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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby meets with energy bosses

The Archbishop recently said that the wave of energy price hikes seems "inexplicable"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has met senior representatives from the energy industry to “hear their perspectives on social responsibility”.

The Most Rev Justin Welby met Npower chief executive Paul Massara and E.On chief executive Tony Cocker at the private meeting today that is also understood to have been attended by British Gas and EDF Energy.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury today welcomed a small group of senior representatives from the energy industry to hear their perspectives on social responsibility around the energy supply sector.

"This is one of a number of private meetings hosted by Archbishop Justin in order to draw on the experience of people from different areas of national life."

He added that the archbishop would not be giving interviews about the meeting. Both Npower and E.On confirmed the meeting but declined to comment further.

The archbishop waded into the row over energy prices in October, warning that the latest wave of hikes looks "inexplicable".

The intervention, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, came after British Gas followed in the footsteps of SSE by announcing a 9.2 per cent increase in prices.

He insisted the Big Six companies had an obligation to behave morally rather than just maximising profit.

The head of the Church of England, himself a former oil executive, said he understood the anger the rises were generating.

"The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe in this, and the companies have to justify fully what they are doing," Mr Welby said.

"I do understand when people feel that this is inexplicable, and I can understand people being angry about it, because having spent years on a low income as a clergyman I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high. That is the reality of it."

He urged firms to be "conscious of their social obligations", saying they had to "behave with generosity and not merely to maximise opportunity".

"They have control because they sell something everyone has to buy. We have no choice about buying it," he said. 'With that amount of power comes huge responsibility to serve society.

"It is not like some other sectors of business where people can walk away from you if they don't want to buy your product and you are entitled to seek to maximise your profit.

"The social licence to operate of the energy companies is something they have to take very, very seriously indeed."