Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are among the European countries considering restrictions on supplies because of their heavy dependence on Russian energy.
Asked if the UK should “do the same”, Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, replied: “We should be making those plans.”
He told the BBC: “The government should be preparing, not necessarily in public, for that situation. There’s a lot of complacency in this country about the relative lower exposure to Russian gas that we have.
“We should bear in mind that part of the supply that comes to this country from, for instance, Norway – or from the liquefied natural gas that goes into the terminals – that is partly because Russian gas is fulfilling the demands of central Europe.”
But the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, quickly insisted that rationing would not be needed, saying: “It’s not the route that we want to go down.” Mr Shapps ruled it out as he opposed an expansion of onshore wind turbines, exposing government splits ahead of a long-delayed “energy independence plan”.
The UK announced last month that it would end Russian oil imports by the end of the year, while “exploring options” to end gas imports as well, in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Boris Johnson has been urging EU allies to follow his lead – a task much tougher for the EU, which depends on Russia for 40 per cent of its gas and around a quarter of its oil.
However, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has warned that the UK would suffer a £70bn economic hit and be plunged into recession if Europe acted to ban all energy imports from Russia immediately, underlining the continent’s collective reliance on Russia for its energy needs.
Mr Reynolds emphasised that the government’s energy plan must not consist of “simply shopping from one authoritarian regime to the next for fossil fuels”, adding that a “long-term plan on renewables or nuclear, and energy efficiency” would “make the difference”.
“Looking at the images coming out of Ukraine right now, I don’t think we should be talking about going back to business as usual, where we just buy large quantities of fossil fuels,” the shadow business secretary said.
But when Mr Shapps was asked if he considered rationing oil and gas a “good idea” for the UK to explore, he replied: “No, I don’t.” And asked if he was prepared to rule it out “completely”, he said: “Yes, I can.”