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Environment Minister rules out price caps on energy charges

Environment Minister rules out price caps on energy charges

The Environment Minister has ruled out introducing price caps on energy charges this winter.

Eamon Ryan accused Sinn Fein of “following a Tory Government approach”, adding that the approach was not the right one.

He also said that people will not have to go without light and heat this winter.

The Green Party leader made the remarks in the Dail in response to Donegal TD Pearse Doherty calling on the Government to cut electricity prices to pre-crisis levels to help families with rising energy costs.

Mr Doherty said people across the country were afraid because they do not know what is “coming down the road”.

He said: “It’s easy to see why people are afraid. It’s so simple. Just look at what they’re facing: rents are going up, food is going up, energy going up and the fear is especially real when it comes to the extortionate electricty bills that households face.”

Mr Doherty added that people were “absolutely outraged” when they see the “scandalous hikes” in standing charges by “big profiteering energy companies”.

“The government needs to act decisively,” he said.

“You need to cut electricity prices back to pre-crisis levels and kept them at that level to help get families through this winter.”

In response, Mr Ryan said he did not believe Sinn Fein’s plan was the right one.

“It is very similar to what the Tory party are looking to do,” Mr Ryan said.

“In fact, Jacob Rees-Mogg this morning set out pretty much the same policy for Northern Ireland.

“You’re following a Tory government approach. I don’t agree with it,” Mr Ryan said.

“The first problem is that it would actually benefit the better-off, who tend to use more energy, who tend to have the bigger houses and who tend to have the biggest bills.

“They would benefit most from the approach that you’re suggesting.

“Secondly, as in the Tory party approach, it would benefit the energy industry.

“That is something we don’t need to do at this time.

“What we need to do is to apply windfall charges and actually give that money back to our people rather than providing a cap and a free pass in any amount after that.”

He added that the government would be introducing a range of measures and supports to help households and businesses with rising costs, including energy credits.

Addressing Mr Ryan’s Tory comments, Mr Doherty claimed the Environment Minister had “Tories on the brain”, and that “maybe that’s because you’re in bed with the Irish Tories here”.

The Sinn Fein TD described a price cap for Ireland “as the right choice” because people need certainty.

He said other European countries had introduced caps on energy prices in response to the crisis.

“People living in Newry, people living in Strabane, will have certainty in terms of their bills, so will they in Austria in France and Croatia and Poland and Romania.

“And in the last 48 hours the Netherlands has announced it, Denmark has announced it and the Minister of Slovakia has announced that they’re going to bring in price certainty for customers.

“Why? Because this is part of the European toolbox.”

He added: “Your government is asleep and doesn’t recognise the pressures that families are under.”

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said there are difficulties around the use of energy caps to curb rising costs.

He described it as a “contract for difference” that is reminiscent of the bank guarantee during the crash.

The Fine Gael leader also said Mr Ryan’s comments in the Dail were a “factual statement”.

“I suppose it’s a statement of fact that price caps is something that the British Conservative government is doing. So I always agree with facts. I know everyone doesn’t. But I agree with facts,” he added.

“I think what Mr Ryan said there was a factual statement. I can understand why people would like to see price caps but the difficulty in price caps is we’ve no idea how high the price of energy will go.

“We don’t actually control that because the oil and gas is brought in from overseas.

“So if you have a price cap, the government has to be willing to say that it’ll pay the amount over the cap, no matter what it is and that, as the Taoiseach said, is a blank cheque.

“It’s a contract for difference. It’s the thing that brought down Anglo-Irish bank. It’s reminiscent of the bank guarantee, and I’d be very, very nervous to go down that road.

“It might be popular for a while, but it might be the thing that brings back austerity, and that’s something we don’t want to ever see in our country again.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald reiterated Mr Doherty’s calls for energy price caps to be introduced while she attended the National Ploughing Championships.

Asked about Mr Varadkar’s comments last week suggesting price caps on energy could lead the country back to austerity, Mrs McDonald said it was “not true”.

Mr Varadkar said putting price caps on energy bills had “echoes of the bank guarantee” in 2008 that led to an EU-IMF bailout.

Speaking in Ratheniska, Co Laois, Mrs McDonald said the Tanaiste making those remarks was “wrong and not for the first time”.

“We have said that for the autumn and the winter it is essential that people are given breathing room and peace of mind so we want to bring prices back to the 2021 levels before all of this spiral of inflation. And we want to have the cap in place until the end of February,” she said.

“It is a temporary measure, it is an emergency measure, but it is a necessary one.

“And the reality is that people all across the country, in rural communities too, are really worried by two things; firstly, the inability to pay the bills as they are now; and then the terror that there would in fact be another price hike through the autumn and into the winter.

“So for us, this is just a sensible and a necessary intervention.”

Mrs McDonald also said the Government had talked a “big game” about the measures they will introduce in the Budget next week.

“They’ve created an expectation that they would intervene in a significant way… and now we’ll see whether or not in fact they’re stepping up to the plate,” she added.

Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2022-09-21 18:19:00.

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