From Omnishambles to Combishambles?
Not so much an omnishambles as a combishambles – as twitter has dubbed it.
David Cameron’s energy bills announcement has been unravelling now for over 24 hours. The Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey hasn’t backed him and won’t do interviews about it. The new junior Conservative energy minister John Hayes appeared in the House of Commons but had no explanation for how Mr Cameron would force energy companies to give us all the lowest tariff.
Neither men had been told Mr Cameron was going to make the announcement. Today Mr Cameron went to Brussels and talked of the need for deregulation, as he backed the biggest regulatory intervention into the energy market for years.
Then he announced a subtle change to what he said yesterday while appearing not to:
“I want to be on the side of hard pressed, hard-working families who often struggle to pay energy bills, that’s why I said in the House of Commons yesterday we’re going to use the forthcoming legislation, the Energy Bill coming up this year, so that we make sure, we ensure that customers get the lowest tariffs, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Except that isn’t what he said yesterday. Yesterday he said “we will be legislating so that energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers”.
It is a very subtle shift but takes the onus off the energy companies and puts it back onto us the customers.
There are still problems – this could still mean a lot less competiton with energy companies basically offering one tariff each which are likely to be all very similar. It will also mean the end of the cheapest tariffs altogether because they are loss-making and only exist thanks to the subsidy of those who pay over the odds.
Besides that it is still very questionable how this will get into the Energy Bill this year, when nobody knows how to do it (or what exactly they are now trying to do). The test will be this time next year – will most of us who pay more than we need to have seen our tariffs cut?
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