Energy rip-off: 'Big Six' firms too close to ministers, says Ed Miliband

Labour plans to rein in energy lobbyists as analysis shows ministers have met with energy giants five times more often than with consumer groups

Lobbyists employed directly by the energy companies should be reined in and their dealings with the Government made more open, Ed Miliband has said.

In an interview with The Independent, the Labour leader accused ministers of being too close to the Big Six energy companies. Analysis reveals that ministers from the Department of Energy and Climate Change have met representatives from the energy giants on 128 occasions since the Coalition was formed in 2010, yet have held talks with the main groups representing energy consumers only 26 times during the same period.

Labour will table amendments to the Lobbying Bill, which returns to the Commons tomorrow, that would force all lobbyists to join the register proposed by the Government, including in-house lobbyists employed by the energy companies. The Bill currently covers professional “third-party” lobbyists who contact ministers and aides directly.

The Opposition will also demand a code of conduct with “real sanctions” and moves to prevent conflicts of interest when people switch between government and lobbying firms. The energy firms regularly “second” staff to Whitehall departments including the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), while some civil servants spend time working in the industry. The Big Six are drawing up a campaign to lobby against Mr Miliband’s pledge to freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months if Labour wins power.

Mr Miliband said: “The Government’s Lobbying Bill will not capture the big energy lobbyists, who will continue to escape scrutiny. We will bring in a universal register of all professional lobbyists, along with a code of conduct backed by sanctions.”

The Labour leader sees the crackdown on lobbyists as the next stage of his campaign to stand up to the “vested interests” in the energy industry.

Mr Miliband claimed: “We have an energy market that isn’t working for ordinary families and businesses. Yet rather than act, this Tory-led Government is letting energy firms overcharge millions of families who are struggling to pay their ever-rising energy bills.” He added: “With a cost of living crisis gripping Britain, hardworking people need a government that fights for them. Instead we have a Prime Minister who always stands up for a privileged few.”

The Independent’s analysis found that since May 2010, Decc ministers have held talks with Centrica, the owner of British Gas, on 30 occasions; met Scottish Power 26 times; EDF 21; SSE 19; RWE npower 17 and E. on 15. In contrast, the ministers met Consumer Focus 13 times; Which? on 10 occasions; Energy Action twice and held one session with “consumer groups”.

The Bill was long-delayed despite Mr Cameron’s warning before the last election that lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen”. But the measure has won few friends because of its narrow scope.

After warnings by the industry that most lobbyists who meet ministers will be unaffected, Labour’s amendments say that anyone who meets the definition of lobbying, whether working on behalf of a client or an employer, should be required to join the register. Labour would also require lobbyists to declare the approximate value of their activity and to list the individuals involved.

Labour proposes an “enforceable code of conduct”, including a ban on inappropriate financial relationships between lobbyists and MPs or peers. Tough sanctions for breaches of the code of would include preventing the worst offenders from practising by removing them from the register.

The Opposition also wants to prevent conflicts of interests arising from the “revolving door” when ministers or officials join lobbying companies or lobbyists move to a job in government. It says appointments should be scrutinised by a committee, which could attach conditions to prevent those involved using their new role to further other interests.

Decc insisted on Sunday taht its links with the energy companies are “entirely above board”, saying that steps were taken to avoid any conflict of interest and details of meetings were published. A Decc spokesman said: “Keeping the lights on and delivering value to consumers is a vital job and it is perfectly normal for Decc ministers and officials regularly to meet with energy suppliers as well as independent players and environmental and consumer groups to discuss energy issues.”

The Government insists that it has listened to critics of the Bill. Andrew Lansley, the Commons Leader who is responsible for it, has announced changes after charities complained that they could be “gagged” by proposed curbs on political campaigning before elections. But umbrella groups representing these bodies said the amendments do not go far enough.

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes