Companies would save £1.5bn as a result of the 20-month energy price freeze proposed by Labour, Ed Miliband claimed today.
The Labour leader seized on figures calculated by researchers in the House of Commons Library as he tried to answer criticism by the Conservatives that he is “anti-business.” At last month’s Labour conference, Mr Miliband announced that all householders and firms would see their gas and electricity bills frozen if his party wins the 2015 election.
He said today: “Labour's energy freeze will save businesses across Britain £1.5bn. That is 2.4m businesses across our country who will get relief after the next election. For too long the energy companies have been able to overcharge people as a result of a market that’s not working. When wholesale prices go up you pay more, when wholesale prices come down you still pay more. Labour will call time on that and sort out the energy market.”
At this week’s Tory conference, ministers attacked Labour’s move as a “gimmick” and claimed Mr Miliband was taking his party “back to the 1970s” by reverting to left-wing interventionism in the economy. David Cameron accused the Labour leader of “bashing business”, warning that was “crazy” because it would undermine Britain’s attempt to compete in the global economy.
Today Mr Miliband denied that he would be forced to rethink the proposed price freeze. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. Insisting it was not a surprise that the energy companies would oppose Labour’s plan, he said: “They are unreliable witnesses because they’ve been overcharging people for a long time and they want to carry on. They have a particular interest in this, but I’m interested in the needs of consumers and businesses across the country.”
Mr Miliband added: “Of course we’ve got to hear what the companies say, but they’re wrong on this. A freeze is absolutely workable. It’s going to happen.”
Energy UK, which represents the industry, has warned that a price freeze would also would cut-off the money available to build power stations and threaten the jobs of 600,000 people, energy shortages and price rises.