Lib Dems warn British Gas price hike hits poorest

British Gas’s 15 per cent energy price increase will hit Britain poorest families, claimed Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

The increase in gas and electricity prices follows similar moves from Npower and EDF Energy, increasing their prices by 17 per cent and eight per cent respectively.

Mr Clegg said: “This is very bad news for the many poor families who will be hit by these price rises, pushing them further into fuel poverty.

“The government should use the energy companies’ big profits from the Emissions Trading Scheme to help pensioners and the poorest families reduce their bills.

“Providers must work to ensure that consumers get the benefit of falls in wholesale prices, as they are always hit by the rises.”

British Gas says the price rise was necessary due to increasing wholesale oil and gas prices, along with rising distribution costs.

It also cited rising costs connected with the government’s targets for renewable electricity generation and carbon emission cuts.

Comparison website calculates the average dual fuel bill with British Gas will rise from £912 to £1,051.

However, British Gas says its 340,000 vulnerable customers on the Essentials tariff will not see any price rises until after winter.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is calling for an investigation of the UK energy market.

SNP Westminster energy spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, said: “Another day, and another energy company joins the rush to put up prices.

“Can there now be any doubt that an urgent investigation into the energy market is required? We now have three of the biggest companies following each other with swinging rises in prices.”

He continued: “The much vaunted competition in the UK energy market is largely an illusion.

“Ofgem cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand.”

This week representatives of the regulator Ofgem met with chancellor Alistair Darling to discuss the energy market.

Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan said after the meeting at 11 Downing St: “We have no evidence of any anti-competitive behaviour.

“We see companies gaining and losing significant market share, record switching levels and innovative deals.”