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Government to target energy prices as customer switching 'not working'

Theresa May has signalled a Government crackdown on high energy prices.

The Prime Minister said relying on customers to switch energy suppliers to keep prices down "is clearly not working".

She added that the Government would outline its plans "very soon".

Addressing the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff, Mrs May said: "Energy is not a luxury, it is a necessity of life.

"But it is clear to me - and to anyone who looks at it - that the market is not working as it should."

Mrs May said prices had risen by 158% over the past 15 years, while the vast majority of consumers were on the most expensive tariffs.

She added: "Relying on switching alone to keep prices down is clearly not working.

"Our party did not end the unjust and inefficient monopolies of the old nationalised energy corporations only to replace them with a system that traps the poorest customers on the worst deals.

"So we are looking very closely at how we can address this problem, and ensure a fairer deal for everyone.

"We will set out our plans very soon."

Mrs May used the address to expand on her flagship Plan for Britain, as she pitched the Conservatives on "the new centre ground of British politics".

She said the vote to leave the European Union was also "an instruction to change the way our country works, and the people for whom it works, forever".

The Prime Minister added: "We need to go further, and turn Britain into a Great Meritocracy, where success is defined by work and talent, not birth or circumstance."

Mrs May highlighted investment in housing, the NHS and getting people back to work, as well as ensuring the welfare system "is fair to those who need it and fair to those who pay for it".

She also vowed to create a good school place for every child, ensuring working class children enjoyed the same opportunities as those of the well-off, by lifting the ban on new grammar schools.

"There will be no return to the binary models of the past, but rather a step into a more egalitarian future, where the opportunity to receive the education which suits a child best is within reach of everyone in our society, and not just a privileged few," Mrs May said.

"The Britain we will build must be a country where everyone has an equal chance to succeed and where getting on in life is dependent on talent and hard work, not background or connections.

"Our party should aspire to be the servant and the voice of hard-working and patriotic British people of every social class and race, of any religion and none, of women and men equally, of gay and straight, young and old."

Former shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said: "For six years, I have been telling the Government that the energy market isn't working and is not delivering fair prices to consumers.

"Today, Theresa May has owned up that all of their tinkering and urging consumers to shop around has failed, and the market isn't working.

"Even May cannot turn her back on the £8 billion overcharging of the last five years.

"This is the strongest signal yet that a cap on energy prices is coming."

Iain Conn, chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, said a price cap would almost certainly remove choice from the market.

"This market is littered with interventions that have gone wrong," he said.

"I would worry that if there is price regulation, more companies would find it difficult to manage and would probably go out of business or more companies would say 'This market is no longer attractive, therefore, I don't want to be in it."

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