UK minister bids for cash to help energy-intensive industries

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FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng in London
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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has submitted a formal bid to the finance ministry for assistance to help industries affected by high energy prices, the BBC reported on Monday.

Producers of steel, glass, ceramics and paper and other sectors have said they may be forced to halt production unless the government does something about energy prices, which have rocketed due to a shortage of natural gas in Europe.

"Understand Business Secretary has now submitted a formal bid for assistance for industries hit by high energy prices," BBC Political Correspondent Nick Eardley wrote on Twitter.

A source at the business ministry confirmed the report but did not provide any further details of the request.

The request partly shifts responsibility for a difficult and expensive problem to the finance ministry, which is already facing a huge bill for supporting the economy through the COVID-19 crisis.

It comes a day after the finance ministry denied a claim by Kwarteng that it was working with him on an industry support package - a row which signalled tension within government over what, if anything, ministers are willing to do to help firms.

"Ministers and officials continue to engage constructively with industry to further understand and to help mitigate the impacts of high global gas prices," a business department spokesperson said when asked about the BBC report.

"Our priority is to ensure costs are managed and supplies of energy are maintained.”

Kwarteng on Sunday said the government was not in the business of bailouts, and was not considering implementing a price cap on energy costs for industry.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by William James)

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