Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has issued a stark warning to gas and electricity providers that he would step in unless they stopped imposing "outrageous" hidden price hikes on customers.
Mr Huhne stressed the Coalition's determination to protect consumers as the Liberal Democrat leadership battled to quell activists' discontent over the power-sharing deal with the Tories at the party's conference in Liverpool.
Party leader Nick Clegg pleaded with rank-and-file members to "stick with" him on Tuesday after he suffered a major rebellion over key coalition school reforms just hours before his keynote speech.
But one angry MP accused him of failing to offer the necessary reassurance to supporters amid slumping poll ratings and said he missed his chance "by a mile" to speak to the concerns of Lib Dem voters across the country.
Mike Hancock renewed his criticism after sending an open letter to Mr Clegg warning against the party being taken over by a "dictatorship" of ministers and abandoning its commitment to the welfare state.
The Deputy Prime Minister will leave the simmering dissent behind him as he cuts short his attendance to fly to the US to represent Britain at high-level talks at the United Nations in New York and then in Washington.
Taking centre stage in his place will be deputy leader Simon Hughes, who last night called for "robust" Lib Dem opposition to moves - championed by Prime Minister David Cameron - to renew the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent.