Sunak told to form 'war cabinet' to tackle energy crisis

Retired military officer tells British PM special task force would convey a sense of urgency and allow him to make difficult calls

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets his newly appointed Cabinet. PA
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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to form a “war cabinet” to treat the energy crisis as a national emergency.

A retired Royal Air Force officer said a special task force would convey a sense of urgency and would better allow the new British leader to make the difficult calls needed to ensure energy security.

The advice from Air Marshal Edward Stringer, a former head of Britain's Defence Academy, comes as Mr Sunak rethinks the energy policy he inherited from Liz Truss.

Mr Sunak is promising more nuclear power and offshore wind energy in the long term while overseeing a relief package for this winter.

Energy prices have been pushed up across Europe and plans made for possible rationing, after Russia drastically cut back gas supplies.

In a report for the right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange, Air Marshal Stringer said Mr Sunak should bring together the energy and national security aspects of the crisis.

“The PM should establish a ‘war cabinet’ to deal with the interrelated national security aspects of energy security as it would an existential wartime concern,” he wrote.

The crisis “requires difficult trade-offs to be calculated across departments”.

“It requires the urgency of wartime and a suitably empowered, task-organised command authority to deliver it,” he said.

Britain had war cabinets during the two world wars, which included only a few senior ministers and often reached across party lines.

The term was also used to describe key advisers to Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands War, John Major during the Gulf War and other prime ministers at times of crisis.

“The importance of some structure like a war cabinet is necessary in part to signal the gravity of the circumstances,” Air Marshal Stringer wrote.

The UK is facing an energy squeeze like other European countries after Russia cut back supplies. Getty Images

He said Mr Sunak should push for co-operation across Europe on how to bolster energy security in the face of Russia's cutbacks.

Mr Sunak's key advisers in the energy crisis will include Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, who will set out Britain's fiscal plans on November 17.

Mr Hunt scaled back the energy subsidies announced by Ms Truss as he sought to reassure markets about the state of Britain's finances.

Grant Shapps was appointed minister for business, energy and industrial strategy in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Jacob Rees-Mogg.

In his first Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Sunak signalled he would reinstate a ban on shale gas fracking that Ms Truss had moved to repeal.

He gave no clear answer when asked about onshore wind, which he opposed during the summer leadership campaign.

Updated: October 28, 2022, 9:00 PM