Downing Street has suggested people who are struggling to pay their energy bills should consider wearing jumpers to keep warm during the winter.
When asked whether the prime minister thought people should put a jumper in order to spend less money on heating, a spokesperson for David Cameron said: "He is not going to prescribe the actions that individuals should take but if people are giving that advice that is something that people may wish to consider."
The high cost of energy has become a key battleground between the coalition and Labour ahead of the general election in 2015 - after Ed Miliband pledged to freeze prices until 2017.
The prime minister's spokesman made the suggestion after energy secretary Ed Davey said he was sure some people did put on extra clothes to keep their bills down. He told BBC Newsnight on Thursday evening: "I am sure people do wear jumpers, I wear jumpers at home."
"If you insulate your home more you can turn your heating down," he said. And he encouraged people to switch providers if their bills were too high. "They can switch, we have sen a big increase in competition under this coalition government. There are some really big savings to be had out there."
Responding to the jumper suggestion, Miliband said of the government: "Their crime policy used to be ‘hug a hoodie’. Now their energy policy appears to be 'wear a hoodie'."
He added: "These responses to the energy price rises show how little Mr Cameron and his government stand up for the interests of hard working people. He has no grip on the cost of living crisis and he seems to think the solution to this crisis is nothing to do with him."
Labour front bencher Owen Smith said the comments showed the government did not understand how serious the issue of high energy prices was.
“Ed Davey felt he was offering sound advice when he suggested people wear jumpers to save on their energy bills but it’s testament to how out of touch this government is that he doesn’t get that this isn’t a question of tweaking down the thermostat and putting on a few extra layers," he said.
The shadow Welsh secretary told HuffPost UK: “For some of the most vulnerable people in society, these energy price increases mean that heating their homes may become an unaffordable luxury. A serious energy secretary, instead of offering platitudes and warm words, would be supporting Labour’s energy price freeze and forcing energy companies to freeze their bills.
“As for the boss of Centrica, who went further and suggested customers wear two jumpers instead of one just as his company has put energy prices up by 10%, his comments are so crass they need no further comment – they speak for themselves.”
Yesterday another 7.8 million households had to come to terms with surging winter energy bills after British Gas announced it will hike electricity bills by 10.4% and gas tariffs by 8.4% in the latest blow to family finances. The group is the second of the "big six" providers to announce price increases this month after SSE recently revealed more than seven million customers will be hit with an 8.2% rise from November 15.
David Cameron branded the announcement "disappointing" and urged unhappy consumers to switch suppliers for the best deal.
But Miliband said the increase showed there was "a real urgency" now for action. "Week in, week out we see higher prices from these companies causing damage to families and businesses and frankly we have got a prime minister who is too weak to act. He is standing up for the energy companies not the consumer."
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