The amount of money that families spend on gas and electricity has soared by almost three-quarters in a decade, new figures showed as political recriminations intensified over the cost of energy.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said light and heat represented 3.1 per cent of household spending today, compared with 1.8 per cent ten years ago. The proportion has risen “despite very little overall change in the volume of household energy consumption”, the ONS reported.
It said overall spending on “essential” household items - housing and petrol, as well as energy - had jumped from 19.9 per cent to 27.3 per cent over the period.
The disclosure underlines the pressure on ministers to arrest the surging cost of energy, particularly as four of the “Big Six” firms have already announced rises averaging more than nine per cent.
In a raucous session of Prime Minister's Question Time, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader claimed the Big Six should be called the Big Seven because Mr Cameron failed to stand up to them. He mocked the Prime Minister for going “from Rambo to Bambi” on the issue.
The Prime Minister retorted that Labour had flip-flopped on “green levies” on power bills and accused Mr Miliband of weakness. Labour's energy policies would mean “less choice, less competition, higher prices”, he said.
George Osborne is set to announce measures to cut energy bills in his Autumn Statement on 4 December.
Following Mr Cameron's surprise promise last week to “roll back” environmental taxes on energy, the Chancellor is expected to transfer some of them into general taxation.
But the Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, said that was “only one option” and told MPs: “We have not yet taken any decision about whether any of these particular levies should be moved across to general taxation.”
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, tore into the major energy companies for blaming the rise in bills on green levies.
He challenged them to “come clean” about how they were passing on the costs to customers.
“I would say to the Big Six that it's time that they opened their books, it's time they were straight with people, it's time they levelled with their customers,” he told reporters.