Huhne: energy prices will fall

Julian Harris
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A CRACKDOWN on energy companies will boost competition, secretary of state Chris Huhne claimed yesterday, promising that consumers will be “better off in 2020 thanks to our low carbon policies.”

Huhne has recently dismissed rising energy prices by calling on Britons to shop around for better deals.

“We are determined to get tough with the big six energy companies to ensure that the consumer gets the best possible deal,” Huhne said yesterday.

Utilities will no longer be able to delay Ofgem rulings by up to a year by forcing the independent regulator to seek a second opinion from the Competition Commission.

Yet Huhne’s claim that households will be better off by 2020 was attacked by critics of the government’s energy policy.

“The Department’s [of Energy and Climate Change] previous estimate that prices would only see small increases were based in fantasy land,” said Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. “But this is several steps further – it is a bit of a joke.

“To meet their targets, around £200bn needs to be spent on the energy sector, and someone has to foot that bill,” Sinclair added.

The government said that new statistics showing a rosier outlook for consumers were not yet published.

On the penultimate day of the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Birmingham, another member of the government – pensions minister Steve Webb – laid out the coalition’s plan on pensions, claiming that the new “auto-enrolment” scheme would help people save for their retirements.

The scheme will see millions of private sector employees automatically enrolled in their employers’ pension schemes, unless they actively decide to opt out. Webb also signalled the government’s intention to consolidate savers’ multiple pensions into individual “big fat pots”.

Elsewhere at the conference, Lib Dem president Tim Farron brushed off claims that he was after party leader Nick Clegg’s job. Insisting that Deputy Prime Minister Clegg “is doing a brilliant job”, Farron said: “I want him to be leader of this party for so long that, by the time the vacancy comes up, I'll be too decrepit to take it.”

Farron has won applause from Lib Dem activists this week by stressing the party’s independence from its Conservative coalition partners.