Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 27th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 5:00 pm, 27th June 2018

My Lords, while I understand where the amendment is coming from, it is not one I can support. The problem is that while we are asking the authority, Ofgem, to set a maximum price, we are now also specifying that there must be a minimum price. It would then be almost impossible for the authority to have a competitive marketplace to operate with.

The second problem inherent in this—a problem with the whole Bill—is that, while I understand the problems the bigger companies have because they do not have some of the obligations of the small companies, it will be an issue for Ofgem to try to work out where the cap will be in the first place. That will cause problems. We are also in a period where wholesale prices are rising. Therefore, there might be a slight problem if the companies, for different financial reasons, have to raise their prices. Would Ofgem then have to set a date at which all the companies raise their prices at the same time so that they do not break the cap? At that date, would it also then say that the minimum price has to be raised at the same rate?

I understand the idea that vulnerable customers should be protected. However, we are ending up with a marketplace in which there will be one default tariff that every single supplier will have to put forward. If there is a vote, I will vote against this, which is very much against my views—obviously my Front Bench will have a different view on this. This, however, is an area where what we want to happen and the reality on the ground vary substantially.

I should also declare an interest as the CEO of the Energy Managers Association. We represent all energy managers. It is rather unfortunate that while we are looking to protect vulnerable customers, we are not doing the same to protect SMEs and micro-businesses. There is an enormous amount of bad practice in the industry, with TPIs that have no code of practice, and Ofgem failing to enforce or even to have the power to protect SMEs in this marketplace. We are looking at protecting one sector of the marketplace while non-domestic customers will be hammered under bad practice. I raise this as this is the tail end of the Bill, although I spoke at Second Reading. I hope the Government can bring forward a Bill further down the line to regulate the whole third party, intermediary and energy broker marketplace for the non-domestic, but obviously it might be beyond the Minister’s ability to bring that forward.