Labour has called for the government to take contingency measures in case fuel rationing is needed in the UK as Russia’s war in Ukraine deepens.
Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said “there’s a lot of complacency in this country” about the UK’s exposure to Russian gas and urged the government to plan for fuel rationing – “not necessarily in public” – should supplies be further affected
However, transport secretary Grant Shapps today (April 3) rejected Labour’s calls and ruled out following other European countries who have made plans for rationing if Russia cuts off its supply.
Germany has introduced emergency measures to ration gas for such a scenario but when asked on BBC One’s Sunday Morning show, if he could “completely” rule out fuel rationing for the UK, Shapps said: “Yes I can. It’s not the route we want to go down.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned the cabinet in March that the UK would suffer a devastating £75 billion economic hit followed by recession if the EU banned Russian gas and oil imports. The Independent reported that Sunak warned an immediate EU ban would cause recessions across Europe and wipe out the equivalent of 3% of the UK’s GDP “straight away”. The resulting recession would come on top of the worst cost of living crisis in generations.
‘Fuel rationing should be an extreme option,’ says Labour
Fuel rationing “should be an extreme option” the government should be considering, the shadow business secretary told the BBC. Reynolds said: “We should be making those plans and the government should be preparing – not necessarily in public – for that situation.
“There’s a lot of complacency in this country about the relative lower exposure to Russian gas that we have.”
Reynolds said “we should bear in mind” that part of the UK’s supply comes from Norway and “that is partly because Russian gas is fulfilling the demands of central Europe”. Should that end, prices will rise because European countries will be buying from the same energy markets as the UK.
Shapps told Sky’s Sophie Ridge, the war in Ukraine is a “massive wake-up call” for countries heavily dependent on imported Russian gas. “You can have all the sanctions in the world… but it’s also important we aren’t paying cash back into their system,” adding, it is “important to close the loop”.
‘Shopping from one authoritarian regime to the next for fossil fuels’
In a statement last month, the government pledged to end all imports of Russian oil by the end of the year and said it is “exploring options” to also end gas imports from Russia. Last month, Boris Johnson flew to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to try and secure increased energy supplies from the region.
Reynolds said: “I think what the Government should announce is a plan which is not simply shopping from one authoritarian regime to the next for fossil fuels”.
The government’s long awaited energy security strategy could be published this week and though Shapps today hinted at more off shore wind farms he expressed opposition to expanding onshore wind power generation.
“I don’t favour a vast increase in onshore windfarms for pretty obvious reasons. They sit on the hills there and can create something of an eyesore for communities as well as actual problems of noise as well,” Shapps told Sky News.