Cameron intervention on energy tariffs 'caused chaos'
Published on 18 October 2012 11:30 AM
The Prime Minister was accused of causing 'chaos' over the Government's energy policy after his announcement that firms would be forced by law to give customers the best deal.
Energy Minister John Hayes, summoned to answer questions in the Commons on the matter, did not confirm David Cameron's pledge to force firms to offer the cheapest tariff, instead saying the Government would legislate to 'help' get the best deal.
He said a 'number of options' were being considered but insisted the Energy Bill would be used to 'get people lower tariffs'.
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, whose urgent question forced Mr Hayes to come to the Commons, said Mr Cameron's intervention had thrown the Government's policy into 'confusion' and 'caused chaos' in the industry.
Mr Hayes told MPs: 'Following the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday I am pleased to confirm we will be bringing forward legislation to help energy consumers to get the best deal.
'We have already regulated and have plans to improve competition, simplifying tariffs through the retail market process and we will improve liquidity and competition in the wholesale market through the Energy Bill in weeks rather than months.
'There are a number of options that are being considered, for example a voluntary agreement with energy suppliers announced in April secured a number of measures which will be evaluated to see if we should make legislation binding.
'This is a complicated area and we will discuss with the industry, consumer groups and the regulator in order to work through the detail.'
Flint: 'Prime Minister threw energy policy into confusion'
The Department of Energy and Climate Change appeared to have been taken by surprise by Mr Cameron's comments at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
Asked whether he knew what was going to be announced, Mr Hayes said: 'Of course we understand what the Prime Minister was considering because we have been debating and discussing the provisions of the Energy Bill for months.'
Mr Hayes said he was 'profoundly concerned and disappointed' by recent price hikes by energy firms and said he would be discussing the rises with the companies 'as a matter of urgency'.
Ms Flint said: 'Yesterday the Prime Minister threw energy policy into confusion, caused chaos in the energy industry and I think I have to say it left his own ministers at a loss over what Government energy policy actually is.'
She claimed Energy Secretary Ed Davey 'knew nothing about' the policy until Mr Cameron's announcement.
Ms Flint continued: 'Now it appears energy companies will not be forced to put all customers on cheaper tariffs after all.'
She asked Mr Hayes whether he knew about the announcement or 'was the Prime Minister making it up as he went along'.
Responding to Ms Flint he said: 'This Government takes the Energy Bill so seriously we are determined it should have proper scrutiny in this House and during that scrutiny we will of course discuss how these things will work and how it will be implemented.'
Copyright Press Association 2012