Stroud's politicians have their say on energy price rises
STROUD MP Neil Carmichael has branded Labour’s proposed energy price freeze unworkable, describing it as a ‘short-term investment that could have counterproductive results’.
But his predecessor David Drew has backed the policy and urged the Coalition Government to help hard-pressed families by cracking down on the ‘profiteering’ energy companies.
A fierce debate about how best to deal with rising household fuel bills has been raging in political circles since three of the big six energy firms announced price hikes of around 10 per cent.
After Ed Miliband promised Labour would freeze gas and electricity bills for 20 months if it won the next general election in 2015, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major this week called for his party to impose a one-off windfall tax on the profits of the UK’s top energy companies.
In the face of ‘unacceptable’ price rises, he said the emergency measure would help the Government cover the cost of winter fuel payments to the poor and needy.
However, Mr Carmichael believes neither a price freeze nor a windfall tax is the answer to bill-payers’ woes.
Instead the Tory politician is advocating greater EU integration around energy policy as a potential solution.
“What we need to be thinking about is more connectivity between European countries so that we can bring prices down by having access to energy surpluses generated in the EU,” he told the SNJ.
“Windfall taxes have their place but I’m not convinced at this time that it would be a good idea because it would suppress the ability of energy companies to invest in new capacity and infrastructure.”
He added: “Labour would not be able to enforce a price freeze because they have no control over international commodity prices... It is unworkable. It would be a short-term investment that could have counterproductive results.”
But Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stroud David Drew, said: “I think it is outrageous the way that these companies are making excessive profits and I think we need to do something about it.
“If the energy companies won’t behave themselves the state has to intervene directly because these price increases are causing misery for people, many of whom are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families.”
Despite their differences, there was one area of agreement between Mr Drew and Mr Carmichael on the subject of green levies, which Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested could be cut to reduce consumers’ energy bills.
Mr Drew said: “The way to deal with the problem is not by scrapping the green levies on people’s bills but by tackling the unacceptable profits,” while Mr Carmichael said he would be reluctant to roll back the levies.
“I don’t want to send the wrong signals to the green energy sector. I don’t think any action on the green levies should be too radical. We need to act in a responsible way towards the climate," the Tory politician said.