David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has angered heads of the privatised energy companies by calling for an investigation into whether gas customers are being overcharged.
They retorted that Britain has the most liberal and open energy market in the world since the former state-owned utilities were sold to private companies by the Conservatives in the 1980s.
Mr Cameron said during a visit to Reading yesterday: "The cost of living is going up and this Government is making things worse. Those things that are under government control, like tax, are going up. Meanwhile, when it comes to items not controlled by the Government but where they could make a difference, like utility bills, they do nothing. We're calling on the competition authorities to investigate the utility companies to make sure people are getting a fair deal."
Duncan Sedgwick, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association, said: "What we have is the most independent, liberalised and transparent market anywhere in the world. An inquiry of this kind would achieve nothing."Reuse content