Shambles: Energy minister didn’t know about energy policy announcement

By Charles Maggs

The government's own energy minister seemed unsure of his department's policy today, after he struggled to answer questions of a plan announced by David Cameron in  the Commons.

John Hayes admitted he was not expecting the prime minster to announce the policy yesterday, in a performance which suggested Cameron overstepped the mark during this week's PMQs.

"Does he consult me on every issue? The answer is no," he told MPs after Labour won an urgent question on the policy.

"But had we been discussing this policy? The answer is yes."

he added: "This is a policy intent."

Humiliatingly, there were calls of 'more' from opposition benches as Hayes' answers came to an end.

Cameron told the Commons yesterday: "I can announce that we will be legislating so that energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers." The move is expected to be included in the energy bill, due to go to a second reading next month.

The policy has been criticised by shadow energy minister Caroline Flint who said the situation was like "something from The Thick Of It."

She added: "Yesterday the prime minister promised to legislate to force the energy companies to put everyone on the cheapest tariff.

"Within 24 hours, this policy has completely unravelled and all the government is actually doing is getting the energy companies to write to people."

Yesterday's announcement came just hours after consumer watchdog Which? published a letter to the prime minister calling for more competition in the energy market.

"The sector is dominated by a handful of big and powerful players who are seemingly unaffected by the normal competitive pressure of price and customer service," the letter said.

"We want an independent review to look at whether the reasons given for the recent price increases are justified."

Calls to increase competition in the market are backed up by a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) which said that ninety nine per cent of customers are with one of the 'big 6' energy suppliers.

The report also claimed that more competition would push greater efficiency among providers which could lower bills for customers.