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Boris Johnson unable to say how much energy bills have gone up in toe-curling interview

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Boris Johnson has refused to say whether he knows how much energy bills have gone up by in an awkward interview that saw him grilled on the cost-of-living crisis.

In a toe-curling exchange with Nick Ferrari on LBC, the prime minister was challenged over whether he was "out of touch" and could understand the financial pain endured by millions of Britons.

Quizzed on the price of a pack of 24 nappies from Boots, Johnson — who has two children under the age of three with his wife Carrie and at least five others— was unable to say how much they cost.

Pressed on how he economises his household budget, Ferrari asked him: "Are you in touch? What’s the value of the energy price cap currently?"

Scribbling for words, Johnson replied: "I’m not going to get into that", before promising to "help people with their weekly outgoings".

Challenged on the price cap for a second time, Johnson again refused to answer, saying his government was focused on helping people in short, medium and long term.

The energy price cap rocketed by 54% on 1 April amid spiralling wholesale gas prices, saddling people with a typical annual bill of £1,971 — an increase of £693.

Read more: Rishi Sunak urged to announce emergency budget to rescue UK economy

The ONS revealed last month 40% of Brits are now struggling to pay their energy bills, and experts have warned that 1.3 million people will fall into absolute poverty in 2022/23 without more support.

"There is more coming down the track… July and so on," the prime minister told LBC, but did not say what the help was.

However, Johnson notably refused to rule out a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies.

PM
Boris Johnson has suggested more help with the cost of living is on the way in the coming months. (LBC)

The government has staunchly defended the action they have already taken the cost of living crisis —including the Treasury's £9bn package of support. In February, immediately after Ofgem hiked the price cap, Rishi Sunak announced:

  • A £150 council tax rebate for bands A-D; and

  • A £200 repayable discount off energy bills, clawed back from customers over the next five years in £40 instalments.

However, the scheme has been fiercely criticised - with consumer champion Martin Lewis describing it as a "loan-not-a-loan", and Labour accusing the chancellor of being a "loan shark".

Read more: UK economy shrinks in March as GDP falls

Labour has also warned that a million households that do not receive the discount will still have to pay the £200.

Every main political party is now piling pressure on the government to implement a windfall tax on the unexpected profits oil companies have made due to soaring prices triggered by geopolitical issues — like the war in Ukraine.

They argue that the money raised could be funnelled into extra financial support for household.

But the government has rejected the calls for months, claiming such a move would stifle investment in green energy infrastructure in the UK.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak hosts a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room on February 3, 2022 in London, England. As the energy regulator, OFGEM, announced a domestic energy price cap rise of 54 percent earlier today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Energy Bill Rebate to help ease the cost of living burden. Council tax rebates of £150 for 80% of households and £200 off energy bills in October form £9.1 billion treasury package of support.  (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The government has defended the help it's providing on the cost of living crisis, including the partially repayable £9bn package of measures to help Brits with soaring energy bills. (Getty Images)

However, their position appears to have softened in recent weeks after BP said that a windfall tax would not necessarily deter their green investment plans.

It came after the oil giant said it may have "more cash than we know what to do with" in February amid record profits.

The prime minister's refusal to state how much energy bills have gone up by comes after a car crash interview on Good Morning Britain earlier this month when he was criticised for his response to the story of a 77-year-old pensioner struggling with rising energy costs.

Read more: Tory MP: People use food banks because they can’t budget or cook properly

When challenged by GMB host Susanna Reid over Elsie's story of riding busses all day to keep warm, Johnson sparked outrage by falsely claiming he introduced the pass.

"Let's talk about Elsie and what we're doing," he told Reid. "And just to remind you that the 24-hour freedom bus pass was something that I actually introduced."

Watch: Boris Johnson condemned over interview about 77-year-old pensioner who rides bus all day to save money

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