Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken on the need for energy companies to show greater care and respect for customers in a parliamentary debate on energy prices. During the debate, secured by Liberal Democrat colleague Jamie Stone, Mr Carmichael spoke of the frustrations of longstanding customers of SSE and other companies, who have found themselves locked into tariffs as prices rise and unable to switch.
Intervening during the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“Does my hon. Friend agree there is also a role for the energy companies in all this? I suspect that he will have as many constituents as I do who, over the years, in order to compensate for the lack of access to mains gas, have taken other options, including storage heating and going on to tariffs such as “total heating, total control”, which is now being used by SSE to keep their customers prisoner because it is impossible for them to switch. Does he join me in calling on companies such as SSE to treat their customers, who have been loyal for generations across the highlands and islands, rather better than that?
Responding, Jamie Stone MP said:
“I have no hesitation in joining my right hon. Friend in making that plea. His points are well made. I hope that in getting this debate under way today, we start a dialogue with energy companies, Her Majesty’s Government and all concerned parties—not least those people who stand to be faced with crippling debts.
“I think of a young mother I know, who lives in my constituency. She says to me that if the electricity bill or the cost of diesel for her car goes up, she is in trouble. To square the books, she would then have to cut down on her expenditure. In turn, that hits the local shops, the local chemist and so on, in the seaboard villages of my constituency. I hope there will be a dialogue.”
Speaking after the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“As Jamie pointed out, when the cost of living bites and families are forced to cut back on their spending it inevitably has an impact on the wider community and local economy. Energy companies – particularly those with historical roots in the Highlands and Islands like SSE – need to take a longer view and realise that if they do not work with struggling families now they are likely to pay a heavier price later on. If companies do not acknowledge their social responsibility then we are likely to need further legislative efforts to make change.”