Energy bills: Ministers not seeking 'price pledge'

Light bulb and calculator Both government and opposition parties are trying to find ways to curb fuel bills

The government has denied reports it is seeking a commitment from energy firms to hold their prices down until 2015.

The companies told BBC News ministers had asked them to keep bills on hold so long as there is no significant move in global wholesale energy prices.

Government sources deny this, and say they are focusing instead on boosting competition and reducing green levies to cut annual bills by about £50.

Labour, which wants prices frozen, said government policy was a "shambles".

'Utterly misleading'

On Thursday, energy industry sources, including one of the "big six" energy suppliers, said they were being asked by the government to make a commitment not to raise prices - on the basis of government policies - until the middle of 2015.

David Cameron: "We are dealing with real policies to make a real difference"

Downing Street has said the story was "utterly misleading" and people should wait for next week's Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne, who would spell out the government's plans.

Mr Osborne is looking at measures that could reduce annual bills by around £50 by relaxing the companies' environmental commitments and moving the costs of some green schemes from energy bills to general taxation.

Government sources have confirmed that they have been engaged in what they describe as an "information-gathering" exercise with the energy sector to find out what impact reducing green obligations would have on bills.

Ed Miliband says David Cameron has been "pleading with energy companies to get him off the hook"

But they insisted they were not pleading, or negotiating, with the big six companies to hold bills down in the run-up to the 2015 general election, saying this was "not part of the package" on the table.

David Cameron, who is at a summit in Lithuania, said the government was sticking to its original plan on energy prices.

The prime minister said: "I want to help households and families by getting sustainably low prices, and the only way you do that is to increase competition and roll back some of the levies on people's bills.

"I've said that's what we're going to do and that is what we're going to do."

Labour, which has promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if it is elected in 2015, said the government's policy was totally "confused".

Cheaper energy bills

Energy saving lightbulb

Advice from the Energy Saving Trust:

  • Insulate your hot water cylinder. Could save up to £60 a year
  • Get an eco-shower head. Some water companies are giving them away free; could save up to £75 a year
  • Swap halogen spot lights with new LED bulbs. Replacing all traditional bulbs with energy-saving versions can save £60 a year

Make more energy savings

Switch and save on your energy bills

Party leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of being a "weak and flailing prime minister".

More competitive

"What we now know is that while David Cameron has in public been opposing an energy price freeze, in private he has been pleading with the energy companies to get him off the hook," he said.

Labour is publishing its own plans to make the market more competitive by separating companies' retail and generation operations and giving a new regulator much greater enforcement powers.

The government has dismissed Labour's price freeze pledge as a "con" because governments cannot control the international price of gas.

As well as green and social obligations, the government is also looking at the cost of transmitting energy to homes. This makes up 23% of an annual dual-fuel bill.

According to the industry regulator Ofgem, electricity distribution costs will add £15 to an average bill over the next year, but flatten out thereafter.

Industry sources say the government wants that cost spread over a longer period.

Energy price rise chart

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    08:19: UKIP 'will reduce immigration' BBC Radio 4 Today
    Mark Reckless MP

    UKIP MP Mark Reckless is on Today defending the party's immigration policy. Asked why the party don't have a target for immigration, Mr Reckless said: "What we are going to do is control the quarter of a million people who come from the EU last year."

    He went on to set out policies including tighter border controls and a points-based system and said: "What that will do will hugely reduce that number of people coming to this country."

     
  2.  
    @FrankRGardner Frank Gardner

    tweets: We'll be discussing the UK Govt's controversial 'Prevent' strategy to counter extremism at 0830 on @BBCr4today

     
  3.  
    08:08: UK 'needs own Abraham Lincoln' The Guardian

    Over on the Guardian, Martin Kettle argues the UK needs its own Abraham Lincoln. If Britain proves to be "a house divided against itself" in coming years, especially with the rise of nationalism, "it will also require someone to fill Lincoln-sized shoes if the house is to continue to stand, both within these islands and in the union with Europe", he says. But he's not confident David Cameron or Ed Miliband have shown they can match the former US president's oratory skills. You can read his piece here.

     
  4.  
    08:04: Chuka: Selfies "keep it real"
    Chuka Umunna MP

    In an interview with House magazine, Chuka Umunna has praised the selfie. He said: "The thing about selfies is so often you do these posed, formal shots whereas when you are doing a group shot like that, it's a little bit more relaxed, you keep it real. Certainly with young people, it just relaxes the whole thing. And that is what my constituents say: keep it real."

    The Shadow Business Secretary also told House that he finds it awkward being praised for his looks: "I feel a little bit awkward, if I'm honest about it". He added: "It amuses my family, my friends take the piss out of me royally about it."

     
  5.  
    07:53: Bennett interview 'a serious failure' Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News
    Natalie Bennett

    The stumbling performance by Green leader Natalie Bennett in a radio interview last month was a "serious failure" that showed she had failed to prepare and left her colleagues "taken aback", according to the Green leader on Liverpool City Council John Coyne.

    He told the BBC it wouldn't happen again as Ms Bennett would in future rehearse her performance in mock interviews.

    Mr Coyne said: "It's a failure that she was underprepared we know why that happened and we know it will be fixed for the future."

    The criticism comes as Greens meet in Liverpool for their spring conference, gathering in the Liverpool Riverside constituency - which they are targeting at the general election - and where Mr Coyne is a sitting councillor.

    Mr Coyne is chair of the Green Councillors Association and was the first Green on Liverpool council after defecting from the Liberal Democrats.

    He said: "It was a serious failure and we thought it might be damaging to us but one thing that perhaps is saving us from that is people who are attracted to the Green Party tend to have a more generous disposition anyway."

    Asked about the reaction of Greens to a performance he described as "excruciating" he said: "We were taken aback but again in the Green Party we are compassionate and it certainly helped to indicate that we have someone who's a human being."

    Bennett apologised to members after the interview.

     
  6.  
    07:47: Globalisation driving immigration

    Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani digests today's immigration story on his blog. He writes: "The old way of thinking about immigration and how it affects the UK needs to be tossed into the dustbin."

    He adds: "Today's migrants - particularly those from Eastern Europe - may be found in all manner of locations because of the effects of globalisation and the single market."

    Research from Oxford University shows immigration has increased the population of England by half a million in the past three years.

     
  7.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC correspondent

    tweets: Green leader Natalie Bennett will do mock interviews in future to prepare, Liverpool councillor tells me before Liverpool conference

     
  8.  
    07:41: John Major on SNP The Daily Telegraph
    John Major

    Sir John Major has also been giving his views on the rise of the SNP in Scotland. The former Tory prime minister, writing in this morning's Telegraph, says Ed Miliband should rule out a coalition with the nationalists. He says "the SNP would enter into any agreement with Labour with one overriding aim: to break up the United Kingdom". You can read the Telegraph's news story here and Sir John's piece here.

     
  9.  
    @Number10gov UK Prime Minister

    tweets: PM: To everyone in the UK, India and around the world celebrating the festival of colour and arrival of spring, I wish you a happy #Holi!

     
  10.  
    07:30: John Humphrys in Watford BBC Radio 4 Today

    In the latest of Today's 100 seats in 100 days series, John Humphrys has visited Watford to explore what effect marketing has on voter choices. You can listen to his package here.

     
  11.  
    07:23: Plaid to demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland
    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

    Plaid Cymru say they will demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any post-election Westminster coalition talks.

    At the party's spring conference in Caernarfon, party leader Leanne Wood will urge the "Westminster parties" to promise Wales an extra £1.2bn a year.

    More on this.

     
  12.  
    07:16: Labour's video mocking PM on debates You Tube

    Paul Waugh from Politics Home has tweeted a video from Labour contrasting David Cameron's positive and negative stances to TV debates.

     
  13.  
    07:06: PM's debates decision shows "aristocratic contempt" The Guardian
    David Cameron MP

    John Harris takes up Nick Clegg MP's "Downton Abbey" characterisation of David Cameron's decision on the debates in his column in today's Guardian.

    Harris writes of the PM: "Once he styled himself as a leader who was open and up for a challenge; now he looks more than ever like a cold power politician with a tinge of aristocratic contempt for rules and rituals that need only apply to others."

    Clegg told LBC radio yesterday: "I can't get over the lofty pomposity of the Conservatives. It's as if they think they are ordering a drink in the drawing room of Downton Abbey, telling everybody else what they should do."

     
  14.  
    07:00: SNP influence 'desirable' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ewan Crawford, a former SNP special adviser, says the trouble for Labour is they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservatives during the referendum. At the time, they said there would be no threat to public services and promised "strength and security", Mr Crawford argues, but now they say the Tories would be a disaster. Mr Crawford says the SNP would push Labour to do what Labour actually wants to do. And SNP influence on a Labour government is "desirable", he adds.

     
  15.  
    06:56: Labour MP on Scotland polls BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ian Murray, a Labour MP in Edinburgh, is speaking about the latest polls, which indicate a disastrous result for his party in Scotland could be coming. He admits if his party loses Scotland, Ed Miliband won't be prime minister. He says Labour doesn't want or need a coalition with the nationalists.

     
  16.  
    06:51: Parking leeway introduced

    The government has announced drivers will be given 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parks in England. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, says he wants to end the "war on drivers". The leeway is set to take effect later this month. And it will apply to free and paid-for parking spaces both on streets and in off-street car parks. More here.

     
  17.  
    06:46: Greens 'bigger than UKIP'

    As the Green party heads to Liverpool for their conference today, it's worth remembering that they are believed to have more members than UKIP. In January BBC Online reported the party had 43,829 members compared with UKIP's 41,966. We'll be covering the Green party conference throughout the day.

     
  18.  
    06:41: The papers
    Daily Mail and i front pages on 06/03/15

    This morning's national newspapers feature a number of political stories. Alex Kleiderman has the newspaper review here.

     
  19.  
    06:34: 'UK must support Hong Kong'
    Hong Kong

    The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government to speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK's reputation there. The MPs said they were "profoundly disappointed" at ministers' response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said the UK wanted democratic "transition". More here.

     
  20.  
    06:28: Greens moot alliance with SNP
    Caroline Lucas

    The Greens are expected to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP at their party conference in Liverpool later today.

    Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas will say: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

    "Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common." More here.

     
  21.  
    06:18: 'England's population up'

    A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates that the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 because of immigration. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. We'll bring you all the reaction.

     
  22.  
    06:13: Good morning from Westminster

    Hello and welcome to Friday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Sarah Weaver will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Thursday unfolded.

     

Features

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world


  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage


  • Target practice for Lithuanian troopsBaltic shiver

    Europe editor Katya Adler on the alarm at Russian muscle-flexing


  • Ruben ReuterRuben returns Watch

    Child TV star with Down's syndrome on life away from home


Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.