Cameron's Energy Price Vow Attacked By Labour
Labour has accused the Government of making up "policy on the hoof" amid confusion over David Cameron's vow to slash energy prices.
Speaking to journalists at the European Council in Brussels, the Prime Minister said: "I want to be on the side of hard-pressed, hard-working families who often struggle to pay energy bills.
"That's why I said in the House of Commons yesterday we are going to use the forthcoming legislation so that we make sure we insure customer get the lowest tariffs."
Mr Cameron had promised during PMQs on Wednesday that new laws would be brought in to force energy firms to give customers the cheapest tariff available.
The announcement appeared to take the Department of Energy and Climate Change by surprise and prompted immediate questions about how it could be delivered.
Labour tabled an urgent question on Thursday morning to demand answers, where shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint accused Mr Cameron of creating "chaos".
She said: "We all mis-speak from time to time and the Prime Minister was under a lot of pressure yesterday but for the Government to spend a day pretending to have a policy they have no intention of implementing is no way to run the country.
"It is like something out of The Thick of It... Millions of families and pensioners worried about how they will heat their homes deserve better than policy made on the hoof and this House needs answers."
Ms Flint asked Energy Minister John Hayes if his department had known of the change in advance, how it would work and when it would be implemented.
"Of course we understand what the Prime Minister was considering because we have been debating and discussing the provisions of the Energy Bill for months," he said.
But the minister notably did not confirm Mr Cameron's pledge, instead saying the Government would legislate to "help" customers get the best deal.
"We want to use the Bill to get people the lowest tariffs," he said.
"There are a number of options that are being considered, for example a voluntary agreement with energy suppliers announced in April secured a number of measures which will be evaluated to see if we should make legislation binding.
"This is a complicated area and we will discuss with the industry, consumer groups and the regulator in order to work through the detail."
Mr Hayes said he was "profoundly concerned and disappointed" by recent price hikes and said he would be discussing the rises with the companies "as a matter of urgency".
And he vowed that the Energy Bill would be a "landmark piece of legislation" delivering lower energy prices for businesses and households.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey was giving a speech on energy market reform in the City at the time of the Commons question where he appeared to distance himself from the PM's pledge.
He sidestepped questions about the statement and pointed instead to voluntary agreements secured earlier this year under which firms are forced to tell customers the best deal available.
"We are looking at how that can be built on, and how we can drive switching arrangements. We will be legislating for those arrangements in the forthcoming Energy Bill," he said.
Consumer group Which? urged Mr Cameron not to backtrack.
Executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Just giving people information on the lowest tariff is not enough when trust is at an all-time low in the industry and switching levels are falling."