Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby calls on the Big Six energy companies to be aware of their “social obligations” to the public and warns that the latest price rises appear “inexplicable”.
The head of the Church of England, himself a former oil executive, insisted that the Big Six companies have a moral obligation to the public, and said he understood the public anger about the rises.
“The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe in this, and the companies have to justify fully what they are doing,” Mr Welby said.
I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high – Archbishop
“I do understand when people feel that this is inexplicable, and I can understand people being angry about it, because having spent years on a low income as a clergyman I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high. That is the reality of it.”
The Archbishop urged firms to be “conscious of their social obligations”, saying they had to “behave with generosity and not merely to maximise opportunity”.
“They have control because they sell something everyone has to buy. We have no choice about buying it,” he told the Mail on Sunday. ‘With that amount of power comes huge responsibility to serve society.”
His comments on the Big Six energy companies follow Ed Miliband’s flagship pledge during the party conference season, that Labour would freeze energy prices for 20 months if it won the next election.
The Conservatives insist that the policy would not work, and David Cameron has instead encouraged consumers to switch suppliers – or to wear an extra jumper – to keep bills down.
But polls have suggested that Labour’s promise is popular with voters, putting pressure on the coalition to respond.
It is not the first time the Church of England head has waded into a political debate. He condemned the payday loan company Wonga, which has been criticised for capitalising on the huge levels of interest generated when its customers can’t afford to pay back loans. It later emerged that the Church of England pension fun had links to Wonga.