BORIS Johnson has said his government needs to do “everything we can to help people” through the mounting cost of living pressures as energy prices continue to spike.
The Prime Minister promised “colossal” investment in green energy and vowed to use the UK’s fast coronavirus vaccine rollout as motivation to build more wind farms in a bid to produce alternative power forms.
He told the Conservative Party spring conference in the working-class town of Blackpool that Britain needed to protect itself from international energy price rises, which he said were currently being intentionally fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin was seeking to “weaken the collective will to resist” his attack on Kyiv by “pushing up the cost of living, hitting us at the pumps and in our fuel bills”.
He added: “And so we must respond, and we’ve got to do everything we can to help people with their daily costs, help people with the cost of living.”
The comments come only days before Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to give his spring statement in the Commons on Wednesday.
HELP WITH FUEL BILLS
The UK Government has already announced a £200 deferment-style system to soften the blow of rising energy bills in 2022/23, while some households will also receive a £150 council tax rebate.
Political analysts predict the comments are likely to be mean that more help could be on the way in the spring statement, with households also braced for the impact of the 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions, a tax rise designed to fund clearing the Covid-induced NHS backlog.
Mr Johnson, who said he first spoke at a Blackpool Tory conference 25 years ago as a failed parliamentary candidate, said his impending energy security strategy – due to be published this month – would seek to reverse “years of short-termism”.
“If we’re going to deal with the biggest cost that families now face and tackle these rising fuel bills – the energy spike – we must take the bold steps necessary to end our dependence on Putin’s oil and gas,” he told the Winter Gardens audience.
“And that is what we are doing. In the immortal phrase, it is time to take back control of our energy supplies.
“After years of short-termism and hand-to-mouth solutions, we are setting up a British energy security strategy and we will make better use of our own naturally occurring hydrocarbons rather than import them for top dollar from abroad.”
The Tory leader said using Britain’s own fuel supply did “not mean in any way that we will abandon our drive for a low carbon future”, pledging to place “big bets” on nuclear power, including on small modular nuclear reactors.
He added: “And we’re going to take that bull-at-a-gate spirit of the booster rollout and use it to build more offshore wind in double-quick time and many other investments in clean green power.”
Raising the question about how the prospective investment in renewables could be paid for, the Prime Minister said he had spoken to international investors who were “yearning to make colossal long-term investments in British green infrastructure”.
Mr Johnson was making his speech having earlier this week been in Saudi Arabia where he was attempting to encourage Riyadh to increase its oil production as the West looks to wean itself off Moscow energy supplies.
In a 24-minute speech focused heavily on the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine, Mr Johnson argued that the battle for democracy in eastern Europe highlighted the freedoms people enjoyed in Britain.
He used those remarks to wade into the so-called culture war, telling supporters on Saturday: “We don’t need to be woke, we just want to be free.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, whose speech preceded the Prime Minister’s, also took a swipe at the “constant self-questioning” about UK identity.
Ms Truss, who is also equalities minister, said it was “time to end… the ludicrous debates about languages, statues and pronouns”.