hungry children and the government shrugs it off, politically speaking.”
Labor has repeatedly called for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, which they say could generate funds to help struggling families and pensioners pay their energy bills.
Mr Lewis told Sky News that such a levy may seem ‘an attractive option’ but it ‘won’t necessarily have the impact on global prices that people think it will’.
“I understand why people are turning to this…Labour has been making this point for a while. What they are unable to answer…is the reality of what is happening in the energy market,” he said.
“First of all, it’s a global pressure, we see it all over the world. So what we do with the companies here in the UK will not have the effect of changing the whole world energy market price, but we also have to remember that these energy companies here in the UK already pay around 40% in tax – that’s roughly double what most sectors of the UK economy pay.
“They employ hundreds of thousands of people in the UK… they’re investing heavily in more work to develop more power and produce more power. They need the income they have to make those investments and the role they play in the economy by paying wages.
“So a windfall tax on these companies won’t necessarily have the impact on world prices that people think it will. This can have an impact on some domestic prices by taxing more a sector that is already very, very heavily taxed.
“So while…it seems like an attractive option, in the larger economic context, it doesn’t really work.” And that’s why we looked at what we can do that will have a beneficial impact directly on the people in their pockets. »
Meanwhile Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has said Labor will put in place ‘legislation’ to ensure oil and gas companies do not pass the cost of a windfall tax on to consumers if necessary.
“I think we need to see legislative action if the North Sea oil and gas companies, the petrol retailers, are making record profits and not passing any of those savings on to customers,” she said. at Times Radio.
The rail, maritime and transport union (RMT) is planning further protests in the coming days against the dismissal of nearly 800 P&O seafarers.
The Insolvency Service announced on Friday that it had launched formal criminal and civil investigations into the circumstances surrounding the layoffs.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said there were “clear reasons” for detaining the P&O ships.