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Issue #1618      November 13, 2013

Energy bosses shamed

BRITAIN: Angry Labour MP Ian Lavery bluntly told rapacious energy companies that they should face re-nationalisation if they charge bills which people simply can’t afford. Mr Lavery intervened as company executives presented a shameful spectacle in front of the Commons energy select committee.

Members of the cross-party committee repeatedly challenged the executives to explain huge price hikes by four companies – expected to be followed soon by the remaining two of the big six.

But the loyal company men ducked and dodged as even Tory committee members accused them of “acting in concert” on price rises and displaying “a lack of transparency” over their finances. It was all too much for Mr Lavery, who boomed out that three million elderly people feared that they would not keep warm this winter – amid predictions that 24,000 people would die from cold.

“It is an absolute outrage in one of the richest countries of the world that this has been allowed to happen,” he said as he glared across at executives from E.On, SSE and nPower.

He reeled off figures for the huge profits raked in by the big six companies.

SSE managing director William Morris pleaded that “these profits are fair.”

Mr Lavery retorted sharply: “How can these profits be fair if people cannot afford to pay for their energy?”

And he told the executives that there was now a real potential for investigating the possibility of renationalising the energy industry “because you cannot run the companies.”

The bosses looked glum when the managing director of relatively small concern Ovo Energy told MPs that he could not understand why the big companies were charging so much, adding: “I don’t know where all the money is going.”

Ovo managing director Stephen Fitzpatrick went on: “It looks to me that a lot of the energy companies – including the big six – are charging the maximum prices they can get away with, and then maintain an illusion of competitive pricing.”

E.On chief executive Tony Cocker tried to fob off MPs by calling for “a very thorough” Competition Commission investigation into energy prices. And he suggested to Mr Lavery that if his constituents were worried about not being able to pay their bills, they could “call us, email us, or whatever.”

Glasgow Labour MP John Robertson told the executives: “Don’t you understand that the people in this country do not trust you.” SSE managing director Guy Johnson replied lamely: “We do have a profound problem on our hands, because we are not getting our message across.”

Mr Robertson asked why E.On declared profits and dividends based on combined operations of energy generation and retail supply, despite claiming that these two parts of the business were “stand-alone.” He alleged that bills were soaring “while you are still making 20 odd per cent profit on distribution.”

Tory committee member Peter Lilley suggested that the companies’ finances were “all very wonky.” He wondered if they’d simply taken some of their profits offshore.

Morning Star   

Next article – Visitors to Snowden and visitors to Berlin

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