The UK government has been warned by MPs that the largest users of gas are likely to either pay high prices or suffer supply interruptions this winter – or indeed both.

Supplies from the UK continental shelf are declining at a faster rate than anticipated, leaving a shortfall to be made up from imports, but gas suppliers may prefer to sell to other countries, the Department of Trade and Industry committee warned.

Although current supply is adequate, a colder than average winter – as the Meteorological Office is predicting – would mean interruptions to the larger gas users.

Although the report said that most businesses and domestic customers are less likely to be affected by supply problems, a rise in prices may plunge the most vulnerable into fuel poverty. The committee raised concerns that while the elderly are entitled to assistance, disabled groups and families with young children are not.