Page last updated at 20:02 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 21:02 UK

PM rules out one-off fuel payment

gas flame
Customers have seen big increases in gas and electricity prices

Gordon Brown has confirmed that the government will not be giving consumers a one-off payment to help with rising fuel bills.

In a speech the prime minister said there would be no "short-term gimmicks or giveaways", with the focus instead being on better energy efficiency.

Mr Brown added that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the economy.

The Conservatives accused him of being "in denial" and of failing to provide strong leadership.

Talks

It had been thought ministers were hoping to unveil a package of help with fuel bills, including payments of between 50 and 100 per head.

But Whitehall sources told the BBC that the focus of ongoing talks with energy firms was now on improving energy efficiency, rather than securing immediate savings.

Hopes that ministers might be about to give consumers one-off payments to help with their fuel bills are at an end
Nick Robinson

In his speech to the Scottish Confederation of British Industry, Mr Brown said the government was working with utility firms "to address the problems caused by the impact of world oil prices on gas an electricity bills.

"Not short-term gimmicks or giveaways - but firm steps towards making every home in Britain more energy-efficient, thus reducing bills not just temporarily, but permanently."

Mr Brown also said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the UK economy, adding that it was "better placed to weather any global storm than it was in the 1970s, 80s or early 90s."

Gordon Brown expresses his 'cautious optimism'

Last week Business Secretary John Hutton declared that "the era of cheap energy is over".

However, those Labour MPs and activists who have argued for a windfall tax on the energy companies are likely to regard this outcome as a significant disappointment.

'Bleak assessment'

A Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesman told the BBC it was "important people make savings on bills for the long term and not just now".

For the Conservatives, shadow chancellor George Osborne said: "The prime minister is in denial about both the crisis of confidence in his leadership and the economic crisis facing the country.

"His speech is totally at odds with the bleak assessment given by his chancellor just five days ago.

"Gordon Brown says he is cautiously optimistic, while Alistair Darling says the UK's economic problems will be more profound and longer lasting than people expected.

"At a time when Britain needs strong and united leadership with a clear sense of direction, we have a Labour government descending into civil war and a chancellor and a prime minister who publicly disagree on the severity of the problems we face."


SEE ALSO
Windfall tax is 'still an option'
03 Sep 08 |  UK Politics
Hutton warns over energy policy
28 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
MPs call for energy windfall tax
26 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
More oil firms report big profits
01 Aug 08 |  Business


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