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Energy Prices

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 5 November 2013

1. What assessment the Office for Budget Responsibility has made of the effects on the economy of recent changes in energy prices. (900893)

The Office for Budget Responsibility has not published any assessment of the effects of the recent energy price increases on the economy. The OBR’s last published forecast, “Economic and fiscal outlook” was issued in March 2013, and an updated forecast will be provided alongside the autumn statement. The Government are committed to doing all we can to keep energy bills down to support hard-working families.

I welcome the hon. Lady to her post. Is she aware that last year wholesale energy prices rose by 1.7%, but energy bills by 9.1%? Is it not time that the Government stopped defending the big six energy companies and actually called for a freeze on prices while we reset the energy market?

It is very interesting to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but the first thing he needs to do is explain to his constituents why he voted for the decarbonisation target, which is going to add £125 to energy bills. Secondly, it was the last Labour Government who created the big six. We started off with 20; they left us with the big six. Thirdly, this Government have set out very clearly how they will help households—by reviewing green levies, by encouraging switching, which I am pleased to see the Leader of the Opposition has taken up, and by increasing competition.

I, too, welcome the Minister to her post. She will know that one of the energy bills that my rural constituents have to struggle with is for petrol. Will she tell us whether the Office for Budget Responsibility has done an assessment of how much families are saving by our avoidance of the 13p fuel hike planned by the Labour party?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. The OBR does an assessment of all taxes and their impact on the economy. The policies that this Government are pursuing in recognition of the pressures on household budgets mean that filling up the average car is costing families £7 less at the moment, and by the end of this Parliament it will cost them £10 less.

Does the Minister accept that the best answer to this question is to freeze energy prices? Surely that is the answer.

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much indeed for his question, but the energy price freeze suggested by the Leader of the Opposition is actually an energy price con. It has been made very clear that the prices will go up beforehand and up afterwards, and the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that if wholesale prices go up, he will have to stop the freeze. That is a price con; it is not sustainable; we are fixing the problem.

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer join me in congratulating the Eastleigh Liberal Democrat borough council on the large part it has played in bringing the local unemployment rate down below 1,000?

Whatever the worthiness of the efforts of the council to which the hon. Gentleman refers, unfortunately it has absolutely nothing whatever to do with Question 1.