MP urges more action to tackle hike in energy bills

John Healey has called on the Government to do more to help families and older people facing rocketing energy bills.
Speaking in a debate on energy prices in the House of Commons yesterday (October 19), the Wentworth and Dearne MP said: “This is a system that requires much clearer and fairer pricing and regulation for consumers.
“The regulator, energy companies and, above all, the Government are failing consumers across the country.
“For many, high prices mean a choice between eating and heating and, in some cases, a choice between life and death, particularly in a harsh winter.”

Mr Healey said the Government were letting consumers down by allowing energy bills to go up 20% in the past year and that they were “out of touch” when they said the answer to high prices was for people to shop around more.

He said the system penalised the poorest and low users if energy while benefiting the better-off and higher users.

He said: “Every time a family in this country switches on the heating or the lights, the Government are letting them down – and those with the lowest incomes and poorest households are being let down the most.

“If people are not online, if they are on pre-payment meters, if they do not have full bank accounts, and if they are unfortunate enough to call the one in three energy company advisers who do not give accurate information about their charges, they are simply not able to shop around.”

Mr Healey drew on the experience of Rotherham constituents he had met who were struggling to meet energy costs or had benefited from the Warm Front scheme.

Warm Front – which can provide grants for insulation and more energy efficient boilers – has helped more than 3,000 households in the Wentworth and Dearne constituency. But it has been cut by the Government and will be scrapped altogether from 2013.

Mr Healey proposed a five-point plan which he has urged the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, and Alistair Buchanan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, to adopt. It includes simplifying tariffs and limiting standing charges.

Notes to editors

  • Text of the motion put forward by Labour in the Opposition day debate on energy prices on 19 October: “That this House believes that the energy market does not serve the public interest and is in need of urgent reform; notes with concern research by OFGEM showing that average household energy bills have risen, while energy companies’ profit margins have soared; recognises that, with a cold winter forecast and Government support cut, millions of families will struggle to heat their homes; believes that energy tariffs are confusing and unfair, meaning that 80 per cent of people currently pay more for their energy than they need to, and that consumers who try to switch are often given inaccurate information; further believes that to tackle climate change, build a new low carbon economy and make the UK a world leader in green energy, which will bring new industry and jobs to the UK, people need to know that the energy market is fair; and calls on the Government to investigate mis-selling and ensure consumers are compensated, introduce a simple format to be applied across all tariffs, so that people can compare the full range of energy deals at a glance, increase transparency by requiring energy companies to publish their trading data, reform the energy market to break 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, and demand that energy companies use their profits to help reduce energy bills this winter.”
  • You can read the full Hansard record of the debate here: 9/debtext/111019-0002.htm#11101946000001