18 Oct 2013

Government offers woolly advice in energy row

Ministers advise people to don an extra jumper in the battle against rising energy prices.

Downing Street advises people to wear extra jumpers as fuel prices rise (Image: Getty)

After British Gas announced a 10.4 per cent electricity price rise on Thursday, both Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Downing Street recommended wearing an extra jumper rather than turning on the heating, writes Joe Nerssessian.

Energy Minister Greg Barker told Channel 4 News that consumers were being “robbed” by energy companies, but insisted that the government has moved to help consumers.

The Prime Minister encouraged people to switch providers to get a better deal.

When asked whether people should “wrap up warm” and wear jumpers, the prime minister’s official spokesman said it was “something that people may wish to consider”.

The spokesman added: “As you know there’s plenty of work going on to help people with their fuel bills, there are plenty of things that the government has done. People do look at what they can do in terms of shopping around and taking advantage of what offers there may be.”

The advice to wrap up however was echoed by a second spokesman, and was seized on by the Labour leader Ed Miliband who said the government had gone from “hugging a hoodie” to “wearing a hoodie”.

Forced to retract the comments, the second Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister “would not advise people what they should wear”.

Last night on BBC’s Newsnight programme, Ed Davey suggested wearing extra layers at home to stay warm. He said: “I am sure people wear jumpers. I wear jumpers at home.”

Five years ago a former managing director of Centrica, which owns British Gas, also told customers: “It’s maybe two jumpers instead of one.”

British Gas is the latest UK energy company to raise prices, after SSE announced similar hikes last week. Other major companies are expected to follow suit.