Boris Johnson’s chief of staff has dismissed the suggestion that a new cost-of-living aid package is being programmed to distract from Sue Gray’s Partygate report.
Steve Barclay said that the government does not control when the report – laying bare drunkenness and partying in Downing Street – was published and that it met Ofgem’s forecast that typical annual bills would rise to £2,800 this fall.
Mr Barclay said the Prime Minister was appalled by the contents of the 37-page report into behavior at Number 10 during lockdowns – and personally apologized after findings showed security guards and cleaners were badly treated.
Politics live: Rishi Sunak to reveal more help amid rising cost of living
His comments came hours before Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s expected announcement of hundreds of extra pounds in aid for households struggling with rising bills partly paid for by a one-off multibillion-pound levy on energy companies.
The government has so far resisted Labour’s call for a windfall tax, saying it would deter investment – although over the past two weeks Mr Sunak’s language and other senior ministers softened, suggesting the option was on the table.
Asked about the timing of the announcement the day after Sue Gray’s report, Mr Barclay told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “No, it’s because we got advice from Ofgem.
“On Sue Gray’s report – we don’t control the timing of this… indeed the timing of this is shaped by the Met Police investigation.
“What we’ve always said is that…we wanted to see from Ofgem’s guidance what the full impact would be in the fall on families so that we could design this package well, so that’s absolutely logical.
“We had this advice this week from Ofgem, which is why the Chancellor is coming forward today.”
The timing was also governed by the fact that Parliament was about to go into recess, Mr Barclay said.
Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley told MPs earlier this week he was writing to the Chancellor outlining the hope that an increase in the energy cap in October would see typical energy bills rise from £1,971 at around £2,800.
This 42% increase would be on top of the 54% increase in April.
But the exact magnitude of the fall hike won’t be officially announced by the energy regulator until August.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer mocked Mr Johnson on the timing of the expected aid on Wednesday, saying: ‘What was it about Sue Gray’s report that drew him in for first time in a U-turn this week?”
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