Politics

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged over energy bill surge and rising cost of living

THE PRIME Minister has defended his party after it was accused of making working families pay for its incompetence.

During the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year today, Boris Johnson was challenged by Labour’s Angela Rayner, who was standing in for her party leader who is currently isolating. 

Keir Starmer has tested positive again for coronavirus, having been forced to self-isolate in October due to contracting the virus. 

Mr Johnson tried to deflect Ms Rayner’s attacks, arguing his party had created more jobs and there were more people in employment now than before the pandemic.

Ms Rayner, the labour deputy leader, said Mr Johnson had got it “so wrong” over inflation, and added: “In October the Prime Minister said that fears about inflation were unfounded, but working people across the country are starting the New Year facing rising bills and ballooning prices, so how did he get it so wrong?”

She also challenged him over what he would do to fix the predicted surge in energy bills from April, when the price cap is raised, and added that 27 firms had gone bust in the last year. 

She said: The Prime Minister has made political choices that has led us into this place; his government has failed to invest in long term energy security;  his government decided to let gas storage collapse; his government let the energy market go out of control. 

“27 energy companies have gone bust in the last year and now household bills are going through the roof…Yet again, working families are picking up the tab for his incompetence.” 

The Prime Minister joked in response that Ms Rayner had “a lot more energy” than her party leader Sir Keir, and added: “What the government is doing is supporting people throughout the pandemic – 2.2 million people supported with the warm homes a discount worth £140 per week, which we introduced; pensioners supported with a £300 winter fuel payments; cold weather payments worth £25 a week for 4 million people up and down the country.

“That is what we are doing, which is on top of everything we’re doing to support people on low incomes –  cutting taxes for those on Universal Credit, increasing the living wag.” 

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, also challenged the PM over the predicted rising cost of living, citing a Resolution Foundation report which found that people could be £1200 worse off as a result of the changes to national insurance rates, energy bills rising and other government policies.

He said: ” For members of the Tory government, £1200 might not seem like very much.

“For the Foreign Secretary, it’s just another taxpayer-funded lunch in Mayfair. For the Prime Minister, it’s just a roll of fancy wallpaper for his taxpayer-funded flat.

“But for the vast majority of families, losing £1200 a year will be catastrophic. For some, it will mean they can’t afford to pay their rent and bills, heat their homes, or put food on the table.”

He asked if Mr Johnson would “apologise for leaving millions of families worse off”.

The Prime Minister replied: “What we are doing is helping families up and down the country, making sure that single mother with two kids gets £1200 more on Universal Credit – £1000 more as a result of the increase to the living wage.

“But the crucial thing I am trying to get over this afternoon is that we, unlike virtually any other European economy, have been able to keep going and keep people in work and now we’ve got more people in work than before the pandemic began.

“That is because of the balanced and proportionate approach that we’ve been taking and his support will be welcomed.” 

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