Labour’s energy bill freeze ‘will jeopardize investment’ says Energy Minister Michael Fallon

 

The Government is contemplating scaling back its environmental commitments to help stem rapid price rises in gas and electricity, the Energy Minister Michael Fallon disclosed on Monday night.

Speaking at the Independent fringe meeting, he delivered a withering assessment of Ed Miliband’s promise at last week’s Labour conference to impose a 20-month post-election freeze on the cost of energy.

Mr Fallon warned the move would deter major energy companies from crucial investment in Britain.

But he acknowledged work was underway in Whitehall to put a brake on the cost of gas and electricity and accepted there were questions over the dominance of the market by the “Big Six” energy firms.

He said ministers were examining whether to reduce some taxes faced by companies – for instance in commitments to renewable energy and energy efficiency – so that they could pass the savings to consumers.

“Energy prices are higher than I would like them to be. We need to have downward pressure by making the energy market more competitive,” Mr Fallon told the meeting, which was sponsored by RSA Insurance.

“We constantly keep an eye on the pressures on hard-working families. We are looking again at some of these energy taxes right now to see whether there’s a case for ensuring energy bills don’t increase out of line.”

Mr Fallon said the Government was already taking action to open up the market and to make it easier for customers to switch suppliers. He also pointed out that energy companies were simplifying their tariffs.

“We don’t have a fully competitive market in energy and we need to have one,” he said. “When Labour started in 1997 they were 14 energy retailers. We have ended up with six – they created the Big Six.”

He warned that Labour’s threat of price freezes was putting future investment in the UK in peril.

“[Energy companies] have global investment mandates –they can invest in Kazakhstan, Brazil, the United Kingdom. The great danger from what Miliband has done is [that Labour] has made the United Kingdom a riskier investment location for these companies.”

Mr Fallon told the meeting he had settled into an efficient working relationship with his boss, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable.

But he made clear their political instincts were fundamentally at odds, accusing Mr Cable of wanting to “meddle and intervene”.

Citing the example of Mr Cable’s review of zero-hours contracts, Mr Fallon said: “It’s a key part of our automotive industry, it’s a key part of our retail sector – these are agreements that are freely entered into.”

Asked whether he could stomach another five years with Mr Cable and the Lib Dems, he replied: “I really hope not…too many of them are of the Left.”

Mr Fallon attacked the Liberal Democrats for “ratting on us” by dropping their support for a review of Westminster boundaries to reduce their inherent bias against the Tories.

The Energy minister dismissed the surge in electoral support for the UK Independence Party as a “protest vote” and emphatically ruled out a Tory pact with Nigel Farage’s troops.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat