Labour ‘will be party of the consumer’ - Milband

Ed Miliband appears on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show. Picture: PA
Ed Miliband appears on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show. Picture: PA
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Consumer groups will be given a greater role in identifying and fixing “broken markets” under plans set out by Ed ­Miliband for a shake-up of the way competition across the business world is regulated.

The Labour leader said he would legislate to ensure Which? and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) would be given a say in setting the agenda of the Competition and Markets ­Authority.

He said Labour would be “the party of the consumer” and the plan for an annual competition audit of the economy would help ensure that areas where regulators were failing would be identified and tackled.

Appearing on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show he said: “Unless you bring the consumer into the heart of these things, we are not going to get the change we need, we are not going to shine the light on these broken markets.”

He added: “The Competition and Markets Authority scrutinises competition across the board. They will be working with Which?, the CAB and others to say ‘where are the areas where competition isn’t working, what are your members telling you about where we need to act?’

“They will be sending a report to parliament and it will be framing the work for the year ahead.”

Mr Miliband has already promised action to reform the energy sector, including a freeze on bills if he wins the 2015 election, and last week set out measures to promote competition in banking.

Shares in the predominantly state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds came under pressure after Mr Miliband unveiled his plans to break up Britain’s big five high street lenders.

The Labour leader said: “Share prices go up and down but what really matters for the economy is getting the banking system right for the future.”

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told MPs before Mr Miliband set out the details of his plan that capping the banks’ market share would not lead to a “substantial improvement” in competition.

But the Labour leader said: “He, to be fair to him, was asked about my speech before I made my announcement. He made the point that simply a market share for banks on its own isn’t enough, he is right.

“We also need greater portability of accounts, businesses and individual customers being able to move their accounts around more easily, that’s really important for proper competition.

“So he is right about that, it’s got to be a whole set of changes to make our banks work for our businesses rather than our businesses working for our banks.”

Mr Miliband said he wanted to see the deficit eliminated in the next parliament, but there were “fairer choices” that could be made about achieving that.

He said: “We do want to see that happen, yes. What we’ve said, we want to get the current account into balance by the end of the next parliament, we want to see debt falling. They are important things that [shadow chancellor] Ed Balls has said.”

But he added: “If we come to office after 2015, there won’t be lots of money to spend, things will be difficult.

“That’s partly why the proposals I have on the economy – competition policy, banking – they are so important to change things.”

Not impressed

A new low in customer satisfaction with gas and electricity suppliers has revealed “the failings of a broken energy market”, according to consumer group Which?

The watchdog’s latest annual energy company survey found that the overall customer satisfaction score has dropped from 49 per cent last year to 41 per cent.

The consumer group said the survey exposed a market “that is falling short of its customers’ needs” as satisfaction plummeted.

The six largest firms, with 90 per cent of the market, were ranked bottom of the table.