Labour Party vows energy bill freeze to woo voters
The U.K.'s main opposition party Labour has pledged to freeze gas and electricity bills for two years if it wins the next election, in an attempt to woo voters fed up with the rising cost of energy.
Labour leader Ed Miliband blamed the current coalition government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, for driving a dramatic fall in living standards.
"The system is broken and we're going to fix it," Miliband said, speaking at the Labour party conference in Brighton. "If we win that election in 2015, the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017."
Energy suppliers could be forced to take a hit of £4.5 billion ($7.2 billion) as a result of the measure, a Labour source told Reuters.
Miliband's promise comes amid growing anger in Britain about rising energy costs, which are squeezing living standards, despite suppliers reporting bumper profits. As a result, the so-called "big six" energy firms - Centrica, SSE, Scottish Power, EDF Energy, E.ON and NPower – have all come under pressure to cut their prices.
"The companies aren't going to like this because it will cost them more," Miliband said. "But they've been overcharging people for too long because of a market that doesn't work. It's time to reset the market."
(Read more: UK economy'needs more time to recover')
However, the British Chambers of Commerce, a business lobby group, said the move could discourage crucial business investment.
"Price freezes will be attractive for consumers and small businesses, but we are concerned about the impact that Ed Miliband's proposal would have on investment in Britain's ramshackle energy infrastructure," said John Longworth, the organization's director general. "Keeping the lights on and our businesses working is absolutely critical. Short-term price controls and green energy commitments could have a negative effect on Britain's energy security."
Miliband also said that if Labour gets elected, the party's first act would be to scrap the current government's planned cut in corporation tax from 21 percent to 20 percent.
(Read more: UK housing recovery spurs 'bubble' warnings)
This would pay for a £800 million tax break for small businesses, making Labour the "party of small business," Miliband said.
The U.K.'s general election is due to take place in 2015, and the majority of polls show Labour in the lead – although its majority over Cameron's Conservative Party is narrowing, according to Reuters.
—By CNBC's Katrina Bishop. Follow her on Twitter