Labour: We’ll break up Big Six like banks and freeze energy prices

If Labour wins the next general election the party will break up the Big Six power companies and freeze energy prices till 2017. That was the pledge from the top […]

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By Vicky Ellis

If Labour wins the next general election the party will break up the Big Six power companies and freeze energy prices till 2017.

That was the pledge from the top brass of Labour as they spoke at their annual party conference in Brighton today.

Their energy policy blitz started with a speech from Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint which promised to effectively end the Big Six by breaking them up.

The MP for Don Valley said: “We will break up the Big Six. The power stations will be separated from the companies that send you your bill. Just as the banks will have to separate their investment and trading arms from the high street branches, so we will make the energy companies separate their production from the companies that supply your home.”

She criticised the “injustice” of “half a dozen” suppliers “squeezing out competition, setting prices in secret and never telling you if you’re getting a rotten deal.”

Describing price rises “year after year, followed by record-breaking profits” as “one injustice Ed Miliband and I won’t stand for,” Ms Flint declared the “days will end” when “a company generates energy, sells it to themselves and then sells it to us”.

Just a couple of hours later, the Labour leader – and former Energy Secretary – also chipped in with an energy pledge, hoping to appeal to Britain’s householders struggling with energy bills.

He told the audience: “I am not willing to just stand by. So the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will be frozen, benefiting millions of families and millions of businesses.

“That’s what I mean by a government that fights for you. That’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.”

Earlier Ms Flint said Labour will set up a new “dedicated” Energy Security Board: “To keep our country safe and secure… to identify our energy needs, secure investment for the future and keep the lights on.”

An easy score against the Coalition for the Labour frontbencher came from the Green Deal, the scheme to insulate UK homes.

She quipped: “Ministers said they’d be having sleepless nights if 10,000 people hadn’t signed up by this Christmas… But just 12 households have had any work done. £16 million for 12 homes… They won’t be getting much shut eye this year.”

However the trade body for energy suppliers dismissed the idea of stopping suppliers from being vertically integrated – that is, generating power and selling it as well – and said there are “well over a dozen suppliers and a great many more generators” in the market already.

Energy UK said in a statement: “Breaking up the energy companies is not the way to bring greater competition into the market or to provide the range of services which domestic and business customers want… What we need is long term policy certainty which encourages investment and new players… We look forward to seeing more detail from Labour in its proposals.”

Today’s energy bashing follows Labour’s commitment to get rid of Ofgem should they win power at last year’s party conference.