UK ministers rule out energy rationing amid fallout from Russian invasion of Ukraine
The UK Government has ruled out rationing energy after it was suggested preparations should be put in place in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps insisted it was "not the route that we want to go down".
Both Germany and Austria have taken steps towards gas rationing as part of an "early warning phase" over potential disruption to supplies.
Mr Shapp’s comments came after Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's shadow business and energy secretary, said the UK Government should consider rationing oil and gas.
However, he later appeared to U-turn on this.
Asked if it is a “good idea” for the UK to look into such a plan, Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “No, I don’t.”
Pressed on whether he can “completely” rule out energy rationing in the UK, Mr Shapps said: “Yes, I can. It’s not the route that we want to go down.”
Mr Reynolds originally told the same programme the Government should be making plans to ration gas and oil.
The Labour MP said: “We should be making those plans and the Government should be preparing, not necessarily in public, for that situation.
“There’s a lot of complacency in this country about the relative lower exposure to Russian gas that we have.
“But we should bear in mind that part of the supply that comes to this country from, for instance, Norway or from the liquefied natural gas that goes into the terminals and wells, that is partly because Russian gas is fulfilling the demands of central Europe.
“I think what the Government should announce is a plan which is not simply shopping from one authoritarian regime to the next for fossil fuels, but that long-term plan on renewables or nuclear and energy efficiency that would make the difference.”
But speaking on Times Radio an hour later, Mr Reynolds appeared to change his position.
Asked again whether the UK should be rationing energy, he said: “No, that would be a disaster for households and for businesses.
“But the fact you’re even asking the question is an indictment of Conservative energy policy for the last decade.
“We still haven’t had a plan from the Government, even though they said it was to them a priority and an emergency.”
He later said Labour believed “a successful plan would absolutely mean we did not have to consider” rationing energy.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested the UK Government could build up to seven new nuclear power stations by 2050 in a bid to boost energy security.
An energy strategy set to be published later this week is expected to focus on an expansion of nuclear and wind power.
Elsewhere, Mr Shapps said Chancellor Rishi Sunak would “always be looking” at what else he can do to support people amid the cost-of-living crisis.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “We’re trying to do what we can – you’re asking if we’ll do more – I want to absolutely be clear, given the Chancellor’s record, I’m sure he’ll always be looking what else he can do.
“He’s already provided billions and billions of pounds to try to relieve the pressure.”
The transport secretary went on to tell the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I don’t rule out the fact that we may need to do more still.”
But Mr Shapps also suggested in interviews on Sunday the way poverty data was presented can be “somewhat misleading”.
Put to him that hundreds of thousands more children are being pushed into poverty, he said: “I don’t want to sort of get us lost in numbers here, but poverty is divided into both absolute and relative [poverty], and sometimes the way it’s presented can be somewhat misleading to say the least.”
The Resolution Foundation think-tank has said a further 1.3 million people are set to fall into absolute poverty next year, including 500,000 children.
Mr Shapps added: “I do not mean to in any way, shape or form underplay it because you don’t have to be an expert – you just look at the cost of living, as you mentioned, the increase in inflation … it’s very substantial. And that’s why the Chancellor’s already come forward with £22 billion.”