New Prime Minister Liz Truss promised she will today announce her “bold” plan to guard households and businesses against crippling energy costs.
Her government briefed that she will tell MPs that domestic bills will be frozen at around £2,500 as part of a package. It is expected to last up to two years and into the next general election.
The suggestion is it will be funded through borrowing, with Ms Truss rejecting the idea of applying a windfall tax on the bumper profits made by oil and gas companies to cover the cost – reported to be up to £150 billion.
Labour accused the PM of writing a “blank cheque” to the energy giants by ruling out the levy, with the British people left to “foot the bill”.
Ms Truss acknowledged families and businesses across the country are concerned about how they will “make ends meet” over the coming months.
“We will take action immediately to help
people and businesses with bills”
She blamed rising global prices on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and his “weaponisation” of gas supply in Europe.
“This has only made clearer that we must boost our long-term energy security and supply,” she said.
“We will take action immediately to help people and businesses with bills but also take decisive action to tackle the root cause of these problems, so that we are not in this position again.
“We will set out our plans to deliver on that promise and build a prosperous Britain for everyone.”
She faces accusations from both Opposition MPs and from some within her own part that is dodging scrutiny over the way her plans would be presented to Parliament.
She will open a debate on energy costs but, unlike a formal ministerial statement.
This means MPs will not have prior notice of the details and will not be able to carry out sustained questioning.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the “core” to any solution is the question of “who pays”.
“By ruling out a windfall tax, Liz Truss, in one of her first acts as Prime Minister, has written a blank cheque to the oil and gas giants making £170 billion in excess profits, and the British people will foot the bill,” he said.
“Every penny her Government refuses to raise in windfall taxes is money that they will be loading onto the British people for years to come.”
Downing Street also indicated the moratorium on fracking in England could be lifted in the energy package, despite the 2019 Conservative manifesto opposing an end to the ban without science showing it can be done safely.
Ms Truss vowed during her leadership campaign that she would end opposition to shale gas extraction in places where it is backed by local communities.
She is also expected to confirm she is scrapping green levies on energy bills and declare her support for more North Sea drilling.
Ministers are planning a public information campaign to encourage people to reduce their energy use this winter, in case freezing prices removes the incentive to cut consumption.