Grant Shapps: Officials ‘actively working’ on prepayment meter disconnections

Officials are “actively working” on the issue of the scale of disconnection of people on prepayment energy meters, the Business Secretary has claimed.

Grant Shapps told MPs in the Commons “we do not want to see people cut off during this cold weather”.

His comments came after shadow business minister Kerry McCarthy raised concerns that “self-disconnections have rocketed”.

She told MPs: “According to Citizens Advice, someone is being cut off from their energy supply every 10 seconds.

“With millions unable to afford to top up their prepayment meters, self-disconnections have rocketed. It is the Government and the energy regulators’ responsibility, is it not, to ensure people aren’t sitting at home in the cold, in the dark?

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Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is a matter of considerable concern that anybody should be removed from their power or heating” (Victoria Jones/PA)

“So, as temperatures once again reach freezing point across the UK this week, will the Government introduce an immediate moratorium on the forced installation of prepayment meters while their use is reviewed?”

Mr Shapps agreed “it is a matter of considerable concern that anybody should be removed from their power or heating”, adding: “We have specifically asked the energy authorities not to go down that line and asked OFGEM to do the same.”

He went on: “Officials are actively working on this issue with a letter ready to go to Ofgem as well. She is right to highlight this: we do not want to see people cut off during this cold weather and it is not something that we want to see happen, we’ll return to the House with more detail.”

Political instability in the UK is leading businesses to pull investment out of the country, Labour also claimed during BEIS questions.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told the Commons: “As we have heard from colleagues, energy prices are of course inextricably linked to our country’s competitiveness.

“Last week Make UK published a survey of manufacturing businesses, and that report was damning, with businesses saying, under the Conservatives, they pay a premium for doing business in the UK.

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Labour Party Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds (Beresford Hodge/PA)

“They can see that the political instability caused by this government has driven investment away from Britain and after three prime ministers, four chancellors, and three business secretaries last year, it is hard to disagree.

“Does he accept that the low investment the Conservatives have presided over is at the heart of our economic problems? And can he tell us what he is planning to do this year to finally change that?”

Mr Shapps replied: “No, I don’t accept his analysis. For one thing, he must recognise that in countries, for example in Germany, where he is right to say that the cost for business are lower for energy, that cost is actually reflected in typically higher costs for domestic bills.

“He would need to answer whether he supports that. In addition, £18 billion is a huge amount of support, taxpayers are having to pay that money, so it is a question of getting the right balance between the taxpayer and industry as well.”

Ms Shapps told MPs there was “absolutely no truth whatsoever” in Labour’s claim that “vital employment rights” will be “scrapped” if ministers “do not act”.

Labour’s Justin Madders raised the Government’s proposed legislation, saying: “Tomorrow the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill comes back before us which will see vital employment rights such as holiday pay, Tupe and maternity protections scrapped at the end of this year if ministers do not act.

“On this side of the House we believe in strong employment protections, so will the Government vote with us tomorrow to ensure those vital rights are saved?”

Mr Shapps replied: “There’s absolutely no truth whatsoever with this idea that employer rights or environmental rights or other rights will be scrapped and the sooner they stop peddling this stuff, the better.”