UK industry could ‘shut down’ from gas shortages this winter, government warned

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High gas prices will continue throughout the winter and could force UK industry to “shut down” if supplies run out, the founder of manufacturing giant Ineos has warned.

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe said the lack of gas storage had left the country vulnerable – warning the government that a sharp winter could lead to widespread shutdowns as demand outstrips supply.

Appearing on ITV’s peston, the industrialist was asked if the country could be shut down due to prolonged cold, he replied: “Yes, in that case, what would you do that you would shut down the industry.”


Sir Jim said: “I think it is quite difficult to predict how long the current situation like this will last, but you know what I think if you were a bettor you would have assumed it would probably At least that will last through the winter because obviously our gas demand goes up in the winter.”

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak downplayed the level of support the government could provide for rising gas costs – saying “it is not the government’s job” to manage prices.

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Speaking in Washington after attending the G7 finance ministers, Sunak said: “We stand ready to work with business and support them as needed.”

The chancellor said: “But in general I believe in a market economy, because it has served us very well in this country. It is not the job of the government to start and start managing the price of each individual product.”

Sunak is set to apply the tough “value for money” test to any financial support offered to the steel sector and other major energy users. financial Times.

Urging the government to provide short-term subsidies, major manufacturers, such as steel and chemical makers, have warned they may have to close plants this winter if energy levels remain high.

Energy experts have also warned that a harsh winter could force Britain to restrict business’s energy supply – closing factories in a throwback to the three-day week of the 1970s.

Sir Jim urged Sunak to provide adequate aid to ensure that “the UK economy cannot be held to ransom because we have not managed our gas situation very well”.

The UK has 10 days of storage, Ineos’ founder said – calling that figure “a bit pathetic indeed for a nation as important as the UK”, given countries on the continent have four or five times that amount. .

Sir Jim said, “Four years ago when we had, if you remember, The Beast from the East, we were within a day or two of running out of gas in Britain.”

“It would have been a disaster if we ran out of gas, you know, old people who couldn’t get home heating, for the industry that would have to shut down. But we were within days, and we made that point. “

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government should “come out of hiding” and work with business on the issue. “He’s thrown out of office. While other countries are stepping up and acting, Britain is surprisingly complacent.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said ministers and officials were engaging with industry “to help mitigate and understand the effects of high global gas prices”.

Meanwhile, Sunak stressed that there will be a “good amount of Christmas gifts available” here this year, despite the supply chain crisis.

The construction of cargo at Felixstow has caused the shipping company Maersk to opt to divert ships away from Suffolk port, while similar logjams have been observed elsewhere in the world, including the US.

“We are doing our best to mitigate some of these challenges,” Sunak said. “They are global in nature so we can’t fix every single problem, but I believe there will be a good provision of stuff for everyone.”

It comes as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and 41 other trade groups have urged Sunak to reduce trading rates and make fundamental changes to the system.

Labor’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also called for reform, saying the system was no longer fit for purpose. “It penalizes high-street shops in favor of the online giants and prevents businesses from investing in new green technologies,” she said.


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