Business Secretary says building nuclear power plants may increase…

Household energy bills could rise even MORE to cover costs of building new nuclear plants, warns Kwasi Kwarteng – as cost of living crisis sees drivers cutting back on ‘non-essential journeys’ to save fuel

  • The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the plan to build new power plants may need levy on bills
  • Deafening calls for PM to take ‘decisive action’ seen during pandemic to help people pay their energy costs 
  • Experts believe the cap this October will hit  £2,600 – £1,400 more than the level seen in October 2021

The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said Britons may have to pay a levy on their energy bills to pay for eight new nuclear power reactors

Britons already struggling to pay their energy bills may be asked to pay even more to fund the Government’s nuclear power push in the form of a new monthly levy, it was revealed today.

The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the plan to build eight new power plants as part of a new energy strategy may have a ‘small effect’ on fuel bills, which have already doubled for many homes, but did not say how much people will have to pay.

Mr Kwarteng told the BBC that ‘nuclear is back on the table’ because the Government considers it a sustainable energy source, adding that while people may have to pay more on their bills that it would provide cheaper power, eventually.

It came as the Government continued to resist giving more financial help to millions in the form of grants or increased benefits as people are now choosing between heating and eating.

And they have yet to decide whether to bring in a windfall tax on energy companies such as BP and Shell making billions from the soaring price of oil and gas to help tackle the soaring cost of living. 

Household budgets are squeezed in every direction due to the highest levels of inflations for decades and rising energy costs due to Russia’s war with Ukraine, which is also pushing up the prices of food and commodities. 

Gas and electricity costs for consumers continue to soar with the energy price cap now expected to rise to £2,600 this October. 12 months ago it was at £1,227. 

And people are also abandoning their cars for buses or walking due to the cost of filling up at the pumps. An average car is now around £30 more expensive to fill up than a year ago.  

Darren Briggs, founder of Ascona, which runs 60 petrol stations in the UK, said that drivers are doing fewer journeys.

He told the BBC: ‘We’re seeing our volumes down in the past six weeks by around six to eight per cent. Pre-covid we would sell 2.8million litres of fuel per week and now we’re down to around 2.6million. We are seeing consumers making that £20 or £30 purchase of fuel last that little bit longer. As the price increases at the pump, if the price is £30 then the volume decreases because they’re not getting as much’.

Construction at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The Government has put nuclear power at the centre of its future plans – but consumers would have to help pay for it

The PM has gathered his Cabinet ministers in Stoke-on-Trent for an away-day yesterday. Their visit to Staffordshire comes amid grim economic warnings as official figures showed the UK economy plunged into the red in March

The Government’s energy strategy was published in April as Western countries wrestled with high energy prices, reliance on Russian oil and gas and wider calls to end the fossil-fuel era to tackle climate change.

A fleet of new nuclear power plants is at the heart of the strategy, with the Prime Minister suggesting a new reactor will be built every year, in a social media video to promote the plan.

As part of an aim to make 95% of electricity low carbon by 2030, the strategy has a goal to produce up to 50GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, which officials said would be more than enough to power every home in the UK.

The strategy also includes an aim to double the goal of 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen production by 2030, with at least half from ‘green’ hydrogen, produced from renewable electricity rather than natural gas.

A multimillion-pound package was later announced to help support the ‘bold plans’ of the Government’s strategy.

Mr Kwarteng said the £375 million investment will ‘unlock the enormous potential’ of hydrogen and nuclear power.

Boris Johnson has sought to defend the new energy strategy in the face of criticism it does nothing to help people with soaring bills now.

He has said the strategy – which sets out aims to boost new nuclear power, offshore wind and hydrogen – is a long-term plan focusing on energy supply, ‘undoing the mistakes of the past and taking the big decisions now’. He said the Government was ‘already doing a huge amount to help people with the immediate cost of living and of course we are going to do more’.

Cabinet ministers yesterday headed to Stoke-on-Trent for an away-day as Boris Johnson urged Whitehall departments to renew efforts to find ‘innovative’ ways to support Britons through the cost-of-living crisis.

Their visit to Staffordshire comes amid grim economic warnings as official figures showed the UK economy plunged into the red in March.

It has fuelled further fears of recession and Chancellor Rishi Sunak this morning admitted the country faces ‘anxious times’.

There is already huge pressure on Mr Sunak and his Treasury team to come up with another package of support for stuggling households.

The Chancellor offered a strong hint that more help could come in August when the energy regulator once again updates the energy price cap.

But, despite the prospect of additional Government action to come this summer, it means Britons still face many more weeks without extra support.

Cabinet ministers were due to continue their discussions on other means of helping Britons through the cost-of-living crisis, after the PM’s call for ‘innovative’ solutions.

It emerged last month that one Cabinet brainstorming session saw ministers float ideas such as introducing looser childcare rules, allowing Britons to get an MOT for their cars only every two years, and pushing for tariff-free food imports.

But the suggestions also attracted claims that the Government is looking to address the cost-of-living crisis on the cheap, without extra spending.

Boris Johnson urged Whitehall departments to renew efforts to find ‘innovative’ ways to support Britons through the cost-of-living crisis

Cabinet ministers were due to continue their discussions on other means of helping Britons through the cost-of-living crisis, after the PM’s call for ‘innovative’ solutions

Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered a strong hint that more help for Britons could come in August when the energy regulator once again updates the energy price cap


Home Secretary Priti Patel and Brexit Opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg joined their Cabinet colleagues at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she was ‘too busy trying to make sure my heels don’t fall through the cracks’ of cobbles when asked about the latest batch of Covid fines

In his opening remarks during the Cabinet meeting at a pottery in Stoke, the PM said: ‘We’re going to make sure we use all our ingenuity, all our compassion, everything we need to do to help people through the difficult aftershocks of Covid, and the inflationary pressures that we’re seeing, particularly on the costs of energy.

He added this week’s Queen’s Speech had given ministers ‘the legislative firepower to deliver on tackling the underlying issues – the things that are driving up prices, particularly for energy, for people’s transport, for the education people need.

‘That is why I think the Queen’s Speech is so important – infrastructure, education, technology – those are the things that we need to focus on – particularly cutting the cost of energy.’

Mr Johnson urged ministers to show ‘no lack of resource and compassion now – we’re going to have be very, very committed, very, very radical, very, very forward-thinking – but stick to the basics of our thinking about getting people into high wage, high-skilled jobs’.

‘Folks, we’re going to get through this, it’s going to take a lot of focus – but jobs, jobs, jobs is the answer – that is how we will unite and level up across the whole country, and get on with delivering on the mandate that the people gave us two-and-a-half years ago,’ he continued.

As they arrived at the Cabinet meeting, ministers were tight-lipped about the revelation that more than 100 fines have now been dished out to people working in Downing Street for Partygate breaches of Covid laws.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she was ‘too busy trying to make sure my heels don’t fall through the cracks’ of the cobbles on the site when asked about the latest batch of Covid fines.

Ahead of the Stoke away-day, Downing Street said the PM had ‘called on Cabinet colleagues and departments to double down on exploring innovative ways to ease pressures on household finances’ as well as ‘promoting the support that is available but not widely taken up.’

Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was said to have raised the idea of allowing vehicles to be checked less often, potentially saving drivers hundreds of pounds.

Mr Johnson apparently asked for faster progress on reducing the required ratio between adults and children in childcare settings – something that could reduce costs.

Cutting tariffs on imports of food not produced in the UK was also thought to been suggested around the Cabinet table.

Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was said to have raised the idea of allowing vehicles to be checked less often

The PM apparently asked for faster progress on reducing the required ratio between adults and children in childcare settings

Economic activity dipped 0.1 per cent month-on-month in March, with revised figures showing zero progress in February

John Lewis chief urges faster action on cost-of-living crisis 

The Government should act before the summer to tackle the cost of living, the boss of John Lewis has said.

Sharon White called on ministers to take the same ‘decisive action’ seen during the coronavirus pandemic amid rising energy prices.

Speaking on Peston, which airs at 10.45pm on ITV, Ms White said: ‘I think the time absolutely has come for action, whether it’s an emergency budget or whether it’s another vehicle.

‘As I say, I think we’re all really nervous about what’s going to happen in October, so when energy bills potentially go up again by up to £1,000, it’s winter.’

Asked if she wanted action now, she said: ‘I do, I think there ought to be action before the summer, so the decisive action that we saw – I thought the Government did incredibly well at pace and scale during Covid – I think we need to see the same decisive action taken at speed and at pace because otherwise… those are impacts across millions of households right across the country.’

Ms White said action should be taken even if it means a temporary hit to public finances.

Households have seen soaring energy bills, with inflation forecast to hit 10 per cent and welfare payments and wages falling behind the increase in prices. 

The Cabinet away-day was also arranged to discuss the Government’s new legislative agenda, as set out in this week’s Queen’s Speech.

The Parliamentary set-piece occasion drew criticism for failing to offer immediate support on the cost-of-living.

Mr Sunak reiterated that he would wait until the full impact of global energy price volatility is known, before acting.

With the war in Ukraine continuing to exacerbate the worldwide energy crisis, it is expected that Ofgem will announce in August another huge hike in gas and electricity bills as Britain heads into autumn and winter.

One energy boss this week predicted annual bills could soar close to £3,000 when an increased price cap comes into force from October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he ‘stands ready’ to do more to help households with their energy bills when the price cap is raised again.

‘I’ve always said I stand ready to do more as we learn more about the situation,’ he told Sky News.

‘On energy prices in particular, the price cap protects people for some months to come.

‘But I’ve said when we have a clearer picture about what happens with energy bills, we stand ready and I stand ready to support people further.’

The Financial Times reported Mr Sunak was looking to announce a major new support package in August. 

Ahead of the Cabinet day-trip, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m delighted to bring Cabinet to Stoke-on-Trent – a city which is the beating heart of the ceramics industry and an example of the high skilled jobs that investment can bring to communities.

‘This government is getting on with delivering the people’s priorities and tackling the issues that matter most to the public. 

‘This week we’ve set out how we’ll use new landmark legislation to grow our economy to address the cost of living, and level up opportunities for communities across the country.’

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