30 March 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
The government last week weighed in to offer its support to the planned liberalisation of the energy market in Europe.
Delivering his annual budget statement to the House of Commons, chancellor Gordon Brown said: "Incomplete liberalisation of European energy markets is one factor in high gas prices.
"At the European Council tomorrow [23 March] we propose that all energy and other sectors that fail to liberalise and open up to competition be subject to independent investigation and enforcement."
As reported in SM
, 2 March 2006), the European Commission said it hopes to open up the market after an investigation found the continent suffers from powerful national and regional monopolies, a lack of transparency, little cross-border competition and poor effective competition in price setting.
In the budget speech, Brown also deferred an increase in fuel duty until 1 September owing to high oil prices.
He revealed an ambition for Britain to become a world leader in the "discovery and development of new energy technologies".
He said: "Our supply of energy should be stable, secure and competitive - and environmentally sustainable."