Last Wednesday I used my slot in parliamentary questions to ask the government again what they are intending to do to tackle high energy bills but to no avail, and the very next day, just as the wintry weather started, SSE announced price rises. Since 2010 the average annual energy bill has gone up by a staggering £300, and Wales has some of the highest bills of anywhere in the UK. We all know that energy companies are quick to pass on price rises to consumers, but when energy prices came down by 45% in 2009, household bills only fell by 5%. The consumer organisation Which? recently estimated that flaws in the market have left consumers paying £3.9bn a year over the odds since 2010.
That’s why Ed Miliband has said, if Labour wins the general election in 2015, we would freeze prices until the start of 2017. This would save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800. Whilst a freeze would provide some much-needed temporary relief, more importantly we would also use that 20-month freeze to reform the energy market, breaking up the big energy companies and introducing a simple new tariff structure. We would replace Ofgem with a tough new regulator which would have the power to force energy companies to pass on price reductions when the price of energy falls on the world markets.
But why wait for a change of government? I am calling on Cameron’s team to act now, to introduce the energy bill freeze immediately, because I believe it is one of the fastest ways that we can both help householders and support the local economy.