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Osborne: 'We have to do everything to keep bills down'

The Chancellor has weighed in on the gas bill hike story today, telling ITV News that he wants energy companies to reconsider price increases.

I met Mr Osborne at the British Embassy in Tokyo earlier today and he told me that he was concerned to see costs rising.

"We've got to do everything we can in Britain to try and keep those bills down," he said. "I would urge the energy companies to look again at any increases and see if they're absolutely necessary at a time like this."

In fact, Japan is one of the factors driving British gas costs higher. The earthquake and tsunami last year which triggered the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant led to Japan closing all 50 of its reactors for safety.

Aerial view of Fukushima power plant in March 2011. Credit: REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power

But it relied on nuclear power for about a third of its electricity needs so has had to fire up gas power stations to make up supply.

Japan imports all it's gas and the sudden thirst for liquified natural gas (LNG) has meant shipments bound for Britain from the Middle East have instead been diverted to Asia. Prices have soared and that's contributing to the bills at home.

But consumer groups in the UK argue British power companies are still charging more than is justified. With the Chancellor's word's ringing in their ears the companies may think again before the next rise.

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