Senior Conservatives have hinted at fresh moves to curb the rising cost of gas and electricity as they scaled back criticism of Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze energy prices.
The “big six” energy companies have warned that the Labour leader's proposal to peg prices for 20 months if Labour wins the next election risked power cuts. Their message has been echoed by Tory ministers including the party’s chairman Grant Shapps.
However, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said Mr Miliband was “absolutely right” to warn about energy price rises and took a swipe at the “big six”.
David Cameron also agreed that action was needed to reduce the cost of light and heat.
Asked on BBC1’s Question Time whether he believed the power companies were scaremongering, Mr Gove replied: “I do take what they say with a pinch of salt actually. The way in which the major energy companies have behaved in the past does not give me confidence in everything they say.”
Mr Gove said Labour’s plan was not properly thought-through, but accepted Mr Miliband was “right to draw attention to the fact that the behaviour of the six power companies hasn't been entirely admirable ever since they have had a chance to be able to play the market”.
In an interview, Mr Cameron said action was needed to increase competition to achieve low prices and also avoided repeating the accusation that a price freeze would cause energy chaos.
“What we need in our country is low and competitive energy prices – not for 20 months, but for 20 years. We need to do the things that create a competitive energy market,” the Prime Minister told the Yorkshire Post.
“We need to access the new technologies like unconventional gas that will help keep prices down, rather than policies thought up that then so swiftly unravel.”
Caroline Flint, the shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, claimed the Conservatives’ response to the Labour initiative was coming apart. She challenged the party to match Mr Miliband’s promise at its conference next week.