Lord Hutton, the former Labour minister, is being lined up to head the energy industry’s biggest lobbying group amid growing pressure on Theresa May to impose an industry-wide price cap on gas and electricity companies.
Sky News has learnt that the Labour peer, whose Cabinet roles included responsibility for the energy sector a decade ago, has been picked by the board of Energy UK to become its next chairman.
An announcement about Lord Hutton’s appointment could be made as soon as this week, according to an industry source.
Assuming his appointment is confirmed, Lord Hutton’s role will place him at loggerheads with many of his parliamentary colleagues.
Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has pledged to return the national power grid to public ownership and impose a price cap on retail energy suppliers.
The Conservatives also promised to curb energy bills, but since the General Election have found themselves engulfed by criticism of the Government’s apparent watering down of that commitment.
At the weekend, a cross-party group of MPs led by John Penrose, a Tory backbencher, wrote to Mrs May to urge her to end the “big six stitch-up and pledge to help the millions of households who Ofgem (the industry regulator) seem set to ignore”.
The letter was signed by nearly 200 MPs, including dozens of Tories, underlining the extent of the feeling in the House of Commons on the issue of energy prices.
Nick Timothy, one of Mrs May’s closest advisers until he resigned shortly after June’s election, wrote in The Sun newspaper on Tuesday that the Conservatives “should cap energy bills and reform the market to keep costs down in the long term”.
That comment was interpreted by some energy industry executives as paving the way for a significant announcement by Mrs May in her speech to her party’s conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
Sources said that Energy UK, whose members include the largest retail energy suppliers, had been seeking a new chairman with impeccable political connections.
The outgoing chairman, Sir David Arculus, has held the post for three years.
A member of the House of Lords since 2010, Lord Hutton’s ministerial roles included stints as Defence Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary.
He now chairs the Nuclear Industry Association, although he is expected to step down from that role next year.
A spokeswoman for Energy UK said it was yet to appoint Sir David’s successor, while Lord Hutton could not be reached for comment.
Source: Sky News