YESTERDAY British Gas raised its gas and electricity prices by a massive 22 per cent, on top of a 14 per cent mark-up imposed last September.
The 17 million British Gas customers are facing huge bills and many will have to decide whether they are going to ‘eat or heat’.
Just prior to the British Gas price rises, EDF Energy, the firm which owns London Energy, Seeboard and SWEB, raised the price of gas and electricity for its five million customers by 14.7 per cent and 4.7 per cent while Scottish Power raised its gas price by 15 per cent and electricity price by eight per cent.
Adam Scorer, of Energywatch has commented on the increases saying: ‘Average price rises are being continually pushed up and it won’t be long before we see £1,000 energy bills as the norm.’
At the same time as gas and electricity prices are rocketing, the government calculated inflation rate mocks the working class and the poor by ‘showing’ that inflation is steady if not falling.
Obviously, the basic needs of working people are not emphasised in the government calculated inflation rate, since it has an interest in keeping it as low as possible, as a weapon for trying to hold down wages or even cut them.
The trade unions must be made to compile their own cost of living index, based on a working class budget including gas, electricity, bus, tube, rail and petrol price rises as well as food costs and council tax rises, and demand wage rises that keep pace with this index, so that workers and also pensioners avoid being pauperised.
Then there is the question of jobs. Unemployment is leaping forward in Britain, with the number who lost their jobs in the last year up by 108,000, the biggest annual jump in 13 years. The number out of work is now 1.5 million.
Yesterday the TGWU urged the government to intervene.
Speaking to manufacturers in North Wales at the T&G’s energy seminar, TGWU full-time official Booth said: ‘Thousands of jobs have already been lost in manufacturing due to spiralling gas prices, particularly in glass, chemicals and engineering,’ adding, ‘Unless the Government takes swift and effective action, thousands more jobs will go. . .
‘The British Government must ensure that the strategic needs of the UK economy are being met. They should be prepared to provide direct financial support and stop the export of our valuable energy resources.’
After drawing attention to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs, our trade union official demands that the government step in to pour billions into the coffers of big business.
The fact is that the government cannot bail out the capitalist crisis, indeed its Iraq war is a colossal factor in the rise and rise of oil and gas prices.
The government is a central part of the problem and not the solution. It never tires of telling workers that they must give up their final salary pensions, work up to ten years longer, and agree to health and education markets. Labour wants the working class to pay for the capitalist crisis.
The only way to deal with the massive increases in oil and gas prices is to stop the war in Iraq and declare peace with the Arab peoples, and at the same time renationalise the gas and electricity industries, expropriating the profiteering bosses and lowering prices at a stroke.
Only socialist policies can deal with the growing capitalist crisis. This is why a new leadership must be built in the trade unions to put an end to the capitalist crisis, by going forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies.