Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:47 pm on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) 6:47 pm, 6th March 2018

The hon. Gentleman anticipates a point I was going to make about many contributions about the calls for additional market reviews. The call for evidence on the excellent Helm review, which was commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, has only just closed, and I think we need to take the time to consider it. I was struck by the speech made by my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin. What we want is a rational, functioning economic regulator in a market that is so vital in keeping the lights on, keeping investment going and keeping people warm in their homes, not a political rush to do things.

The right hon. Member for Don Valley raised the issue of green tariffs and gaming the system. Ofgem has never been required to scrutinise existing green tariffs. It will have to scrutinise carefully and consult during the process of the design of the cap to ensure that it is fit for purpose. As we heard from many Members, the expectation will be that customers should not have to overpay to be on a green tariff. We are now buying subsidy-free offshore wind and I opened the first subsidy-free solar farm only last year.

There were many questions about the structure of the cap, including whether it should be variable or fixed. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare has campaigned on this matter very strongly. I was again struck by what my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said. The structure of the cap should be able to take into account changes in the wholesale system. Clause 6(1) states that the period of consideration has to be no greater than six months, but it is entirely within Ofgem’s powers to change the cap more frequently. Of course, as we know, standard variable tariffs are currently updated only one or two times a year. Companies buy forward and hedge their energy prices, so it is not usual for very strong changes in wholesale prices to be incorporated. We will get to see the structure of the cap and its sensitivity to those prices going forward.

There were concerns about ensuring we allow co-operative energy providers to be in the market. My right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow, who is such a doughty consumer champion, made that point, as did Drew Hendry, Gareth Thomas and others. We already have co-operative energy structures—White Rose Energy, Robin Hood Energy and so on—and there is no barrier to those companies coming forward and delivering.

My right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb and my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby asked about the removal of the cap. We will have a series of tests, and we have set out clearly in the Bill what those tests will be. Ultimately, we want loyal customers to be treated as well as, if not better than, new customers who are being attracted by cheaper deals. That will be the absolute test.

In conclusion, we know the Bill is necessary. We know we need to get it through Parliament. I have been really encouraged by the tone of the debate, with so many Members having really scrutinised the Bill and being absolutely determined to see it through. I am confident that we can pass this vital Bill and our constituents expect us to do so, as they do not want to be overpaying on their bills. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.