Tesco chairman John Allen told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the supermarket’s customers are “extremely stretched”, adding there was an “overwhelming need” for a windfall tax on energy companies.
When asked what he wanted to see from the Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament today, he said: “First of all, I think action to help people cope with a very, very sharp increase in energy prices.
“It’s harder for people to mitigate energy than it is with food, and I think there’s an overwhelming case for a windfall tax on profits from those energy producers fed back to those most in need of help with energy prices.
“I think that would be the single biggest thing that could be done.”
On a recent store visit, John said he had seen customers asking staff to stop scanning items once their bill had reached a certain threshold “for the first time in years.”
He said: “I was hearing for the first time for many years of customers saying to check out staff, ‘stop when you get to £40,’ or something, ‘I don’t want to spend a penny over that.’ You know, as opposed to having everything checked out and settling the bill at the end.
“So I think a lot of people are feeling, you know, something of a pinch and lots of people are actually feeling extremely stretched,” he added.
His remarks come after fuel companies BP and Shell reported bumper profits earlier this year as energy prices skyrocketed. The cap has been increased by 54% for the average household, putting extra pressure on consumers, including those shopping at the UK’s biggest supermarket.
BP reported that underlying replacement cost profits – its preferred measure – had more than doubled to £5 billion.
Tesco’s boss added that he thinks energy companies are “expecting” a windfall tax and doubts “they would actually be much fazed by it”.