Port Talbot MP wants price cap for businesses

Port Talbot MP wants price cap for businesses

Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock said the UK government should “look at a range of options including a price cap.”

He accused ministers of “looking the other way” since concerns over energy prices were first raised six years ago.

The UK government said it was determined to secure a competitive future for energy-intensive industries.

It is understood that the Port Talbot plant has hedged – bought energy in advance of the recent spike in prices.

But the Labour MP said he was worried about what would happen when the benefits of the hedge ran out.

“The steelworks is the beating heart of our community,” he said.

“This is not just about spreadsheets and numbers. This is about families and our communities. There is not a single family in Port Talbot that does not have a link to the works.

“I am very worried and very frustrated, as so many of these risks could have been mitigated if the UK government had a proper industrial strategy.”

The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We are determined to secure a competitive future for our energy intensive industries and in recent years have provided them with extensive support, including more than £2bn to help with the costs of energy and to protect jobs.

“Our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to end Britain’s dependency on fossil fuels and build a strong, home-grown renewables sector so we can protect consumers into the future from gas prices set by international markets.”

Mr Kinnock also criticised what he perceived as the prime minister’s recent attack on business for not doing enough to prepare for shortages and price rises.

“Boris Johnson seems to be deliberately baiting the steel industry as well as other business,” he said.

“I find it extraordinary behaviour from a prime minister, who should be a team player and be looking to work in partnership with industry.”

Tata Steel is not making any official comment on the price rises, but is understood to support a call from the trade body UK Steel for the government and regulator Ofgem to “take action.”

The dramatic spike in wholesale gas prices on Wednesday was tempered by suggestions from the Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would supply more gas to Europe.

But Mr Kinnock warned against over-reliance on supplies from Russia.

He was arrested in St Petersburg in 2008 while working for the British Council on what were described as trumped-up charges – charges both he and the council rejected.

He was later released without charge.

“This is the country which sent operatives to murder Alexander Litvinenko on British soil with a nuclear-grade poison, which sent operatives to assassinate Sergei Skripal in Salisbury,” he said.

“This is the country that Europe and indirectly the UK might come to rely on to sort out our energy crisis? It beggars belief that we are in this position.”