Robin Walker – 2022 Speech on Energy Price Capping

The speech made by Robin Walker, the Conservative MP for Worcester, in the House of Commons on 8 September 2022.

I welcome the Prime Minister and indeed all her colleagues to their places on the Front Bench, and the rapid action that has been announced today. I wanted to see action for consumers in my constituency, but also for businesses, charities and the public sector, and I am delighted to hear all of that included in today’s statement. Over the summer, I have heard from hundreds of constituents about their concerns—people who are vulnerable, the elderly, students and people with illnesses and disabilities—about how they will not be able to turn down their heating in the upcoming winter. The action that has been announced today will be extremely welcome in all of those quarters, and the fact that there is a two-year cap in place is particularly welcome in my constituency.

I have also been hearing from businesses, and I have been very concerned about some of the costs facing pubs, hospitality businesses and manufacturers in my constituency. Indeed, as long ago as last year, I wrote to the then Business Secretary—now the Chancellor—about high-energy manufacturers such as aluminium extrusion businesses Superform and Aeromet in my constituency and about some of our largest manufacturers such as Worcester Bosch and Mazak in relation to the impact of energy costs on them, so I am delighted that today’s announcement also means help for businesses with energy. Of course, that help for businesses with energy is also, in the long term, help for consumers.

I look forward to hearing more about the urgent work going on to support the hospitality sector, which is so important in all our constituencies, and even retailers have been affected by these issues. Toys & Games of Worcester, a wonderful independent retailer in my constituency, expects its energy bills to go up by as much as 400% later this year. Following today’s intervention, I hope that will no longer happen and that that business can continue to thrive.

As a former schools Minister, I am delighted to hear of the help for schools. It is vital that we help them to address the challenges they face with energy pressures. On that front, the intervention is important, as it is for charities. In the last week I have visited my wonderful hospice in Worcester, St Richard’s, and this week I will be visiting the children’s hospice, which were both concerned about the impact of energy bills. We have seen correct interventions in all those spaces.

There is much to welcome in this statement: the new energy supply taskforce; speeding up the deployment of clean technologies, including, crucially, hydrogen; the reduction in inflation by up to five percentage points, and the new Bank of England scheme to support liquidity in the wholesale market; and the review to ensure that net zero can be met in a way that supports business and is pro-growth, which I am delighted to hear is taking place under my right hon. Friend—and sometime lookalike—the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore). I welcome the statement, and I want to make sure that we go further. In particular, I urge Ministers to consider the opportunities provided by hydrogen in helping to ensure that gas central heating continues to be delivered to our constituents’ homes in a clean, low-cost and energy-efficient way.