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media captionThe prime minister says he does “not believe people will be short of food” amid reports of some empty supermarket shelves.

Boris Johnson has urged people not to worry about putting food on the table this winter, amid surging energy prices and a cut to universal credit.

The prime minister told BBC News: "I don't believe people will be short of food – and wages are actually rising."

It comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warned some households face a "very difficult winter".

Energy and food bills are rising due to a spike in global gas prices – and many families face a £20-a-week benefit cut.

Speaking to the BBC in New York, where he has been meeting world leaders at the United Nations, Mr Johnson said the surge in energy prices was a "short-term" problem caused by "the global economy coming back to life" after the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We are talking to the energy companies – doing what we can to keep prices low, to make sure that the supermarket shelves aren't empty," he said.

He said the global energy markets will "rectify themselves" in the long term, and it showed the UK was right to be moving to renewable energy.

The government is poised to step in to tackle the gas price crisis and carbon dioxide shortage, with Mr Kwarteng telling the BBC that lending money to bigger firms to help them take on customers whose energy providers had gone bust.

He also said the government could subsidise the country's biggest carbon dioxide producer to bolster supplies.

Carbon dioxide is essential to the frozen food industry and the shortage has raised fears of more gaps in grocery supplies.

Higher wages

Mr Johnson rejected calls from Labour and many Tory MPs to scrap the cut to the £20 a week top-up to universal credit, arguing that wages were rising above the rate of inflation "for the first time in decades".

"We think the best thing we can do is help people into high-skilled, high wage jobs, that is what is happening," he told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

"Unemployment is falling very rapidly, jobs are being created, wages are rising.

"And rather than raising people's taxes to put more money into benefits, we want to see companies paying their workers more."

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an anti-poverty organisation, has warned of a "perfect storm" for consumers this autumn, as problems with global supply chains also increase food prices.

Workers also face a rise in National Insurance payments from next April, to help fund higher costs for the NHS and social care.

Labour is to hold a debate in the Commons on Tuesday, calling on the government to halt the proposed cut to the universal credit top-up.

The party's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson, said the combination of price rises and falling incomes wasn't "a freak event".

"Instead of changing direction and taking action, [the government] have created an avoidable and unacceptable burden on working people, making the squeeze on household finances worse by putting up taxes for working people and cutting universal credit," she said.

Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight programme on Monday, the Conservative former Brexit Secretary, David Davis, warned there was a risk of a "cost of living crisis" for new Tory voters such as "the plumber, the bricklayer, the lorry driver".

He said his advice to Chancellor Rishi Sunak would be: "You think hard about the ordinary family's take-home pay and what they have to buy with it, because that will be a dictator of how people feel going in to the new year."