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U.K. Says Ministers Didn’t Ask Utilities for Price Freeze

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The cost of energy has dominated political debate in the U.K. since September when opposition leader Ed Miliband promised a two-year freeze on energy bills if his Labour Party wins the general election in May 2015. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. dismissed a British Broadcasting Corp. report that government ministers asked utilities to hold household energy bills steady until after elections in 2015.

The BBC report that the government sought the commitment as part of an agreement with suppliers to cut annual bills by an average of 50 pounds ($82) a year was “utterly misleading,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said.

“The government has not asked for a price freeze,” the spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London today, pointing to the semi-annual statement from the Treasury to be released Dec. 5. “People should wait for the Autumn Statement when we will spell out our plans to roll back the impact of levies on people’s energy bills.”

The cost of energy has dominated political debate in the U.K. since September when opposition leader Ed Miliband promised a two-year freeze on energy bills if his Labour Party wins the general election in May 2015. Since then, five of the six largest suppliers have announced price increases.

The government is considering changes to the Energy Company Obligation, or ECO, a program that requires suppliers to pay for energy-efficiency measures, allowing companies to spread the cost over a longer period, the BBC said. The period for paying charges to improve distribution networks may also be extended, the report said.

“I want to help households and families by getting sustainably low energy prices,” Cameron told Sky News in Vilnius, Lithuania, today. “The only way you can do that is by increasing competition and rolling back the costs of some of the levies on people’s bills. I said that’s what we were going to do; that is what we’re going to do, and I think that’s a very positive step forward.”

Sophie Fitton, a spokeswoman for Centrica Plc, the U.K.’s largest energy supplier, declined to comment when reached by phone.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net; Will Kennedy in London at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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