Labour and Tories clash on energy measures and how often leaders should debate

Sir Keir Starmer said Rishi Sunak was “sounding increasingly desperate” with his calls for weekly election debates as the second full day of campaigning for the General Election got under way.

The Prime Minister used a Telegraph column to accuse the Labour leader of lacking the “courage” to take part in weekly televised debates during the campaign.

Labour had indicated that rather than the six showdowns proposed by the Tories, Sir Keir would agree to meet Mr Sunak on the two broadcasters with the largest audience – the BBC and ITV.

People wait for the arrival of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in Glasgow
People wait for the arrival of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Sir Keir told Sky News: “He is sounding increasingly desperate, I have to say.

“I can do a hundred debates with Rishi Sunak, but I know what he is going to say: he is going to say everything is fine, the cost-of-living crisis is over, the health service hasn’t got any problems. That is all he ever says.”

Mr Sunak responded that he had heard Sir Keir “wanted to debate the British people rather than me”.

“I think what the British people want are answers – answers to the questions about what he would actually do if he became prime minister, and how much it’s going to cost them in higher taxes.

“I think those are the answers that he should be providing.”

The Tories and Labour also clashed on energy policy as the election campaign focused on the prospect of cheaper household bills.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the launch of Scottish Labour’s General Election campaign
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the launch of Scottish Labour’s General Election campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Sir Keir is using a visit to Scotland to promote his plan for a publicly owned green electricity generator, which he said would cut bills and boost energy security.

He told Sky News his proposed GB Energy would bring down energy bills “for good”, saying a Labour government would also make sure renewables jobs stay in the UK.

“(GB Energy) is going to be a publicly owned energy enterprise owned by the taxpayer making money for the taxpayer,” Sir Keir said.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho has set out plans for consumer-friendly changes and accused Labour of not being “honest about the costs” that their plans for net zero power would involve.

The row came as regulator Ofgem set the latest level for the energy price cap on average bills.

It announced on Friday morning that the average household energy bill will drop by 7% from July 1, when the latest change to the regulator’s price cap takes effect.

Energy price cap: default tariff
(PA Graphics)

The typical household’s energy bill is set to fall from the current £1,690 a year to £1,568.

This will be £500 less than the cap in July last year, when it was £2,074, but Labour pointed out it is still £400 more than in 2021.

Sir Keir will say during his trip on Friday that “after 14 years of Tory chaos” people “are desperate for change”.

“Families are picking up the tab of 14 years of Tory energy failure and are expected to remain a staggering £400 a year worse off under the new price cap.”

He will add: “Labour will stop families paying over the odds for energy. Great British Energy, our new publicly owned energy company, will invest in homegrown clean energy to boost energy independence and cut bills for good.”

Ms Coutinho said Labour’s drive to decarbonise the electricity system by 2030 would “take us back to square one by making voters pay more for net zero”.

She said shifting away from North Sea oil and gas would put 200,000 jobs at risk.

Ms Coutinho set out her own energy policies, including maintaining the Ofgem cap throughout the next parliament to help keep bills down.

Under the Tory proposals, price comparison services will be made easier to use and Ofgem could publish league tables showing how long energy firms take to respond to customer complaints.

“Only the Conservatives have a clear plan for a secure future where we reach net zero without punishing families with extra costs,” she said.

In response, a Labour spokesman said the Conservatives “will never end the cost-of-living crisis – only Labour has a plan to cut bills and make Britain energy independent”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to a maritime technology centre in Northern Ireland
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to a maritime technology centre in Northern Ireland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister arrived in Northern Ireland for the fourth leg of his whirlwind tour of the UK.

Mr Sunak has already visited England, Wales and Scotland as he kicks off his General Election campaign, and is expected to hold a further event in the Midlands later on Friday.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will visit Tory-held seats on the south coast as he pledges to guarantee patients in England the right to see a GP within seven days.