LABOUR has claimed four million households in fuel poverty will face a winter of "cold homes or astronomical bills" because the UK Government dithered introducing a price cap on energy tariffs.

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey asked Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, why it had taken "so long" for the cap to be introduced.

She criticised the proposals, outlined in draft legislation published on Thursday, for being a "sticking plaster" and said "radical reform of the market" was necessary.

Mr Clark said he wanted the legislation to proceed quickly and hoped the bill would get "urgent pre-legislative scrutiny" from the Commons Business Committee.

He also called on energy companies to move people off expensive tariffs, saying: "It is open now to the energy companies and Ofgem themselves have been very clear that they expect the companies to move people off these standard variable tariffs which have been identified as overcharging so they should do that whilst this legislation is in place."

The Secretary of State told MPs: "I am determined that we will be on the side of all consumers and ensure that the market can become more effective.

"Our goal is to ensure a fair deal, so the market has currently not delivered this and that is why the energy companies and Ofgem need to act, but it's also precisely for this reason that we're publishing this draft Bill today."

But Ms Long-Bailey said: "Due to the Government's dithering, the four million households in fuel poverty - almost one million of which includes a disabled person - will now face another winter of cold homes or astronomical bills."

She said Labour had been calling for a price cap "for a number of years" but said more clarity was still needed despite the legislation.

The Salford MP asked Mr Clark to confirm whether or not the cap would be relative or absolute, how long the passage of the bill would take, and by how much he expected household bills to be reduced.

She suggested the price cap, although welcome, was “only a sticking plaster and radical reform of the market is necessary".

Her colleague Ed Miliband, who as Labour leader backed a price cap as party leader, told the Business Secretary: "Given that this policy was once described from that despatch box as a con, a joke, disastrous and living in a Marxist universe, it would be churlish not to welcome his conversion to it today.”

However, he added, that movement on it had been slow, noting: “Because it's a draft Bill, it's four months since the General Election, he's said there would be help this winter, he could have chosen to fast-track this with the frontbench and get the help in now."