Today's announcement will be a breath of fresh air for the millions of families across the country who are struggling each and every day with rising energy bills.
Energy bills have been far too high for far too long. They are up almost £300 since the election, seven times the increase in average earnings. For every 1% increase in energy bills, 40,000 more households enter into fuel poverty. That is a young family with a new born baby, struggling to keep the house warm enough. That is a little old lady shivering in her Glasgow tenement block. And that is a young child suffering from asthma due to a cold, damp home.
At the other end, we see the fat cat energy barons, raking in profits through ripping off their customers. Their well used get-out clause, that they only make 4 or 5% profit on retail, may prove to be what I have believed for years. It is a smokescreen, which ignores the fact that the 20% plus profits in the rest of the business could easily be used to ease the burden on those in fuel poverty.
We have had years of October and November headlines dedicated to price rises across the board, often within only a few percent of each other. It didn't take a genius to see that there was something not right there.
So these are the reasons why a competition investigation is needed. Why wouldn't we want one?
Some of the energy companies are trying to claim that investment will be delayed until we receive the outcome of the inquiry. This is possible, and there is always some concern about that. But it is far more important that we hold energy companies to account. If we didn't they would just run amok. So I say, if they don't like it here, they can go invest somewhere else. There are plenty of people who want to invest in the UK and we are not the only country standing up for the rights of energy customers.
The real question is, why has Ofgem not been standing up for my constituents? We have known about excessive profits for years. Year on year we saw companies making billions in profits and then hiking their prices again just months later. The Ofgem Chief Executive sat in front of our committee while we went blue in the face, asking how these companies could get away with it. I have not always agreed with my Party that Ofgem should be abolished, but my faith in them has hit rock bottom. I have to ask myself why this has not been done sooner.
If Labour were in Government we would force companies to follow SSE and freeze their prices, while we find out what has gone wrong and how we are going to fix it. But this Government will not stand up to big business, and will let them get away with it.
So now we wait. We wait to see if we have been right all along. We wait to see whether we can fix the market. We wait to see whether we can get people to trust the energy barons again. And we wait to see how many more people die as a result of poor Government policies.
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