Ed Miliband Has Accused The Government Of Being “Complacent” Over The Energy Crisis
Ed Miliband said the ongoing gas crisis was "far from normal" (Alamy)
Ed Miliband has accused the government of being “complacent about the crisis in the market” as skyrocketing global gas prices put pressure on businesses and consumers.
Speaking during an urgent question to his counterpart in the Commons, the shadow business secretary warned that rising energy prices could push families into fuel poverty.
But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed the suggestions, insisting that “protecting consumers is our primary focus”.
“On Monday, I said to the Secretary of State that he was being far too complacent about the situation we are facing,” Miliband said.
“Events since then have unfortunately borne this out: complacent about the crisis in the market, complacent about the impact on families, complacent about the cost of living crisis.”
“He pretended on Monday and again today that it was normal for a number of suppliers to go down each winter.
“But what we are dealing with is far from normal — 800,000 customers losing their suppliers yesterday alone, 1.5 million in the last six weeks.”
Kwarteng denied that the government had been “complacent”, insisting that the “organised process” by which households were switched to a new supplier was “well established”.
“The government has been clear that protecting consumers is our primary focus and shapes our entire approach to this issue. We continue to protect consumers with the energy price cap," the business secretary said.
“The global gas situation has had an impact on some energy suppliers, and I have been in touch daily with Ofgem.
“As they set out yesterday, there are more than 50 suppliers in the domestic market, and we may unfortunately see more suppliers exit the market in the coming weeks.
“But it is not unusual for energy suppliers to leave the market for various reasons, particularly when wholesale global prices are rising.”
He continued: “Our approach will be informed by the following principles: protecting customers, especially vulnerable ones, from price spikes. And the solution to this crisis will be found from the industry and the market, as is already happening.
“The government, I repeat, will not be bailing out failed energy companies.”
Kwarteng's statement comes after Ofgem boss Jonathan Brearley warned MPs on Wednesday that "well above" hundreds of thousands of customers may be left in limbo with many more companies expected to go under.
Under the 'Supplier of Last Resort' system operated by energy regulator Ofgem, households whose suppliers go bust will be automatically transferred to another supplier.
However, business minister Paul Scully said earlier on Thursday that it was "not really possible" to guarantee that customers won't be forced to pay more for their energy bills if they are transferred to a new supplier.
During this morning's Commons debate, Miliband also highlighted the impact that rising fuel prices could have just as changes to the benefit system come into force next week.
“We have seven days from the cut to Universal Credit. This is the last time a government minister will be in the house explaining to millions of families, why he is plunging them further into fuel poverty,” he said.
“Instead of warm words or platitudes, can he now tell the British people how he can possibly justify this attack on their living standards? Isn't the truth, there can be no defence for it, and the only right, proper and fair thing to do is to cancel the cut?”
Kwarteng responded that Universal Credit was a “cross-government” issue and that there would be “plenty of time to discuss” it in the upcoming Spending Review in October.
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