Nearly 200 MPs, including 76 Conservatives, called for Theresa May to deliver on her promise to cut energy bills for 17 million households in an awkward intervention on the eve of the Tory party conference.
The prime minister made a bold promise before the election in June to save families on the most common rate, known as a “standard variable tariff”, as much as £100 by capping prices on their electricity and gas bills. But the pledge has since been watered down, with Ofgem, the energy regulator, saying in July that it plans to help only 2.2m vulnerable customers via a “safeguard tariff”.
All of the biggest energy companies, plus several smaller operators, have raised prices this year.
Around 192 MPs have signed a cross-party letter to Mrs May to end the “stitch-up” by the biggest energy companies and “help the millions of households who Ofgem seem set to ignore”.
For so many Tory MPs to openly criticise the prime minister is potentially embarrassing, coming just two days ahead of the start of the Conservative conference in Manchester.
A war of words has broken out between Ofgem and the government over who should implement a more extensive price cap to protect the majority of households.
Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, said in an interview last month that legislating for a wider cap would be the “most effective way” of delivering on Mrs May’s promise. This is because there would be a “substantive appeal route” for energy companies were the policy to be introduced without legislation, he said.
But business secretary Greg Clark told Parliament this month that Ofgem had the powers to introduce a cap on standard variable tariffs (SVTs) so “there is no need” to resort to primary legislation.
John Penrose, the Tory backbencher who has led the Parliamentary campaign for an energy price cap, said if Ofgem was refusing to take action, the government “should replace it and implement the energy price cap itself”.
British Gas, the UK’s biggest supplier of energy to homes, has argued a cap on SVTs would “remove choice” for consumers as power companies would merely set their tariffs near the price limit.