David Cameron with Energy Secretary Ed Davey at the Clean Energy Ministerial conference in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron has let the energy companies pocket his £50 bill cut

By failing to ensure companies pass on the full reduction, the PM has allowed them to boost profits at the expense of the consumer.

David Cameron’s timidity has left millions of customers with higher bills after his supposed £50 cut was exposed as a sham. Today’s figures show that his trademark complacency has let four of the six large suppliers by-pass the supposed £50 cut he trumpeted in December - meaning many of the Big Six have pocketed the benefit from Cameron’s changes to green levies, rather than passing it on to the consumer.And with 400,000 people without help to heat their homes as a result of government cancelling energy efficiency measures, it is the hardest pressed of customers that are hit.

Last December, at the time of Cameron and his hapless Lib Dem sidekick Ed Davey’s announcement, Labour warned that it would be at the discretion of the energy companies to pass on these reductions. We warned that the government’s plan did nothing to challenge the spiralling profits at the Big Six and we warned that they might seek to pocket some of the benefit, reducing the average £110 increase in bills by less than Cameron’s headline "£50" (meaning his cut was still a rise of at least £60 for consumers). And now it turns out they have.

Four of the Big Six will pass on just a fraction of the £50 cut in their costs. E.On, EDF, Npower and Scottish Power have all indicated that customers on fixed price deals will see just a £12 reduction in their bills. A total of 3.7 million customers are estimated to miss out on over £140m of savings.

By failing to pass on the full reduction, Cameron has helped the energy companies to boost profits at the expense of the consumer. Once again, he has been caught out standing up for the privileged few, aided and abetted by a hapless Lib Dem Secretary of State whose boast that "consumers are the ones who are winning" seems, at best, ill-judged.

Time and again, the big energy suppliers and their trade body claim to be sorry for their past behaviour, say that they have learnt lessons, proclaim that they want their customers to trust them, and that they are committed to working for fairness and transparency in the energy market. Yet today’s exposure shows that if they can find a way around a half-hearted government announcement, some of them will. It is this attitude that has caused the crisis of customer confidence in the energy sector – and it is a crisis that the government are either unwilling or (as demonstrated today) unable to address.

The UK energy market is in clear need of urgent reform, to make it clear, fair and transparent for the future. Only Labour has proposed to break up the Big Six, make their trading more transparent and scrap the discredited regulator Ofgem. Meanwhile, our price freeze for a fixed, defined and specific period of 20 months will protect consumers whilst we push through these vital reforms, saving the average household £120.

Tom Greatrex is shadow energy minister and Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Photo: Getty
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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.