Conservative MPs have joined demands for Rishi Sunak to act on the risk of soaring energy bills in the New Year, piling pressure on him to end the uncertainty.
Several ministers’ aides are among Tories who have signed up to a campaign launched by more than 60 charities to boost support for the 7 million households already living in fuel poverty.
They want “urgent clarification” of what help will be available next year to pay sky-high bills – after Liz Truss’s promise of a two-year freeze was torn up as unaffordable.
And some go further, demanding immediate help for the poorest people facing a terrible choice between “heating or eating” this winter, including a further £325 emergency payment on 1 December.
In an article for The Independent, Peter Aldous, the Conservative MP for Waveney, in Suffolk, warned the existing help was far short of what is needed.
“Without further action, 7 million households will be faced with making impossibly hard decisions between a warm home and putting food on the table this winter,” he has written.
“The situation is worse still for many deprived communities, including some of those that I represent.
“This government has only just been formed, but faces a generation-defining challenge, and must act imminently to protect millions of people from poverty this winter and beyond.”
Energy bills were set to be frozen through to 2024 – but will now be held down to an average of £2,500 until April next year only, after the disaster mini-budget crashed the economy.
After that, help will be targeted to those in greatest need, leaving many households facing a hike to more than £4,000 despite the recent fall in worldwide wholesale gas prices.
The Treasury has provided further targeted help this autumn, worth £1,200 for the poorest households – through emergency payments and council tax discounts – and a £400 rebate on bills for all.
But the Warm This Winter campaign says much more is needed, calling for the one-off £325 payment for households on income-linked benefits and a temporary ban on transfers onto more costly pre-payment meters.
Some 30 MPs, including the seven Tories – also including Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), Paul Howell (Sedgefield) and Damian Moore (Southport) – are all demanding a more limited package.
This would see clarity on bills after April, benefits uprated in line with inflation next April, a huge programme of home insulation and a faster switch to cheaper renewable energy.
Polling for the campaign found more than 8 in 10 Tory voters fear soaring energy bills next April, while 41 per cent fear they will struggle to pay their bills this winter.
Mr Aldous urged the government to provide “clarity on support beyond April as soon as possible, with energy bills expected to rise to almost 4 times the level before the gas crisis if no further action is taken”.