Downing Street has waded into the extraordinary spat between the treasury and the business secretary over the energy crisis, insisting they work “very closely together”.
Asked if the PM had spoken to Sunak or Kwarteng over their “falling out”, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman replied: “It’s not how I would characterise it.
“I think you’re referring to an anonymous source quote. As you would expect, ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS] are working across government, including with the Treasury, on this important issue, the challenges that are currently facing industry in light of global gas prices and that will continue.”
It comes after a treasury source accused business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng of “making things up” after he said he was in talks with chancellor Rishi Sunak about helping businesses struggling with high energy prices.
Asked to characterise the relationship between the two departments, the PM’s spokesman replied: “They continue to work very closely together, as the public would expect.
“This is a significant challenge and there’s work across government to mitigate against it.”
Pressed on whether Kwarteng had been working with the treasury, he replied: “Yes, as you’d expect, treasury officials continue to work, are involved in this, as are officials across government.”
Asked whether Kwarteng was telling the truth and the source was making it up, the spokesman replied: “Again, I’m not getting into responding to anonymous source quotes, but you’ve got my response.”
Kwarteng made his comments on Sunday amid warnings that some factories are just days from collapse because the large amounts of energy they need has become too expensive.
The cabinet minister suggested he was discussing possible measures with the chancellor to alleviate the crisis.
However, a treasury source hit back and told Sky News: “This is not the first time the business, energy and industry secretary has made things up in interviews.
“To be crystal clear the treasury are not involved in any talks.”
The PM’s spokesman was also asked whether Number 10 was open to the idea that some energy intensive industries might need some extra support.
He said they had already been providing “extensive support” but added: ”We are regularly speaking to industry on this current situation to discuss the impacts they’re seeing and what can be done to mitigate them.”
Pressed on whether there could be further mitigations, he replied: “I’m not going to jump ahead of any future conversations that need to happen.”
Security minister Damian Hinds also sought to play down splits between government departments this morning, denying that the business secretary had lied and blaming a spat between the treasury and business department on “unnamed sources”.
Asked if Kwarteng had been “telling porkies”, Hinds replied: “No, of course not.”
Pressed on LBC, he repeated: “I don’t think he [Kwarteng] is making things up.”