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Gas supply this winter ‘not a cause for immediate concern’, says business secretary

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Gas supply this winter is “not a cause for immediate concern”, the UK’s business secretary has reassured, following reports that a spike in prices could threaten food production and other industries.

Kwasi Kwarteng posted a series of tweets after holding meetings with senior executives from the energy industry to discuss the impact of high global gas prices – blamed on high global demand, maintenance issues and lower solar and wind energy output – on Saturday.

It followed reports that some companies which use gas in the production of products have shut down, and amid concerns that some people will be unable to afford the high cost of heating their homes over winter.

“I was reassured that security of supply was not a cause for immediate concern within the industry,” Mr Kwarteng said after his talks.

“The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand. The UK’s gas system continues to operate reliably and we do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

While some energy firms are “facing pressure”, he said, industry regulator Ofgem has “robust measures in place to ensure that customers do not need to worry, their needs are met, and their gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted if a supplier fails”.

It is understood that Mr Kwarteng held talks with senior executives from Ofgem, Centrica, National Grid, Energy UK, Octopus, Ovo, SSE, EDF, ScottishPower, Shell Energy, E.ON, Bulb and SGN.

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He said that protecting customers from huge price rises was “an absolute priority” and that he would be holding further talks with Ofgem on Sunday and a roundtable meeting with industry leaders on Monday.

Mr Kwarteng will “remain in constant contact” with colleagues across government to “manage the wider implications of the global gas price increase”, he said.

He also reassured that the UK’s “largest single source of gas is from domestic production, and the vast majority of imports come from reliable suppliers such as Norway”, and that “we are not dependent on Russian oil and gas”.

A former Ofgem head has warned that the UK is likely to face high energy prices for the rest of the year, while Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told Sky News that Britons could see pork and poultry “disappear off the shelves in the next couple of weeks” due to the high prices.

Earlier on Saturday, Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: “A basic duty of government is to ensure secure, affordable energy supplies for businesses and families.

“It is a fundamental failure of long-term government planning over the last decade that we are so exposed and vulnerable as a country and it is businesses and consumers that are paying the price.

“If we had been investing at sufficient scale in diverse, secure, zero carbon energy supplies and making energy efficiency a much bigger priority, we would not be in such a precarious position.

“Ministers must recognise the severity of the cost of living crisis now facing families as a result of rising energy prices and their unfair tax rise and cancel the cut to Universal Credit.

“They must also ensure security of supply and take the long-term action to put in place a much more robust, resilient and diverse energy infrastructure.”