Thursday 30 September 2021 / 10:30 PM Ed Miliband

Energy prices crisis “crunch point” comes tomorrow as Labour warns time is running out to avoid “winter of discontent” 

Energy prices crisis “crunch point” comes tomorrow as Labour warns time is running out to avoid “winter of discontent” 

Families and businesses across the country are to be hit by a £139 rise in their energy bills tomorrow at the same time as their Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week in the energy prices crisis “crunch point”, with Labour warning that the energy price cap risks rising again in the Spring, further squeezing families and industry.


Labour is warning that time is running out to avoid a “winter of discontent” after years of Conservative complacency, to protect families and businesses from the energy prices crunch and manage the supply chain mayhem that is having a damaging ripple effect across the country.


Having been warned repeatedly about the huge, looming shortage of HGV drivers, Ministers failed to act and we have been left with a petrol crisis, shortages on our shelves, and higher food costs.


The UK has also been particularly badly affected by global volatility in wholesale gas prices because of our reliance on gas. Conservative decisions that led to our country’s vulnerability and inability to withstand shocks to the market include the Government selling off our gas storage capacity in 2017, and cutting subsidies for solar power.


Labour has criticised the government’s new household support fund as a “temporary and inadequate sticking plaster” which will be no substitute for a proper social security system that offers security to families in hard times.


Labour has called for Government to stop blaming the public and urgently show the serious leadership required to contain the crisis:


  • Urgently address the HGV driver shortfall, including referring the issue of adding HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupation List to the Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice to government to help address the crisis in the short-term.
  • Set up a taskforce to work sector by sector to identify gaps and recruit into key roles. This should include rapidly expanding testing for HGV drivers, and part or wholly funding HGV training drawing on available funding for targeted sectors and recruiting. The Government should also support 100,000 new apprentices this financial year to help boost employment in key sectors.
  • Bring together business and unions to address long-term issues of wages and conditions in key sectors, recognising that the Government’s belief in a low-wage, insecure labour market is key to the crisis we are seeing.
  • Limit further disruption to supply chains from the planned introduction of initial food import controls by working to secure an urgent veterinary agreement with the European Union.
  • Cancel the cut to Universal Credit, as well as the unfair rise in taxes on working families and businesses later this year. According to Citizens Advice, the £20 a week uplift would cover near a whole week of energy costs for a below average income household. The fund announced by Ministers will not plug the gap left by the cut. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 5.5 million low-income families will lose £20 a week and if this new fund is split between them, it would give them £1.75 a week back.


Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: 

“We are in desperate need of leadership to contain this chaos.


“It is Conservative complacency that has led to the fuel crisis, energy costs crisis, and supply chain crisis our country is experiencing, with Ministers ignoring warnings from businesses and failing to plan ahead.


“And it is Conservative decision-making that is now making it worse. Families tomorrow face a crunch point with their bills rising just as their Universal Credit is taken away.


“Ministers are blaming the public and failing to acknowledge the scale of the problem. We need to make Brexit work, and that starts with addressing the huge shortfall of HGV drivers that is causing mayhem in our supply chains.”