The global gas crisis’ impact on British industry intensified today, with representatives of one heavy energy-consuming sector calling for direct intervention from Prime Minister Johnson, now on holiday in Spain.
Weekend reports of contradictory briefings between ministers included a Treasury spokesperson accusing Kwame Kwarteng of ‘making it up’, after the energy secretary told The Times on Saturday that he and chancellor Rishi Sunak had been in constant talks about resolving the crisis.
In the Sunday Telegraph, an un-named Treasury source rejected Kwarteng’s account.
Wholesale gas prices have soared 250% since January, though dropped back marginally today, but still above 200 pence per therm.
Amid repeated reports that British ceramics, steel and paper producers would be suspending or ceasing production within days due to rocketing gas prices, Gareth Stace, director general of lobbyists UK Steel, today directly sought the premier’s intervention to ‘bang ministerial heads together’.
“British steel needs Mr Johnson to step in now, and resolve this crisis”, Stace told LBC Radio.
“He should begin by addressing the environmental levies that cost steel-makers £55 million a year, making us uncompetitive against our continental rivals”.
“Bickering ministers and continued upward pressure on one of steel’s biggest cost factors, need the prime minister’s attention”, said Stace
The Evening Standard today reported the premier as holidaying until Thursday with his family at Torre Tramores, a villa close to Marbella owned by his fellow Etonian Lord Goldsmith.
Johnson already faces strong criticism from UK industry for his description of the energy crisis as ‘temporary’.
Gas prices by 15:00 this afternoon had fallen back by 1.9% on Friday’s close, trading at 218 pence per therm for next day delivery. Responsible, said one trader, was weakened upward pressure in European markets, reacting to Russia’s assurances on Friday of increased supply.