Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Energy prices and the Big Switch campaign.

Soaring energy bills are driving up inflation and contributing to the cost of living crisis afflicting millions of families. Labour believes that community action, including collective purchasing, is essential to reforming our energy market, and I am pleased to support the Big Switch campaign. We need to break the stranglehold of the big six energy companies, so that communities can work together to generate clean energy in their own area and be more empowered when purchasing energy from other suppliers.

As Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary has said, collective purchasing is a simple but potentially trailblazing way to help bring down soaring energy bills. When people come together, they’ll have more power to negotiate cheaper energy bills with the big energy companies. It sets an exciting precedent which organisations such as local authorities and housing associations could take up to negotiate better energy deals on behalf of their residents.

Far from doing everything they can to help, this Government is making things worse, not better, for millions of hardworking families. Pensioners have seen their winter fuel payments cut, hundreds of thousands of families will miss out on help with their bills this year, and grants to support people to insulate their homes and make them more energy efficient have been cut.

At a time when families are facing record fuel bills and energy companies are enjoying huge profits, government needs to step in and support families. Labour is prepared to stand up to powerful vested interests in the energy industry and to come up with plans to provide real help now, as well as reform the way our energy market works for the long-term:

· We are actively supporting Which?’s Big Switch campaign.

· We would provide real help now by making the energy companies ensure that all vulnerable pensioners and low-income families with children at risk of fuel poverty, and who receive the Cold Weather Payment, automatically receive the Warm Homes Discount.

· We would get tough with the energy companies by requiring them to check all pensioners over 75 are on the cheapest possible tariff.

· We would reform the energy market by increasing transparency and breaking the dominance of the Big Six by requiring them to sell power into a pool, allowing new businesses to enter the market, increasing competition and driving down energy bills for families and businesses.

· We would help families make their homes more energy efficient by ensuring the Green Deal is offered on fair terms to consumers so it can contribute to reducing bills and keeping people warmer.

· We would investigate mis-selling and ensure that consumers are properly compensated where it has occurred.
I can assure you that Labour will continue to fight for a fairer deal on energy prices for the people of Britain.