11 December 2013, The Tablet

Welby challenges energy bosses on fuel poverty

The Archbishop of Canterbury this morning met with heads of the nation's largest energy providers to discuss fuel poverty.

Archbishop Justin Welby, who in October strongly urged energy companies to consider families whose budget would be “blown apart” by price rises, met a small group of senior representatives from the energy industry to hear their perspectives on social responsibility around the energy supply sector.

The meeting is one a number of private meetings hosted by Archbishop Welby to draw on the experience of people from different areas of national life, a spokesman for Lambeth Palace said.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Archbishop Welby invited the heads of the “Big Six” energy companies to the private meeting. Four of the six are reported to have attended, three more than attended a recent Commons select committee hearing. Attendees included Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, which owns British Gas, EDF Energy chief Vincent de Rivaz and npower chief Paul Massara.

Before the meeting, Npower said it was keen to engage with the issue of social responsibility.

“We want to talk about that with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with any important stakeholder who has got a stake in these things. While energy is not the usual territory for religious leaders, it is important from a poverty point of view which is certainly their territory, so it is right talk," a spokesman said.

The energy companies SSE and Scottish Power declined to attend.

Archbishop Welby, who previously worked for the Elf Aquitane oil firm in Paris and later as treasurer to Enterprise Oil PLC in London, recently condemned above-inflation price rises and called on companies to act responsibly.

In October he told the Mail on Sunday: “I can understand people being angry about [energy price rises], because having spent years on a low income as a clergyman I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high.”

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