Families face choice between 'eating and heating' this winter, Business Sec warns amid threat of rising bills

HARD-UP families face a gruelling choice between "eating and heating" this winter as millions risk soaring energy bills, the Business Secretary today admitted.

Kwasi Kwarteng is holding emergency talks with suppliers to avoid Brits having to stump up hundreds of pounds extra for gas and electricity.

He is refusing firms' demands to raise the energy price cap – which would send energy bills through the roof.

But if more energy companies go bust Brits will be forced to change suppliers and risk having to pay full whack.

This morning GMB presenter Susanna Reid told Mr Kwarteng people face "the choice between heating their homes and staying warm or eating, parents who may forego meals in order to feed their kids."

The Cabinet minister replied: "You're right, and that's why I'm very keen to keep the warm home discount and also there are other winter fuel payments that we're looking at."

He insisted Boris Johnson won't step in to bail out "badly run" enterprises as happened during the 2008 banking crisis.

There have been fears of blackouts and food shortages in the run up to Christmas if the growing energy crisis deepens.

Mr Kwarteng insisted there's "absolutely no question of the lights going out" and that Britain has a reliable supply of gas.

But he admitted there is little the Government can do about rising wholesale prices.

He said: "Generally over the last three or four years we've had five to eight companies exit the market for whatever reason.

"Some of them have been badly run, some of them have had liquidity difficulties, so this is something that happens a lot.

"This year the number will probably exceed the normal five to eight companies that exit.

"We have to anticipate more failures given the high wholesale price, but we've got mechanisms in place."

He added: "It's always a sad thing when companies do have to exit the market, or leave or fail.

"But I don't want taxpayers money to be propping up badly run companies, I don't think that makes any sense. We can't reward failure."

Industry insiders fear as many as 29 of the UK's 55 energy suppliers could go bust before the year is out.

Mr Kwarteng said plans are in place to make sure the customers of any firms that go bust are transferred to another supplier.

He insisted such people should be able to find pricing that's "very much in line with their old tariff" when they switch

And he said larger providers asked to absorb the customers of smaller ones that go under could be given state-backed loans to help.

He said: "Any support for those larger companies will be a loan, it won't be just a grant, it won't be just a blank cheque.

"It will be something where – if we do have this facility, if we do have this policy – they will be expected to pay back the loans.

"Whereas in the case of a bailout you grant money, taxpayers' money, and the taxpayer doesn't see any return from that."

Mr Kwarteng insisted the energy price cap won't be scrapped despite intense lobbying from energy giants.

But he admitted despite that fact many families will still face "a very difficult winter" heating their homes.

He also insisted a plan to fix shortages of carbon dioxide, which are threatening food production, will be in plan by the end of the week.

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