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Energy bosses slammed by Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead
CITY MP Alan Whitehead clashed with energy bosses today, when he accused them of punishing people with “exactly the same price rises”.
The Southampton Test MP demanded to know why the ‘Big Six’ companies force through near-identical rises – despite claiming to be in competition.
Dr Whitehead also queried whether the firms were selling energy to themselves in a way that hid the way huge profits were being made.
And he pointed to huge profits in energy generation – 24 per cent in 2011 – as evidence that the privatised market needs to change.
He told the bosses: “For the past two years, there have been almost exactly the same price rises by each of the Big Six - at roughly the same time and in exactly the same order of announcements “If your strategies are so different – and you operate the market in different ways - you would not expect price rise from all the companies to be exactly the same, would you?”
Dr Whitehead helped grill the controversial energy companies as a member of the Commons energy select committee.
The hastily-arranged hearing followed public fury over recent price hikes of more than nine per cent, following years of similar rises.
Meanwhile, energy prices have become the number one political issue, after Labour leader Ed Miliband vowed to freeze bills for 20 months, if he wins power in 2015.
But the bosses hit back, insisting their price hikes were fair - and that they are a force for good in spreading “jobs and prosperity”.
Guy Johnson, of RWEnpower – which is increasing electricity and gas prices by 9.3 per cent and 11.1 per cent respectively – insisted “less than ten per cent” of energy was sold to itself.
And William Morris, of SSE – which is planning rises of up to ten per cent – said 85 per cent of costs were outside of the company’s control.
All the bosses called for ‘green’ levies to be stripped out of fuel bills and funded through tax instead, describing them as an unfair “stealth poll tax”.
Mr Morris said such a move was “critical” to getting bills down, adding: “We can start taking the pain away from consumers.”
But, speaking outside the committee, Dr Whitehead said: “We should not be cutting levies to support green investment, as this will leave us with a lack of infrastructure when fossil fuel prices rise in the coming decades.
“This will ultimately make people’s bills far more expensive. We should be looking at radical ways of making the market more transparent and making it work better for customers.”
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