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Miliband in challenge to coalition
Ed Miliband is accusing the Government of "shrugging their shoulders" about low wages and rising prices
Ed Miliband is to step up his attack on David Cameron over living standards, accusing the coalition Government of "shrugging their shoulders" about low wages and rising prices.
The Labour leader will point to figures suggesting that more than half of electric and gas price hikes over the past three years have been pocketed by energy firms.
He will challenge Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to back his policy of freezing energy bills in a Commons vote tomorrow.
The intervention comes in a speech at Battersea Power Station, where he will promise a "big choice" for voters at the next general election.
"A choice about whether we tackle the cost of living crisis or shrug our shoulders," he will say.
"A choice about whether we run a race to the top or a race to the bottom; a choice about whether we reform broken markets or defend them; a choice about how we succeed as a country; and above all, the choice will be about who our country is run for.
"The cost of living crisis isn't just an issue for the lowest paid, it affects the squeezed middle just as much.
"A country where a few at the top do well, but everybody else struggles.
"This is not just an issue facing Britain. It is the issue facing Britain. It is about who our country is run for."
Mr Miliband will say the Commons library has endorsed figures indicating that wholesale energy costs have risen by 1.6% a year on average since 2011, b ut the big six energy firms have increased retail prices by 10.4% a year on average, taking more than half the extra revenue for profits and costs.
Promising to force a division at the end of an Opposition Day debate on freezing energy bills until 2017, Mr Miliband is to insist: "It is workable, it will happen if Labour wins the next election.
"And tomorrow Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs could vote for it.
"If they line up against it, the British people will know the truth: this Government is on the side of the big energy companies, not hard-pressed families."
Mr Miliband, who has pledged tax breaks for businesses that sign up to paying the living wage, will say "fundamental change" is needed to the way the economy is run.
"We don't just need average wages to creep higher than prices. For people to be genuinely better off, we have to do much better than that.
"Ordinary families are hit harder than average by higher prices. They rely more on expensive basic necessities, like electricity and gas.
"And ordinary families do worse than the average when it comes to wage increases because those increases are scooped by a few at the top.
"We have to permanently restore the link between growth and living standards for all of Britain's working people. This Government can't do it. And the reason is because they are wedded to Britain competing in a race to the bottom."
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said energy company "mark-ups" were not justified by the cost of rising wholesale energy prices or green taxes.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "The truth is that wholesale costs haven't gone up to really justify the sort of price rises we have seen in recent years.
"Green taxes - which include money to support cleaner energy for the future, but also things like insulation and helping people with energy efficiency - represent something like 10% of the total bill.
"When you look at the cost of wholesale in our bills, that can't explain the mark-ups we have seen in recent years. They are just not justified.
"We believe prices could have been lower than they are today and they have been in recent years and that is why we are saying we need to have a freeze to reflect that."
Asked if other energy company bosses should follow the lead of Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw, who yesterday announced he was forgoing his bonus, Ms Flint said: "I think all the people at the top of these big energy companies should reflect on what they are being paid, not just in this year but in previous years and future years.
"But the truth is, whatever Sam Laidlaw does about his bonus this year, we need to fix the market, because that is what is broken. That's what Labour's policy is intended to do."
London's Conservative mayor Boris Johnson dismissed Mr Miliband's energy freeze proposal as "fool's gold" which would force up the price of power over the longer term.
Mr Johnson told LBC 97.3 radio: "The answer to our energy crisis is to build more generation. It is absolutely crazy, we spent 20 years creating a load of blooming wind farms that wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding and produce a tiny quantity of our energy needs.
"We should have started 20 years ago with the nuclear stuff. It's a disaster that we didn't.
"Labour pussy-footed around for ages out of sheer neuralgia about nuclear. We should have gone for it then and we should go for it now."
He added: "I'm afraid that what Labour is endlessly trying to say, that you can have your cake and eat it and you can somehow cut fuel bills and get the energy companies to disgorge all this money without jeopardising their ability to invest in new plant - that strikes me intuitively as being wrong.
"In the end it is fool's gold because all you do is reduce our ability as a country to get the cheaper supply of energy we need, and so the bills go up down the line."
Mr Johnson was unable to say how much his personal energy bills amounted to, but said he was sure the figure was "exorbitant".
Unlike some MPs, he said his energy was not funded by the taxpayer. Asked if he had switched supplier recently, he said: "I leave all that kind of key strategic decision-making entirely to higher powers."