LONDON (Reuters) - The government will look at improving competition in the energy sector and plans to cut environmental taxes and regulations to try to reduce consumers' rising utility bills, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.
Energy prices have become a high-profile political issue in Britain after the Labour Party promised to freeze bills for 20 months if it won the next election in 2015 and several energy firms unveiled sharp price increases.
Cameron, who is under pressure to be seen to be doing more on the issue, described the high cost of energy bills as "unacceptable", saying the government was prepared to intervene in the sector to help consumers.
"We need to roll back some of the green regulations and charges," Cameron told parliament. "We will be having a proper competition test carried out over the next year to get to the bottom of whether this market can be more competitive."
Shares in Centrica (CNA.L) slipped 1.2 percent after Cameron spoke, while shares in SSE (SSE.L) were unchanged. Centrica raised household electricity and gas prices this month by an average of 9.2 percent - more than three times the inflation rate. SSE had earlier announced an 8.2 percent rise.
The increases were widely condemned, intensifying a debate about the cost of living in Britain and raising questions about the profits made by the country's six biggest energy companies.
Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Andrew Osborn