Senior Tory MP says public sector staff could 'put on an extra layer’ at work

The UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued cold weather warnings across the UK in recent days. (

Public sector workers could have the temperature turned down in their offices and “put on an extra layer” to help alleviate pressure on energy supplies, a senior Tory MP has suggested.

Temperatures have plummeted in recent days as the country experiences its first major cold snap this winter.

Last week, the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) issued cold weather alerts for parts of the country – with health bosses urging households to keep their homes at 18C.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Sir Desmond Swayne suggested the government should consider turning the temperature down in public sector offices in order to avoid energy shortages and blackouts.

Read more: UK plunges into winter’s first big chill amid severe cold weather alert

“The German government has limited temperatures in public buildings to 19C," the former minister asked the government.

"Double and add 30, that is a balmy 68C (Fahrenheit) in English money. We could put on an extra layer and do a lot better, couldn’t we?”

His remarks came amid warnings that the UK could face blackouts and energy shortages this winter following a squeeze in gas supplies due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Alex Burghart, Tory MP and cabinet minister, replied: “I feel that he could survive in sub-19C without an extra layer.

"But he will know what the Health and Safety Executive issues advice on temperature in work places, and regulations suggest the minimum temperature for working indoors should be at least 16C centigrade or 13C where rigorous physical effort is required."

Frozen ground and vegetation by the river Avon in Warwick. The Met Office has issued a number of weather warnings for snow and ice for parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the east coast and south-west England over the coming days. Picture date: Thursday December 8, 2022.
Temperatures have plummeted below 0C across the UK since Wednesday. (PA)

Burghart added the government has "the flexibility" to reduce the temperature in offices should it "wish".

The remarks came during the same debate in which a cabinet minister refused to rule out that there could be energy blackouts this winter.

In response to a question from Labour MP Afzal Khan on whether his vulnerable constituents should be concerned about blackouts, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said they could occur in "a very exceptional circumstance".

Read more: UK weather: Why is it so cold right now?

"On the wider situation in relation to energy supply, I am working closely with my colleague (business secretary Grant Shapps)," said Dowden.

“He and I have strong confidence about the resilience of the UK power networks. And excepting a very exceptional circumstance, we are confident that we will continue supply throughout the winter.”

Dowden also later told the House: “We continually test our plans and our resilience… barring a very exceptional circumstance, the business secretary and I have confidence in our power networks.”

Watch: UK weather: 'Cause for concern' - millions can't afford to heat their homes as 'dangerously cold' weather arrives