Flint likens Cameron's 'cheapest tariff' pledge to 'The Thick of It'
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Flint likens Cameron's 'cheapest tarrif' pledge to 'The Thick of It'
Labour's shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint has likened David Cameron's surprise announcement - that the Government will legislate to ensure energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers - as something out of political TV comedy "The Thick of It".
The Prime Minister appeared to throw out even his own ministers yesterday when he made the announcement in Parliament with many MPs questioning how such a policy could be implemented and enforced.
Today, energy minister John Hayes said following the PM's announcement he was pleased to confirm that the Government "will be bringing forward legislation to help energy consumers to get the best deal".
He said: "We have already regulated, we have plans to improve competition and simplify tariffs in the retail market process, and we will improve liquidity and competition in the wholesale market, through the Energy Bill, in weeks rather than months. A number of options are being considered. For example, the voluntary agreement with energy suppliers announced in April secured a number of measures which will be evaluated to see whether we should make the legislation binding. This is a complicated area, and we will have discussions with the industry, consumer groups and the regulator in order to work through the detail."
Flint, a former housing minister, said Mr Cameron had "caused chaos in the energy industry" and left his own ministers "at a loss over what Government energy policy actually is".
She said: "It is no wonder that the Secretary of State has avoided coming to the House today to explain a policy that he knew nothing about until yesterday."
She called on Mr Hayes to explain whether his department knew of the policy before the PM's announcement and whether the Government will actually be legislating to force the energy companies to put all their customers on the cheapest tariff—not through a voluntary agreement or through sending a letter once a year.
She added: "We all mis-speak from time to time, and the Prime Minister was under a lot of pressure yesterday, but for the Government to spend a day pretending to have a policy that they have no intention of implementing is no way to run the country. It is like something out of “The Thick Of It”.
Mr Hayes said carefully: "Of course we understand what the Prime Minister was considering, as we have been debating and discussing the provisions of the Energy Bill for months."
He said that during the scrutiny of the Energy Bill in Parliament, "we will of course discuss how these things will work and how they will be implemented. That is a fundamental part of the process by which legislation passes through this Parliament".
Mr Hayes said the Government will use the Energy Bill to get people lower tariffs.
He added: "There are, of course, different options to be considered in that process, but those options will be discussed with the industry and with consumer groups. More than that, they will be effective in a way for which only this Government—and I am bound to say, this Minister—are renowned. If I may say so, I have brought fresh energy to this brief, and I am determined that this Bill will be a landmark piece of legislation in the interests of the British people, delivering lower energy prices for businesses and households across the country."