In a comment piece for the Sun, Rishi Sunak claimed that household energy bills had risen because of unusually cold weather. This is not true. The Met Office’s blog in December 2021 noted that temperatures in December had been “notably high”.
Sunak wrote in the Sun that “we have had a colder than usual winter so we have used up more of our own stores of gas here at home”, asserting this was behind the rise in energy bills, along with a rise in global prices prompted by China.
The Met Office, when writing about weather in December 2021 said: “For the complete month, it’s the notably high minimum temperatures recorded in December that stand out from the statistics, especially in southern areas. The UK had an average minimum temperature in December of 2.8°C, which is 1.4°C above the 1991-2020 long-term average.
“For southern areas, minimum temperatures were even further from the meteorological averages, with southern England seeing average minimum temperatures at 4.3°C, which is 2.0°C above the long-term average for the month.
“There were some exceptionally mild nights, with overcast conditions and a south-westerly flow drawing air from the Azores. Daily minimum temperatures on New Year’s Eve remained widely in double figures, with several stations including Sheffield, Bradford and Buxton recording their highest daily minimum temperature on record in a series of over 100 years – around 10°C higher than the December average.”
Britain experienced the warmest start to the year on record in 2022, as temperatures rose above 16C.
The Sun article was updated a day later to replace Rishi Sunak’s original quote with: “Another is the fact that last year across Europe and Asia we had a long cold winter so stores of gas have been lower than usual.”
We approached Rishi Sunak’s office to give him a chance to comment, but received no response. When we approached the Treasury for comment, a spokesperson questioned our credentials as a “bona fide media outlet.”
Rishi Sunak told Sun readers that the rise in fuel bills was caused in part by unusually cold weather. In fact, the weather had been warmer than usual.
The Sun article was updated a day later to strike out Rishi Sunak’s original false claim that colder than usual winter weather was responsible for higher energy prices with this: “Another is the fact that last year across Europe and Asia we had a long cold winter so stores of gas have been lower than usual.”
The Sun’s use of the term ‘updated’ gives its readers the impression that the article was innocently brought up to date. In fact, it was corrected, with the Chancellor withdrawing his false statement. The Sun should have put in a formal notification which alerted its readers to the specific correction. Its failure to do so means that it was not presenting the full picture to its readers.