Keir Starmer says PM’s ‘failed energy policy’ is causing bills to rocket | PMQs

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Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of presiding over a “failed energy policy” that is resulting in rocketing bills, as he called for the government to invest in nuclear and renewable energy sources and insulate homes to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas.

The Labour leader used prime minister’s questions to repeatedly link the impact of the invasion of Ukraine to the cost of living crisis, an issue where many Conservative MPs want to see more robust action from ministers.

Starmer called for more direct help to cut energy bills, including a windfall tax on oil companies, but also demanded urgent action to reduce reliance on hydrocarbons, including an end to a de facto ban on new onshore wind projects.

Johnson argued against a windfall tax and said existing efforts to help with energy bills were generous. Starmer responded with derision, saying: “I don’t think the prime minister understands the mess he’s in.”

The government, Starmer said, should be “starting a new era of energy policy, never again at the mercy of a dictator”, including more nuclear power, “sprinting” for more renewables, and rapid moves to insulate homes.

“So why is the prime minister offering the same failed energy policy that cast us into the security crisis and allowed bills to rocket?” Starmer asked.

Johnson argued the government had already introduced “unprecedented measures” to help with bills, including a one-off £200 loan to offset energy costs and £150 for some households towards council tax.

Johnson dismissed the idea of a windfall tax, saying: “The net result of that would be to see the oil companies put their prices up yet higher, and make it more difficult for them to do what we need them to do … and that is divesting from dependence on Russian oil and gas. That is the way forward for this country – it is to take a sober, responsible approach.”

But Starmer noted that average energy bills were due to rise by £700 in April, with the £200 loan not arriving till October, by which point bills were likely to rise another £1,000. “It’s a total mess,” Starmer said. “So I ask again: when is the prime minister going to force the chancellor to U-turn?”

After Johnson ruled out the idea of a windfall tax on the high profits from oil companies assisted by rising prices, Starmer said the prime minister was “protecting energy profits, not working people”.

The Labour leader said: “Britain can’t afford another crisis like this. We need to improve our long-term energy security. That starts with supporting new nuclear and renewables.”

The government had, he said, “effectively banned new onshore wind”, asking: “Will the prime minister relax planning laws, end the block on onshore wind, and stop supporting policies that make us so dependent on foreign gas?”

Saying that the UK had the least energy-efficient housing stock in Europe, Starmer called for an “urgent national mission” to insulate homes, saying this could save households £400 a year in bills.

“All the government has is a failed policy,” Starmer said. “Taking all their announcements together, it will take 75 years to deliver the upgrades that we need. That’s a lifetime, when we need urgent action. When is the prime minister going to get on with it?”

Johnson argued that the UK was “the Saudi Arabia of wind power”, and blamed the lack of new nuclear power on Labour governments, which were last in power in 2010.


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