No 10 has brushed off the idea that there could be a winter of discontent with energy and food shortages over Christmas, saying the UK is “highly resilient”.
With the government locked in talks with energy suppliers about the rising cost of gas and many firms struggling to stay afloat, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said there was “no question of the lights going out”.
“There will be no three-day working weeks or a throwback to the 1970s,” he said. “Such thinking is alarmist, unhelpful and completely misguided.” He also insisted the energy price cap to protect consumers from sharp rises in bills “will remain in place”.
However, households are already facing a rise of 12%-13% in the cap – an average of £139 – this October, and there is no guarantee that it will not rise further next year in response to the global gas price shock.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, said many people were facing a “triple whammy” from rising energy costs, the national insurance hike, and a cut to universal credit.
The high price of gas has forced some CO2 producers to shut down, leading the meat industry to warn that there could be shortages in the coming months because the gas is needed for humane slaughter, stunning, packaging and refrigeration.
However, Johnson’s spokesman insisted the UK would not fall victim to any food shortages, despite poultry producers raising the alarm that there may not be enough turkeys and other meat for Christmas.
“We’ve got a highly resilient food supply chain in the UK, we’ve seen that throughout the pandemic, and we will obviously continue to work with industries that are facing issues to ensure that remains the case,” he said. “We will consider any contingency plans as appropriate.”