Energy price competition probe ruled out

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband has rejected an Opposition call for the competition commission to investigate energy prices.

Miliband told MPs that such an investigation would take a long time and he preferred to put direct pressure on the energy companies to cut prices.

The issue was raised at question time by Tory Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield), who said wholesale energy prices had "dropped dramatically" but consumers continued to pay "record high prices".

He said: "The Opposition believe that the competition commission should conduct an urgent investigation into the relationship between wholesale and retail prices. Will you ensure that such a review is undertaken?"

Miliband said: "I don't at this stage think a referral to the competition commission is the right way to go because it won't be brief and quick. It will take a long time because that is the experience of referrals to the commission. I think the better way to go is what we are doing, which is pressing the energy companies to reduce their prices and pass on the price cuts...

"The general point that you make, that we need price cuts passed onto consumers, is completely right. It needs a combination of tough regulation, the consumers' associations to make their voices clear, and government - and that's what we intend to do."

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