Caroline Flint's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 20121 October 2012
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Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:
Conference it was my birthday the other week.
Apart from them arriving too quickly these days - I find myself reflecting on times gone by when life seemed simpler, but also on the amazing scientific advances that have changed our lives for the better.
Over the past year I have been inspired by the opportunities for jobs and growth new low carbon technologies can deliver for all our futures.
But some changes we have all experienced don’t seem that great. Technology was meant to put you in control and make life easier.
So why do so many of us feel less in control than ever before?
Do you remember a time when you knew what your bank manager looked like?
When you didn’t have to press ten numbers before you spoke to a human being?
When you didn’t have enough passwords to fill a small notebook?
Even buying something as simple as gas and electricity is bewildering today.
We all have to heat our homes and buy gas and electricity from somebody.
And I know that companies that keep the hospitals warm, factories working, and the lights on in 22 million homes are doing a pretty fundamental job for the British economy.
But even the big six energy giants know that something has gone badly wrong when the poorest people pay the most for energy and nearly everyone pays more than they need to.
When fewer than ever trust their energy company to help them.
Fewer than ever switch supplier.
And fewer than ever believe the Government will help.
Energy bills have gone through the roof in the past two years.
Up by £200.
And more price hikes heading our way this winter.
The Government tells people to shop around for a better deal.
It’s down to you they say.
You’re on your own.
That’s not the Labour way. We believe in co-operation.
We know that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we do alone.
Turning the clock back isn’t the answer.
But we don’t have to accept things the way they are.
I want to tell you and everyone at home, that Labour may not run the country but we can help you cut your bills today.
In America, co-operatives, local councils and community organisations are bringing people together to strike a better deal for their custom.
Our sister parties in Belgium and Holland have delivered cheaper energy prices for thousands of people through collective switching.
We can do the same.
I am proud to announce the launch of Labour’s SwitchTogether campaign.
We will ask people to sign up to Labour’s SwitchTogether to get a better energy deal.
And if the energy companies want our business they need to name the price.
Stand together. Buy energy together. Switch together.
Not giving up because we are in opposition but rolling up our sleeves and getting down to work.
Our strength is in our local organisation, our community links, our councillors, our members, our supporters.
I am asking you - knock on doors, deliver leaflets, organise community meetings, make the calls and the tweets.
We can reach out to people who are paying too much but alone can’t change that, and we can make a difference.
The next time someone tells you all political parties are the same – and they will – tell them Labour is buying energy on behalf of many people, as one customer to get a better deal.
Tell them about the first political party in British history to run a collective switch.
We may be in opposition.
We may not run the country.
But we can help people right now when this Government won’t.
There are of course things only Government can do, and the British people deserve to know Labour’s plans for the way our energy is sold.
Whenever bills go up, the energy companies always tell us they’re only passing on their costs.
So why, when prices rise do bills go up like a rocket but when they come down they fall like a feather - if at all?
The reason is - they’re allowed to run their businesses in such a complicated way that it’s almost impossible to know what the true cost of energy is.
This must end.
So we’re calling time on Ofgem.
Too often, Ofgem has ducked the opportunity to get tough with the energy giants, failed to enforce its own rules and let energy companies get away with ripping off hard pressed families and pensioners.
The time has come to say goodbye to Ofgem and create a tough new regulator that people can trust.
We will open the books of the energy giants.
Stop the backroom deals and end the secret contracts.
And if they don’t do it first, we will force the energy companies to pass on price cuts.
An energy market that is simpler and works in the public interest.
An energy market which delivers fair prices, protects the most vulnerable.
An energy market that people trust.
That is our pledge.
I am proud that it was a Labour Government that faced the future – stood by the science and faced the threat of our planet overheating.
We beat our Kyoto target and doubled renewable energy generation.
Ed Miliband delivered the Climate Change Act, a world first, placing Britain at the forefront of global action on carbon and sending out a clear message that Britain was open for green business.
When Labour left Government the UK was ranked third in the world for investment in green growth with £7billion of private money driving new energy and clean technology.
We are now seventh.
David Cameron’s promise to be the greenest government ever lies in tatters.
But let’s not forget the Liberal Democrats
It was Chris Huhne who took the axe to Britain’s solar industry.
It was Ed Davey who fired the starting gun on the next dash for gas.
Tories and Liberal Democrats.
Costing us jobs.
Britain must be part of an energy revolution just as important to this country’s prosperity as the Victorian railways, and the internet in the 20th century.
A cleaner future in a radically different, fairer energy market.
And in 2015 - a Labour Government.