RISHI Sunak has admitted the energy crisis facing Britain is “awful” — and vowed to make it the last if he becomes PM.
The former Chancellor said he would launch a national effort to protect Britain from future gas and oil price shocks the moment he walks into No10.
Yesterday, he pledged immediate cash support to help the hardest-hit families survive the winter — followed by action to prevent a repeat in the years ahead.
Mr Sunak has a drawn up an action plan to make sure Britain is tapped into reliable and affordable power supplies.
The wannabe Tory leader said: “The first rule of any crisis is to acknowledge that you are facing one. I have a plan to get us through it and make sure this is a one-winter crunch. I want this to be the last time people have to worry about their bills.
“It’s awful and I don’t want anyone to have to go through this again.
“So we’ll get through this winter with my plan but it’s also the longer-term things we need to get right so we don’t have to worry about this in the future.”
In an interview with The Sun on Sunday, Mr Sunak unveiled his masterplan, with action to:
- SUPPORT pensioners and the most vulnerable families to pay their rocketing bills this winter.
- SECURE future supplies with increased investment in nuclear, solar, shale and offshore wind production and a new deadline to make the UK energy independent.
- SAVE energy by cutting waste with an insulation blitz on draughty homes, helping millions to save money — and supplies.
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He said: “We need to increase food security, too. We only produce half the vegetables that we eat and only 16 per cent of our fruit.
“We still import 40 per cent of our pork so there is an enormous opportunity to back British farmers to produce more food here
“We need to get tough on the water companies, too, as it’s not acceptable that there’s so much preventable leakage from pipes due to poor investment and infrastructure.
“We’ve got to hold water companies to account for people having to deal with hosepipe bans.”
But he stressed that, for starters, energy will be his top priority.
He vowed: “I will make sure our country is never put into this position again.
“We’ve got to do a better job of increasing our energy security and there’s lots of things we can do, whether it’s new nuclear or offshore wind.
“I want to embark on a massive programme of insulating and upgrading the efficiency of millions of people’s homes. It’s going to be a big, long-term effort. Look, we did it with the vaccine, right?”
His action plan includes deregulation to drive up North Sea gas production, a fresh push to carry out fracking with local consent and regulatory reform to scale up offshore wind, rooftop solar and nuclear power.
Crucially, he will act to speed up investment to stop reliance on imported energy which can be hit by unforeseen trouble like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
New laws will make it a legal target to make Britain entirely energy independent by 2045.
Mr Sunak added: “I will support people who need urgent help to pay their bills this winter. Failure to do so would push millions, including many pensioners, into a state of destitution.
“Allowing that to happen would not only be morally wrong, it would create a millstone that would rightly be hung around our party’s neck for decades to come.
“I will lead a national effort to increase our domestic energy supply and cut our energy waste.
“My plan will get us through this winter and provide energy security for Britain.”
Mr Sunak insists he is the man who can “get things done” and that he has a track record of turning his words into action.
He said: “I was Chancellor for a matter of weeks before the pandemic struck. I popped up on TV screens for the first time and lots of people were probably thinking, ‘Who on Earth is this chap?’
“Then I quickly put together things like furlough. There was no manual. But I took the steps to support families, businesses and pubs through a really tough time. I figured out how to do it, deliver it and make sure it worked.
“I would do that again, so people can trust that I can deliver for them because I’ve already done it.”
Mr Sunak spoke before the first of six campaign visits yesterday, steadfastly refusing to throw in the towel in the face of bookies making Foreign Secretary Liz Truss hot favourite to win the race.
He points out that he has topped the ballot by a big margin at every stage of the Parliamentary process and believes he is winning over more grassroots Tories on every visit.
“It’s not over by a long chalk,” he insisted, with 20 days to go until voting closes.
He believes he is the candidate best equipped to unite the Conservatives, saying: “It’s the breadth of support that I’m happy about. It’s not drawn from a particular faction of the party.
“There is a strong, broad support which will give people confidence that I can put a team together than can deliver for Britain.”
Rishi on the Union
THE future of the UK will not be safe until Nicola Sturgeon is crushed, Mr Sunak warned.
He said it would be a mistake to ignore the SNP chief as rival candidate Liz Truss would.
Mr Sunak said: “We can’t ignore Nicola Sturgeon until we have beaten her and put her on the back benches. I want to take her on and defeat her.”
He also fears the prospect of losing the next election to Labour propped up by an SNP-Lib Dem coalition, calling it “disastrous for the Union”.
Rishi on Lionesses
ENGLAND’S legendary Lionesses will get a celebration fit for heroes if Rishi Sunak wins the leadership race.
He vowed to invite the England women’s football team for a victory bash at No 10 after their historic Euros triumph last month.
He said: “We should give them a proper party and I’d love to be able to host one as PM. They have been inspiring for a generation of young people.”
The dad of two watched some games on TV and cheered them on in the final from a pub in Salisbury.
Rishi on Liz Truss
CASH help for families struggling to pay energy bills should not be called “handouts”, Rishi Sunak insists.
Leadership rival Liz Truss has previously said she prefers tax cuts to targeted “handouts”.
But Mr Sunak said: “It is not a word I would use. There are plenty of people working really hard — pensioners who have paid in all their lives — and now there’s a war that’s having an impact on prices.
“We should be worried about plans other people are suggesting that aren’t going to help those people.”
Noboddy does it batter
SPORT-mad Rishi Sunak plays a straight bat when asked how he’ll tackle the cost of living crisis.
He admits he may be on a sticky wicket but insists he will make no false promises.
He said: “Look, my plan is simple. We’ve got to get a grip of inflation, help people this autumn and winter and grow the economy.”
Mr Sunak joined in with an impromptu over on a visit to South Hampstead Cricket Club in North London.