THE Business Secretary went cap in hand to the Treasury last night for a gas bill bailout that could cost the taxpayer billions.
After days of Whitehall bickering, Kwasi Kwarteng presented Chancellor Rishi Sunak with a doom-laden map of British factories that could be forced to close down in weeks due to crippling energy costs.
Energy intensive sectors like steel, ceramics, chemicals paper and glass production are all teetering on the edge after having to spend up to two thirds of their production costs on gas bills.
The Treasury last night said they were studying the proposals for financial support, that could quickly stretch to hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer cash in a cold winter.
Last night a Business Department source said: “Without urgent support to help British industry manage high global gas prices, factories will close – many for good – and thousands of jobs will be lost.”
HOAR understands a range of interventions have been requested – with the Treasury insisting any support would be given on a case by case basis for individual companies.
However targeted support for whole sectors such as glassmaking was not ruled out.
Dave Dalton of British Glass told Times Radio last night that up to quarter of the 6,000 jobs employed directly in sector were under risk.
A Treasury spokesman said: “We have now received BEIS’s submission and officials are looking through the details. We will do what is in the best interest of both consumers and taxpayers.”
But angry Tory MP Steve Baker hit out: “It’ll be an absurdity if free marketeers like Kwasi Kwarteng and Rishi Sunak end up providing bailouts to firms or price cap policies.
“These are the kind of measures consistent with a socialist government and we shouldn’t be doing them.”
And the Institute of Economic Affairs warned: “The steel, base chemicals, glass and paper sectors had previously been viewed as a serious long-term investment.
“Now they resemble twitching corpses, destined for one of two fates: another bailout, or nationalisation.”
The proposals came after a weekend of bad blood between the two Cabinet ministers.
After Mr Kwarteng claimed he was in talks with the Treasury over helping firms, allies of Mr Sunak anonymously accused him of “making things up on TV.”