Liz Saville Roberts blast UK Government for ‘absurd absence of leadership’ over soaring energy costs
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader has accused the UK Government of an ‘absurd absence of leadership’ over soaring energy bill and called for the energy price cap to be lowered and frozen.
Liz Saville Roberts urged ministers to return the cap to pre-April levels and for it to be extended to small businesses and charities, who are currently excluded.
Plaid Cymru say lowering and freezing the cap could be paid for by backdating the windfall tax on oil and gas.
Ms Saville Roberts also criticised Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for “sleepwalking into a catastrophic energy crisis”, adding that without urgent action by the Westminster government to reduce bills, “people will suffer in a way that should be unimaginable in a 21st Century advanced economy”.
“We are sleepwalking into a catastrophic energy crisis with millions of people facing destitution this winter. Yet our so-called leaders in Westminster are too busy navel gazing to notice. The absurd absence of leadership during this crisis is truly unforgivable,” she said.
“The people of Wales don’t care who is crowned Prime Minister in a fortnight. What they do care about is what Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will do to reduce their sky-high costs. A vague commitment to a ‘fiscal event’ is not enough.
“Plaid Cymru are calling on the UK Government to return the price cap to pre-April levels for both standard-variable tariff and pre-payment meters. That is the only way to protect struggling families.
“Small businesses such as corner shops, farms and food suppliers are facing rocketing bills and will not be protected by a price cap. Plaid Cymru are therefore backing the Federation of Small Businesses’ call for the price cap to be extended to small businesses and charities.
“The £650 cost-of-living payment must be doubled, and its eligibility criteria revised to include those on disability benefits, who are currently excluded.
“To pay for this, the windfall tax on oil and gas companies must be extended and backdated. Fossil fuel profits have reached grotesque levels, with energy bosses making billions on the back of the poorest.
Earlier today the Child Poverty Action Group warned families on low incomes will “fall through the ice” this winter without extra Government help, as they are set to face an estimated £1,000 shortfall on their energy bills.
The charity is calling for a cost-of-living support boost worth at least £1,500 for families with children if the price cap rises to £3,554 in October, and again to £4,650 in January, as tipped by analysts.
The warning comes as consumer watchdog Which? said the UK Government must raise its energy bills discount by at least 150% or risk pushing millions of households into financial distress.
New analysis from CPAG suggests low-income families will be short on their energy bills by an estimated £1,000 in the year to April 2023.
Regulator Ofgem will announce the new price cap level on Friday.
“Many of our communities are already on the brink of destitution, only surviving thanks to the generosity of foodbanks and local community organisations,” Ms Saville Roberts added.
Without urgent action by the Westminster government to reduce bills, people will suffer in a way that should be unimaginable in a 21st Century advanced economy.
“This crisis should also be a wake-up call to Westminster about the instability and vulnerability of our energy systems.
“Plaid Cymru is clear that a key long-term solution to avoid future energy crises is to bring the big five energy companies into public hands and to radically increase investment in green energy and home insulation.
“Let us not forget that Wales presently produces twice the energy we consume, yet we pay higher standing charges for electricity.
“The time must come for Wales to benefit fully from the value of what we produce and export.”
Tory leadership frontrunner Ms Truss has suggested she would draw up an emergency budget if elected prime minister, describing it as a “fiscal event” at a leadership hustings in Birmingham on Tuesday.
But tax cuts would remain Ms Truss’s “first port of call” as the next premier, and she has suggested her proposals were a shift in how to manage the UK economy to create prosperity.
Her opponent Mr Sunak has questioned her economic credibility, with his campaign raising the alarm about reports that Ms Truss does not plan to include a forecast by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility in her emergency budget.
The former chancellor said Ms Truss’s plans to borrow to fund tax cuts could “pour fuel on the fire” of inflation, and warned that millions could be left in “destitution” this winter on her watch.
While Mr Sunak has said it would be “immoral” to not provide more direct support to struggling households, he ruled out calls for a price freeze, claiming it was not “the right approach”.
As chancellor, Ms Sunak introduced the temporary energy profits levy in July, after Labour repeatedly called for a windfall tax.
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