Treasury Questions today included following exchange:

Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) (Lab/Co-op):

I welcome the Economic Secretary and the shadow Financial Secretary to their new jobs, and let us not forget the former Treasury Whip, the Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household, the hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands), who has finally got the promotion we have been urging him to get for three years.

Under this Chancellor’s watch, the UK is experiencing the slowest recovery for more than 100 years, and with prices, including energy
prices, rising faster than wages, for millions of people this is no recovery at all. Yet from the Chancellor’s earlier answers to the Chair of the Treasury Committee, he seems to think he can get away with cutting energy bills by simply shifting the burden of his green levies on to the ordinary taxpayer. Let me ask the Chancellor—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:

Order. I think we are going to get a question.

Ed Balls:

Why will the Chancellor not agree with us and Sir John Major that it is the energy companies that are making the excess profits and that it is they, not the ordinary taxpayer, that should bear the burden?

Mr Osborne:

First, I join the right hon. Gentleman in welcoming the two hon. Ladies to their new Front-Bench positions, although I think he got the title wrong of his new shadow Exchequer Secretary. By the way, while I am at it, may I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman did not move in the reshuffle, because he is exactly where we want him to be?

Perhaps one of these days the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that GDP is increasing, that unemployment is coming down and that today we had the best services purchasing managers index since May 1997. I believe we should roll back some of the levies and charges that have been imposed on energy bills. I am not clear whether he agrees.

Ed Balls:

After three years of flatlining, people are worse off because of this Chancellor of the Exchequer. As for ordinary people’s rising energy bills, he just does not give an EDF.

Is it not the case that, over the past year, energy prices in the euro area fell by 1.7% while in the UK they have risen by a staggering 7.7%? Simply switching green levies on to the taxpayer is giving with one hand and taking with the other. Why does this Chancellor always hit ordinary families while standing up for a powerful few?

Mr Osborne:

With questions like that, the right hon. Gentleman is never going to be npower, is he?

The truth is that the right hon. Gentleman created a situation in our economy whereby living standards were hit hard, because he destroyed jobs and economic prosperity. Like a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night, every single one of his economic predictions has gone up in smoke, and he has nothing credible or serious to say about the British economy.

Amidst the inspired puns I do think we are seeing a shift in the debate on energy bills. The Conservatives are going to propose lower energy bills through lower energy taxes. So far the Labour Party have not made clear whether they will support or oppose this change. Mr Balls didn’t have an answer. Will Ed Miliband tomorrow at PMQs? The cost of energy bills is Labour’s favourite topic. They want to keep talking about it. But at some stage Labour will have to decide their stance on “green” taxes.

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