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Volume 539: debated on Thursday 26 January 2012

Greater competition requires more companies taking part in the market, and increased transparency for consumers. Ofgem will shortly announce proposals to improve wholesale market liquidity and it is important that the regulator takes decisive steps. We have also taken action to cut red tape for small suppliers and Ofgem has published radical proposals to help suppliers to simplify their tariffs and billing information, helping consumers switch supplier and thereby boosting competition.

I thank the Minister very much indeed for his reply. The people who should benefit from a competitive energy market are the companies’ customers—our constituents. Is he aware of the practice by some energy companies of repeatedly putting up direct debit payment demands? The customer then has to call the company to negotiate them down, but the next time a bill arrives the direct debit has gone up yet again. What does he think of that behaviour by our energy companies?

One of the most important aspects of a functioning energy market is transparency; people need to be clear about why their prices are changing and the factors that contribute towards that. The requirement for greater transparency and more information on bills is therefore a fundamental part of the reforms that we see coming through.

Does the Minister recognise that the insistence on the energy performance certificate at level 3 in order to qualify for the new solar PV fix will be anticompetitive in its practice? The industry has said that it may contribute to reducing employment in solar PV down to 8% of the current levels of employment, and yet it is not related to gas, which is used most for warming Britain’s homes.

I hope the hon. Gentleman would agree that it is important that if people are receiving a subsidy for electricity which is generated, they should have generally well insulated homes and they should not be wasting it—[Interruption.] But for many people it does help. That was a proposal that was put forward in the consultation process. We have had many responses to that. We are currently considering those with a view to making a final decision.