A Treasury source slapped down Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for claiming he was in talks with Chancellor Rishi Sunak over support for industry
The Prime Minister has flown to Spain for a holiday with his wife Carrie and young son Wilf – leaving ministers squabbling in his absence.
Treasury sources effectively accused Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng of lying when he indicated he was in talks with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on how to resolve the crisis.
Mr Kwarteng said he had not approached the Treasury about subsidies for firms but told Sky News: “What I’m very clear about is we need to help them get through this situation – it’s a difficult situation, gas prices, electricity prices are at very high levels right across the world.
“Of course I’m speaking to Government colleagues particularly in the Treasury to try and see a way through this.”
But a Treasury source told the Mirror: “The Treasury has not been involved, contrary to what the Business Secretary said this morning.”
It comes as Mr Sunak gears up for the Autumn Budget and the Spending Review later this month.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves demanded to know what the Government was doing if it wasn’t trying to support vital industries through the crisis.
The Shadow Chancellor said: “If the Treasury isn’t in talks with BEIS to help our vital industries during this Conservative government’s energy crisis, then why on Earth aren’t they?
“What is the Chancellor actually doing?”
Mr Kwarteng was reportedly warned by industry bosses last week that some factories were days from being forced into temporary closure due to spiralling costs of wholesale gas.
Calls have been made for extra support by energy-intensive industries, such as steel manufacturers.
Told it sounded like he was giving them support, Mr Kwarteng told the BBC: “No, that doesn’t sound like yes at all. We already have existing support and we’re looking to see if that’s sufficient to get us through this situation.”
The Government recently intervened to bail out US-owned CF Industries after the fertiliser giant temporarily suspended operations at two British plants due to spiralling gas prices.
Meanwhile, Mr Kwarteng insisted the lights will stay on over the winter as the Energy UK industry body warned that more suppliers will collapse.
The minister guaranteed he will keep the energy price cap for consumers in place throughout the winter but said he will not “bail out failing energy suppliers”.
Labour accused the Government of “putting its out of office on” as Brits face a cost of living crisis, with soaring energy bills, benefit cuts, and fuel and food shortages.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson said: “The Prime Minister has gone on holiday, no one knows where the Chancellor is, and this morning we understand the Business Secretary has entered the realms of fantasy.”
UK Steel director general Gareth Stace warned the Government that a failure to act “may result in long-term damage to the future of the steel industry”.
“Heading into the winter months, increasing prices could result in extended shutdowns, damage to equipment, loss of export opportunities and market share at home, and a loss of talent and employment,” he added.
Energy UK chief executive Emma Pinchbeck warned that “exposed” businesses such as energy-intensive users and retailers will be the worst hit.
“We are expecting more retailers to go out of business this winter,” she said.
“The issue is how many are failing at once and whether or not our mechanisms, which are in place to look after customers when that happens, are up for that many failures in one go.”