Energy bill help for businesses will start from October even

No 10 says businesses will get help with energy bills from October, even if payments have to be backdated

Businesses will receive money to help them with increases to their fuel bills from October, Downing Street has announced. It made the commitment in response to today’s Financial Times story saying that business figures have been told the energy support scheme for companies may not be in operation until November. (See 10.06am.)

In response to the initial FT story, the government just said it was working to get the business support scheme up and running as soon as possible.

But today Downing Street said that, even if it is not operational at the start of October, payments would be backdated to that point so that they did not lose out. The PM’s spokesperson told reporters:

We will confirm further details of the business support scheme next week. The scheme will support businesses with their October energy bills and that includes through backdating if necessary.

10 Downing Street.10 Downing Street. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Updated at 12.17 BST

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Afternoon summary

  • The coffin carrying the Queen has been brought to Westminster Hall, where it will lie in state for four days before her funeral on Monday. Members of the public will soon start filing past, and the queue is currently two and a half miles long, according to the DCMS tracker on YouTube. There is further coverage on our separate live blog.

Liz Truss and Keir Starmer filing past the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall.Liz Truss and Keir Starmer filing past the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Updated at 16.34 BST

Sacking of Tom Scholar shows Truss administration on course for ‘bad decision making’, says former permanent secretary

The sacking of Tom Scholar as permanent secretary at the Treasury shows that the Liz Truss administration is on course for “bad decision-making and weak government”, a retired senior civil servant says today.

In a letter published in the Times Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, says the move also suggests that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, her chancellor, just want to be surrounded by “yes” men. He says:

The sad fact is that in sacking Sir Tom Scholar, one of the ablest civil servants of his generation, the prime minister and chancellor have sent a clear message to the civil service that they are not interested in impartial advice and intend to surround themselves with “yes” men and women. That is a sure route to bad decision-making and weak government. It is also another small step on the road to politicising the civil service. It is disappointing that the cabinet secretary, whom the prime minister apparently now intends to retain (“Truss decides against sacking Case”, Sep 12; letter, Sep 13), has acquiesced in the sacking and once again failed to stand up for the values of the civil service.

In a separate letter Lord Wilson, a former cabinet secretary, describes Scholar’s sacking as “destabilising”. He says:

To summarily dismiss a key top official, judged by most people to be outstanding, at this moment is destabilising. It is contrary to established practice and is bound to create ripples as consequential moves take place. It may affect morale; there has already been a distressing loss of talent over the past decade.

To make political attacks on the Treasury is similarly self-destructive. It looks like an attempt to shift on to institutions the blame for the failure of ministers’ own past policies. Civil servants will implement whatever the government decides, loyally and with energy, as they always have done. This should be a moment for bonding, not attacking.

In a report for the Times, Chris Smith and Henry Zeffman say that Truss herself pushed for Scholar to be sacked. They write:

The announcement of the sacking was made by Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, but a government source said Truss had been personally determined to remove him. Truss, who was chief secretary to the Treasury for two years under Theresa May, is said to have been persuaded then of the need for new leadership at the department.

Updated at 15.46 BST

Starmer urges anti-monarchy protesters to show respect for those mourning Queen

Keir Starmer has urged anti-monarchy protesters to show respect for people gathering at public events to show their respect for the late Queen.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast, asked if he had concerns about the cases where the police have arrested, or threatened to arrest, anti-royal campaigners, Starmer would not comment on the police conduct and instead urged republicans to respect supporters of the Queen. He replied:

The word I’d use around that issue is respect.

I think if people have spent a long time waiting to come forward to have that moment as the coffin goes past or whatever it may be, I think respect that, because people have made a huge effort to come and have that private moment to say thank you to Queen Elizabeth II.

Obviously we have to respect the fact that some people disagree. One of the great British traditions is the ability to protest and to disagree, but I think if it can be done in the spirit of respect.

Respect the fact that hundreds of thousands of people do want to come forward and have that moment, don’t ruin it for them.

Keir Starmer: people protesting against monarchy should do so ‘in the spirit of respect’ – video

My colleague Rowena Mason has the full story here.

Updated at 14.56 BST

Truss and Irish PM to hold talks next week on Northern Ireland protocol

Lisa O'CarrollLisa O’Carroll

Liz Truss and Micheál Martin, the taoiseach, are to meet next week for their first talks over the Northern Ireland protocol, Irish officials have confirmed to the Irish Times.

They met in Belfast during the memorial service for the Queen on Tuesday and also spoke by phone last Friday but this will be the first time time is allocated for more detailed discussions.

The Irish and the EU have urged the UK to return to the negotiating table after talks were put on pause in February.

But relations deteriorated badly in June when Truss, as foreign secretary, tabled legislation to enable the UK to unilaterally dump some of the protocol.

Many believe that it will be difficult for Truss to trigger article 16 in the immediate wake of the Queen’s death given how much all sides have been reminded of her role in the healing of relations between Ireland and the UK and in Northern Ireland.

It has also been mooted that Truss will go the US for her first meeting, where any hostile action would be considered difficult given the interest Joe Biden has in Northern Ireland.

Liz Truss alongside Micheál Martin at the service for the Queen at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday.Liz Truss alongside Micheál Martin at the service for the Queen at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Updated at 16.17 BST

Downing Street has vowed to respond to the European Union’s legal action over the Northern Ireland protocol ahead of the deadline that falls during the mourning period for the Queen, PA Media reports. PA says:

The bloc had demanded a response to its raft of infringement proceedings over the UK’s failure to comply with the post-Brexit rules before the end of Thursday.

The EU was expected to relax the deadline, as it fell within the mourning period during which politics as normal is paused in Britain.

But No 10 said it would be responding before the deadline regardless.

Updated at 15.36 BST

Another rightwing, libertarian thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, has welcomed our report saying Liz Truss may abandon the government’s anti-obesity strategy. (See 12.07pm.) Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at IEA, said:

Scrapping policies that make food and drink more expensive during a cost of living crisis is a no-brainer.

The sugar tax has achieved nothing and the ban on volume price discounts will hurt everybody.

We are long overdue a prime minister who puts the interests of consumers over the interests of nanny state pressure groups. Let us hope Liz Truss is that prime minister.

Like the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the IEA may be getting more attention during Truss’s premiership than in the past. Politico’s London Influence newsletter said recently that the IEA has had “an outsize impact on Truss’ policy prospectus”.

Updated at 13.33 BST

Before the death of the Queen, the House of Commons had been planning to go into recess on Thursday next week and return on Monday 17 October. That would have been a week after the end of the SNP party conference (on Monday 10 October) and almost two weeks after the end of the Conservative party conference (on Wednesday 5 October).

But Downing Street has now signalled that this conference recess will be shortened, and that MPs will return earlier in October. My colleague Pippa Crerar approves.

Since July 22, Parliament has only sat for 4 days – excluding 2 extra days devoted to tributes to Queen.

That means between July 22 and October 17, when Parliament had been expected to return, it would only have sat for between 5 and 7 ‘normal’ days in total.

(h/t @danbloom1) https://t.co/RHhDVWsOCT

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) September 14, 2022

The Commons is in recess now too, because of the Queen’s death, but MPs are expected to return next week after the funeral on Monday.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked what businesses should do if they are asked at the start of October to sign an energy contract charging them five times or more what they were paying, at a point where the government scheme for businesses is not yet operational. Should they just sign up, and assume the government will cover the difference?

The spokesperson replied:

I don’t want to be prescriptive without knowing individual circumstances. What we have said at this point is that we will look to give equivalent support to what we have done with with households and there’ll be a bit more detail on that next week.

We are speaking to stakeholder groups as well to provide as much information as possible so they have clarity if they are required to make those decisions.

The government has promised that companies will get “equivalent support” to what is available for households. Asked if that meant an equivalent saving in cash terms, or an equivalent saving as a proportion of the increase proposed, the spokesperson was unable to answer, saying he could not set out the details of the scheme at this point.

Updated at 12.31 BST

No 10 says businesses will get help with energy bills from October, even if payments have to be backdated

Businesses will receive money to help them with increases to their fuel bills from October, Downing Street has announced. It made the commitment in response to today’s Financial Times story saying that business figures have been told the energy support scheme for companies may not be in operation until November. (See 10.06am.)

In response to the initial FT story, the government just said it was working to get the business support scheme up and running as soon as possible.

But today Downing Street said that, even if it is not operational at the start of October, payments would be backdated to that point so that they did not lose out. The PM’s spokesperson told reporters:

We will confirm further details of the business support scheme next week. The scheme will support businesses with their October energy bills and that includes through backdating if necessary.

10 Downing Street.10 Downing Street. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Updated at 12.17 BST

Taxpayers’ Alliance welcomes reports that Truss set to scrap anti-obesity strategy

The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has welcomed my colleague Denis Campbell’s report that the government is considering abandoning its anti-obesity strategy, which involves measures to stop people eating too much junk food. John O’Connell, its chief executive, said:

Junking these nanny state policies is long overdue.

Plans to end buy-one-get-one-free were only going to pile pressure on hard-hit households during a cost of living crisis.

Government cannot expect taxpayers to further tighten their belts and Truss is right to row it back.

The TPA, which campaigns for low taxes and against some government spending (what it describes as “waste”), has never been seen as one of Whitehall’s more powerful thinktanks or pressure groups since it was set up almost 20 years ago. But that might be about to change. Liz Truss, the new prime minister, is sympathetic to the alliance’s thinking and she has just hired Matthew Sinclair as her chief economic adviser. Sinclair spent six years at the TPA, ending up becoming its chief executive in 2012.

The former Lib Dem adviser Polly Mackenzie reckons that, on this policy, the TPA has got its logic all wrong; getting rid of the anti-obesity strategy will lead to higher costs for taxpayers, she argues. (See 10.30am.)

Updated at 12.09 BST

Summary of Von der Leyen’s state of union speech to MEPs

You can read the state of the union speech by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to MEPs here. Here is a summary of the announcements in it from the commission. And here are some of the key passages.

She was a constant throughout the turbulent and transforming events in the last 70 years.

Stoic and steadfast in her service.

But more than anything, she always found the right words for every moment in time …

And when I think of the situation we are in today, her words at the height of the pandemic still resonate with me.

She said: “We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”

She always reminded us that our future is built on new ideas and founded in our oldest values.

EU proposes profits from energy firms should go ‘to those who need it most’ – video

  • She said the EU was “in it for the long haul” in terms of supporting Ukraine. And she said it was not just a war on Ukraine, but “a war on our energy, a war on our economy, a war on our values and a war on our future”.

The commission will work with Ukraine to ensure seamless access to the single market. And vice-versa.

Our single market is one of Europe’s greatest success stories. Now it’s time to make it a success story for our Ukrainian friends, too.

And this is why I am going to Kyiv today, to discuss this in detail with President Zelenskiy.

We introduced legislation to screen foreign direct investment in our companies for security concerns.

If we do that for our economy, shouldn’t we do the same for our values?

We need to better shield ourselves from malign interference.

This is why we will present a defence of democracy package.

It will bring covert foreign influence and shady funding to light.

We will not allow any autocracy’s Trojan horses to attack our democracies from within.

Ursula von der Leyen delivering her state of the union speech to MEPs.Ursula von der Leyen delivering her state of the union speech to MEPs. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 12.30 BST

Faisal Islam, the BBC’s economics editor, says the EU plan for a windfall tax on energy companies (see 9.35am) could effect the UK government’s plan to renegotiate the contracts that determine how much low-carbon producers get paid for their energy.

If the EU is to raise €140 billion from “excess profits” of electricity producers and oil and gas extractors, then they will be doing so on some of the very same companies that supply the UK… & presumably UK companies that supply the EU too…

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) September 14, 2022

To be clear – existing excess profits levy is continuing in UK, and there are ongoing discussions about electricity producers swapping current huge gas-linked prices, for long term not so high but still elevated price. Existence of significant EU Cap/ tax will affect negotiations

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) September 14, 2022

YouGov has released a new polling giving Labour a 10-point lead over the Conservatives – down five points from its last poll, carried out as Liz Truss took over as prime minister.

As my colleague Denis Campbell reports, a review of measures intended to stop people eating too much junk food ordered by Liz Truss could result in the governing scrapping its entire anti-obesity strategy.

Polly Mackenzie, who was Nick Clegg’s policy adviser when he was the Lib Dem deputy prime minister in the coalition government, says Truss cannot abandon regulation that reduces obesity, and keep taxes low, and fund a health service able to deal with the consequences of obesity all at the same time.

Here’s the thing:

You can have a low regulation society in which people and businesses are allowed to create harms like obesity, workplace stress, air pollution.

But your health costs are going to be massive. So you need high taxes to pay for low regulation… https://t.co/2SupFjPUf0

— Polly Mackenzie (@pollymackenzie) September 14, 2022

Now – regulation is cost, just applied differently. So people will disagree about which is better:

Tax to pay for the externalities people/businesses create – leaving more freedom for innovation.

Regulate to reduce the externalities – lowering taxes but curtailing freedom…

— Polly Mackenzie (@pollymackenzie) September 14, 2022

What you shouldn’t do (but everyone seems to pretend you can)…

Is claim it’s possible to have low tax AND low regulation AND affordable public services.

You can only have two.

— Polly Mackenzie (@pollymackenzie) September 14, 2022

Updated at 10.31 BST

Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, says the UK is facing a “crisis of income”. She says workers should get a better share of corporate profits.

Rocketing #inflation may have been eased last month but that won’t last. Current levels continue to threaten the living standards of millions of workers. This is now a crisis of income. 1/2

— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) September 14, 2022

Only the rich and powerful are protected. It’s time for the rest of us to organise into trade unions and take back our share of the corporate profits we create. #JoinAUnion 2/2

— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) September 14, 2022

This has parallels with the point Ursula von der Leyen was making about profits in her speech this morning (see 9.35am), although Von der Leyen, a German Christian Democrat who has little in common with Graham, was just talking about the energy sector.

Updated at 10.36 BST

Government fails to deny reports businesses may have to wait until November until help with energy bills becomes available

When Liz Truss announced her “energy price guarantee” last week, households were relatively clear about what they would receive, but the promise of help for businesses was much more vague. Companies and corporate groups are still very nervous, and yesterday one trade association said its members were “at the end of their tether” not knowing if they would survive this winter.

According to a report in the Financial Times today, corporate Britain is right to be worried. Daniel Thomas, Jim Pickard and Nathalie Thomas say the support scheme promised by Truss may not be operational until November. In their report they say:

Executives have been told in recent meetings with the government of the risk the scheme may not be ready until November, although officials said they still hoped the scheme would go live next month.

“It is not worked through yet,” said one government official. “I don’t know whether it will come in before November. There’s some debate about whether it can be brought forward and happen before then.”

Truss said last week that unit prices for households would be capped, so that a typical household will pay no more than £2,500 a year on energy bills for the next year. She said businesses would get “equivalent support”. But businesses are not covered by the Ofgem price cap that applies to consumers, and the FT says “with no existing mechanism in place, ministers and officials are still struggling to work out how to limit companies’ energy bills.” The report goes on:

The government would provide energy suppliers with the difference between a new lower price and what energy retailers would otherwise charge business customers.

But while ministers have outlined this broad framework, they have yet to decide on the precise system for implementing it.

The government has not denied that the scheme may not be ready until November. A government spokesperson said officials were working “at pace” to deliver the support scheme for businesses and that details of the scheme, and timings for when it would start, would be announced as soon as possible.

Updated at 10.13 BST

EU calls for windfall tax on energy firms, saying profits must go ‘to those who need it most’

Good morning. There is very little public politics taking place in Britain right now (although the events following the death of the Queen are political in a broader sense, and anyone familiar with how a political campaign operates will have been watching what King Charles has been doing in recent days, no doubt with sympathy, but also immense admiration for his professionalism.) But in Brussels normal politics continues, and this morning Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, has just delivered her state of the union speech to the European parliament.

There was a lot in it, particularly about Ukraine, and I will post a full summary later, but for readers in the UK what she said about energy was particularly interesting – because it was so different from what the British government is saying.

  • Von der Leyen proposed recouping money from energy companies, saying “profits must be channelled to those who need it most”. She said there should be a cap on profits for companies making energy from renewables, and she said fossil fuel companies should also pay more during the crisis – calling in effect for a windfall tax, although she described it as a “crisis contribution”. She said:

Millions of Europeans need support.

EU member states have already invested billions of euros to assist vulnerable households.

But we know this will not be enough.

This is why we are proposing a cap on the revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost.

These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamed of.

In our social market economy, profits are good.

But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record profits benefitting from war and on the back of consumers.

In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it the most.

Our proposal will raise more than €140bn for member states to cushion the blow directly.

And because we are in a fossil fuel crisis, the fossil fuel industry has a special duty, too.

Major oil, gas and coal companies are also making huge profits. So they have to pay a fair share – they have to give a crisis contribution.

These are all emergency and temporary measures we are working on, including our discussions on price caps.

Although Liz Truss, the new UK prime minister, is not reversing the windfall tax on energy companies announced early this year when Boris Johnson was in No 10, in her first PMQs last week she firmly stated her opposition to windfall taxes on principle.

Think of the workers in ceramics factories in central Italy who have decided to move their shifts to the early morning to benefit from the lower energy prices.

And just imagine the mothers and fathers among those workers having to leave home early when the kids are still sleeping because of the war they have not chosen.

This is one example in a million of examples of Europeans adapting to the new reality.

I want our union to take example from its people. So reducing demand during peak hours will make supply last longer and it will bring prices down.

This is why we’re putting forward measures for member states to reduce the overall electricity consumption.

Again, this is a contrast with the UK, where the government has been reluctant to encourage people to use less energy, or to promote anything that might smack of energy rationing.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Ursula von der Leyen delivering her state of the union speech to the European parliament in StrasbourgUrsula von der Leyen delivering her state of the union speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 11.12 BST

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