Vince Cable has touted the role of shareholders to the energy industry in a dispute over the rise of their payouts compared with the rise in bills for consumers. His comments came as Centrica – the parent company of British Gas – brought out its quarterly profits, revealing it had upped the shareholder dividend by 12% while its customer bills had increased.
Shareholders are essential for generating huge sums of money for new technology, argued the Business Secretary.
Speaking on radio 5 live this morning, Mr Cable said: “Of course consumers are very important, we mustn’t allow them to be exploited by monopoly producers.”
However, he added: “If you’re going to get big investment, it’s got to come from the stock market and it’s got to come from investors in shares, and they’ve got to be able to see a return coming in from their investment. Otherwise you don’t raise the capital. That’s how we get the investment in the industry, otherwise it comes from the taxpayer, and the taxpayer can’t fund that scale of investment.”
He weighed in on the side of consumers by adding that his Cabinet colleague, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, has been “robust” in saying that suppliers mustn’t overcharge.