Will act on energy crisis in a week, Liz Truss promises ahead of UK PM poll result

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In the run-up to the UK election results, scheduled to be announced on Monday, Liz Truss, who is likely to be elected as the next Conservative leader, has pledged to set out “immediate action on energy bills and energy supply” in her first week in office, as a prelude to a budget that would take place later this month.

In an article in The Telegraph, Liz Truss wrote, “We need to take the difficult decisions to ensure we are not in this position every autumn and winter. Sticking plasters and kicking the can down the road will not do.”

The British foreign minister has already pledged to deliver a financial statement within two weeks of taking office.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER POLL RESULTS?

Voting in the Tory leadership race closed at 5 pm on Friday, with Truss widely expected to defeat her rival Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor, and take over as the next Prime Minister.

The victor will be announced by Sir Graham Brady at 12:30 pm on Monday, with the candidates getting to know the election results 10 minutes earlier.

The handover of power from outgoing PM Boris Johnson to the new Conservative leader will take office a day later. The winner- Liz Turss or Rishi Sunak- will meet Queen Elizabeth II at Scotland’s Balmoral Castle and be asked to form a government. After returning to Downing Street around 4pm, the new Conservative leader will spend the afternoon and evening assembling their Cabinet.

An ally of Truss said that if she is elected to power, it is likely that she will consider setting out her plans to tackle the energy crisis plaguing the nation to her Cabinet ministers within 24 hours of taking office.

CABINET COMPOSITION

This weekend, Liz Truss was said to be finalising plans for a Cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to sideline Rishi Sunak’s most vocal supporters.

Key allies of the foreign secretary are in line for plum posts, in addition to the expected appointments of Kwasi Kwarteng, who is the current business secretary, as chancellor, Suella Braverman as home secretary, and Ben Wallace as defence secretary.

Read: Liz Truss races ahead of Rishi Sunak, set to become UK PM

Wendy Morton, a transport minister, is likely to become chief whip, and Nadhim Zahawi is being lined up to run the Cabinet office. Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary, is expected to become justice secretary.

Liz Truss also revealed that she will set up a “council of economic advisers”, comprising “a team of world-class economists, so my chancellor and I have the best ideas and latest research on how to get the economy moving”.
Gerard Lyons, an influential economist who advised former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as mayor of London, is said to be in line for a role on the panel.

Sources in the know of the matter are of the opinion that Liz Truss is planning to appoint a deputy prime minister. Dominic Raab, who currently occupies that post, is not expected to remain a member of the cabinet.

TEETHING PROBLEM: SOARING ENERGY PRICES

A source close to Liz Truss said, if elected, she would embark on a “two-track approach”: unveiling immediate financial support for households while also trying to solve the deep-rooted problems exposed by the impacts of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.

While aides insisted that plans for reform were yet to be finalised, Liz Truss’s pledge to avoid relying on temporary solutions to the problem of soaring energy prices suggests that the foreign secretary is preparing for an overhaul of the market.

Both Boris Johnson and Kwarteng have suggested that changes are needed to the current situation in which domestic electricity bills rise in accordance with the “vagaries of the global gas price”.

In a separate article for The Telegraph, Gerard Lyons backs the idea of a cap on the wholesale price of gas produced in the UK, as he said the new prime minister’s first task would be to “tackle energy prices head on”.

“The dislocation in energy prices is now such that it makes sense for the government to step in and protect people and firms by fixing wholesale energy prices,” said Lyons adding, “It will also allow the government to focus on guaranteeing future supply… it can be executed in a way that keeps the cost to the government down… Such a move would remove uncertainty and be positive for business and consumer confidence.”

Experts said that the move could require primary legislation to override existing contracts with electricity generators – and that action would need to be taken to disincentivise firms from simply exporting energy at existing prices rather than selling at lower rates to UK firms.

In her article in The Telegraph, Truss said, “The fallout from the pandemic and Putin’s war has been an exceptional shock to our economy, and has exposed longstanding problems…We must do things differently to get the country back on track and get through these difficult times, which is why I stood to be our next prime minister.”

Earlier, Russia announced that it was delaying the resumption of its Nord Stream 1 gas line, provoking fresh concerns about energy prices.

Liz Truss said, “I will take decisive action to ensure families and businesses can get through this winter and the next. If elected, I plan within the first week of my new administration to set out our immediate action on energy bills and energy supply. A fiscal event would follow later this month from my chancellor, with a broader package of action on the economy.”

According to her allies, Truss has spent the past week drawing up plans to deal with the energy crisis, which are expected to include a possible VAT cut and an end to the moratorium on fracking.

Priorities in the first few days are also expected to include reversing the rise in National Insurance to put more money into families’ pockets.

“Liz will be well prepared, as the Civil Service has devoted a lot of time over the summer to an orderly transition so that she will be able to take over immediately if she wins,” said an ally.

On Friday, Nadhim Zahawi said Truss would have to overcome Treasury bureaucrats to drive through economic reforms and tackle the cost of living crisis. Speaking at an event held by the Policy Exchange think tank, he said, “When we make a decision at Cabinet, I think the role of the Treasury should be the enabler, [it] should lean in and drive the policy.”

On Friday night, Truss said: “I believe in a brighter and better future for Britain. I have a bold plan that will grow our economy and deliver higher wages, more security for families and world-class public services. I’ll do this by cutting taxes, pushing through supply-side reform and slashing red tape that is holding businesses back.”

However, a survey prepared by YouGov found that almost three quarters of the public (74%) put the rise in the cost of living as the top problem they think the new prime minister should be focusing on. The economy ranks as the second-placed priority, with almost half (47% per cent) putting this in their top three, ahead of third-placed climate change and fourth-placed health.

‘RISHI SUNAK STILL HAS SLIM CHANCE’

An ally of Rishi Sunak said supporters of Sunak were “genuinely sceptical” of polls showing Truss far ahead of her rival, insisting that he still had “very slim chance” of a shock win.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Dominic Raab, a supporter of Mr Sunak admitted that he had fifty-fifty chances of losing his now marginal Surrey seat at the next election – but insists he will not take up a seat in the House of Lords.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, had earlier said, “There is no sign that either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss have grasped the scale of what is facing us, let alone possesses the answers to it.”

On Friday night, Sunak also issued a statement to mark the end of voting, saying: “…We’ve had important debates about the challenges ahead, but I fully believe that we can come together, get through those challenges and build a brighter, better future for our country.”

— ENDS —





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