What was supposed to be a week dominated by good economic news has begun with the row over energy bills deepening still further, as new figures showed gas and electricity prices have gone up by 152 per cent in 10 years – even before the latest hikes.
Ministers had looked forward to an announcement today that they had clinched a deal to build two nuclear power stations in the UK – the first in 20 years – and figures later in the week showing increased output.
Instead, an analysis by researchers at the TUC published today shows that even before these rises were announced, gas and electricity had gone up at four times the rate of inflation – threatening to ruin the Government’s hopes of persuading the public that they have the economy under control.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was on the defensive yesterday as he faced questions about British Gas’s announcement that it is following Scottish and Southern Energy by imposing price hikes that will push up the average domestic fuel bill by 9.2 per cent from next month – well above the rate of inflation.
Mr Clegg implied that the Government can do nothing to stop the Big Six energy companies pushing up prices, but expressed his exasperation that they did not make a better job of telling the public why they are doing it.
“Clearly the companies need to justify the bill increases that they are now announcing,” the Liberal Democrat leader told Sky News yesterday.
“It cannot be right that people who are really struggling – many, many people still struggling to pay their weekly, their monthly bills, where electricity and gas bills for this winter are a looming worry – it can’t be right that those bills are increased for those households in our country and yet it is all rather opaque about what drives these increases.”