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Energy Prices and Profits

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] — Living Standards – in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 4th September 2013.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 5:47 pm, 4th September 2013

That is the average of both generating profits and distributions profits. It is in table 6 of the report, which I am sure the right hon. Lady has read assiduously. She can check it if she wishes.

The right hon. Lady refused to answer a question about what a correct level of profit would be, but I cannot believe that she thinks profits are more than twice as high as they need to be. Even if we were to halve the profit level from 7.6% to 3.8%, the effect on prices would be very small compared with the huge increase we have seen. As we all know, the increase is largely the result of the increase in fuel prices, which is outside the control of Governments.

The suggestion that all energy companies have seen massive rises in profits is also dispelled by table 4, on page 27 of the report. Indeed, the Committee referred to the figure given in the Labour party’s motion of an increase in profits of £3 billion, which I think comes from Consumer Focus. The report states:

“Table 4, however, doesn’t appear to support this.”

Table 4 shows what has happened to companies’ profit margins from 2007 to 2011. For EDF, the average profit margin was 15.7% and went down to 8.5%. For SSE, it went from 4.2% to just 0.8%. For British Gas Centrica, it has gone down from 7.3% to 5.6%. For Scottish Power, it has come down from 11% to 4.4%. For E.ON, it has come down from 6.8% to minus 2.2%. For npower, it has come down from 12.2% to minus 5.5%. Therefore, the idea that there is huge scope for us to bring down excess profits, and thereby prices, through regulation or improved competition is sadly not correct, and it is dishonest to pretend that it is.